Pacific Crest Trail

Posts in Feat3
The Pacific Crest Trail: One Year Later
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I’ve been mulling over a post like this for quite some time. If you followed my PCT blog while I was hiking, you probably got a good sense of the day-to-day life of a thru-hiker, but I don’t think I really reflected on the trail a lot, or my feelings towards hiking and being on trail. And I’ve posted some Instagram posts with captions alluding to the end of the trail, but I wanted to write more, especially since my first “trailiversary” (anniversary of beginning a long hike) is today.

There is not a single day that goes by where I don’t think back to my time on the PCT. Whether it’s a flashback to a specific moment, or more of a sentimental “big picture” reflection. It comes up a lot at work, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s wonderful to talk to people about the trail, but I resent the fact that I’m stuck in a store for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, talking about this grand adventure I had, instead of living it again. And it’s hard to explain the hike to people, because they’re just interested in my “safety”, how many miles I hiked, and how long it took me. Not that I really want to talk about my feelings about the trail to total strangers in my place of work, but still. There’s only so many times you can give the same answers over and over again. “I wasn’t alone.” “2,650 miles.” “Yes, the whole thing, from Mexico to Canada.” “5 months, 9 days.” “It was great.”

So, what do I really want to say? I don’t know. I’m not an eloquent writer, and I feel like my vocabulary has taken the biggest hit of my life since starting the trail (a phenomenon that thankfully, isn’t something that only I am experiencing). I usually just think of the trail in a stream of conscious thought, and from behind rose-colored glasses. I also don’t know if it’s the trail I miss specifically, or the general lifestyle of the trail: feeling free, self-sufficient, taking each day as it comes, constantly moving towards a singular, set goal, not worrying about “real world problems”. Will I instantly feel these happy feelings when I start another long trail, or was this a once in a lifetime opportunity - a fleeting set of emotions that will never rise again?

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It’s hard to explain the gravity of walking 2,650 miles to someone who hasn’t done it before, and how that changes you as a person. It’s hard to even say how it’s changed me except that I just want more. More dirt, more rocks, more uphills and downhills, more fresh mountain water (heck, I’ll even take tank water), more quiet mornings and chirping birds, more simple hiker conversations, and even more windy passes because even though the wind makes my eyes water, it feels like being alive. And I can find some of these things on a day hike or weekend trip, but it just doesn’t feel the same as out on the PCT, where you’re living in it, not just visiting.

I think the trail gave me permission to embrace trying new things, and being ok with those outcomes being less than perfect. I never thought I’d be a person who went rock climbing outside immediately after earning their belay cert. Pre-PCT Emily was afraid of being a burden on more experienced friends, afraid of looking stupid or failing or getting hurt (ok, I’m still scared I’ll get seriously injured). I want to try more things, especially things I’m afraid of in the outdoors: off-trail travel with a map and compass, sport climbing, packrafting, mountaineering, skiing.

 
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I love the trail and I love thru-hiking. Being dirty, letting go of a little control, being surprised by what’s around the corner: whether it’s an amazing view, a picnic table, trail magic, a surprise downhill (or uphill), or a trail register, waiting for hitches, filtering water, and just walking all day, every day. There’s a comfort in the monotony of thru-hiking. And the monotony doesn’t feel agonizing because even though you’re doing the same things every day - wake up, get dressed, pack up, eat, walk, filter water, eat, walk, set up camp, sleep, repeat - every day is different. The scenery changes, the smell of the air changes, you see a different lake or mountain or animal, the soil is slightly different. And you are attuned enough to your surroundings to notice these things.

 
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But I also grapple with the selfishness and privilege of a thru-hike. I dropped everything that I had (which in my case was just a job since I’m young and without many other responsibilities), and went hiking for 5 months. I spent almost all of my savings on the hike, and complete strangers helped along the way. I completely disconnected from the harsh reality of the world around us and blissfully trounced through the wilderness. Most people in the world can’t even begin to think about doing something as “irresponsible” as a thru-hike. So, these things weigh on me sometimes. I know they shouldn’t, but sometimes I find it hard to be really proud of something that literally impacts no one but myself.

I miss my hiker friends and feeling the camaraderie with other PCTers even if we had never met before. Social media and texting is convenient for keeping tabs on each other, but it obviously just isn’t the same as being out on the trail together. There’s a reason we call our hiker friends our “tramily”. There isn’t really a grace period with trail friendships. You quickly see each other’s highs and lows, and like family, we all tend to love each other, forgive the lows, and revel in the highs. And it’s hard to describe the feeling of when you get to see a friend again at a later point on the trail, when you hadn’t seen them for hundreds of miles.

So it’s true what they say: thru-hiking can ruin you. I came back to an identical life as before my thru-hike: same job, house, clothes, car, etc., except I walked over 2,600 miles, and my identical life no longer feels like it did before. I’m not going to pretend that all the internal change was good change: I can feel really isolated at times, my personal grooming could probably use some more attention, and my relationship with food is back to sucking. But, life is what it is, and like a thru-hike, it’s going to require adaptation, and I haven’t quite figured out how to adapt yet.

PCT 2018 RECAP || Finances

Money is a huge trail topic. Some people may be surprised that doing a thru-hike and “living in the woods” for 4+ months actually isn’t very cheap. I kept a moderately detailed account of my expenses and was planning on writing this post since the beginning of my hike because I could not find any good answers/ advice on this topic online. It resulted in many snarky responses on the PCT Facebook Group when asked, which were obviously unappreciated. In this post I’m going to share with you how much money I spent strictly on trail (aka not including pre-trail gear purchases for main gear items, or any “home expenses” like a cell phone bill), some explanations on those costs, and some tips on how to be a little more frugal and how I’d save money next time.

I spent a grand total of roughly $6,255, +/- $100. I’m giving myself that $100 buffer for the few times I may have forgotten to keep track of a purchase, and rounding. In order to keep track of purchases, I just kept a Google Sheets file that was organized by tab and just put expenses right from my receipt into the correct cell. It’s nothing fancy and it doesn’t use any formulas, but it works. I wasn’t keeping track of expenses any other way. i.e. I didn’t really have a budget, so I wasn’t obsessively making sure I was over my budget, etc. Once I got to the halfway point and realized I had spent less than half of the money I saved up for the trail, I said, “Great! I’m under budget!” And then just kept hiking on my merry way. I understand this is not the case for everyone, which is why I’m making this post in the first place: to try to help people who are trying to set a budget figure out how much money you will spend while hiking the PCT.

Screen shot of my google sheet

Screen shot of my google sheet

While I don’t feel the need to justify my costs to anybody, I do want people who are reading this to understand my costs. I treated myself when I felt like it. I didn’t skimp on hotels, food, drinks, etc. when in town. If I felt like buying a milkshake, powerade, and sprite, I bought all of those drinks. If I went out to dinner with friends, I didn’t meticulously calculate who owes who, we just split it evenly (but many restaurants will split checks). I always bought more food than necessary, because town food is the bomb and I can snack on leftovers later. I stayed in hotels by myself for half of the trail because I was hiking alone and didn’t want to hassle with planning town stuff with others. Plus, I wanted my alone time in my hotel. I wasn’t overly luxurious. I usually chose a cheaper option when available, though sometimes I just didn’t care, and towards the end of the trail when I had a good chunk of money left over, I splurged more. So, that should give you an idea of my spending habits.

Food: $2,902

Resupply: $1,326

I bought your regular hiker foods, for the most part (see my resupply and food guide for info). I mainly shopped at big supermarkets like Vons/Safeway where I have a loyalty saver card, which got me discounts on some things. If I saw something I liked was on sale, I’d buy more of that and less of other food items for that stretch. There were a couple of times I didn’t have to spend any money on resupply due to a combination of hiker boxes, care packages, and my parents meeting me on trail and buying my resupply. You could definitely do resupply cheaper by only shopping at dollar stores (not a ton on the PCT), or shopping exclusively by sales and buying really cheap things, like Ramen.

Town Food: $1,576

I laughed when I saw that my town food was more expensive than resupply food. I’m not sure if this is more/less expensive than others, since I don’t drink booze. I’m sure others who drink excessively, or buy pot may spend more money than this. As I said above, I treated myself in town. Usually I just ate breakfast & dinner, skipping lunch because I was still full from breakfast. Town food can also be overpriced because of being in a tourist trap town, or in a really remote place. If you are trying to save money on town food, try buying your food at the grocery store, or just don’t spend a lot of time in town, and don’t drink a lot.

Lodging: $2,420

Lodging includes hotels, motels, hostels, and pay campgrounds. Does not include donations to trail angels.

I spent a good amount of money on lodging, and this is probably the area you could easily save money by making one simple change: avoid town as much as possible. I had a habit of taking full zeros in a lot of towns, which is 2 nights in a hotel. I don’t necessarily regret this, as staying in town helped me mentally at times, but for a future thru-hike, I probably wouldn’t spend this kind of money again on lodging. You can also try to split rooms as much as possible, but I liked town for relaxing and my own time, not spending every minute with other hikers. Sharing rooms with friends can be fun though, except for when you run out of toilet paper. Try to be respectful of hotel policies, and not give thru-hikers a bad name by squeezing a ton of hikers into a room.

Trail Angel Donations: $75

I didn’t encounter a ton of trail angels with donation jars/ ones who would accept my money when I offered it. I did however, donate to a few key places: Carmen’s in Julian, Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce, Casa de Luna in Green Valley, and another secret trail angel in NorCal. It is nice to offer donation to these “free” places. Do you have any idea how much it costs to dump and clean port-a-pottys? Me neither, but I definitely want them to keep doing that.

New Gear: $310

I needed to replace a few things, and buy a few new things on the trail. This could actually be a higher number, but my mom bought me new shoes once. I actually think this is a lower number than I actually spent, but I can’t find the receipts of a few things. In reality, you’ll probably need a few new pairs of shoes on trail, if you’re using trail runners, which are usually $80-150, and you may spend another $100 on replacement gear if you don’t replace too much. I had to buy a new rain jacket and rain pants, but they were thankfully on sale. Ideally, you’d just be spending money on replacement shoes.

Miscellaneous: $354

Kind of a lot of money for a misc. category, but it’s a combination of transportation (shuttles, rides), laundry, showers, wifi, and other misc. things like a new phone case or chapstick.

Shipping/ Postal: $194

The majority of these costs were from mailing all of my Oregon and Washington boxes ($114). There are also some places that charge pick-up fees for boxes, which is included in here as well, and the times I needed to mail things home.

