PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Grahamps

Backpacking Experience
Had done long (3+ weeks) trips, though with only moderate (10-15 miles/day) mileage. Had experience in a variety of environments (e.g. desert, high alpine, rainforest, etc.) 

Training
Was comfortably completing trail marathons in the months before beginning the hike. Plagued by injuries for most of the hike. Perhaps more weight-bearing or specific-strength exercises (including hiking, obviously) would have helped.

Start
July 4th at Rainy Pass, with no border tag. "I skipped the border because it simplified logistics, and because I was worried about time. Perhaps it is because I had already hiked that section of trail previously, but I did not (and do not) regret skipping the border tag.

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
October 8th

Hike Result
Reached the southern terminus on November 3rd.  

 

LIFE NARRATIVE

Grahamps was (and still is) having a hard time balancing his love of mountains with his love of neuroscience research. The latter demanded that he live and work in Wisconsin, while the former demanded that he get the hell out of Wisconsin. He decided that taking a summer off to hike the PCT might be a nice compromise. Spoiler alert: After finishing his hike, Grahamps continues to feel the exact same tension between his inner selves as he did before the trail. The PCT is not a panacea. Grahamps convinced his friend from college, Pippi Longstocking, to join him on the hike. Graham chose to go southbound because of time constraints, and because he wanted more of a wilderness experience than northbounding would have offered.

THE DESERT

"I thought “the desert” had a unique charm, and generally enjoyed it. I was one of the few that felt that way, though. Indeed, SoCal was psychologically rough. It was monotonous and hot, the heavy water carries were a chore, there was too much skipping in-and-out of civilization, and sand got precisely everywhere that you didn’t want it to be. It wasn’t like there were any great trials, it was more that all the little things combined could get you down. But for all that, I still saw beauty in what was around me, and that was enough to make me love where I was. After 2000 miles, I also recognized that indulging any negative feelings about the desert (or any feelings of self-pity about having to be there) were just pointless and maybe even counterproductive, except insofar as they could build camaraderie with other discontented hikers. So I just shut down those thought-loops on the rare occasions that they cropped up."

FINDING A HIKING PARTNER

"I spent the first 21 years of my life living and hiking along the AT, and never once wanted to do the whole thing. A friend of mine once asked me if I would ever hike any other long trail, such as the PCT, and I said “probably not.” Then just last year that same friend asked the same question, and I was surprised to find that my position had completely changed. Can’t say why, honestly. At some point I started researching the trail, and that was the point of no return. Reading trail journals and listening to podcasts got me fantasizing about the hike, and I started actually preparing for it 6 weeks before my start date. Which might sound like a lot of time, but it really isn’t when you’ve got to worry about moving out of your apartment, finding a place for all your stuff, asking for time off, and working 50-60 hrs/week. I finished writing an academic paper and handed it off to my co-author the day before my hike started. It was a sprint.

Recruiting a hiking partner went like this: I basically just mass-emailed out to everyone I knew who might be interested, and said “I’ve pretty much done all the planning and logistics and research. If you trust me, I can give you some gear recommendations and double the portions in my resupply boxes, and you’ll be good to go.” I was totally fine with hiking the trail solo, and was actually operating on the assumption that I would be, so it wasn’t like there was any pressure to find someone. But I was really happy when Pippi agreed to come along."

REASONS FOR HIKING THE PCT

"On reasons for thru-hiking: I started the trail because I wanted to (1) experience as much beauty as possible, (2) have loosely-defined “fun”, both Type-I and Type-II, (3) feel super fit, (4) test myself, and (5) do something that I could feel proud of. Ultimately, I ended up finishing because of reasons (4) and (5). I believe that it’s possible to have more fun, see more beauty, and treat your body better by not hiking the trail, and instead opting for e.g. vanlife. At some point on the PCT you will probably be hiking along a buggy, muggy, boring, dusty horse-trail and ask yourself: “Why don’t I just skip this bit? I could take this day and spend it hiking somewhere else. Why here?” Sometimes the answer will be something like, “the people I want to be with are here,” but if you’re an isolated SOBO then that often won’t be the case. At some point you will probably keep hiking just because you don’t want to quit. There are many reasons that people choose to start the PCT, but I think that there are far fewer reasons why people ultimately choose to stick with it."

POST-HIKE BLUES

"Being done with the trail was hard for me. I felt totally purposeless without an explicit long-term goal to hold in mind, and ended up pouring my energy into anything I could. I got super antsy and had to walk around a lot; one day I walked 15 miles from Mission Beach to Del Mar. Having to screen out sensory stimuli for the first time in a while was tough. Finding out that the things which had been my primary concerns for the past few months (getting from point to point, getting clean water, getting enough calories, staying warm and dry) could now be accomplished in 15 minutes or less each day, I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of free time that I had. Losing the steady, all-day drip of endorphins and dopamine that I had become reliant on didn't help. I felt like someone trying to quit smoking cold turkey. But mostly, I felt alienated and out-of-phase with the rest of the world."

FINISHING THE TRAIL

"My heart started to race as we hammered out the last couple of miles, but actually finishing was anticlimactic. There was a little exultation, a little pride, and a little joy. But no more than you might experience after winning a pickup game of pond hockey. The significance of the thing wouldn't set in until days, maybe weeks, later. It was just sort of like, "Well, I guess there's nowhere else to walk." A friend asked if it felt like the end of Forrest Gump's run, and I think that's pretty much dead on."

