Big news!! If you haven’t already heard, Matt and I are doing a thing!! This April we are setting off to attempt to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Whattt?!? I know!!! You have SO many questions- so, let me answer a few of the FAQs…
So wait, what is a thru-hike and what’s the Pacific Crest Trail?
A thru-hike is any end-to-end hike on a long-distance trail done at once- in this case, the “PCT” is a 2661.4 mile trail that has one terminus in Canada and the other at the US/Mexico border. Most people hike from Mexico to Canada on a “NOBO” hike (northbound), but some do hike “SOBO” from Canada to Mexico. (Look at all that fancy “thru-hiker” lingo I’m throwing in! I’m so hip!!) We will be starting in Campo, California, which is at the border of the US and Mexico, and hopefully complete our journey in Manning Park, Canada.
Disclaimer: the PCT is often not a true thru-hike. Often times people need to skip sections due to high snow levels and fire closures. Some will skip the Sierras, then come back late-summer/early fall to finish them. Some hitch-hike past fire closures and write that section off. My goal is to do as much of a thru-hike that is safely possible, and finish at Manning Park.
Wait, how long will this take?
We are expecting this to take 5 months.
Why did you pick April to start?
There is a small window of time to complete the PCT: we want to make it thru the desert section before it gets too hot and while there are still some water sources, but we don’t want to make it to the Sierras too early, when the snow makes it too dangerous, but if we get there after the snow melts, what might be a tiny stream could be a raging river, THEN, we need to make it through Washington prior to the upcoming snow season. Woof. Breathe. April is the perfect starting time…we hope.
Why the hell would you wanna quit your amazing jobs & leave your awesome apartment to live in the wilderness for five months and walk 2600+ miles??
Why not? I like doing epic shit, and what’s more epic than attempting to walk from Mexico to Canada?? Think of the Facebook posts! The pictures! Instawhat!? Ohh the hashtags!! #thruhike #hikertrash #nature #selfiewithablackbear #thighmuscles #squatsquatsquatsquatsquatsquateverybodyy #snakes #giardia #hikerappetite #yougonnaeatthat? #icecreampace
But for real, for me it’s never been about the job/money. Yes, I’m fortunate to have both, but years from now I don’t want to remember my 30’s as the time I spent working nights, sleeping my days away, and dreaming about an epic adventure. That shit is weighing on me. I’m becoming a very jaded and selfish 31 year old. In my early 20’s I was all about the peace and love and social justice. I took a year off after college and volunteered in a homeless shelter. I went on nursing mission trips to Haiti, Peru, and Nicaragua. I kept a blog about my volunteer work and travels called “the Rhythm of Love,” which shocked my current co-workers! As I said, I’m jaded and am now all about the sleep, snacks, and our sofa. I am losing my compassion and my patience. I need something to jump-start my drive again; I need this hike. I need this break. I need to test myself; to challenge myself both physically and mentally. I need the peace and quiet and the camaraderie of people who understand. (And I need a new blog, coming soon!!) When i look back on my 30’s I want to remember them as the time I threw caution to the wind and did a thing…and how cool to do this “thing” with my boyfriend!
Years ago, when I first started dating Matt, I asked him one of my favorite questions to weed out my tinder potentials: “what would you rather have more of: money, success, power, or wisdom.” None of the choices were right- it was a trick. But his answer? “I think my idea of success is different than other people’s.” That’s all I needed to hear. We were on the same page (or at least in the same book: while that weirdo, Matt, wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I had no desire to do so. I just wanted to live a simple life in a hut in Nicaragua…) But somehow over the past few years Matt’s dream of doing a thru-hike has become my own. YES, this is MATT’S idea people, not mine!! **See the last FAQ for a frequent follow-up question to this mind-blowing news**
The idea of leaving a job I love with friends I love is sad, but I honest to God choke up when I picture myself finishing this thru hike. I have to fight back tears when I see pictures of people at the Canadian Border, having successfully completed the hike. Right now, this my heart.
Packing up our apartment is going to be hard- I fell in love with it from the first time we saw it, we made it ours, and I have loved it every moment since. But come April, our new home will be a 3 person tent, weighing in at 22.5oz. We will have 5-6 months to figure out where our next home will be…oh the places we can go!
So, what else is in your backpack and how much does it weigh?