Total: $6,255

I feel like this is pretty much a very average number for a thru hike. Again, some people can do this for sooo much cheaper. I could have easily spent $1,000 less if I didn’t stay in two Best Westerns on the trail, but again, they made me pretty happy when they came, so I’d say it’s worth it. Overall, I would definitely try to save as much money as possible for your hike. Even if you don’t anticipate spending this much money on trail, I think it’s always important to have a little bit of wiggle room in case you get injured, or maybe decide to flip and spend more money on transportation, etc.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts (do you have any money-saving tips?), and happy to answer any budget-related questions that revolve around the PCT.

Feat3Emily SchrickComment
How To: Plan and Layer Clothing for the PCT

Since being back home, I’ve returned to my previous job at REI, working on the clothing floor. So, I’ve been inspired to talk about my clothing system on the PCT, since I seem to do that all day anyways! In this post, I will explain a general layering system as it applies to the PCT, and will mention some gear I used. There will be links, which are NOT affiliate links, but many products I received at a discount through work. Also, know that YOU know your body the best. Only you know if you are a cold or hot person, only you know if you would definitely need warmer layers or could forgo sleeping clothes. Knowing this is advance will help, but you can also figure these things out on the trail.

A non-breathable rain jacket traps heat in and keeps you warm

A non-breathable rain jacket traps heat in and keeps you warm

Understanding the Climate of the Pacific Crest Trail

This is such an important point of any discussion of clothing and layering. Climate and weather dictate what you wear. I am going to be discussing the climate and weather that I experienced on my thru-hike in 2018. Generally, this is what the weather is like on a normal PCT thru-hike, which I found out by talking to other thru-hikers in previous years, and by my own experience of having lived on the West Coast my whole life. Obviously, every year is different, but I believe this discussion will be true most of the time. I will also only be talking about weather during your typical thru-hiking season, in the northbound direction. Though, it is my understanding that most of this will apply to a southbound thru-hike as well, but you will probably want my Sierra gear in Washington, and my Washington gear for the Sierra. You should also understand, especially if you aren’t from the west, that fire dictates our outdoor lives. Fire is changing the landscape of the PCT, and the climate is changing our fire season. It is practically guaranteed now that you will experience fire, smoke, and fire closures throughout the trail.

Simply put, the PCT is dry and hot, except for Washington in September and later.

The Desert: In the desert in the springtime (late March-early June), you can experience temperatures up to 100 degrees F, sometimes beyond. The desert is incredibly exposed, without much high tree cover. However, the desert can be windy, and cold in the mornings and at night. Some hikers report that their coldest nights on trail are in the desert, depending on start date. I also experienced rain and snow (twice) in the desert. For those reasons, you should not forgo your insulation and rain layers.

The Sierra: The Sierra in early summer (early June-early July) is generally warm. The nights can be cold, and campsite selection is important to staying warmer at night. It will be colder at night in early June, but by mid-June, it will he warmer, even at elevation. During the day it will be warm-hot. The sun can be intense since you are at a higher elevation. Like the desert, it can be windy on the passes, and it is very exposed. Even when you are below treeline, there aren’t a ton of trees, even though it seems like it because the desert in comparison is really treeless. There is also the risk of afternoon thunderstorms in the Sierra, so a rain jacket will still be very helpful here. The mosquitos can also be pretty horrendous, so you may consider chemically treated clothes and long sleeves/ pants.

When bugs are terrible: Loose, long pants (wind pants here), long sleeves, and a headnet are helpful (Sierra)

When bugs are terrible: Loose, long pants (wind pants here), long sleeves, and a headnet are helpful (Sierra)

Short sleeves and shorts are still my favorite in warm weather when bugs aren’t horrendous (NorCal)

Short sleeves and shorts are still my favorite in warm weather when bugs aren’t horrendous (NorCal)

Northern California: By the time you hit NorCal, it is July, and summer is in full swing, especially in this region. It will be hot. I had a week of temps above 100 each day. At night, it seemed like it never went below 60 from Sierra City to Mt. Shasta. The air is stagnant, and can be full of smoke. You will welcome even the slightest breeze.

Oregon: Most hikers will be in Oregon during August. At this point, Southern Oregon will still be pretty warm during the day, but with cool mornings, and nighttime temps will start dropping. By Northern Oregon (Mt. Jefferson area/mid-late August), you may encounter cooler days and cold mornings and evenings. Rain is more likely the closer to September it gets. If you are fast and go through Oregon earlier, it will still feel like summer: hot, dry, mosquitoes. You do have much more tree cover and shade during the day, however.

Washington: Depending on your hike, you’ll be in Washington during August, September, or October. You really should try to finish by the end of September/ first week of October. Snow is likely at higher elevations anytime after mid-September, though unlikely until October. In September, when I went through, I had a little bit of everything in Washington. It was super hot in Southern WA until I got to White Pass, but chilly in the mornings. From White Pass to Steven’s Pass I had cool days with intermittent rain. Temps never really got above 65 after White Pass. Steven’s to Stehekin I had surprisingly beautiful weather: lots of sun, not too cold nights. Stehekin to Canada I had pouring rain, light snow, lots of clouds and fog, and freezing mornings and nights. Washington is probably the most unpredictable during this time, so it is best to be prepared.

Long Sleeve Thermal Hoodie over my SS shirt + Buff over the ears was the perfect amount of warmth for cooler, sunny Washington mornings

Long Sleeve Thermal Hoodie over my SS shirt + Buff over the ears was the perfect amount of warmth for cooler, sunny Washington mornings

Layering System While Hiking

  1. Long Sleeve or Short Sleeve Breathable Top: Most will recommend a LS where the sleeves can be rolled. I will as well, though I did switch to a SS in NorCal and don’t regret it. Just make sure to wear sunscreen. If you are fair-skinned, you should wear a LS top the whole trail.

    My Pick: REI Sahara

  2. Long, breathable, quick-drying pants or Running shorts: Like your top, this is personal preference. I wore shorts for the whole trail and personally would have been too hot & sweaty for pants. I always have issues with pants not fitting my body well: leggings, pants, etc. never fit my thighs great, always ride down, which results in uncomfortable sweat and chafe near my crotch and upper thighs (sorry for the visual, but its the truth and something to consider).

    My Pick: Patagonia Strider Shorts

  3. When you are cold: Wind or Rain jacket for your top; wind or rain pants for your legs. I would do the rain jacket/ wind pants combo for the desert & Sierra, rain jacket/ rain pants combo for Washington. I wouldn’t carry either in Northern CA, and I’d carry a rain jacket in OR. Based on the weather I experienced. To be safe though, you’ll probably want to carry a rain jacket in NorCal. I also added the Patagonia Capilene Thermal Hoodie in Washington, which became an extra hiking layer for me, so I could have warmth without having to wear my rain jacket since it was cold most of the day. This “extra layer” could also have been a heavier fleece or other synthetic jacket (like a Melanzana or Montbell Thermawrap) that could have also replaced my down jacket, if I wanted to be very weight conscious and reduce redundancies. You could add in your insulating layer here, but I personally don’t like to hike in a down layer because I heat up too fast. You may prefer to hike in your insulating layer.

    My Picks: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket, Outdoor Research Helium Pants, Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Hoodie

  4. When you are cold (accessories): I did not feel the need for these in any other section besides Washington, but I also get hot fast when I’m moving. Other people may be more cold. Thin liner gloves, lightweight rain mitts, and a balaclava are great, versatile accessories that are super light and will help with warmth.

    My Picks: Montbell LW Gloves, Montbell UL Shell Mittens, Montbell LW Balaclava

  5. Sun Protection: Hat (wide-brimmed is best), Sunglasses, Sun Gloves, Umbrella. This is mostly a concern for California. I ditched all of these by Oregon, except for sunglasses.

  6. Other Clothing: Underwear - choose something that wicks fast and has good odor control. Bra - ladies, you probably know what you like. Again, choose something that wicks sweat well. Buff - I liked to wear this over my ears when it was cold. Socks - I like Injinji midnight merino because they wick sweat, promote natural toe splay and prevent in-between toe blisters.

    My Picks: Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear, Injinji Socks, My Patagonia Active Mesh Bra has been discontinued, and I can’t recommend the new version bc I hate it.

When its freezing and you’re hiking, put on ALL of your layers (I leave out the down jacket, and sleeping base layers though)

When its freezing and you’re hiking, put on ALL of your layers (I leave out the down jacket, and sleeping base layers though)

Layering System While Sleeping

  1. Base Layer Top*: I used a lightweight synthetic top. It was sufficient for the whole trail. LW merino wool would be a good option as well.

    My Pick: Patagonia Capilene Lightweight

  2. Base Layer Bottom*: I used a lightweight synthetic top. It was sufficient for the whole trail. LW merino wool would be a good option as well.

    My Pick: Patagonia Capilene Lightweight

  3. Sleep Socks: UL people may debate their necessity, and I only wore them a handful of times on the whole trail, but they will be important in the Sierra and Washington, or if your sleeping bag isn’t very warm, or if you have Reynaud’s Syndrome. They should probably be a mid-heavy weight material, preferably merino wool. Some people also use down socks/ booties if they have severe circulation issues. Remember, they are part of your defense system in the case of hypothermia.

    My Pick: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew

  4. Insulating Layer: Whichever you choose, down or synthetic, you’ll need something to keep you warm while you are sitting around at camp or during breaks. The PCT is dry enough where down is a fine choice for insulation.

    My Pick: Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Hoodie

  5. When you are cold: Put on all of your layers when sleeping. See above.

    *Some hikers will forgo sleep clothes, and that is totally fine. I preferred to sleep in “cleaner”, dry clothes. I’d probably recommend having them for Washington though, especially if the forecast calls for rain & snow.

I only needed to wear my down jacket while sleeping 3-4 times on the whole trail, mostly in the desert, and on my last night on trail. A buff can be transformed into a balaclava in a pinch too.

I only needed to wear my down jacket while sleeping 3-4 times on the whole trail, mostly in the desert, and on my last night on trail. A buff can be transformed into a balaclava in a pinch too.

I hope that was helpful! Of course, this is entirely my opinion, and what worked well for me on my hike. I’ve hiked in a variety of different conditions wearing different clothes, and my system for the PCT was by far the best I’ve used to date. As always, let me know if you have any questions, as I would be happy to help out!