A GREAT TRAIL STORY

"I don’t normally eat commercially dehydrated meals (e.g. Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House, etc.), because they’re prohibitively expensive. But my mom, bless her well-intentioned heart, sent me a couple “gourmet” meals from a backpacking food startup in Maine (where I’m from). The minute I ate one, I knew something was up. I spent the whole next day puking my brains out. As I was racing to catch up with Pippi and beg her to slow down, I saw a group of 4 weekenders headed down the trail towards me. They were beaming at me and I could tell that they wanted to talk, which I was very much not in the mood for. So I smiled back, puked on the side of the trail *without breaking stride*, smiled at them again as their faces changed to horror, and sped by as they scrambled off trail to give me as wide a berth as possible. That night, after I thought that the worst of it was over, I climbed into my waterproof bivy sack and zipped it shut. Well, it turns out that the worst was still yet to come. I puked inside my bivy before I could get the zipper open. The force of my emesis caused vomit to rebound back into my face, and the waterproof fabric traped my mess, marinating both my down sleeping bag and all of my clean clothes. I stumbled out into the drizzling cold to strip naked and wash my stuff in a nearby river, then shivered the rest of the night in the remains of my own puke. It sucked, but I laughed even as it was happening."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE

"It’s not advice, but it has to be said somewhere: There’s a very good chance that the trail will drastically improve your opinion of humanity. The kindness of strangers is powerful, and you will experience a lot of it.

My greatest regret with respect to my hike is that I didn’t keep a journal.

People will tell you to do things like swim, make fires, stretch, eat right, etc. The reason that you have to be told to do these things is that you will become exhausted and find them laborious. Yes, even swimming and bonfire building. It’s easy to see anything that isn’t putting in miles or sleeping as “extra work.” Do the extra work. It’s (almost) always worth it.

I was very glad that I minimized my zeros (the number of days when I didn’t hike at all). I often felt “pressured to relax” on zero days, and rarely felt like I needed to spend two nights in the same place to feel recharged. Zeros also interrupted the trail experience, rarely at times when I actually wanted the experience to be interrupted.

Going stoveless was a great choice for me. Consider it."

Grateful Red

Backpacking Experience
Life long backpacker. In 2014 and 2015 backpacked much of the PCT in California going Northbound but was injured both times.

Training
Many day hikes and overnighters in the local mountains near his house on the weekends. Generally averaged 20-35 miles a day on these practice hikes.

Start
Harts Pass north to the Terminus and then turned back on July 17th

Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
September 29th

Hike Result
Finished at the Southern Terminus on October 23rd (99 days!)

LIFE NARRATIVE

Grateful Red grew up in the Mojave Desert of Southern California and was exposed to the Pacific Crest Trail at a very early age.  He went hiking and backpacking all the time during his youth in the High Sierra, San Gabriel Mountains and San Bernardino Mountains.  He meet lots of PCT Hikers during his time in the mountains but never thought he would go and do it.  One day he found himself back up on Mt. Baden Powell, and not knowing where he would be after he graduated from his university thought that maybe he should hike the PCT.

THIRD TIMES THE CHARM

"This was my third attempt to thru-hike the PCT.  The first time was in 2014 and I started going north since I live in Southern California and can drive to the Southern Terminus.  I developed a Hernia around Tehachapi and was told by a doctor that I could keep hiking as long as it didn’t become painful.  Unfortunately it became strangulated and I had to leave the trail to get surgery.  My second attempt was also a Northbound Hike and it was in 2015.  I have a lot of feet problems since my shoe size is 15, which makes it hard to find shoes in my size with proper support.  I managed to step wrong with some worn out shoes, and it caused me to crush a nerve in my foot.  It is kinda impossible to hike with a damaged nerve in your foot so I had to leave the trail again.  My third attempt I decided to go South because if I was to get injured again I would see things I haven’t seen yet.  I didn’t do anything particularly different this thru-hike to make it successful, it’s just the other two attempts I had some uncommon and unlucky injuries that stopped me from finishing."

DIY GEAR

"I made my own Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Quilt, Stove, and Stuff sacks for this thru-hike.  I also modified some other pieces of gear that I already owned in order to cut down weight.  A lot of people ask me why I made my own gear and I always tell them that only you know what you want, and some manufactured piece of equipment might not be what you want.  I had no sewing experience but that didn’t stop me from doing research on other peoples DIY Gear, outdoor fabrics, and just looking at what I liked from other gear manufacturers to draw inspiration.  Most of these things are actually pretty easy to make once you think about it.  A backpack is just a bag with straps, and a sleeping quilt is just 2 layers of fabric with some insulation between them.  I used a esbit stove, which is unpopular due to the smell and residue it leaves, but you can make one with just a beer can, cat food can, and foil windscreen.  The tent is the tricky piece of gear I made since it needs to be staked just right to work.  For this I used a 3D design program to design a tent similar to other ultralight tents in order to get an estimate for where I needed to cut and sew the fabric." 

"Another reason I made my own gear was to be a cheapskate, since the materials for these things are really cheap.  I ended up spending roughly $30 on a backpack, $80 on a single wall, non-freestanding tent with bug netting and bathtub floor, and $80 on a synthetic Sleeping quilt.  The finished weight on these were 12 oz for the 60 L Backpack, 16 oz for the Tent which was 54” tall with a 9’ by 4’ bathtub floor, and 1 lb 14 oz for the zero degree quilt.  I would recommend anyone with sewing experience to make their own big three and see what they can do.  Also if you don’t you can still try I just would say test your gear before taking it on the trail, but everyone should do that with any gear they buy."  

