Tuesday, October 14, 2014

PCT Questions: When a Thru-Hike Is Your First Hike

Reader question: Your Facebook page said you had never backpacked before. Is that true? If so, what inspired you to start by thru-hiking?

Yes, it’s true. Before the PCT, Zach and I had only “backpacked” once, and that consisted of hiking three miles into the Buford Mountain Conservation Area the first night, then climbing to the top of the third-highest peak in Missouri (oh, the bragging rights!) and going home the next day. Other than that, we’d only been car camping.

We knew, from pretty early on in our relationship, that we wanted to hike the PCT together. We talked about trying to do some backpacking before then— a week on the Appalachian Trail, perhaps, or at least a few days on the Ozark Trail. But we quickly ran into a problem: we do not make much money. My husband works at Walmart; I have a tutoring job that is roughly half his salary. And we were trying to save up enough money to take six months off work— not to mention all the expensive gear we had to buy! 

In the end, we didn’t even have all our gear until a couple weeks before the trail, and we never had a good opportunity to take time off work. We were trapped in the harshest winter I had ever seen, and by the time the weather thawed, it was practically time to leave for the trip. It was “Hike the PCT without experience” or “Don’t hike at all.” There was nothing in between.

I’d like to emphasize that although we were inexperienced, we were not unprepared. We had researched and studied as much as we could in books and on the web. (Tomorrow, I’ll talk about some steps we took to prepare that really helped us.) Everything turned out all right. We were unsure of ourselves at first, but we soon realized that we were reasonably well-prepared, and we learned everything we needed along the way. In the end, we got to Canada in one piece!

2012, Buford Mountain, Missouri.

2014, Goat Rocks, Washington.


  1. Thanks for the answer! I've been backpacking all my life so I always wonder what inspires people to start.

  2. Gives me hope; have been day hiking for over 20 years but I have never done an overnight hike on the trail. Usually base camp if I have bookend hikes on a weekend.