PCT 2018 RECAP || Food & Resupply

One of the most asked questions of thru-hikers from non-hikers is “But how do you carry food for that long?”, “What do you eat?” or some iteration of concern about how we feed ourselves on trail. What most people don’t realize is that these trails are not in the middle of nowhere. The trail passes through, or very close to, numerous “resupply points”. A resupply point can be anywhere from a bustling city like Portland, OR, to a lakeside resort in the middle of the Sierra, like Vermillion Valley Ranch. The majority of resupply points are small towns. One of the cool things about doing a long hike (at least, for a city girl like me) is to visit these small towns and meet the people who inhabit them, most of whom are very familiar with the PCT, and value their slower pace of life near the great outdoors. In this post, I want to go over the towns I went into, adding commentary about certain ones, and then go into the food I ate on trail. I only ask that you withhold judgment once we get into the food discussion. Most thru-hikers are simultaneously proud and ashamed of the food we consume on trail.

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Resupply Stops

Number of towns visited: 47

Number of towns resupplied in: 34

Number of towns resupply purchased in: 24

Number of towns mailed resupply to: 11


There are basically 3 ways to do resupply: mail all boxes ahead of time (or have a resupply help person at home to mail boxes), buy all food along the way, on trail, or do a mixture of these strategies. There are certainly pros and cons to each strategy. Me being lazy, and not entirely knowing what I'd like to eat while on the trail, buying resupply along the way was definitely the way to go! Having done a thru-hike now, I think I could do a complete mail-drop resupply in the future, but I'd rather buy along the way.

California

1 - Lake Morena

2 - Mount Laguna

3 - Julian

4 - Warner Springs

5 - Idyllwild

6 - Big Bear Lake

7 - Wrightwood

8 - Acton KOA

9 - Agua Dulce

10 - Casa de Luna

11 - Wee Vill Market

12 - Tehachapi

13 - Lake Isabella

14 - Kennedy Meadows South

15 - Bishop

16 - Mammoth Lakes

17 - Tuolumne Meadows

18 - Kennedy Meadows North

19 - Echo Lake

20 - Donner Pass/ Auburn, CA

21 - Sierra City

22 - Buck's Lake

23 - Belden/ Caribou Crossroads

24 - Chester

25 - Old Station

26 - Burney Mountain Guest Ranch

27 - Burney Falls State Park

28 - Burney

29 - Mt. Shasta

30 - Etna

31 - Seiad Valley


Oregon

32 - Ashland/Medford

33 - Mazama Village (Crater Lake NP)

34 - Shelter Cove Resort

35 - Big Lake Youth Camp

36 - Ollalie Lake Resort

37 - Timberline Lodge

38 - Cascade Locks

39 - Portland

40 - Hood River


Washington

41 - Trout Lake

42 - White Pass

43 - Snoqualmie Pass

44 - Steven's Pass

45 - Leavenworth

46 - Holden Village

47 - Stehekin

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The towns listed in black are places I visited and sort of passed through. I either slept, or ate food at these places. I almost never skipped an opportunity to eat town food. There are some places not listed that I also happened to get town food from: like the random fire station parking lot on trail that LOL and I ordered pizza to.

Some places where I mailed a resupply to, I also supplemented with food in the area. For example, I did not really resupply in Agua Dulce. I had a few care packages sent to me from friends/ family, and some leftover food from the last stretch, so I didn’t need to buy anything extra. This happened to work out well, since I heard the market was really low on hiker food when I was there. In Stehekin, I knew I’d be visiting the famed bakery, and purposefully left out lunches of the box. I had a couple leftover ramens from the last stretch since I went through faster than previously anticipated, and bought the rest of my lunches at the bakery (yes, I had a giant cinnamon roll everyday for the last 3 days on trail).

 

Changes I’d Make For Next Time

Thanks Alice & Elizabeth!

Thanks Alice & Elizabeth!

  • Mailed Boxes

    • I would not send a box to Warner Springs or Burney Mountain Guest Ranch. Both of these places have a highly curated hiker store with meals for a stove and cold soaking. Sure, they may be slightly more expensive than the grocery store, but you don’t have to pay for shipping, so I think its a wash. I personally think you can go through all of California without sending a resupply box, unless you only like fancy food or have a strict diet.

    • I solely depended on care packages and Yogi’s store, Triple Crown Outfitters, at Kennedy Meadows South. I definitely think you could easily resupply from TCO for your first stretch through the Sierra, all the way to Kearsarge Pass. You’ll probably be getting a package with your Sierra gear in it, but I don’t see a reason to add food to that package. TCO had the hiker food down.

  • Better OR/WA Planning

    • I think I did this decently well, and I obviously survived, but there are a couple things I would do differently next time.

    • Hindsight being 20/20, and in my particular situation, I would mail ahead all of my OR/WA boxes from Medford. There is a huge Walmart in Medford, with incredibly cheap food and a huge variety. They had way more variety of Knorr Rice Sides, Ramen flavors, candy, and snacks than any grocery store. There was also a Trader Joes and REI in town, which made for nice supplementary snacks. My parents also visited me in Ashland/Medford, but I know other hikers rented cars for the day, or took public transportation to Medford from Ashland just to resupply in the cheaper Medford.

      • Why? Because when I got to Cascade Locks to resupply for Washington, it was a shit show. The local market in Cascade Locks sucks. Sure, it can get you to Trout Lake, but I was trying to resupply for all of Washington at this market. This sentiment was shared by other hikers in the store. This led me to going to Portland AND Hood River to finish my resupply. I do think the resupply options in Washington are good enough to supplement sent boxes. So if you just buy the basics and snacks you know you want, but know you can’t get in gas stations (like specialty snacks from Trader Joes, for instance), it will be easy to add on more food if you find your pace has slowed down, or add more food if you realize you’re hungrier. So, you don’t need to precisely plan the Washington boxes in Medford.

    • If I didn’t send everything from Medford, when I got to Cascade Locks, I should have taken the bus directly to Hood River. The public transportation was cheap, the UPS store is next to the local grocery store, and there’s also a Walmart in Hood River. It would have been much smarter to resupply for all of Washington here.

    • I would not have gone to Portland. Portland was so spur-of-the-moment as a day trip from Cascade Locks, born out of frustration of the terrible resupply in Cascade Locks and a desire to eat donuts and Salt & Straw and Grassa. And while I had fun, it was a whirlwind, and I could have better spent the day resting.

    • Even though I sent boxes to Washington, and I personally would again, I think you could not send boxes to Washington, except for Stehekin. Trout Lake was good for a 3 day to White Pass. At White Pass, you can go to Packwood, with a real grocery store, or just resupply at the Kracker Barrel gas station (but you’ll probably be eating exclusively Ramen, chips, meat sticks, and candy to Snoqualmie. But some people can make it work). Snoqualmie Pass’s gas station was surprisingly good, and its only 2.5-3 days to Steven’s Pass. At Steven’s you can go to Skykomish or Leavenworth pretty easily to buy food. I would not send a box to Steven’s Pass again, just because there are two towns nearby to go to. For me personally, it would have saved me the Hood River stop, since I only went there to send a box via UPS to Steven’s Pass, since they only accept UPS or FedEx. I did this as a little insurance for myself, though. I was meeting friends at Steven’s Pass, and wanted to make sure I’d still have food if something came up and they were no longer able to meet me and take me to Leavenworth.

  • Using Zero Day Resupply

    • I’d definitely consider not stressing with shopping in Oregon or Washington, and just using a company like Zero Day Resupply to send all of my resupply boxes to those towns.

So many berries in Oregon & Washington

So many berries in Oregon & Washington

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Places I Thought Were Difficult to Resupply In

  • Echo Lake - This one probably won’t impact most people. Usually people go into South Lake Tahoe, but I did not, so I resupplied here. It is a very small shop with high prices and lacking variety. I basically ate ramen, oreos, and kind bars from here to Truckee. Let’s just say, I was really happy to eat town food after that. The deli and ice cream is reeealllyyy good here though, so I’d highly recommend stopping here anyways since its right on trail and get an ice cream and pack out a sandwich for lunch/ dinner.

  • Sierra City - Was definitely lacking a good assortment of hiker food. They were even out of sunscreen when I went through. The store is pretty expensive as well, though similar to many very small town markets. Cost wouldn’t be a deterrent for me, but variety would.

  • Caribou Crossroads - They did have decent hiker food, but again, very lacking in assortment and volume. Lots of things were sold out, and they weren’t restocking. It was cheaper than Belden, but I’d probably buy from the Belden store. The free camping and diner food was good though! However, both will have sufficient food to get you to Chester, which is really only ~2.5 days away.

  • Seiad Valley - This store was also really lacking in variety and volume. Most of the shelves were empty. I didn’t resupply here, but I was trying to buy something to put together as dinner that night, and it was slim pickings. The cafe is amazing though. I wish they were open for dinner!

  • Mazama Village - Really just car camping food. Would definitely send a box.

  • Big Lake Youth Camp - You would need to send a box here. Or just go to Bend/ Sisters if you aren’t doing boxes in Oregon. Good news though. There were lots of people offering rides/ day trips from BLYC to Sisters & Bend when I was there, so you could stop by to do laundry & take a shower & eat & sleep for a donation, and see if a trail angel could bring you to town to shop for groceries only.

  • Olallie Lake Resort - It was tiny and expensive, and CASH ONLY. But, they did have hiker food.

  • Timberline Lodge - No viable resupply options here unless you ordered moderately expensive food from the restaurant and packed out that for your resupply to Cascade Locks.

  • Cascade Locks - Like I said above, fine for just getting to Trout Lake or White Pass, but not for all of Washington.

  • White Pass - You could do it if you like to eat gas station food, but this would be a difficult place to do a full resupply. Great for supplementing a box, though!

  • Steven’s Pass - You’re basically SOL if you don’t send a box here. You would definitely need to hitch to Skykomish or Leavenworth, preferably, Leavenworth.

  • Stehekin - Some people pride themselves on resupplying entirely from the bakery to get to Canada, but I am not one of those people. There are some snacks in the gift shop store, but you should send a box here.

Hiker Food & Eating Habits

There are, surprisingly, many schools of thought when it comes to food for thru-hiking, or long distance section hiking. Some people will avidly count calories. Others make sure all of their food is above the 100 cal/oz threshold for a good calorie-weight ratio. Some will even make that number higher: 120 cal/oz. Some people will home cook and dehydrate all of their meals before the trail, others live off of junk food the whole time. I couldn’t even begin to scratch the surface of all the ways to eat on trail, so I’m just going to tell you what I did. From my observations, it seemed that many people on trail ate similarly to me.

