Monday, March 26, 2012

FAQs About The PCT

As we near our start date, I wanted to take a minute to share some information about the Pacific Crest Trail.  Since the PCT has become part of our everyday conversation, it is easy to forget that an undertaking like this is foreign to most people. Some of you have no idea what things like 'PCT', 'Thru-Hike' and 'On the Trail' mean.  In general, people have lots of questions, so I'll do my best to answer the common ones here. I'll also post some links, if you're interested in further reading, and will happily answer questions left as Comments.

So, here is What We Talk About When We Talk About The PCT**:

What is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The PCT is a National Scenic Trail (like the Appalachian Trail) that starts at the California/Mexico border and ends at the Washington/Canada border.  The trail is 2,663 miles and runs the entire lengths of California, Oregon and Washington.  It passes through numerous parks and wilderness areas and is 'protected, preserved and promoted' by the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

Wait, what? You walk the whole way?
Yep.  Though pack animals are allowed on the PCT, Trav and I are attempting to hike the whole shebang. Hiking the whole trail in one 'season' is known as 'thru-hiking' thus making us 'thru-hikers'.

How long will it take?
After attending the Kick Off, we will starting hiking on April 29th. We have set October 10th as our end date. Though we may (hope to) finish before then, we are giving ourselves 165 days to thru-hike.  Given this time frame, we will try to average 18-25 miles per day taking into account some 'zero days' (where no trail miles are covered).

Where do you sleep?
In our tent! There may be a smattering of nights we'll be in towns and get a room, but generally we'll just pull off the trail and sleep out.

How do you... you know... go?!? 
Oh, you mean poop? We go in holes that we dig ourselves. 6 inches down, 100 feet off the trail and TP can be used as long as you pack it out (meaning, put it in a baggie and carry it to the next trashcan).  If you'd like to learn more, you can brush up on your knowledge with this book.  So yeah.  We will be going to the bathroom outdoors for about 5 and a half months. And yes, this is generally the fourth or fifth question people ask.

What do you eat? Berries and stuff? Do you carry 5 months worth of food?
We will be carrying all of our food and cooking on a compact camp stove. For resupplying, we will be venturing into Trail Towns along the way (usually by hitchhiking). Many have grocery stores, hotels/motels/Holiday Inns and a post office.  They are all really familiar with hikers and lots of locals go out of their way to support this wild bunch (they are known at Trail Angels). We are planning on shopping for food along the way, but will also ship (with help from family) some pre-packed boxes filled with food and other supplies/gear.  Time in between resupplies will vary, but generally it ranges from 5-10 days.  The post offices will hold our packages in general delivery until we arrive. We'll have to eat a bunch... 3000-4000 calories per day. Hello Snickers!

How many people do this? 
On average, around 300 people start the trail and about 60% will finish.

What about bears/snakes/emergencies?
All three of those things are possible on the PCT.  Through heavy bear country we will carry bear resistant canisters for our food.  We may also carry a can of bear spray.  More PCT/bear info here.  With creatures like bears and snakes, if you leave them alone, they leave you alone. Like most backcountry travel, there is a possibility for injury or illness.  The best thing we can do is be proactive about our safety and take care of ourselves. The most common issues people have on the trail are blisters, bumps and bruises. While working at Outward Bound I participated in countless trainings, certifications and field days; encountering all kinds of situations.  Though never officially trained, Trav may be one of the most level headed, prepared, aware and cautious dudes I've ever known. He's also been in some pretty wicked outdoor scenarios and always comes out safe and sound. We make a good team and plan to take excellent care of each other. Collective sigh of relief here.

How fun! Can we come?
Man, we've got amazing and gung-ho friends and family! While we'd love to say 'Yeah! Come on!' the reality is that timing a meet up/visit/trip can be pretty tough once we're out there.  In addition to the logistical difficulties, because we will have logged a bunch of miles, we'll be cruising at a pretty good clip and physically the trail will be really tough for folks.  We're going to have to be non-committal about visits for now, but if you're serious, shoot us an email, we'll see what we can do. If you'd like to participate in our experience, we will be happily accepting letters! We'll post upcoming post office addresses here on the blog throughout the hike, so check back!

How will you be in touch/blog/Facebook? Do you carry a phone?
We will have our phone in a box that travels from post office to post office (known as a Bump or Bounce Box) and will call and update peeps on town days. There may be some sections when we carry the phone with us on the trail, but we'll see.  Once we start hiking, blog posting will definitely get thin. We will do our best to update with stories and pictures but can't make promises for frequency.

What do you carry? How heavy is your pack?
We'll be reviewing our gear, posting pictures and spreadsheets in the coming weeks, but for the most part with a long hike like this, the lighter, the better.  Ultralight hiking has become essential on thru-trails because it keeps the hiker from getting too exhausted day after day.  Most thru-hikers aim for a 'base pack weight' (total weight minus food or water) of 10-15 pounds.  At this point, we're doing the best with what we have. Ultralight gear tends to be expensive, and since we already have a bunch of backpacking gear, we're not upgrading if we don't need to.  Some things, like shoes (we will each go through 4-6 pairs), we will purchase and have shipped when we need them.

What if you fight?
We'll make up! Our 4 month trip to South America was a great experience for us, and I think, a great base line for the trail.  We found that on the whole we worked together, trusted each other, cheered each other up, shared ideas, made each other laugh and figured stuff out as we went. We like each other. A lot. And it seems to just work out.

Uh, why thru-hike?
Why not?! No but really, this has been a goal of mine since 2006.  I decided that I wanted to thru-hike before I turned 30. A few years later, Travis comes on the scene. There were countless reasons why he was the guy for me, but his unhesitant and unwavering enthusiasm to walk 2663 miles with me was icing on the cake.  Plus, who knows when we'll get another chance to do it! (And I turn 29 this summer).

Are you excited/scared/nervous?

Alrighty. Any other queries out there?

**Just a sly, little reference to our friend Nathan's outstanding new book.


  1. Great post Mags! Excited and proud of you both for taking on this amazing adventure!

    1. Thanks Jame! I was inspired by our convo on Sunday! xoxo

  2. so proud mags and trav so proud. xox

  3. So amazing! I can't wait to hear all about it!! Y'all are pretty awesome!


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