My pack will hopefully weigh in around 35lbs when all is said and done, with a base weight of 20-ish lbs. (The base weight is everything, including our packs, not including food and water.) The heaviest three items in our base-weight, called “the big three,” will be our pack, sleeping bag+pad, and tent. I will also be carrying a sleeping bag liner, pillow, water filtration device, battery charger, puffy coat, fleece layer, hat, gloves, a pair of socks or two, rain coat and pants (good for the wind!), a base layer, a spork, an empty jar to be used as a mug and bowl, a camera (thanks Mom and Dad!I!!) and first aid stuffs. Plus food and water. And a bear canister & ice axe for the Sierras. I’m probably missing something…
But what are you going to eat?
Figuring out what to eat is certainly a numbers game: what packs the most amount of calories and nutrients for the least amount of weight? And what cooks quickly or can be cold soaked while you hike? Lots of rice, couscous, oatmeal, dehydrated beans, and freeze-dried veggies. Trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, etc. Tortillas & pita bread. Apparently Idahoan Potatoes are a big hit for thru hikers…
We are toying with the idea of going stove-less through the desert section of the trek (mile 0-700)- water can be very scarce in the desert (like, going 25 miles between water sources scarce!), and I don’t want to have to worry about having enough water to cook my meals when I’m not even sure I’ll have enough water to survive!! Peanut butter, jerky for the meat eater, Snickers bars, protein bars, pop-tarts, protein shakes, etc. We shall see!
How many days worth of food will you be carrying?
On average, we will be in or near a town every 3-4 days or so to resupply. The longest food carry will be 5-7 days, although I recently read that a lot of people carried 8 days worth of food in the Sierras- dang! We will be buying food in local stores and having a friend send us resupply boxes along the way
What’s a resupply box?
Before we leave we will fill a bunch of boxes with bars, snacks, first aid stuffs, sunscreen, tp, and other things we may run out of while on trail. Our dear friend will store these boxes and then mail them to us at post offices, hostels, and certain stores along the way.
What about water??
We will carry it! And resupply in lakes, streams, creeks, and bug-infested puddles along the way!! (Ew, I hope not, but we all know what desperate times call for…) We will each be carrying a water filter to filter our water and maybe even some water treatment tablets for those extra sketchy water refills.
Water in the desert can be tricky, so we will be carrying the most amount of water thru this section, maybe 6-8 liters at a time, with each liter weighing 2.2lbs. I imagine 4 liters (8.8lbs total) will be sufficient between water sources after we pass the desert. There is a neat app that we downloaded that will allow us to check the status of reliable water sources along the way, kept up-to-date by hikers who passed by earlier that day/week. We will be able to see what creeks are dry, what streams are still flowing, etc.
Although I HATE using plastic, I’ll be using smart water bottles along the hike. They are light when empty, they fit easily into our packs, and I’ll be able to buy new, clean ones when we pass thru towns!
So you’ll pass thru towns. Will you take a rest-day??
Thru-hikers call rest days “zero” days. We plan to take a zero-day once a week or so, where we can relax in town, eat warm restaurant food, sleep in a bed, eat more food, do laundry, eat even more food, shower, and buy more food to eat. For those looking to meet up with us along the way, meeting us at a zero-day location might serve you best- we will be the least smelliest! Those who thru-hike are given the name “hiker trash”- we don’t shower often, and deodorant serves us no purpose… it’s definitely not worth it’s weight in oz! So, we will take advantage of town days to relax and rid our bodies of a week’s worth of dirt!!
Where are places we can meet you??
Some major areas off the top of my head: In CA: Julian, Idyllwild, Big Bear, Mammoth, Yosemite,Tahoe. In Oregon: Ashland, Crater Lake, Cascade Locks.
I need to do more research for Washington…but maybe at the end?? Mom? hint hint!
I could never do this. Aren’t you afraid?
My biggest fears in life: mountain lions, accidentally getting between a mama bear & her baby bear, weather/natural disasters, and getting in a head-on collision…
My biggest fears for this hike: running out of battery on my phone/camera, not liking my lightweight pack or my new sleeping bag, and not being able to finish, for one reason or another, or having Matt and I not like each other anymore!
Realistic worries that I have for this hike: Dehydration, the sun, and being cold at night in the desert, and surviving the Sierras (snow, dangerous icy passes, crazy river crossings, and being cold.)
We will be carrying an emergency beacon that allows us to send a “we are still alive” message to our families when we don’t have cell service, and it can also send an SOS message to activate search and rescue teams to our location should we need emergency assistance.
What about mountain lions and snakes and bears??
Oh my! We are trekking through THEIR home, so I’m sure we will see a bunch of snakes, maybe a few bears, and I’m really hoping no mountain lions- but I’m sure a bunch will see us, and I’m really hoping those that see us don’t see me or Matt as their next meal or a fun chase! Honestly mountain lions scare the $%&# out of me, but we can’t live our lives in fear, eh? We just have to be aware. I hope that if we respect those beautiful creatures and their home, they will respect us/not eat us!!