Its also worth noting a few things about my eating style:

  1. I cold soaked my food in the Desert, Sierra, NorCal, and Oregon. What this means is everything I bought & ate was “no cook”, and I generally just cold soaked my dinners, only occasionally soaking lunches.

  2. 99.9% of the time I had a sit-down lunch and dinner; breakfast was always on-the-go.

  3. I didn’t count calories, though I tried to keep the majority of my food above the 100 cal/oz “threshold” for a decent calorie-weight ratio, but taste and cravings were the most important.

Breakfast

Breakfast was the meal that had the least variation during my whole thru-hike, and it never really bothered me. Breakfast was always either a Belvita cracker pack or PopTart pack. Sometimes I tried the KIND breakfast bar things. I would alternate which one with resupplies, and got sick of PopTarts briefly in the desert. I tried to mix it up as much as possible with flavors, to try to prevent getting tired/ repulsed by one.

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For probably over 50% of the trail, I also had Carnation Instant Breakfast drink mixes with breakfast. I’d use two packets to mix into my 0.7L bottle. Sometimes I’d add a Starbucks Via packet, or chia seeds. I would only have the “Rich Milk Chocolate” flavor. I was scared to try the vanilla or strawberry. Carnation also has protein and vitamins & minerals so I felt slightly healthy when starting my day with it.

Snack Time

Since breakfast was not very caloric, I ate snacks constantly throughout the morning until lunchtime, which was usually around 12-1 pm. These morning snacks were mainly bars and fruit snacks. I found that Welches fruit snacks are the best. So much better than Motts or some other off brand gummy. Welches all the way! Bars were all over the place, but the key was variety. So many people get sick of Clif bars instantly. I tried to keep it to one Clif bar per day, and with flavor variety, so I wouldn’t get burned out. I should mention that I HATE nuts. So anything that was purely whole nuts I can’t handle, but its ok if there are chunks of them in there, or ground, or whatever. But I will never be able to eat a pure KIND bar, for instance. I know, I’m weird. If you like nuts, you can have more bar variety. I finally got into a rhythm of doing 3 bars, 1-2 fruit snacks, 1 cracker/ snack pack thing, and 1 candy bar as my allotment for morning snacks. Sometimes I had some sort of energy snack like a Gu gel, which was nice to eat when my stomach started growling and I still needed to walk 2 miles before lunch… it kept me from getting too hangry. Sometimes I’d eat all of this before lunch, sometimes I wouldn’t. My hunger definitely fluctuated on trail, throughout the whole trail. And I wasn’t really doing this in the desert. IDK what I was doing in the desert, but NorCal-Canada, this was the formula I used. Also, all of these snacks + my breakfast bar fit into my hip belt pocket, so I never had to stop to eat in the morning.

After lunch I usually wasn’t that hungry, but if I was, I’d eat anything leftover from the morning, and snack on whatever random goodie I packed for myself for that stretch: cookies, keebler, fruit squeeze, whatever.

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Bars: Clif Bars (only the regular and builder - I hated the nut butter & fruit smoothie ones), Bobo’s bars, Larabars, Chewy Bars, Z bars, Nature Valley Oat Bars, Probars, Lunabars, KIND pressed fruit bars (banana + chocolate SO GOOD).

Fruity Snacks: Island Fruits, Berries & Cherries, Tangy Fruits, Apple Orchard Medley were my faves (from Welches), fruit leathers, gushers (didn’t eat these that often, idk why), squeezable fruit mush/ baby foods, dried fruit: cranberries and mango are my faves. Wild berries in Washington were great treats!

Savory Snacks: Keebler crackers, Flavor blast Goldfish, Cheeze-its, wasabi peas (stopped eating these in the desert, but I can’t remember finding them later on). Basically any kind of crunchy, savory snack in a fun-sized package.

Other Random Snacks: Animal circus cookies, nutella/ Jif individual packets w/ pretzels/ sticks to dip, olive packets, bagged cereal, Oreos.

Energy Snacks: Honey Stinger gummys, Gu Gels, Energy Stroopwafels.

Thanks Pammy & Geri!

Thanks Pammy & Geri!

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Not great for calories, but really nice to mix it up.

Not great for calories, but really nice to mix it up.

Candy Bars: Snickers (regular, almond, peanut butter), Dark Midnight Milky Way, Butterfinger, Mounds are my favorites.

Candy: Sour gummy worms were my favorites, but also did regular gummy bears, and tropical Skittles. I’d eat these mainly as dessert, after dinner, but would also throw them in my hip pocket to snack on in the afternoon.

Chips: I really didn’t snack on chips during the day, usually just eating them with Lunch, but sometimes I snacked on them while filtering water. My favorites were Ruffle cheddar, Kettle cooked Lays, Honey BBQ Frito twists, Pringles (the can fits perfectly in the side pocket of your backpack & is super light & you can put your trash in it when you accidentally throw out your trash bag). I was always craving Salt & Vinegar or Cheddar flavors.

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Lunch

Chips go with everything at lunch

Chips go with everything at lunch

I had difficulties with lunch, mainly because I would get sick of these meals pretty quickly. I had a few staples though, and I’ll list them in order of when I was eating them. A general rule of thumb I had was to make sure I was eating carbs, protein, and fats during lunch so I would have a variety of energy sources.

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  • Tuna Tortillas: Ate this a lot in the desert. I liked the tuna packet flavors that had some spice: buffalo, jalapeño, thai flavor, etc. I also tried to eat the ones with olive oil/ sunflower oil (bc more calories & healthy fat), but those didn’t taste good. I usually put a packet of mayo and handful of chips in the tortilla to add extra flavor and texture. Needless to say, I got sick of these and didn’t eat tuna after NorCal.

  • Salami Tortillas: Just like tuna tortillas, but with salami. Also added mayo packets and chips for the extra flavor and texture, and added cheese, of course, usually string cheese. I hated having to slice cheese & salami, so I preferred the pre-sliced packaged stuff. I got sick of this too in California, and was reminded of this when I tried to do it for lunches for a little bit in Oregon.

  • Mini Pizzas: I owe this one to my mom. It takes a little work and is kind of messy, but its a nice change of pace & taste. English muffins + Bobli pizza sauce + Hormel pepperoni + Babybel cheese. I only did this a few times just because it was kind of hard to eat and took a little long to assemble. Didn’t get sick of the flavors though!

  • Avocados + Carbs: English muffins + avocado + red pepper packets. So yummy, but avocados are heavy, and packing out the pit and skin is heavy. I did this once, and the avocado got punctured and it got on my food bag and other food. So yummy though!

  • Cold-Soaked & Cooked Dinners: see examples in the Dinner category - this was sometimes more convenient, but I was never happy during the stretches where lunch and dinner were essentially the same.

  • PB & J Bagels: I held off on peanut butter for a while, because on a previous backpacking trip I never ate the PB I packed bc I never wanted to eat it. So I kinda wrote off eating PB while backpacking. In NorCal, after being sick of tuna and salami, I decided to give it a try and I can’t believe I waited so long. Bagels are heavy, but high in calories, and so is peanut butter. I loved the Skippy Natural w/ Honey kind. I used the Smuckers Squeezable Strawberry jam. It’s heavy and not very caloric, but necessary to add moisture and flavor. It is just so yummy and I highly recommend this as a good backpacking lunch. I could go ~6-7 days on one jar of PB and Jam, so about 2 resupply stops, meaning in town #2 I only needed to buy more bagels!

  • Packed Out Town Food: I didn’t do this nearly as much as I should! But it was always great to have town food for the first lunch back on trail: pizza, burritos, sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, etc.

Packed out pizza - amazing!

Packed out pizza - amazing!

One of my fave lunches

One of my fave lunches

Dinner

I always looked forward to dinner time! Dinner signified the end of my hiking day. I usually ate it in my quilt, in my tent, in a partially upright position. I cold soaked for the majority of the trail, and all of my dinners were either cold soaked or cooked. If there was no protein in the main part of dinner, which was usually the case, I added a meat stick for protein and fat.

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So many mashed potatoes

So many mashed potatoes

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  • Knorr Rice Sides: These were a huge staple in my dinner diet. I got sick of the broccoli & cheddar flavor early on, but all of the other ones are great. I was always excited when the Asian flavor one was in the store, which almost never happened. I ate these cold soaked and hot. Cold soaking took ~4 hours to get everything nice and soft.

  • Ramen: Another huge staple. I love ramen and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of it. I didn’t do anything fancy with it, just the full pack + full flavor pack. Beef & Chili were my favorite flavors, and I ate the Top Ramen and Maruchan brands. I also ate this cold soaked and hot. When I was feeling extra fancy, sometimes I splurged for the large Shin ramen brand packs with veggie and spice packs.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Idahoan brand all the way. I had to be careful here: I knew I could get sick of these fairly easily, so I made sure to only have one per resupply, sometimes leaving them out entirely. My favorite flavors were loaded, garlic, and baby reds. The baby reds had a nice texture, with a little crunch, which was nice. I also did these cold and hot, and though I am a fan of cold soaking, I will admit that they taste better hot. Some people make a creation called a Ramen bomb, which is a pack of ramen + some mashed potato flakes. I never did this, but its pretty popular.

  • Couscous: I liked the Near East brand pine nut and garlic flavors. I didn’t have couscous very often, For some reason I couldn’t really stomach eating a whole box in one sitting, and got bored of the flavors. I did have it occasionally though and would split one box into 2 ziplocs for 2 dinners. Not a lot of calories this way though, so I’d have to make sure to eat more chips and maybe 2 meat sticks or something. I like couscous in real life, not sure why I had a slight aversion to it on trail. I only cold soaked couscous.

  • Annie’s Mac & Cheese: Can’t really gush enough about annie’s mac & cheese. I loved the shells, white or regular cheddar. This was probably the best part of using a stove, as you can only cook pasta. Cold soaking just doesn’t work for it. So yeah, mac & cheese is the best and idk who you are as a person if you don’t like it. This does use a decent amount of fuel and time to cook, but its not too bad.

  • Dehydrated Meals: Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry, Good to Go, etc. Those are my favorite brands, and when I used a stove, I ate them occasionally. I never bought them (they’re definitely more expensive than ramen!), but my mom loved buying and sending them to me. Thanks mom! These usually had protein in them, so I didn’t eat meat sticks when I had one of these around.

