Discussion: Pre-Hike Questions

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my upcoming hike of the PCT so I’d like to address a few of them here. There’s many other questions I’d like to ramble on about but these should cover the basics.


Why?

This is the most commonly asked and hardest to answer question so go ahead and check out my first post if you haven’t already which is dedicated solely to this question: https://aseasononthepct.com/2018/11/30/why-pct/


How much will this hike cost?

It’s really tough to say exactly how much the trip will cost since there are many unknown variables however I have budgeted $7000 (not including gear purchased prior to the hike). The generally agreed upon rule of thumb for a thru-hike like the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail is $1000/month. I plan on taking 5 months so I’m giving myself just a little extra buffer for peace of mind. So what could I possibly be spending $1000/month on while living in the woods? Obviously there’s no rent, utility bills, gas, and various other other ‘real-world’ expenses – so where’s that money going?

  1. Food: Unsurprisingly, you still need to eat on the trail. In fact you need to eat significantly more than you would back home since you are burning tremendous calories every day while hiking.
  2. Lodging: I won’t be sleeping in a tent the entire time on trail – while in town I plan on occasionally staying in hotels and hostels in order to relax and recover.
  3. Travel Costs: I’ll need to purchase flights to and from the trail so these have to be factored into the cost.
  4. Gear Replacements: While most of my gear is very high quality and well made, hiking 2650 miles through remote wilderness will rough up even the best gear. Straight away, I know my shoes only last about 500 miles per pair. This means I will need to purchase 5 pairs of shoes over the course of the trail. $$$$.
  5. Shipping costs: I plan on shipping some resupply packages to a few towns. These shipping costs really do add up, especially when you factor in the extra costs of getting these packages delivered to the more remote areas.
  6. Town fun: Along with staying in hotels/hostels, I would like to spend time (and money) enjoying some of the truly awesome towns you pass by on trail. Whether that be a really good meal at a restaurant or just drinks with friends after a rough week of hiking, I expect to spend a good deal of money in towns.
  7. Contingency fund: I fully expect to become injured or sick at some point on trail. Hopefully it’s nothing so serious that it requires real medical attention but I absolutely need to have some money set aside just in case.

What will you actually do for 5 months?

Walk a lot. I will need to average 17 miles per day but plan on doing anywhere from 0 to 35 depending on trail/weather conditions.

Plus sleep, eat, enjoy the views, spend time with hiking friends, and have fun in town.

But it’s mainly just walking, sun up to sun down. Then sleeping in a tent or under the stars and waking up to do it all again.


How will you deal with food and water for 5 months?

This is a great question and honestly I could probably do a whole post on it.

Food: From the Mexican border I plan on carrying enough food in my backpack to get me to the first town (4 days in) where I will replenish my food stores so I can make it to the next town and just repeat this process from town to town until I get to Canada.

Generally, when resupplying food in town you have two options:

  1. Pick up pre-mailed packages with food and other supplies.
  2. Buy food and supplies as you go from whatever stores are available – grocery stores if you’re lucky but you might have to rely on convenience stores and small, local general stores.

I will be going with option 2 for most of the trail since I don’t want to deal with the logistics of mailing packages. There are a few towns where I will almost certainly have to mail packages to, but it shouldn’t be many.

As far as what exactly I will be eating – think high calorie, tasty, and non-perishable. It’s gotta be able to fuel me up and down mountains, stay at least somewhat composed in my backpack while hiking through extreme heat and cold, and taste just good enough so I don’t have to force myself to eat it. Examples include: nuts, protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit, ramen, tortillas, hard cheeses, salami/pepperoni, pop-tarts, honeybuns (hiker favorite), fritos, etc. You get the idea. Not the healthiest stuff but keep in mind I won’t be resupplying at large supermarkets – I need to take what I can get. And I need all the calories I can get so I don’t wither away.

Water: Except for the SoCal desert and parts of NorCal, the trail should have ample natural water sources. Think streams, springs, rivers, and lakes. I have a water filter (Sawyer Squeeze) which I will be using to filter water as I go. When I am in those areas in SoCal and NorCal where there is no water – sometimes stretches of 20-25 miles – I will carry all the water I need to make it to the next source. Sometimes this means I will need to carry upwards of 6 liters, or 13 pounds, of water.


How will hygiene work/won’t you get really gross?

Oh yeah I will get pretty gross no doubt about it. It’s an inevitability living in the woods for 5 months without access to showers and most hygiene products but this is just par for the course for long distance backpacking. Even if I were to bring deodorant and shampoo and body soap (which you shouldn’t, as per LNT principles), the overwhelming funk of hiking for 20 miles a day + sleeping outside would just overpower it. So you just have to embrace the stink to a certain extent.

It’s said that thru-hikers can immediately tell when they pass by a day-hiker because they smell so nice. Conversely, you will never be surprised by a thru-hiker as the smell will likely alert you miles off.

Obviously I will be swimming in the lakes and rivers and streams when I get the chance, in addition to showering in town every week or so. I will also carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer to wash my hands after using the restroom. But this is pretty much it, just the basics.

So if you decide to meet me on the trail at any point, don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Are you going alone?

Yes I will be hiking the trail alone – as do most people who hike trails like the PCT. First off, it’s very difficult to convince someone to join you on a journey like this once they realize the reality of it. To be frank, hiking day in day out for 5 months and sleeping outside just isn’t most peoples’ idea of fun. Second, even if you were to convince someone, you would really need to like this person as you will be stuck with them in the middle of nowhere for months on end. Third, going alone just allows for more flexibility. You can hike at your own pace, stop when you want, stay as long or as little in towns as you want, etc. The journey is truly yours to be done as you see fit.

And I won’t be alone the whole time – or even most of the time for that matter. Thousands of people will be hiking the trail this year. Just on April 12 alone, the day I am starting, there will close to 50 other hikers starting as well. I hope to make friends on the trail and to bond/commiserate over shared triumphs/struggles. So while I might start the trail alone, I don’t plan on being alone if you get me. A big reason why I’m doing this trail is to meet other people.


What are you doing after?

I’m not sure yet, and to be honest, I’m trying not to think too much about it. If I think too much about it I might not hike the trail. But I do know a few things:

  1. I want to move out west. I’ve lived in Texas my whole life and while it’s a great state, I want to experience something else. I’m thinking Arizona, Utah, Colorado, or even Idaho. I love this part of the country, especially the southwest.
  2. I may or may not try to return to the corporate world. If I do return to a ‘normal’ corporate job, it will probably be at a much smaller company.
  3. I’ve considered just trying for a wildcard job. Maybe work for a few seasons in a national park. Or work towards becoming a park ranger. Or wildland firefighting – there’s no shortage of fires out west.
  4. I can be certain of this one – live with my parents for a bit. I’ll need to take a little time, hopefully not much for my parent’s sake, to recompose myself after the hike. I like being independent and don’t want to be a burden so I’m going to move on as quickly as possible. But I must say I am beyond grateful to my parents for providing my a stable base so I can re-launch back into the world after having left it for nearly half a year.

Aren’t you afraid?

Yes, in a way. And this question deserves it’s own post so stay tuned.

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