Veganism on the PCT

"I was Vegan for the whole thru-hike and it was no problem.  I have been vegan for 4 years now and the thought of giving it up for the trail seemed like a dumb idea back in 2014 during my first attempt.  Being Vegan I was pretty much forced to send resupply packages, since I knew I couldn’t sustain my diet from the stuff they sell at convenience stores.  A lot of people think it would be hard to eat Vegan on trail, but actually if you stop and think about it most high calorie nutritious food is Vegan.  Hikers love Peanut butter, Nuts, Dried Fruits, Tortillas, dried beans and rice, and Oatmeal, well not everyone likes oatmeal.  I mostly ate  these things on the trail and had no problem carrying about 2 pounds of food per day at about 4000 to 4500 calories per day."  

"The biggest downside to being a trail herbivore is finding food to eat in Trail Towns, but as any long time Vegan would know it isn’t anymore difficult than going on vacation to anywhere new.  Another downside is finding Vegan-friendly gear, since most hikers use wool, down, leather, and silk somewhere on their clothing or gear.  You just have to look around and you can find synthetic sleeping bags and socks, as well as synthetic puffys and Vegan-friendly shoes."

HIKING FAST

"I completed the trail in 99 days total, which includes Zero and Nero Days.  I only took 6 zero days because I come out on the trail to hike and not idle in towns.  This means I did a lot of days over 30 miles, actually most of the time I did over 30 miles.  I am naturally a fast walker and so this was easy for me to day in from sunrise to sunset.  I never walked at night the entire PCT.  If you want to hike the PCT quickly I would recommend training before getting out there.  Also keep it in your mind that you want to do it quickly.  Keep focused and most importantly don’t take too many zero days.  I would say I hike slightly above average from most hikers, but I didn’t go into many towns and took way fewer zero days from the rest of the hikers I meet.  

One thing I can say is that if you hike fast like me prepare to see a lot of people in the beginning and not too many near the end.  I started much later than most people and finished ahead of most.  I ended up not meeting a lot of other southbounders because they were in a Town I didn’t go to and after I passed the town they never caught up to me.  This means I hiked alone almost the whole trail, yet when I did hike with someone else it was sometime for a day or for a week, but almost always my pace differed too much from others.  So if you do want to hike fast expect to hike alone, I enjoy hiking alone, but I know it’s not for everyone."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Don’t listen to any negative comments from people who aren’t hiking the trail, I was told countless times I wouldn’t make it going South because I started too late in the Season.  Only 2 weeks after most people.

Don’t change yourself to fit the trail stereotype.  I met lots of former vegetarians, and vegans who gave up their lifestyles because someone told them it couldn’t be done on the trail.

Be persistent and don’t sacrifice your Health to complete the trail.  If you have to choose between finishing the Trail or keeping your body healthy, please choose to keep yourself healthy.  The Trail isn’t going anywhere, is it worth being in physical pain the rest of your life for one moment of glory? NO!

Prepare your body and mind before going.  The Southbound time frame is shorter than the Northbound so plan accordingly.  Train your body and mind by going on practice hikes and reading as much information as you can."

Trenchfoot and Gap Year

Backpacking Experience
Our first backpacking trip ever was with my son’s Boy Scout Troop in 2010 and we got totally hooked.  Since then we have done several longer trips including two in the Sierras.

Training
Trenchfoot ran 3 to 4 times per week and day-hiked at least a couple times per month, 10 to 15 miles each hike, and three 20 mile hikes a couple of weeks prior to the start of the thru-hike. Gap did significant weight training in addition to the required physical training with his ROTC unit at high school.

Start
Harts Pass to the border then south on the PCT all the way to the Southern Terminus

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
10/25/16

Hike Result
Completed the thru-hike, only bypassing two sections of trail that were legally closed due to fires (Seiad Valley and Agua Dulce)

LIFE NARRATIVE

Trenchfoot lives in San Diego and is a retired Aerospace Engineer currently working as a part-time consultant.  During one of his day hikes in the Laguna Mountains several years ago he stepped onto the PCT for the very first time.  He stood there completely amazed that there is a single trail that runs all the way from Mexico to Canada and vowed that one day he would attempt to complete a thru-hike.  That one day turned out to be 2016 when his 18 year old son declared that he was going to attempt the PCT that summer after graduating high school.  

Gap graduated high school in June 2016 and decided to take a Gap Year (thus the trail name) and hike the PCT.  He is currently taking classes at a local community college and will be joining the Marines.  After completing his Marine enlistment he plans to become a firefighter.

Trenchfoot speaks below about their journey. 

PLANNING

"Prior to our thru-hike I read several blogs from both SOBO and NOBO hikers and made notes from these (lessons learned, campsites to avoid, best resupply options, great places to eat, gear that worked/didn’t work, etc).  I found a resupply spreadsheet online from another hiker and used that as a template for my resupply planning.  My final resupply spreadsheet is on this site on the SOBO Blogs page. We packed all 25 of our resupply boxes ahead of time and mailed out the first few prior to leaving.  The remaining boxes were addressed and ready for my daughter to take to the PO when we needed them sent out.  We carried paper maps as well as the Halfmile app and Guthook app."

HIKING WITH A FAMILY MEMBER

"It was fantastic to hike the PCT with my son.  I don’t know if I could have made it without him. I have the utmost respect for anybody who does the PCT solo.  It takes so much mental toughness to accomplish that.  My advice to other hiking families is to treat each member of the crew as a partner in all decisions made. For us, even though we were father/son we were hiking partners.  Gap had plenty of camping and backpacking experience and skills from Boy Scouts.  We made all decisions together.  Anytime there was a tough decision to make I always trusted his gut instinct and it always turned out to be the right decision."