  • Knorr Pasta Sides: Never really got into this. You definitely can’t cold soak these, and I craved mac & cheese for pasta when I had a stove. If I carried a stove for the whole trail, I probably would have dabbled in these more.

  • Meat: For fat & protein, I’d add a meat stick to these super carby meals. Sometimes beef jerky, sometimes a tuna packet (but hardly every that bc I’d get sick of too much tuna). Chef’s Cut BBQ chicken was my favorite flavor. I also loooove Slim Jims. I liked the Tillamook brand for a bit, but then got really grossed out by the texture. Epic meat bars were amazing. The Bison cranberry bacon flavor was my favorite. However, these didn’t have as many calories and fat content as chef’s cut and slim jims, and were heavier. I’m picky about beef jerky, so only got it when I knew I liked the brand (like in Yosemite!).

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Food Summary

Overall, I was pretty happy with my food. The only thing I truly got sick of was tuna. On a future thru-hike, I would probably eat like this again. I think variety is really key when you’re on a thru-hike. Don’t only buy Clif bars or Ramen, because you’ll probably get sick of it real fast. If you feel like you’re getting sick of something, try to trade on trail, and make sure you don’t buy that thing in the next town. Give it a week or so, and you’ll probably be ok eating whatever it is again. I never held back on food cravings. You really don’t have to. You’re burning so many calories that you don’t have to feel bad about eating a whole box of Oreos! So if you see something in the grocery store and you’re just like, YES I need to eat that, then buy it. You’ll smile every time you eat it on trail.

If I was going to dabble in sending more boxes or for a hike that didn’t involve resupply, I’d want to experiment at home a little bit more with dehydrating my own food. There are definitely down falls to eating crap, and although I didn’t necessarily feel depleted, I probably was lacking in certain nutrients. It would be nicer to eat healthier on shorter thru-hikes too, when you might not have enough time to lose a lot of weight and eating terrible foods will catch up to you faster. I’d definitely experiment in making meals higher in fat content, and maybe try making my own breakfast bars that are more nutritious and filling.

I hope this was helpful if you’re in the midst of trying to figure out your re-supply strategy! As always, leave a comment, or send me an email if you have more questions.

Feat3Emily SchrickComment
A Day in the Life on the Pacific Crest Trail

Thru-hiking is pretty awesome. You get to see beautiful places, eat whatever you want, sleep under the stars every night, breathe fresh mountain air. What more could you ask for? Thru-hiking is great, and it is also incredibly glamorized. It’s not like a regular backpacking trip for most people. In order to successfully finish a thru-hike like the PCT within the weather window, sacrifices have to be made. This post isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from hiking, but to show you what you actually do all day on a thru-hike. This is what a normal day looked like for me, for over half of the trail (NorCal - Washington). And after that day finished, I woke up and did it all over again. You probably know most of this already if you read all of my blog posts, but maybe not, so here it is. :)

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4:30 AM: Alarm Goes Off

*My first alarm goes off* I always woke up to my first alarm until Washington, where I struggled because of how dark it was in the morning. I’d change into my hiking clothes, deflate my sleeping pad, stuff my pad, pillow, quilt, sleeping clothes into the liner bag in my pack, take my morning meds, put my electronics away and in my pack. Look at my water bottles to remind myself how much water I had. Check Guthooks for next water source based on how much water I had. Start throwing stuff outside of my tent, put shoes on, pack food bag, take down tent, and then I was off. If I really had to go to the bathroom, that was the first thing I did. Otherwise I went right before leaving. For 90% of the time I hiked with Hot Mess & Butters, I’d wake up at 5. Sometimes we woke up really early though. But I was pretty much waking up at 4:30 after we split up bc the days in NorCal were so hot, hotter than the Desert.

5:30 - 6:00 AM: Begin Hiking, Eat Breakfast

The time I started hiking depended on when I woke up and how warm it was. I was faster at getting ready when it was warm, and if it was warm, I’d be waking up earlier anyways to hike more in the cooler weather. Some days in Washington I didn’t start hiking until 6:45. I ate my Belvita or Poptart first thing, while drinking my Carnation breakfast mix.

Hiking as the sun rises is amazing

Hiking as the sun rises is amazing

6:00 AM - 1:00 PM-ish: Hike

I always tried to get the majority of my miles in before lunchtime (~15-17 miles). Generally, I’ll stop for water at some point in the morning, depending on water sources and how much water I started the day with. This break is about 10-15 minutes long. Sometimes as long as 30 min if there are people to socialize with. I rinse my drink mix bottle so it doesn’t get moldy, and I eat a snack. I also try to time it so I’ll be at a water source for lunch, so I don’t have to carry extra lunch water. I eat a snack every 1.5-2 hours while hiking; do not stop to eat, generally.

Think about life, have song lyrics stuck in my head, pee break, curse climbs, take pictures of pretty things, check Guthooks to see when the climb will be over, fantasize about town food, keep re-calculating my speed in my head, pee break, check Guthooks to see where a good lunch spot would be (near water). When hiking with people: talk. Sometimes talked to myself out loud. Sometimes listened to music/ podcasts.

The PCT isn’t all stellar views

The PCT isn’t all stellar views

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM: Lunch

I made myself hike a minimum of 12 miles before eating lunch, even through Washington. Sometimes lunch would be closer to 12 pm, but I generally started it in the 12-2 pm time frame, and took an hour to sit down and eat. When I was hiking with friends, this was nice socialization time, and I took small naps in the Desert and Sierra, and our lunches were a little longer (up to 2 hours). By myself, lunch was lonely bc no one was around, so I ate faster and took a shorter lunch.

I’d take my shoes and socks off, eat lunch. I would filter water, move some into my drink mix bottle, add an electrolyte supplement to it. Sometimes drank that water at lunch, sometimes drank it first after lunch. I’d get all my trash I’d accumulated in the morning into my trash ziploc. I’d change into my second pair of socks. Right before leaving, I brushed my teeth. I’d check Guthooks to see what the afternoon looked like terrain-wise, and roughly calculated a spot where I’d want to sleep. This all depended on when I started hiking again.

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Desert lunches always involved finding shade & taking Siestas, and sometimes would be 4 hours long!

Desert lunches always involved finding shade & taking Siestas, and sometimes would be 4 hours long!

2:00 PM - 7:00 PM: Hike

I’d generally get 10+ miles done after lunch. I was usually more tired after lunch, so I’d put on a podcast or music or audiobook to get me pumped up again, or to distract myself from how tired I was/ how hard the climb was. In the second half of my hike, I listened to some form of entertainment in the afternoon 90% of the time. I tried to keep the entertainment for the afternoon only, not the morning.

Probably have to stop to filter water again; check Guthooks to see if water is nearby where I want to camp. If not, make sure I have enough water for the rest of the day, dinner, and the morning until the next water source. If cold soaking, take the “dinner water” and start cold soaking dinner, around 4-5 PM. Check Guthooks around 5 pm to see if I’m still on-track for the campsite I’d roughly picked out during lunch. Adjust accordingly based on if there’s a climb to camp or a downhill, and how tired (or not tired) I am.

Eat more snacks when I’m hungry, get distracted from podcasts bc I start thinking about random things, take more pretty pictures, fantasize about more town food, pee break, maybe #2 break. Look at Guthooks more than I should to see how much progress I’ve made. Start really picking up the speed as 7 PM approaches - generally my cut off time for hiking, as that time allowed me to do evening chores before bed.

Sunset came earlier and earlier in Washington. If I got to camp by 7-7:15, I’d be eating by headlamp.

Sunset came earlier and earlier in Washington. If I got to camp by 7-7:15, I’d be eating by headlamp.

7:00 PM - 7:30 PM: Set Up Camp

Send Garmin inReach message to my parents. Go #2 maybe. Set up my tent, crawl into it, blow up sleeping pad and pillow, get quilt out, plug in electronics that need to be charged. Take baby wipe shower and get into PJs. Sometimes take a Benadryl. Examine and massage feet.

I’d like to personally thank Good Man Gramps for this, and many other campsite suggestions.

I’d like to personally thank Good Man Gramps for this, and many other campsite suggestions.

7:30 PM - 8:15 PM: Eat Dinner

Sometimes did this in my tent. If around people, ate dinner and socialized with them outside unless it was super cold, then we socialized from our tents. I always ate dinner out and away from my tent in the Sierra, because I’d have to pack the bear canister and put it somewhere far from my tent. While eating I also transferred/ filtered water, made my Carnation drink mix in my water bottle, and took out all my morning snacks for the next day and put them in my snack pocket (except in the Sierra. I had to do this part in the morning, which meant I had to wake up 15 min earlier those mornings). After dinner, I’d squirt some water into my cup and swirl it, drinking the grey water.

Eating dinner can sometimes be the most miserable part of the day (*cough* Yosemite *cough*)

Eating dinner can sometimes be the most miserable part of the day (*cough* Yosemite *cough*)

8:15 PM - 9:00 PM: Bedtime Things

After dinner, I packed my food bag up, and other loose items/ toiletries. Put on any extra layers I needed, and then crawled into my quilt. I spent the rest of my night writing my blog post and choosing the pictures I wanted in it, then edited them and put them in my special album on my phone. Before going to sleep, I’d check Guthooks and see what the first part of tomorrow looked like, and also did some quick math to see how many miles I was from the next town, making sure I was still on schedule.

Bedtime chores included tidying up so I’d have less to pack up in the morning

Bedtime chores included tidying up so I’d have less to pack up in the morning

So that’s that! As you can see, I basically hiked alllll day long. Sometimes interesting things would happen, but it was mostly just lots of hiking!

Feat3Emily SchrickComment
2018 PCT Gear List || POST HIKE

Overall, my gear list pretty much stayed the same from the beginning until the end of my hike, with only minor changes. Below you will find links to my LighterPack lists for each section of the hike. I’m going to use the same template for this post as my pre-hike list, but will be including some commentary on the items, especially if they were ditched or added to my set-up. I will be doing in-depth reviews on core pieces of gear, which you can view on my gear review page, and will do a separate post on clothing systems and layering, and what I think is really appropriate for a PCT thru-hike from Spring - Autumn. This is like, 99% accurate. There are some toiletries that possibly changed during certain parts of the trail, parts of my first aid kit got depleted or I threw some things away, etc. But for the most part, this is accurate, especially for the important items.

