Sunday, February 17, 2013

Planning for a BIG adventure ....The PCT

I have a do the entire Pacific Crest Trail, a 2.650 mile (4264 km) continuous wilderness hike from Mexico to Canada which takes you through California, Oregon and Washington. The start of this extreme endurance "walkabout" is at the small border town of Campo on the California/Mexican border and ends at Manning Park on the Washington/Canadian border. I estimate that I would be able to manage backpacking 20 miles/day (32km/day) which would make the hike last 5 months, living completely on the trail with only what I can carry on my back. There are various towns one can hike down to along the way where you can replenish your food supplies by either purchasing them or having someone mail boxes to the postoffices and labelling them "PCT Thru Hike"...apparently they keep the boxes for at least a couple of weeks to be picked up by hikers.

I don't know anyone personally who wants to do the entire trail in one go, nor anyone who has the ability to take 5 months off life, so I am embarking on this journey solo. Of course there will be times that I meet other hikers along the way and see people when I hike down into towns. Some friends are planning to meet up with me and do short sections of the hike with me, but the majority of the time I shall be in my own company , in the wilderness and I'm sure this is going to have a profound impact on my life. According to information I have gathered on the internet, about 300 people set out to do the "thru hike" each year and about 50 people actually manage to complete the entire trail in one go.  April is the time to start to meet optimal weather conditions as you start out and reach the different stages in the trail, most noteably, the high Sierras which are often covered in thick snow and ice which I am totally unfamiliar with since I have spent my entire life in southern Africa and on tropical islands. By rough estimation, I should complete the journey in September.

Map of the PCT

My preparation so far has been reading up as much information about the Pacific Crest Trail as possible and reading various books about endurance hiking, including the entertaining "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, the compelling "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and the hilarious "The Cactus Eaters: How I lost my mind and almost found myself on the PCT" by Dan White.

My one and only real life mentor who has previuosly completed the PCT through hike is my friend Atomic (trail name). He very graciously sent me the guru's guide on how to do this in the form of "Yogi's PCT Handbook" which I am studying religiously. This book gives the hiker insight into everything from what gear to use, to the food you need, to hints and tips about camping, obtaining water and what to expect including the good, the bad and the ugly....which turns out to be nasty microscopic bacteria (giardia) in contaminated water sources.

One of the other characteristics of becoming a PCT thru hiker is getting a trail name. This name can only be bestowed upon you by other hikers you encounter and is usually given for a specific reason such as a physical characteristic or part of your character or an event. I am interested to find out what mine will be.

Part of the immense fun of planning is of course deciding upon and obtaining the necessary gear to pack. Bearing in mind that I am a 5ft 4in woman, I shall be going the "ultralight" route. Living in Hawaii certainly poses a lot of limitations on easy access to a lot of this type of gear, so I'm looking really forward to my trip to Portland, Oregon next week so that I can go and do some' backpacking shopping' at the outdoor sports megastore REI...this is going to be a really fun side activity to an already action packed fun week at the Portland Tango festival...a week of non-stop lessons and milongas in the  addicting art of Argentine tango. I'll be updating my blog on gear once I get back. Hoping to come home with an ultralight tent, ultralight 25 degree F (-3.88889 degrees celcius) sleeping bag and some ultralight cold weather hiking clothing.
This author did the PCT in 2 sections, 2 years apart. I found the first half of the book interesting and then I lost interest during the second half. She hand sketches all the drawings in the book which is quite nice. Useful, but not riveting.