LOW MILEAGE HIKING

"We didn’t do big miles but were “slow and steady”.  In fact we were passed by pretty much everybody going SOBO and at one point we were the last two people on the PCT heading south. We hiked very little at night, usually only when we knew we were close to a campsite we wanted to get to.  This limited the miles we could do as the days start getting shorter in the fall.  Like all SOBOs we were very conscious that we had to get through the Sierras before the snows start.   Thus we were suffering a bad case of “Sierra Stress” starting in northern California.  In our first 2083 trail miles (Canada to Tehachapi Pass) we only took 6 zeroes.  Our longest day was 27 miles and most days were in the low 20’s. Once in the Sierras we kept a close eye on the weather (mostly updates from hiking guru Worldly).  Our goal was to get over Forester Pass by October 15th.  “Forester by the Fifteenth” was our battle cry.  However, weather and a few minor injuries caused us a few delays so we ended up crossing snow-free Forester Pass on October 22nd.  We were very lucky!"

A TRAIL STORY

"For us, the most pleasant surprise was the kindness that complete strangers showed PCT hikers all along the trail.  People would go out of their way to help us, even if they really had no idea what the PCT or a thru-hike was.  A classic example of this happened to us a couple of days south of Sierra City.  It was the opening weekend of hunting season.  (Good grief, the PCT is hard enough without the additional challenge of not getting shot while on the trail!)  That Sunday evening we were looking for a camping spot and found one next to a dirt road.  There were two ATVs parked nearby.  A few moments after we had setup a gentleman came up the trail toward us.  He and his two sons were out hunting in the area and the ATVs belonged to them.  We started talking and he asked us where we had come from.  “Canada” I replied.  “Canada!” he said stunned.  We proceeded to tell him about the PCT and our thru-hike.  Had no idea he was on the PCT, that there was a trail that went from Mexico to Canada, or that there were crazy people that tried to walk the entire length. We chatted for awhile longer then he asked what time we get up in the morning.  I told him 0630 but they should not worry about that and should come up to get back out to their hunting site as early as needed.  

The next morning we woke to the sounds of the ATVs coming back up the hill from their basecamp.  I looked at my watch and it was 0625 and thought it was very nice of them to wait that late and not wake us up earlier.  The ATVs stopped close by our tents and I heard footsteps coming over toward me.  There was a “ka-thud” as something was dropped just outside my tent.  The man said "I thought you guys might enjoy a hot breakfast".  He and his sons had made breakfast sandwiches of English muffins, eggs, cheese, and ham steak for us. He also left us a trash bag and told me to put all of our trash in it and place it on his ATV.  “No sense in you guys carrying all that with you”.  By the time I got out of my tent they were already out of sight down the trail to their hunting areas.  I picked up the bag he left and it was heavy, a good quality for food when you are a hungry backpacker.  They had made each of us two gigantic, thick sandwiches. I called over to Gap and told him it was time for breakfast!  We both took our time eating the sandwiches, savoring each warm and delicious bite.  It took me awhile to realize that when the man asked what time we were getting up in the morning it wasn’t about when they were going hunting, it was about when he needed to bring us breakfast!  That was one of the most memorable meals I have ever had in my entire life; a hot breakfast delivered tent-side in the middle of the woods."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE

"Pay very careful attention to the weather conditions (snow/rain/cold as well as heat).  Bears and mountain lions don't kill people on the PCT, weather does. Don’t go into an “iffy” weather situation alone.  We were with a group of SOBOs leap-frogging each other all the way to the Sierras.  We decided ahead of time to group-up prior to going into the Sierras so that nobody was ever alone in these mountains."

"If you haven't done much (or any) backpacking do a shakedown backpack trip (3 to 5 days) to checkout all of your gear and to make sure you know what you are getting into.  I live in San Diego and over the years on my day hikes on the PCT I have met people that were bailing out on their northbound thru-hike after just a couple of days on the trail.  Don’t spend all of the time and money to attempt this if it is something that you aren't physically or mentally prepared to do, or it's something you are not going to enjoy."

"The trail conditions in Washington are very likely to be bad (to very bad) when you start; snow, downed trees, overgrow trail, cold/wet conditions are to be expected.  Don’t be discouraged, the trail conditions will improve as you go south.  Plan on doing fewer daily miles for the first couple of weeks."

"A camping permit required in North Cascades National Park in WA.  Most of us did not realize this (even though it was on the PCT website) before getting there so we just “bandit camped” in the established sites (luckily there was room).  You can get a permit here.(https://www.nps.gov/noca/planyourvisit/permits.htm)."

"Stehekin is the first resupply point going south.  Allow an extra week for boxes to arrive, even priority mail.  Everything has to be brought to Stehekin via ferry and some people’s boxes did not arrive in time."  

"Know some basic first aid.  Consider taking a Wilderness and Remote First Aid Course (link http://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr-first-aid/wilderness-sports#wilderness-remote-first-aid) offered by the Red Cross. We had to put some of this training into practice on our hike, mostly because Trenchfoot fell down a lot."

"Resupply options for SOBOs going thru Sierras a bit sketchy due to when some of the places close.  Tuolumne Meadows and VVR are a couple to keep a very close eye on. Stay in contact with them if you plan on shipping a box there.  We ended up switching our resupply from Tuolumne Meadows (which closed) to Kennedy Meadows North while on the trail.  Red's Meadow Bus was also not running so we hitched to Mammoth from the High Trail Trailhead."

CHANGES THEY WOULD MAKE FOR NEXT TIME

"Take an emergency transponder.  Parts of the trail were far more remote than I expected. There are significantly fewer SOBOs than NOBOs.  We went three consecutive days on one stretch of our hike without seeing another person on the trail. There is no cell service for days in many areas, especially Washington."