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Pack:

  • Zpacks Arc Haul - overall good
    • lined w/ Gossamer Gear pack liner - liner tore, repaired w/ duct tape fine. Used 1st bag from Campo-Ashland, 2nd bag from Ashland-Manning Park. Would use again.
    • Customizations: 1 shoulder pocket, 2 hip pockets, lumbar pad, ice axe loop (1 side only), V-strap top closure - Did NOT use V-strap closure, ended up not liking how it cinched down. Everything else was perfect.

Shelter:

  • Zpacks Duplex Tent - Loved
  • MSR mini groundhog stakes (8) - Fine. The pulleys would break. I probably replaced all 8 at some point just because I liked being able to pull on the string to get them out of the ground. Durable, stayed in ground really well.

Sleeping:

  • Enlightened Equipment Enigma Quilt - Loved everything about this
    • Customizations: 10*, 950 fill, short, wide
  • Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad - Short w/ stuff sack - Ditched stuff sack, and pad. Did not enjoy having the pad only go down to my knees. I would kick my backpack out from under me and my legs would have no support.
  • ADD: Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad - Women's - I liked that this pad was full length, and I already owned it.
  • Gossamer Gear Thinlight Foam Pad - 1/8" - This was just a hassle and a ton of dirt got onto it when I layed it down and the point of it was so I wouldn't have to sit in the dirt. Before getting rid of it completely, I cut it down to a sit pad size, but threw that away too.
  • Sea to Summit Aeros UL regular pillow - I almost sent this home at the beginning bc I couldn't get comfortable using it, but after 2-3 weeks I was in love.

Cooking:

  • Talenti soaking jar - Replaced every so often, stopped carrying for good at Snoqualmie Pass. Perfect size for 1 pack of all the classic cold soaking foods
  • Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon - Long - No complaints. Good utensil. Still amazed I didn't lose this ever.
  • Zpacks 14 L food bag - No complaints. Held up well, no holes or tears.
  • Gallon Ziploc trash bag - the best trash bag.
  • ADD: Snow Peak LiteMax Stove - Carried in the Sierra and Washington. If I were to do this again, would continue to cold soak in the Sierra, only bring stove for WA.
  • ADD: Toaks 750 mL cup pot - Carried in the Sierra and Washington. If I were to do this again, would continue to cold soak in the Sierra, only bring stove for WA.
  • ADD: OpSak Medium - Carried in Sierra to store overflow food that would not fit in bear canister during first 1-2 days after resupply.
  • ADD: BV 500 Bear Canister - Carried in Sierra from Kennedy Meadows South to Kennedy Meadows North. Requirement. Would carry this again because the lighter options are way too expensive.

Water:

  • Sawyer Squeeze filter - Great filter, probably wouldn't change my filtering system.
  • Smartwater 1 L Dirty x2 - In the desert, I kept both bottles "clean". Had 1 clean and 1 dirty in the Sierra & NorCal. Only carried 1 clean 1 L in OR & WA.
  • Smartwater 0.7 L Clean x1 - Kept a 0.7L bottle with me at all times. Used for drink mixes.
  • Evernew 1.5 L bladder x2 - Ditched one of the bladders at KM South.
  • CNOC 2 L bladder x1 - Kept this through the desert, but had some issues with leaking, so could never trust it to store water. Left in hiker box at KM South.
  • ADD: Smartwater 1.5 L Dirty - Added this is OR & WA because it made things easier.

Clothing Packed:

  • Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Jacket w/ Hood - I love this jacket so much. It was the perfect amount of insulation for me in all parts of the PCT. I didn't wear it much in NorCal + Oregon bc of how hot it was.
  • Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Long Sleeve Top (sleep shirt) - Another winner. I never felt like I needed something warmer or heavier to sleep in. On the contrary, some nights I would wake up with sweat on my chest bc I was too warm. I liked to wear something though bc I'm not a fan of my skin touching sleeping bag material.
  • Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Base Layer Bottoms (sleep pants) - Again, perfect thickness. Never needed anything warmer for bed. These pants did get snags in them and run, so I had holes in my butt, so you shouldn't sit on rocks/ trees directly while wearing them.
  • Montbell Tachyon Wind Pants - Unfortunately, these didn't work out for long. They acquired holes along the seam on the inner thigh and I put so much duct tape on them that they were probably 3 times heavier than the actual product. They did keep me warm, though, and I carried them until Donner Pass when I finally threw them away.
  • Frogg Toggs Ultralite Rain Jacket - These held up ok initially, besides some places I needed to use duct tape to patch. They were an excellent warmth layer while they lasted. In NorCal after I got a bad sunburn, I hiked with this on, unzipped, for the better part of a week to fully protect my arms. This was the final nail in the coffin. It got destroyed after that. I threw this out in Belden when I got my new OR rain jacket.
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  • Injinji Midweight Crew Socks - Love these socks! They were pretty durable. The longest I wore one pair until they got a hole was from Donner Pass to White Pass!
  • Darn Tough Midweight Crew Socks (sacred socks) - These were my sleep socks, only to be worn when it was very cold, and never allowed to leave my pack liner so they wouldn't get wet. I used them mostly in Washington, but on a handful of nights in each section.
  • The North Face E-tip Gloves - I carried these for too long. I maybe wore them twice in the Sierra when we started hiking before the sun rose, and literally never again. I ditched them in NorCal, picked them up for Oregon, and traded them out in Washington. I am not really a glove person, and these were simply too thick and warm for me (and they're considerd thin)
  • Post-pedicure "flip-flops" - Camp shoes - This was such a hopeful attempt at UL camp shoes. They broke on my first night. I picked up oversized flip flops in Warner Springs, and then purchased Croc sandals in Big Bear.
  • ADD: Icebreaker Beanie - I purchased this in Warner Springs bc I had a few cold nights early in the desert and thought a beanie would help. It really didn't and I hardly ever wore it bc when I did, it just rode up on my head, and didn't cover my ears, which were the things that were actually cold. Despite this, I carried it the whole time (except in NorCal), until I found a replacment in Portland.
  • ADD: Mountain Hardware Waterproof Gloves - I sent these to myself for the Sierra so that I would have a warmer glove. Spoiler Alert, its not actually very cold in the Sierra and these were definitely overkill. I never wore them. I sent them to myself for WA, but ended up swapping them for the Montbell rain mitts (see below).
  • ADD: Croc Sandals Camp Shoes - I picked these up in Big Bear Lake. I didn't wear the sandals that often on the trail - mainly when I was going to the bathroom in camp, after I already took my shoes off - but they were helpful in town. They were also completely useless when they got wet, so I couldn't use them as a water shoe without fear of slipping and injuring myself. I loved having flip flops in town, especially since it was usually really hot, but I would mostly look scornfully at them while on trail, cursing their extra weight and volumne.
  • ADD: Darn Tough Ankle Socks - I picked up an extra pair of socks for the Sierra, to have a total of 3 hiking socks, but this was unnecessary, since it was always sunny enough in the Sierra to completely dry out the previous day's wet socks.
  • ADD: Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket - I swapped this jacket for the Frogg Toggs in Belden. I've had it before, and I'm not this jacket's #1 fan, but this does the job on a PCT thru-hike. I mainly used it as a warmth/ emergency layer/ to do my laundry in until it started raining in Washington, and I thought it did a good enough job in the rain: Trapped in enough heat to keep me warm, but not too much that I was profusely sweating under it.
  • ADD: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants - I bought these when I bought my OR jacket bc they were on sale. For some reason, I held onto them throughout all of NorCal and Oregon, which was NOT necessary. Don't ask me why I didn't send them ahead, laziness I guess. I mainly wore them while doing laundry. They were super great to wear in Washington though, when it was actually cold and rainy. They did get tears along the inner lower leg seam. Hot Mess & Butters also had this problem. It appears to be a weak spot on the pants. It wasn't a big enough problem to render the pants useless, but I will be warrantying them.
  • ADD: Montbell Zeo-Line L.W. Balaclava - I picked this up to replace the Icebreaker beanie I purchased in Warner Springs. It was a much better layer for me, and I wore it most nights in Washington.
  • ADD: Montbell Zeo-Line Lightweight Gloves - I bought these in Portland, replacing my North Face gloves. These were lighter and better at wicking sweat. I wore them to sleep a few nights in WA, and wore them a few times on cold days in WA.
  • ADD: Montbell UL Shell Mittens - Instead of carrying the heavy Mountain Hardware waterproof gloves I had, I swapped for these to wear over the LW liner gloves. They were only annoying when I wanted to use my phone and take pictures, but I usually didn't need to do this when it was raining. I was very happy with my much lighter weight glove set-up in Washington.
  • ADD: Extra Pair Injinji Socks - Definitely a good idea in Washington! While the extra pair of hiking socks was unnecessary in the Sierra, having a third pair of dry socks in Washington was great since it wasn't sunny and warm enough to dry a pair of socks, even with them hanging off my pack all day.
  • ADD: Patagonia Capilene Thermal weight Hoodie - I threw this into my Cascade Locks box to wear in Washington, and it was the best idea I had. It was a perfect layer over my short sleeve shirt on cold, sunny days.

BATHROOM/ TOILETRIES:

  • Deuce of Spades trowel
  • Compact travel toothbrush
  • Travel-sized toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Lip balm w/ SPF
  • Small stick sunscreen
  • Mini nail clippers
  • Mini Tweezers
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Mom's Stuff Salve
  • ADD: Small lotion bottle
  • ADD: Tube of Vagisil - Amazing for preventing and healing chafe
  • Small Body Glide - Sometimes carried. Good for chafe hot spots during the day.
  • Wet Wipes - Always had a pack with me. Gave myself a baby wipe bath almost every single night on trail.
  • Personal rx meds
  • Toilet paper for #2

Safety:

  • Garmin InReach Explorer+ - Great! I sent out a preset message to my parents every night that I didn't have cell service. The message only didn't go through once, on a night with bad weather in Washington. My parents and family like to track progress on the synced online map based on my nightly location messages.
  • Gerber Paraframe Mini Knife - Worked as I needed it to: cut salami, tape, etc.
  • Bic mini lighter - Of the "click ignition" variety. I found that these click ones didn't work at high altitudes. I had to borrow Hot Mess's lighter throughout the Sierra (thanks bud!).
  • First aid kit: leukotape, alcohol wipes (2), band-aids (4), antibiotic ointment (1), small amount of ibuprofen, TUMS, benadryl, immodium. - Never needed alcohol wipes or band-aids. Used A LOT of ibuprofen, benadryl, and Claritin.
  • Repair kit: needle, duct tape, thermarest repair, cuben fiber tape, tenacious tape. Needed to use all of these items at some point on the trail, except for the thermarest repair.
  • Maps: Halfmile, Guthooks, Gaia on iPhone, carry paper back-up in Sierra, Washington. Never used Halfmile app, never carried paper map back-ups.

