My last long trip was biking across Korea in 2017. By the end of 2018 I had climbed over 50 peaks in Japan via day-hiking and I was itching for a longer hike that would satiate my love of the outdoors.
Thankfully Canada's neighbour has many National Scenic trails, which are continuous footpaths that boast hundreds of miles of hiking. Lured by the call of snowy mountains and the "most beautiful place on earth" I began to read more about the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Spanning across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, with huge stretches of desert, it sounded like the challenge I was looking for.
Quitting my job, my eyes were locked on the dusty trail that would have me walking from the Mexican border all the way back home to Canada!
With strong relations between Canada and the USA, I did not need a visa to enter or to stay for the duration of my hike. The only "tricky" bit was how to cross the Canadian border near the end of the PCT. I submitted and received a valid waiver that allowed me as a registered PCT hiker to cross from the USA to Canada via the PCT without going through border control.
Other than the little paper work mentioned above, I picked up a one way ticket to San Diego and packed up my pointy camping gear(stakes, poles) into checked luggage.
A general breakdown of the PCT into parts is:
- desert section (hot + little water)
- Sierras (mountains + snow + rivers)
- high desert (hot + little water)
- Oregon (easy hiking + bugs)
- Washington (mountains + rain + bugs)
I haven't spent much time at all researching the sections in detail. I did spend the effort to understand the main resupply points and towns along the trail that I will be stopping at. Also here is a great resource for figuring out where to get your water in the desert and dealing with river crossing the the Sierras.
Once you get to the start of the trail the only thing left to do is put one foot in front of the other!
Gear for a long thru-hike is a very important topic. My advice is to aim for a low base-weight as the effects of carrying extra weight over months is detrimental to your happiness.
Another issue on the PCT is section specific gear that you will need. For the Sierras you are legally mandated to store all food in allowed food storage containers , which essentially means carrying around a bear canister. You'll also want to carry micro-spikes which allows you to safely and quickly traverse the snow you'll encounter while in the mountains. Finally you can consider also carrying an ice axe which can save you from after a slip on a slick mountain pass. This gear is only needed really for one section so most hikers just ship it all to Kennedy Meadows South and then ship it back home once they reach South Lake Tahoe.
Note that for the start (ie. the desert) I bring 4L of water carry. You may want to bring more, if that is what you need! After I enter the Sierras I will have only 2L water capacity for the rest of my hike. Again, carry more if you need.
Understand when and where you will resupply:
Don't waste time planning it all the way through but have a general idea of what towns you'd like to stop in to get food and to rest up. The most difficult section for resupply would be the Sierras but still you can plan as you go along.
- Hiker survey of common resupply strategies
- Overview of all main resupply points
- Official PCT page about resupply
Make sure your gear fits:
Try packing everything in your bag with 4 days food and full water bottles. Go for a short hike make sure it feels good. Also try packing in all your Sierra gear (ie. bear can, spikes, etc...) and ensure they can all be carried as well!
Make sure to test all your gear before going on the hike:
Don't buy something last minute without trying it out and seeing that it actually works for you.
Learn how to self-arrest with an ice axe:Tutorial on proper techniques
And so, I set out alone for the hike but soon found out that there are plenty of friends to be made along the way. The start is tough but there is no denying you can do it!
Day by day journal of the trip:
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