What about going to the bathroom??
The world is our oyster…and the land is our toilet. I forgot to mention the Deuce of Spades in my packing list, but we will each be carrying one to dig holes when nature calls!! All trash must be carried out- and at some parts, we might even be required to carry our waste out! #wagbags
How many miles do you plan to hike each day?
Ideally we will eventually be averaging 20+ miles a day, but definitely not from the start. We hope to avoid injury by easing in to our new life, hiking maybe 12-16 miles/day until we get our “trail legs.” They say it takes about 2 weeks for your legs to get used to the daily hiking, and we were told if we can make it two weeks, we can make it to Canada! Once we get our trail legs we can start increasing our mileage until the Sierras slow us down. Our mileage will probably drop significantly when we are hiking through the snow, but from what I’ve been reading, we make up those slow days when we hit the flat land of Oregon.
Our daily mileage will also depend on distance between water sources and food resupply needs: If we have 1 day of food left and the next resupply is 30 miles away, we best get there asap!! Or if we need to pick up our resupply before a store closes or are counting on getting dinner somewhere, we better pick up our pace. (Matthew calls this my “ice cream” pace- I need to hike faster to get to the ice cream parlor before it closes!! It definitely speeds me up!)
How do you train for this?
I asked this same question to someone who successfully completed a thru hike. His answer? “There is no way to train: you’d have to walk a marathon every day.” And he was right. The trail will get us into thru-hiking shape, but in the mean time we are lifting weights, running, kickboxing, and doing yoga to make our bodies as prepared as possible. We have also done some pretty wild hikes over the past few years, which will help with the mental prep. A lot of this trek will be mind over matter, which can be harder to prepare for than the fitness aspect. I would like to think that my years of competitive sports and working such a high-stress job has given me a strong mental foundation to overcome the challenges of a thru-hike…we shall see!!
Of the thousands of people who attempt this hike each year, only a small percentage actually finish. Some just haven’t prepared enough mentally for the long days, cold nights, and all of the elements of a thru-hike. California is just so damn long, which discourages a lot of people- 1600miles in and still in CA??!! It sucks. And Oregon? It’s so green and flat and boring. And Washington? 400+ miles of cold and wet. And the bugs. So. Many. Damn. Bugs. Most people stop due to injury or running out of funds. I have spent the past year or so “training” myself mentally and physically (and trying to take less paid leave to save some $$!) – I am hoping that all this prep, along with my hiking partner, will be enough to get my butt from Mexico to Canada!
** So wait, how DID you two weirdos/crazees find each other? You seem perfect for each other!
Tinder, bitches!! With Matt’s infamous second-attempt pick up line, “Hay!” ~pause~ “Wait a sec, hay’s for horses!” Omg I die. I cringed then and I cringe now when I think about it. But when he told me he was stuffing his mattress by hand to put on the bed frame he made by hand, I knew this guy was someone I wanted to know.
And while we have many of the same interests, we couldn’t be any more different in a lot of ways. Matthew checks the door 942 times to make sure it is locked, while I have been known to leave my keys in the door. Matthew wants to get to the airport 4280 hours before a flight, while I’m constantly running to the airport at the last second, and have heard my name called quite a few times over the loud speaker for a last call for boarding. Matthew likes art with geometric shapes in reds and oranges, while I like whimsical and blues. Matthew has a method and a place for everything, while I never know where anything is- my wallet, my credit card, my keys, my phone- you name it, i have NO idea where it is. Matthew organizes and puts things away with a tetras-like perfection, while I like to play a wild game of Jenga, precariously balancing things that often end up falling and breaking. Matthew likes to shower, while i’m perfectly fine going to bed dirty. Matthew likes to wake up early and be productive all day, while I can sleep until noon and then take a nap shortly after. Matthew has a fear of heights, while I like to climb higher and higher. Matthew likes to swim, while I hate getting wet. Matthew likes hard ice cream (yuck!) while I love me some soft serve!!
Despite all of this, even that ice cream thing!!, that swipe right was the best thing I ever did, and thankfully Matt’s pick-up line was the corniest Matt ever got. He’s not my best friend 😉 but he’s my everything else…he’s my roommate, my ski-mate, my travel buddy, my road trip pal, my gym buddy, my running partner, my boxing partner, my heights-fearing via ferrata friend, my live-in chef and perpetual dinner date, and my dessert and dream sharing boyfriend…and now, together, we walk. Far.