"Resupply more frequently so that each carry is smaller.  We did several 7 day food carries that we could have broken into two shorter resupplies.  It is always uphill from a resupply point, so do smaller resupplies when possible to keep your pack weight down."

Spice Rack

Backpacking Experience
A ton of 2-5 nighters the year before trail along the PCT and AZT. One 10 day Pct trip back in 14' which started it all.

Training
Lots of backpacking. Lots of talking to thru hikers. Listening from the best.

Start
Harts Pass up to Canadian border, kissed the monument, turned south on July 7th

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
October 22nd

Hike Result
Lived a 5 month long dream. Made it to the US/Mexico border

LIFE NARRATIVE

With the discovery of the AT, Ally had wanted to thru hike since she was 18. But taking half a year off and saving enough money just never quite seemed attainable. She started her own art print business in 2012 with the goal of having one of those lives with more than a weeks worth of vacation time a year. A good friend of hers passed away suddenly at the age of 33 in 2014 and she decided that thru hiking was moving up on her list. Saving became a priority, the PCT was discovered, and the decision was set. She met a woman thru hiking the PCT southbound solo almost right at the halfway point and during that conversation realized that SOBO was the way for her. It was that same chance meeting with that SOBO where Ally learned that thru hikers were filled to the brim with golden hiking knowledge. She spent a year and a half before the trail traveling around in a self built camper van saving money, backpacking as much as possible, and picking the brains of those wise thru hikers.

INVALUABLE THRU-HIKE PREP ADVICE

"Romanticizing the trail can lead to a huge reality check and letdown once you're out there. Books and the internet are all fine and dandy, and during my prep I read everything that had been or ever will have been written on thru hiking, but the most invaluable parts of prep for me were short backpacking trips learning for myself, as well as sitting down and talking to other thru hikers one on one. That's where the romanticizing dropped off and I truly realized what I was signing up for. I made it my mission to backpack as much as I could and talk to as many thru hikers as I could. I started at the Mexican border heading NOBO with a thru hiker friend of mine, took a notebook and grilled as many thru hikers as I could. I hiked up in WA and talked to every thru hiker I came across who was almost finished with their hike. I wanted to know what they had to say and I wanted to see their faces light up when they talked about those 'only out here' moments. My hike would not have been the same without my own backpacking experiences under my belt or without hearing from the saltiest hikers, the ones smack dab in the middle of their own journey. They're the ones who told me to stop obsessing over gear and just to focus on what I want out of this. They're the ones that gave me the bigger picture mindset going in."

NORTHERN WASHINGTON

"I personally loved tackling some of the most challenging portion of the trail right in the beginning. Washington and all of her beautiful glory right out of the gate was just the ticket for starting out, with such brutal elevations. The beginning is going to be hard regardless of which way you start, might as well get the tough handled. I would start in Washington over the desert if I could choose again. Hands down."

TIME OFF TRAIL

"I like to think the boost from spending time with loved ones evened out the struggles of getting back into the daily trail grind, but in the future I would avoid long breaks if at all possible. I took three days off at the WA/OR border for a family emergency, three days off in NorCal to visit family, and five days off just after the Sierra for my best friend's wedding. The days following each of those breaks were some of the hardest. The only time I ever really wanted to quit the trail was after the 5 day wedding madness break. I was struggle bussing hard and just needed serious rest. I took a true restful zero and was rejuvenated. I had to swallow my pride and lower miles a bit after each break. There is something truly magical about the rest and rejuvenation a double near-o can bring, maybe even a zero if you need to full sloth it out for a day, but any more than that just didn't work for me at all. I paid for it later. As much as your brain wants to run the show, you seriously have to listen to your body out there. Find what works for you."

HIKING ALONE

"I felt safer those 5 months on trail than I do traveling around in cities solo. I would often text my checkin people, "I'm safe and back to the trail" when I left a trail town and headed back out for another stretch. Know how to take care of yourself out there, and you'll be just fine. Don't let fear get to you. And always have a prepared excuse for not accepting a hitch if you're not 100% comfortable. Even if we're wired for politeness, be firm and stand your ground if something is off."

HIKING WITH A ROMANTIC PARTNER

"My boyfriend met me for the last 650 southern miles of the trail. That was an adventure all on it's own. We had the huge advantage that he was also a thru hiker and had hiked the trail NOBO in 13' so he knew what to expect. We had a bit of a disadvantage with this taking place fairly early in our relationship when we were still getting to know one another. It took effort prioritizing the trail as well as our relationship. There were some growing pains for sure, but I wouldn't have wanted anyone else there with me at the southern terminus other than my main support system throughout the entire trail. Knowing what you both want and knowing what you're both willing to sacrifice will help a lot. And just expect to have more conversations than you could possibly imagine about incompatible pacing issues… it's just going to happen. Share cookies with one another, don't forget that you're living in a dream out there, and just keep walking."

A TRAIL STORY

"So out here you poop in the woods. It's just part of it. Some people love it, some people merely tolerate it. I totally embraced it. I held up my bright orange snow stake trowel and snapped a shot whenever the view was just too beautiful to believe for a bathroom view. At the end of the hike, I put together a Places I've Pooped calendar with my collection of photos. A big smile washes over my face when I look as these photos and know that those spectacular views were as normal as morning trail poops. What a life. The trail is all about your mindset. That's all it really comes down to. Have a great mindset, have a great journey."

HER TRAIL ADVICE

"Expect for 90% of the trail to be cold, wet, lonely, just suckery, but for the 10% to be so over the top amazing that the 90% doesn't phase you. It'll never be that horrible I promise, but just keep your expectations in check. It's tough, but goodness is the tough worth it for those 'only out here' magical moments."

