Wednesday, June 19, 2013

FAQ about the PCT

As the year strolls along, my attention has focused more and more on Zach’s and my big goal for 2014: hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from beginning to end. Although there are countless factors that might keep us from actually finishing (or starting) this expedition, we’re going to give it our best shot.

Whenever I talk to people about the trail, a string of questions inevitably comes up. Many of these questions make me think that I must not be explaining what we want to do as clearly as I should. Therefore, I give you, Frequently Asked Questions about the Pacific Crest Trail!
Forest near Timothy Lake, Oregon,
where Zach first discovered the PCT.

Q: What is the PCT?
A: It’s a backpacking trail that starts on the border of Mexico and winds its way up through California (passing through the Mojave Desert and Yosemite up the Sierra Nevada range), over the Cascade range in Oregon and Washington, ending a couple miles into Canada. 

Q: How long is it?
A: Approximately 2,660 miles.

Q: Wow, that’ll take you, like, at least three or four weeks to hike, right?
A: *blink blink*
I don’t even…

Q: Why are you looking at me like I’m stupid?
A: You’re not stupid. You have just managed to completely and utterly baffle me.

*awkward silence*

Q: So how long will it take?
A: If we go at a decent rate, about five months.

Q: Five months! How will you make money during those months?
A: We won’t. 

Q: So will you do your online teaching job while you’re out there?
A: This is one of those questions that makes me think I haven’t properly conveyed what hiking the PCT actually looks like. Even if I could afford the extra weight (my computer weighs more than our tent), and be sure that my Macbook could stay dry, and have enough battery power to keep it going, I wouldn’t have time to edit when I’m hiking ten hours a day. So no.

Q: When will you go?
A: The kickoff date is in late April.

Q: Will you take breaks?
A: Maybe a day here and there, but we’re hoping to hike straight through (as opposed to “section hiking,” where you hike it in chunks over a longer period of time).

Q: So you’ll be stranded in the wilderness for weeks at a time?
A: Actually, no. We’ll be stopping into towns every four to five days. We’re also likely to meet a lot of other hikers on the trail.

Timothy Lake
Q: How will you carry enough food?
A: We’ll be mailing ourselves packs of shelf-stable food to the different towns. 

Q: You’re going to take a cell phone or satellite phone, right?
A: We haven’t decided yet. A cell phone would be basically worthless, and a satellite phone probably wouldn’t be worth the weight.

Q: Why are you so obsessed about weight?
A: In backpacking, every ounce of pack weight counts. Have you ever tried to bench-press a one-pound barbell? Easy, right? Now, do 40,000 reps. That’s approximately how many steps we’ll be walking in one day. Every extra ounce adds up quickly.

Q: What happens if one of you gets injured?
A: Probably cry. And then we’d use our wilderness first aid skills to figure out what to do. Like I said, we won’t be too far from civilization at any given time, and there are other hikers on the trail.

Q: What happens if you have to call the whole thing off?
A: Head to the nearest family member’s house (there are many on the west coast) and book a flight home.

Q: Are you really hardcore enough for this?
A: Well… I don’t have an answer to that yet. A triathlon champion reportedly went home crying after a week on the trail, but a nine-year old girl hiked the whole thing with her mother last year. We won’t know until we get there. And that’s half the fun.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any more questions about the PCT?



  1. My question: How do you expect your friends back home to manage without any contact with you for FIVE MONTHS??

    (Seriously, as much as we'll miss you, I'm really excited for you!)

  2. I have a weird question. How will you wash your clothes? And take baths?

    1. Good questions. Most of the time, we'll be washing clothes and ourselves much the same way: with a two-liter of water in the middle of the woods. You're not supposed to bath in stream or lakes because even biodegradable soap messes with the ecosystem.

      We'll be stopping at the odd hotel or two along the way, so I imagine some sink laundry is definitely in our future. :)