Electronics:

  • Petzl Bindi headlamp - REI dropped the ball on this and didn't follow up with my pre-order, so I brought a different headlamp.
  • ADD: Black Diamond Iota Headlamp - Bought this after my Bindi order was not fulfilled. It was fine. Didn't have all of the features I wanted, lower lumens, slightly heavier, and no red light, but it was a good headlamp, great for camp and hiking in the dark right before sunrise/ after sunset.
  • iPhone 8 plus + case + charging cord - Used for so many things. Guthook app, camera, entertainment (podcasts, music, audiobooks). Held charge very well. Would only be at 70% battery at the end of the day in airplane mode with frequent music/ podcasting and guthook-checking.
  • Sony a6000 camera w/ f3.5-5.6 16-50 mm lens - Carried for the whole hike, but didn't use as often as I anticipated. Next hike I would carry differently: Rigged onto my shoulder strap, and with a weatherproof cover, instead of sitting in my side pocket.
  • Anker PowerCore II 20000 external battery (2 USB ports) - This was a really great power bank. I never ran out of battery. It was probably too much power than I needed, as I really only ever needed to charge my phone. My other devices (Garmin, headlamp, camera) held enough power that I only needed to charge them in town. I would carry a 10,000-15,000 mAh one next time.
  • Anker Powerport Speed 2 wall charger (2 USB ports) - Great charger, charged things very quickly, and fits into a socket sideways, so it won't block the other outlet. This was usually great, though sometimes, trail angels/ establishments would have large power blocks and my charger would end up blocking another outlet, which was mildly frustrating since I kind of bought this so I wouldn't block other outlets. Oh well.
  • Micro USB cord (Anker + Garmin + Sony + headlamp)
  • Earbuds - Apple, generic ones that come w/ iPhone - These things are champs. They resided in the breast pocket of my shirt 100% of the time, I put them through the wash and dryer multiple times and they still worked. I went through 2 pairs, but the first only broke after 1,100 miles when I stepped on them on the floor accidentally, and the next pair lasted from there to Canada!
  • Zpacks DCF small dry bag - Pretty good, but some holes wore into it.

Other:

  • "Wallet": ID, 1 credit, 1 debit, health ins card, small amount of cash - necessary, I used a Lululemon gift card holder/pouch that I use as my wallet IRL. Stored in a sandwich ziploc bag w/ my PCT permit and CA campfire permit.
  • Gossamer Gear Liteflex Hiking Umbrella - Only used in the desert. It was nice to have when it was really hot and I couldn't find any shade.
  • Sea to Summit Bug Net - Used in the Sierra and NorCal where the mosquitos and gnats were the worst for me.
  • Bandana - Pee rag. Needed to replace it once.
  • Tennis Ball - Brought this from home to use to roll out my feet. It came in handy during the first weeks on trail, ultimately I got rid of it in Tehachapi.
  • ADD: Extra Buff - Was gifted this by a trail angel in Julian and carried it the rest of the trail. It was a pot holder when I used a stove, a snot rag, and a spill clean-up rag.

Clothing Worn:

  • REI Sahara Long Sleeve Shirt - This was a great shirt! I ultimately switched out for the short sleeve version, just because I wanted to tan my arms and was tired of constantly wearing a long sleeve.
  • Lululemon On the Fly Shorts - I really liked these shorts. The pockets were huge, they were durable, comfy, and stretchy. However, they bled color onto my shirt, and the thick waistband held onto sweat excessively.
  • Patagonia Active Mesh bra (old version) - This bra was amazing. It's my favorite sports bra for hiking. Comfy, not itchy, wicked sweat well. I'm sad they don't make it anymore, because I want more.
  • Icebreaker Siren Bikini Underwear - Merino wool - Only carried 1 pair of underwear and it was fine. Never got a UTI, used my pee rag 90% of the time.
  • Injinji Midweight Crew socks - Love these socks!
  • Altra Lone Peak trail runners - Used the 3.0s, 3.5s (mens & womens), 4.0s. the 4.0s happened to be my favorite!
  • Rx transition glasses - Oakley. Pretty much hated my glasses bc of the way they looked on my face and the lenses never got dark enough, making me look ridiculous in photographs. Can't wait to get LASIK!
  • Dirty girl gaiters - Only wore in the desert, but wish I also wore them in NorCal and Oregon.
  • Buff regular - Wore exclusively on my head in OR & WA, used as a pillowcase cover at night, so it was probably covered in drool.
  • Patagonia Trucker Hat - Wore throughout California, but it started getting itchy on my forehead and bothersome, so I sent it home.
  • Outdoor Research Sun Gloves - Only used these in the desert
  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork hiking poles (& tent poles) - I sort of broke my first pair bc the bottom wore down so much while I had the tech tips on them. Thankfully, my mom had the same pair, so she sent me hers in Chester and I mailed mine back home. Her's had the carbide tips on, which I would recommend over the tech tips. Did not have any issues with the poles for the second half of the trail.
  • ADD: REI Sahara Short Sleeve Shirt - I really liked the short sleeve version. I felt more free, and liked my arms tanning.
  • ADD: Patagonia Strider Shorts - These shorts were great! Quick-drying, very comfy and lighweight. Not as durable as my other shorts (they got a hole in the butt from a log), but I liked them.

Sierra:

  • Kahtoola Microspikes - Loved having these in the Sierra. They made me feel much more secure on the snow. I sent them home in Mammoth Lakes since there wasn't much snow north of there.
  • CAMP Corsa Ice Axe 60 cm - Never used my ice axe, it stayed attached to my pack during the whole time in the Sierra. I can't comment on whether someone should carry one or not, but I really only carried it because I didn't want to not have it, fall down a slope, and be blamed for not carrying one. It's a personal decision, and if the snowfall is above 50% of normal, or you are entering the Sierra pre-June, I guess I would bring it again.
Rain jackets that transform into skirts are good for laundry day

Rain jackets that transform into skirts are good for laundry day

Gear I Won’t Shut Up About

I did a lot of research on gear prior to beginning the PCT. A LOT. I’m a gearhead. I like gear, I like collecting it, I like reading reviews on it. I poured over gear lists of previous hikers to find commonalities between what they used and liked the best. And after using most of this gear for 2,700 miles, I’ve developed some obsessions. These are the pieces of gear you’ll probably hear me talking about the most (sorry to all of my friends who literally don’t care and will probably have to hear this in person at some point).

Hot Mess also had an EE quilt that he liked

Hot Mess also had an EE quilt that he liked

  • My Whole Sleep System. Obsessed. I’m in love with my quilt, and I’ll recommend the Enlightened Equipment Enigma 10* to anyone, or at least, every woman who wants to hike the PCT (men can get away with the 20*). The customizations of short & wide worked out really well for my body and sleep style (mostly a side-sleeper). I was never claustrophobic, a problem I encountered with basically every classic sleeping bag I’ve tried. I was never cold in the middle of the night once my body got a chance to warm the quilt up. I felt like it was my little home, and snuggling up in my quilt at night was one of my favorite activities on the PCT. My sleeping pad, the NeoAir Xlite Women’s was great. Super light, slightly higher R-value than the unisex one, so comfortable. Once I hit NorCal, I was more comfortable on my pad than in a real bed. And my pillow! I hated it for about the first 2 weeks. I couldn’t get comfortable with it. But after I finally got used to it, it was wonderful. It’s so light, I don’t know why you would be a gram weenie and skimp on it.

  • My Montbell Balaclava. I wasn’t even going to go to Portland when I got to Cascade Locks, but this balaclava I picked up at the Montbell store there made it all worth it. I struggled with my beanie the whole hike: it just didn’t stay on my head. This balaclava went on my head immediately after getting to camp almost every night in Washington. I like the ability to wear it under your chin, over your chin, over your mouth, or over your nose, and the ability to not wear the hood. Its just so versatile! There’s a little bendy piece at the nose part so you can kind of hold it to your face better. It was the perfect layer to sleep in! I also would have worn it in the early morning, but my thermal layer had a hood, which was sufficient. Next hike though, I would bring a thermal layer w/o a hood, and use this, which would save a couple oz.

  • My Tent. The ZPacks Duplex truly is an amazing tent. I had some struggles with it in the desert: camping with groups was difficult at times because it had a big footprint, I was still perfecting the pitch, etc. I even contemplated switching out for by Big Agnes. But, towards the end of the desert and into the Sierra, I finally appreciated how great this tent was. It’s so simple, so lightweight, and actually pretty versatile. I couldn’t believe I’d thought about not using it. Once I got the hang of things, I could set it up in under 5 minutes. The big doors were great, and its SO light. And it was a PALACE inside for just myself and my gear. I actually called it “The Palace” because it looked so regal, like a castle. And also because it was huge. I got some micro holes in the top that I repaired w/ cuben fiber tape, which has held up well. There were some other small ones I was too lazy to fix bc of how small they were, but guess what? I was poured on in Washington multiple nights and I never got wet inside the tent (except for that one night, but I think that was due to my pitch and how slanted the ground was). But it rained after that night and I was bone dry. I would 100% recommend it to anyone about to embark on the PCT if its in their budget. I will continue to use it, but I may look into other lighter, smaller options on a future solo thru-hike (like the ZPacks Plexamid), just because I really don’t need that much space.

Such a pretty tent

Such a pretty tent

Gear List Links:

Feat3Emily SchrickComment
PCT 2018 RECAP || Trail Stats
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I’m a nerd, and like statistics. It’s a fun way to organize and look at the hike in a very non-personal way (but also very personal because very few people probably have the same stats as me). I also get asked many questions like “how many miles did you hike per day?” and “how many times did you have to hitch hike?” And some of these I haven’t done the math on yet, and others I kept track of during the hike and had an exact number to give. I’m sort of stealing a template from Butters, who posted it to her blog about her’s and Hot Mess’s hike. Thanks, Butters! She also goes into some more in-depth info about the trail, reroutes, etc. that I really don’t want to go that much into, so you may want to give it a read! Also, their blog is super interesting as well, so if you’re looking for another blog that gives a day-by-day synopsis of the trail to learn more about trail life, or you’re wondering what happened to them after we split, go read it! So here are some interesting facts, numbers, and some completely random ones.