"Books totally count as consumables; their weight shouldn't count towards your baseweight. They are also friends on lonely days."

"You will start to resent passing so many NOBOs come southern oregon. It's just gonna happen. Try this! High five them and say, "Between the two of us, we've just hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail! Good job to us!" I smiled for an entire day when one of the last NOBOs I came across introduced me to that amazing greeting."  

"Keep a hand written journal every night. Or a doodle journal. Or a music journal. You'll treasure it when you finish."

"Soak as many of those fleeting moments as you can. The blister squirt in your face, being the first human of the day to see the sun touch the top of a pass, the quick hug from a trail family member you didn't know you wouldn't see for the rest of the trail. Don't slow your feet down, you've got snow to race, but slow your mind down and soak it all."

"If the question is, 'Should I pack out guac?" the answer is always an enthusiastic, "Yes!"

"Be thankful for everything you come across along the trail. A grateful heart remembering all of the wonder in past few days will be much more patient when plans go awry. Our lives are dreams out here, the least we can do is be as grateful to the trail as possible."

Bright Eyes

Backpacking Experience
None!

Training
Already in good shape and had always been into athletics and fitness, but did nothing in particular to train for the thru hike.   

Start
Got dropped off at Harts Pass on July 9th. Went straight south.  

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
October 6th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border

 

LIFE NARRATIVE

Bright Eyes had always wanted to explore Western America, many spots which were on the PCT. She had never imagined doing a thru-hike, however the timing was right and the ambition was there.

Although she had no backpacking experience, Bright Eyes set off to do the PCT solo with little expectations of what was going to become of it. At many times she left trail to venture off into new things, thinking she had reached the end of her thru hike, but the trail always called her back. Bright Eyes got to see everything she had imaged plus more, completing her thru hike and falling completely in love with the PCT.  

NEGATIVE FEEDBACK

“Before I even set off, I got a lot of negativity and criticism towards my decision to hike the PCT from family, friends, and other hikers because of my lack of experience. It is really easy to let that stuff get to you but the important thing is to not let it. Yea, I didn’t have any backpacking experience, but I knew what I was getting into, did my research, and had the confidence, motivation and ambition I needed in order complete the PCT. It doesn’t matter where you come from or how you do it. People always make excuses why they can’t thru hike- timing, age, experience, etc. None of that matters. You just have to be able to put yourself out there and say “I’m doing this.”. It’s possible no matter what. Hike your own hike and make it the experience you hoped for and everything more.”

HER TRAIL ADVICE

“Just enjoy everything and every moment on trail. Take a million photos. Embrace your blisters, the days you want to quit, stressful town stops, soggy Washington weather. Everything. You’ll miss it when it’s over, even more than you think.”

“Everything is going to work out how it should. You didn’t do enough miles one day? You had to take an unplanned zero? Your box didn’t show up on time? It’s okay. There are going to be a few bumps in the road but each bump is going to get you to a new place with amazing people. Each bump is going to change your journey and craft your trip. One thing is going to lead to another and it will all work out. Some of my favorite moments on trail came out of things not working out how they were “supposed to”. So don’t stress about it, it isn’t going to matter in the end.”

“Take advantage of the mental and physical capabilities you have during your hike. The PCT allows you to surprise yourself in a million different ways… so let it. You have a clear-cut goal that might seem impossible some days, but so doable others. Challenge yourself, be spontaneous, set goals, do things you didn’t think you could ever do. Take full advantage of the shape and state you are in because the outcomes will be amazing.”

“I spent an abnormally long time hiking by myself and had felt I was missing out on the social aspect of thru hiking, especially when hitting the NOBO heard. Don’t let mileage get in your way of missing out on these types of moments. If you find a group you want to camp with, cut your day short. Stop and have lunch with a NOBO passing by. Stay at the Dinsmores and the Andersons even if you didn’t plan on it. Finish your hike with a group even if you had a different end date in mind. These things are parts of the PCT. Skipping these moments just weren’t an option for me and they are easily some of my favorite moments on trail. Mileage is important, but don’t fly through your hike and miss out on these opportunities, because those moments are what you’ll remember when it’s over.”

Wrong Turn

Backpacking Experience
Backpacked in a few countries all over the world i.e. Nepal, New Zealand and Australia. 

Training
2015 Alp-crossing (from Munich to Venice). Did the trip to make sure that he was able to hike a couple of weeks in a row without having any physical issues like knee problems. Kept fit by jogging regularly.

Start
Started north to the border at Harts Pass July 8th

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
October 10th.

Hike Result
Best time of his life. Reached US/Mexican border

LIFE NARRATIVE

Right before Wrong Turn came to the US to hike the PCT he finished his Master´s in Education Science in Germany. As he backpacked and traveled a lot over the past years, hiking the PCT seemed to be the perfect thing to do after college. His reasons for hiking the PCT were quite simple. Not seeking a deeper meaning of life or out of religious motivation, it was just the fact that he loves being outdoors and being out in the wilderness, where life comes down to the essential points. Also he fell in love with the PCT from the moment he heard about the trail. After going back to Germany he plans on doing a PhD in Education Science. 

NORTHERN WASHINGTON

"Starting your hike alone in northern Washington can be very hard even if you are an experienced hiker. As less people start from the northern terminus expect to be on your own for a while in a very remote area. This can be mentally challenging especially when it’s cold and you get rained on days in row.  I remember the first days being horrible. The weather was really bad and I didn’t see many people until I reached Stehekin. Being wet all day long, alone and thousands of miles away from home I just felt shitty. Anyway, this was just a couple of days as the weather turned and I started seeing more people I could talk to. I guess this was the acid test. So, if you are out there and don’t feel good, give yourself some time and don’t hesitate to cry. That helps and no one will see you except for some bears maybe. "

PLANNING FROM EUROPE

"Planning to hike the PCT is slightly more complicated and more expensive for Europeans than for Americans as there are a lot of things to organize like applying for a visa (you have to show up at the US embassy) or getting the right health insurance. Also it’s complicated to have friends and family shipping you equipment from Europe you just need for special sections as the shipping costs are way higher. Anyway, as far as I experienced these are all minor problems. Most likely you will meet nice people along the way offering to store equipment and send it back to you if needed. Getting a visa and health insurance is fun as it is part of organizing your big trip. The only disadvantage is that planning the PCT from Europe is more expensive." 

OFF TRAIL RELATIONSHIPS

"Having a significant other far away in Europe or other parts of the world is definitely challenging. If you decide on hiking the PCT without your partner both you and him/her should be aware that you won’t see your significant other in person for a couple of months and that you sometimes won’t have contact for days. The person back home doesn’t know how your are doing and the other way around. Anyway, if you decide on hiking the PCT think about doing it together. If that’s not an option talk a lot about it and make sure that being separated for such a long time is ok for both of you. "

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Try to make as much out of it as possible. You will see the most amazing landscapes and animals, you will meet wonderful people and make lifelong friendships. Focus on that every day especially when your blisters hurt again badly. It helps a lot.

Write a journal to remember all the details of your journey. After you leave the trail it will help you keep the memories vivid. And it’s highly entertaining to read it to friends at home and explain that you were lying super afraid of bears in your tent the first nights.

Be sure that you really want to do it and be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you are ok with sleeping in a tent for months, pooing in self-dug holes, being on your own, a having little access to hygiene and bad weather conditions over days. If you are, you will have the best time of your life."

Rainbow Trout

Backpacking Experience
None

Training
In decent shape, running a lot, and hiking around Paris. Training didn't prepare for elevation, terrain

Start
Hart's Pass headed south in a group of 4 French friends - July 9th

Reached So. Kennedy Mead
N/A, flip-flopped Sierras 

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border, but missed a couple big sections of the trail. 

LIFE NARRATIVE

All four members of the Frenchtastic Four had professional jobs and were living in Paris together in the same apartment. One rainy day in January 2016, Rainbow Trout shared the idea of doing the PCT. One friend challenged another saying, “you’ll never do it,” daring each other to back down. They spent 2-3 hours that day planning logistics and finances and then decided to wait three days to see if everyone was still interested. If so, they’d buy plane tickets. That momentum lasted, and they booked flights that week. Six months later they were in Northern Washington starting the PCT southbound.

They made it south from Hart's Pass to Ashland, OR, and then decided to flip flop down to the Sierras and hike from Walker Pass north to the Oregon border. They started the flip on the 6th of September, made it through the Sierras, and then hit bad snow storms near South Lake Tahoe. Rainbow Trout and Refill got off there and hitched back to Walker Pass headed south. Top Ramen and Dirt Arrow continued north, making it as far as Mt. Shasta before going back to Walker Pass and heading south. 

 From right - Refill, Top Ramen, Dirt Arrow, and Rainbow Trout

From right - Refill, Top Ramen, Dirt Arrow, and Rainbow Trout

HIKING AS A GROUP

“Make sure your goals are clear before you go. We had no idea what it would be like, everything we thought and we were discussing about was made of dreams and impressions and videos we’ve seen here and there. So we made our goals while we were walking, but we could have talked about it before. Some of us wanted to take it more chill and enjoy the trail, and some of us wanted it to be a sports challenge where you do the best and go as far as you can in a limited amount of time. Now I know the trail and that seems obvious to me (to make clear goals about expectations), but back then I’m not sure if I would have been able to clearly voice what I expected from it.”

“Generally speaking, everything went really fine for the four of us together, expect for when we were hungry or thirsty or had a bad nights sleep. When you are hungry, you don’t see the trail in the same way. You look at your shoes and think 'I want food' instead of looking around and seeing the beauty. So that’s the same way, when we discussed where to rest, or resupply, there was less patience when one person wasn’t in sync with the three others. When three are in good shape but someone is sick or having a bad day, the group should be thoughtful and try to ease the tension. It’s hard to understand and have empathy for the person that is suffering, but it pays to put yourself in his or her shoes. 

"If someone had to stop their hike the rest of us would’ve kept going for sure. We also said if someone is sick for more than three days and we have to stop, we should leave on the fourth day and the other person can catch up via car. It (deciding to go ahead or stay when a friend is sick) really really depends on the situation."

PLANNING FROM ABROAD

"We took six months to research everything and buy the gear. When you talk about long distance hiking at a gear store in Europe, they don’t really understand. They think either you are doing The Camino in Spain, which is pretty easy in terms of terrain, or you are doing some actual climbing or mountaineering. So we bought the packs from Hyperlite in Maine (and other gear in the US). The only piece of equipment from Europe we used was a French sleeping bag, and it was the only piece that compared with US gear in terms of warmth/price/weight."

“It takes a lot of time (planning from Europe), nothing sounds familiar, and you have no idea which town is big, which name is a trail angel name or a city or a town, what Oregon is, etc. It’s hard with the names because they are so unfamiliar and don’t stick in your head. We didn’t really understand the notion of a desert, and it took time to grasp the environment from the maps. You need patience. Wrap your head around the measurement systems, like the mileage, beforehand. And the weights - ounces and pounds, because if you go on a gear list and everything is listed, for us it doesn’t mean anything. 