Sometimes these signs were so accurate. Others times so, so wrong.

Sometimes these signs were so accurate. Others times so, so wrong.

The Pacific Crest Trail by the Numbers

The PCT is ever-changing. As of this post, 10% of the PCT is still on private land, and there are continuous efforts to move the PCT onto public land to ensure that access to the trail is permanent. That means the trail and its mileage can change over the years. For example, a new trail re-route added 2.6 miles to the trail this year, making it 2,652.6 miles long. There’s another proposal to move part of the trail in the desert. There are also detours, some more permanent than others, that are not taken into account in this “official mileage” like fire detours and endangered species detours. I will be using the mileages from Guthook, as that’s the app I used for my entire hike, and found it to be incredibly accurate, and really easy to get this information.

Total mileage: 2,652.6 miles

Total elevation gain: 461,668.3 ft.

Total elevation loss: 460,335.7 ft.

Total number of days on trail: 163

Total Average miles/day, including “zero days”: 16.3 miles/day

Total Average miles/day, NOT including “zero days”: 18.9 miles/day

Number of Zero Days: 23

Number of Nearo Days: 17

If you didn’t already know, a zero day is a day where no miles are hiked on the PCT. Meaning, no positive progress on trail is made. I make this distinction because there were days I hiked, but made almost no forward progress on the PCT itself. If this was due to a fire closure, and the miles were some type of forward progress (like the fire closures in the Goat Rocks, Glacier Peak, and Pasayten Wilderness areas) I counted this as a hiking day. If it was a resupply detour (like hiking out of Kearsarge Pass to Bishop), I counted that as a zero, because no PCT miles were hiked, even though I still had to hike. A nearo day is a “nearly zero day” and is defined differently by each hiker, and can change over the course of the trail. For ease of counting, I consider a nearo to be 10 or less PCT miles hiked in a day. Zero and Nearo days are essential to rest and recovery. Some people can take a lot less, some people take more. I tended to like to take my zeros in bunches, especially at the end of a section.

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Halfway Point: 1,326.3 miles

# of days to reach halfway: 92

# of days to finish: 71

average miles/day first half: 14.4

average miles/day second half: 18.7

As you can see, I completed the second half of the trail 21 days faster than the first half! It probably would have been more if I hadn’t been sick in Burney. The reason why it takes so much longer to complete the first half of the trail for many people is two-fold: 1. The desert & the beginning of the trail is just so new. You’re generally moving slower, and hiking less miles for a variety of reasons: getting used to trail life, preventing injury, socializing more, possibly spending more time in towns for rest & relaxation. Pack weight can be a factor too: water hauls can easily be 3+ L (6.6 lbs+) and if you’re not hiking big miles, your time in between resupplies will be longer, so you might be carrying 10 lbs of food for some of the 100 mile stretches. I remember in particular, the stretch between Big Bear and Wrightwood (Desert) to be long. It took me 6 days to do those 103.2 miles, but only took me 3.5 days to go from Castella to Etna (NorCal), a stretch of 98.5 miles. 2. The Sierra is another factor in the first half of the trail. Snow travel is inherently slower than dirt trail. And sometimes you’re not even walking in the Sierra. You’re postholing, you’re route finding and scrambling down rock, you need to take extra time to ford rivers. You’re dealing with altitude, which makes breathing harder, and you’re encountering the steepest trail you’ve seen so far. You’re also carrying more equipment and food, making your pack heavier. For myself, I did not feel like I had my hiking legs by the time I got to the Sierra. I think I acquired them sometime in Northern California ;). Once you get past the Sierra, you’re in full summer mode: the days are longer, the trail no longer holds snow, you’ve now hiked over 1,000 miles, the towns seem to be closer together, so you don’t have to carry so much food, and the terrain kind of gets easier in parts, so you’re really able to kick the hiking into higher gear.

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The Numbers by Section

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The Desert (Campo - Tehachapi):

Total miles: 566.5 mi

Total elevation gain: 95,290.7 ft.

Total elevation loss: 94,359.9 ft.

Average grade: 334.8 ft/mi

Total days spent in the desert: 42

Zero Days: 5

Average miles/day: 13.5 mi

Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 15.3 mi

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The Sierra (Tehachapi - Echo Lake):

Total miles: 525.8 mi

Total elevation gain: 98,671.9 ft

Total elevation loss: 95,089.6 ft

Average grade: 368.5 ft/mi

Total days spent in the Sierra: 35

Zero Days: 5

Average miles/day: 15 mi

Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 17.5 mi

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Northern California (Echo Lake - CA/OR border):

Total miles: 599.4 mi

Total elevation gain: 102,558.1 ft.

Total elevation loss: 103,911.4 ft.

Average grade: 344.5 ft/mi

Total days spent in NorCal: 39*

Zero Days: 8*

Average miles/day: 15.4 mi

Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 19.3 mi

*I took 3 zeros with my family, and 4 zeros sick in Burney during this section, which was 4 zeros more than anticipated. I was also sun sick in Sierra City. Both of these illnesses set me back, in an unquantifiable way besides the zeros (my mileage surrounding those days was lower than normal as well). If you were reading my blog posts, you know this was incredibly frustrating, and in general, between my “Lakehouse Zeros” and my “Burney Zeros” I had a really difficult time finding a rhythm in Northern California.

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Oregon:

Total miles: 455.4 mi

Total elevation gain: 63,060 ft.

Total elevation loss: 69,058.1 ft.

Average grade: 290.1 ft/mi

Total days spent in Oregon: 24

Zero Days: 4

Average miles/day: 19 mi

Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 22.8 mi

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Washington:

Total miles: 505.5 mi

Total elevation gain: 102,087.6 ft.

Total elevation loss: 97,916.7 ft.

Average grade: 395.7 ft/mi

Total days spent in Washington: 25

Zero Days: 1

Average miles/day: 20.22 mi

Average miles/day WITHOUT zeros: 21.1 mi

Other Random, Fun Statistics

Pounds lost: ~15-20 lbs*

Pairs of Shoes: 5 (Altra Lone Peak 3.0 M’s: 1, 3.5 W’s: 2, 3.5 M’s: 1, 4.0 M’s: 1)

Miles hiked with a “tramily”: 1,195.4

Miles hiked solo: 1,457.2

I hiked with Butters & Hot Mess the longest: about 700 miles (& I <3 them forever and ever)

I hiked with Butters & Hot Mess the longest: about 700 miles (& I <3 them forever and ever)

Rattlesnakes seen: 6

Other snakes seen: 16

Bears seen: 2

Bee stings: 2

Thunderstorms: 1

Fire Closures: 6** (1. Mountain Fire near Idyllwild, 2. Holcomb Fire near Big Bear, 3. Fire closing the official PCT in Crater Lake NP, 4. Miriam & Clear Fork Fires in Goat Rocks, 5. Bannock Lakes Fire near Stehekin, 6. Holman Fire near Canadian Border)

Sometimes you wonder why there’s a fire closure when there’s snow on the ground.

Sometimes you wonder why there’s a fire closure when there’s snow on the ground.

Other Closures: 1 (Endangered Species detour near Wrightwood)

Collapsed Tents: 2

Cowboy Camps (sleeping under the stars, not in a tent): 7

Solo Camps (where no other hiker was camped within sight): 6

Number of times I fell down: 13

I fell a lot in the snow. Pretty happy I didn’t die.

I fell a lot in the snow. Pretty happy I didn’t die.

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Number of times I tripped: LITERALLY CAN’T COUNT SO MANY

Resupply stops: 34***

All “town” stops: 44***

Number of times hitch-hiked: 18

  • Longest wait for a hitch: 45 minutes (from Kennedy Meadows North back to Sonora Pass)

  • Solo: 5

  • From Cops: 2

  • In an RV: 1

*I never got an accurate weight at the beginning of the trail, but I definitely started overweight, and I have a general idea of where I was, not giving a care in the world about the food I ate before starting. Obviously, I wanted to eat all of my favorite foods I knew I’d never be able to eat on trail (Thai, Indian, Poké, Pho). This isn’t necessarily something I would suggest, as it’s probably better to take some weight off of YOURSELF, so you have a lower chance of getting injured. Help your joints out, ya know? The exception: if you’re already at a healthy weight, don’t try to loose weight pre-trail! Especially if you are a man. The men always loose so much more weight. However, I weighed myself the morning after finishing (in a doctor’s office, no less), so I was able to estimate my weight loss a little. I think its way more noticeable in the way clothes fit: I went down at least one jean size (good thing my mom brought the smaller pair to Seattle!), and could probably have fit in jeans 2 sizes down.


First day on trail. CHINZZZ.

First day on trail. CHINZZZ.

Lots ‘o tummy

Lots ‘o tummy

1 chin. CALVES. notice how much further my hip belt is cinched.

1 chin. CALVES. notice how much further my hip belt is cinched.

There are muscles in those inner thighs I didn’t know existed.

There are muscles in those inner thighs I didn’t know existed.

**Fire Closures vary year to year. The two in Southern California have been closed for at least 1 year, the Mountain Fire having been closed since 2013. A new fire sprung up in the Mountain Fire area this summer, creating new challenges for the detour in the area. Southern California is so dry, so prone to fires. It is SO important to practice fire safety, and better yet, never have an open fire, as it’s usually illegal to in the area anyways. The Crater Lake fire was a relic from last year’s fires in Oregon. It closed the official PCT, which is better know as the “horse PCT”. Hikers almost never take the official PCT, opting for the Rim Trail instead, so we can actually see Crater Lake. The rest of my closures were in Washington. These will be temporary, and will most likely open next year for hikers. Of course, next year’s class will have other fires to contend with. Fire closures will also depend on the time of year you hike through certain areas. There are hikers who didn't have to deal with any “new” closures (aka the ones in Washington) because they were SOBO, or NOBOs who went through earlier in the season. Some people had it even worse: the CA/OR border was closed for a while, causing hikers to re-route through that, and the Canadian border was also closed at one point! You probably remember me stressing out about these closures if you read the blog, but know that I ultimately lucked out because I hiked through after the trail had re-opened.

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***I’m going to do a more thorough resupply/ food blog post, so stay tuned for more information about resupply & town stops in that one! I’ll go into this more in the post, but “town” is in quotes because sometimes “town” would be a lodge or community center or camping resort that’s not what a normal person would think of as a “town”, but it was some sort of civilization, so its what a hiker would consider to be “town”.

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