"It took us six months to plan and we were living in the same apartment, so we could talk everyday. It would be way more complicated if you were 3, 4 people having different life schedules and trying to meet once a week or something. We didn't know where to start. The visa, the permits, the flights. What shall we do first? I think you should get your start date that works best for you, then register for the visa, and in the meantime get your PCT permit. The US Embassy mostly wanted to know you had enough money to sustain yourself."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Get two pairs of socks for real. Wet feet is the worst for me. I don’t even care if you take one pair of underwear. But take two pairs of socks."  

"Heavy protein bars make me throw up, they are awful."

"Talk to anyone you meet on the trail, because they could have a beer or candy for you or something. Everyone you meet that isn’t a hiker has food and might give it to you. Always give it a try."

 

Huck

Backpacking Experience
A lot of 4-5 day trips and a summer working in Glacier NP.  

Training
Some day hikes, mainly just biking a lot and baseline decent shape.

Start
Ashland, OR (Callahans) and went north - July 1st. August 20th at US/Can Border, then back to Ashland and southbound. 

Reached So. Kennedy Mead
October 5th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border

LIFE NARRATIVE

Before the trail Huck was working a part-time job and seeing if she wanted to study law. She had talked to a good friend a lot about the trail, and both agreed that unless they were in debt or had children they wanted to do the trail as soon as they could. It wasn’t that either needed the trail to find themselves, but they both thought they'd just really enjoy it. They northbounded from Ashland to the US/Canadian border to avoid the snow, and then Huck's friend left the trail. Huck went to Ashland and continued south alone, spending about three weeks of her hike hiking by herself.

HIKING WITH A FRIEND

"I hiked the first 7+ weeks with one of my best friends. We were both competent on our own in the outdoors and had similar levels of physical and mental endurance. We both liked to push ourselves, but neither of us was addicted to clocking miles. You're planning the intimate details of life together when you hike with someone - what will we eat, where will we camp, when will we stop for a break, why do you take so long to poop? It's way too much time together to internalize resentment about basic physical wants and needs, especially in a context when you're more tired and worn down and those simple topics are more important. So being comfortable enough with each to communicate was key. People say it's important to each have a full gear set in case you split up, but we shared a tent, stove and other items and it was fine. For us, it wasn't about each doing the trail, it was about doing it together. I'd say our friendship was even stronger when we finished.

My friend stopped, as previously planned, after OR/WA and I continued on in CA on my own. I also really, really liked getting to have that solo experience. I hiked almost 3 weeks by myself in different segments and that was challenging but also empowering. 
In general I trusted people a lot on the trial, and as a woman hiking alone you get a lot of respect. I definitely had that thought in the back of my mind that I was at risk, but overall I was empowered and I trusted people and I felt like people respected me. I feel like women are viewed as equals by fellow hikers, or at least most fellow hikers. In general safety wise I felt fine. I would encourage women to feel fine hiking alone. I think it’s better for lots of reasons to hike with people, but I don’t think someone should feel afraid.

Being alone also opens you up more to meeting people and joining up with others on the trail. It's a great community, and it seems most people meet others to hike with along the way. I ended up hiking with a solo guy and a married couple, and it was a fantastic group. I have heard about many "trail break-ups," though, mainly between friends. One person decides they don't want to do the trail, people hike at different paces, or people just have a falling out. Hiking with a friend can be an incredible shared experience, but communicate a lot! Make sure your friendship is more important than your miles, even if that means splitting up. Also, one thing my friend and I agreed to was that if one of us didn't feel comfortable or safe doing something, we wouldn't do it. And this actually came into play one time when we were deciding whether or not to cross a river (we ultimately kept going down stream till we found a log), and it was a good thing to have established beforehand."

FLIP FLOPPING

"I made the decision to flip-flop because there was still a lot of snow in the North Cascades and I couldn't push my start date back because of my hiking buddy's post-trail plans. We didn't feel like we had enough experience in snow, particularly with route-finding, and ultimately decided it wasn't worth risking it. We started at Callahan's (Ashland) and headed north to the Canadian border, then I flipped back to Ashland to head south to Mexico. We hit snow a day south of Crater Lake but besides having to use Guthook a bit to stay on trail, it was fine. Snow continued several days past Crater Lake off and on but we didn't have any serious traverses or passes, just following footprints, wearing more clothes, and using Guthook pretty regularly. Northern Oregon was almost completely free of snow, as was all of Washington except a couple traverses in the Goat Rocks. Our time in the North Cascades was spectacular. Not only were there no snow complications, but the weather was beautiful and we had stunning views. We met quite a few NOBOs in OR/WA, many of the front 30 or so of the pack, but we never crossed the herd. It would have been an interesting experience, but I was glad to never have a crowded trail. "

"When I flipped back to Ashland, I was probably 1/3 of the way back in the SOBO "pack" and I continued on with the SOBO crowd. Flip-flopping definitely provides a more solo experience. Very few others will be doing the same route so you don't meet as many fellow hikers and you don't share as common of an experience. People you meet on the trail and hike with really are a huge highlight of the experience so this is a significant con for flip-flopping, in my opinion. Perhaps more of a flip-flopper community can be created and it can become a more established third way to do the trail, whether that's from Donner Pass or somewhere further north. It's a great option for avoiding risky snow and potentially lengthening the time you can take to do the trail. It's also a fantastic option for people who want a solo experience. For those who just want less of a crowd though, I would recommend going SOBO. I loved my experience and the people I met because I flipped, but all things considered, if I had it to do over again, I would have gone straight SOBO."

GEAR AND FOOD

"Some of my favorite items I brought aren't on a typical gear list. I bought a lightweight waterproof speaker toward the end when there were four of us hiking together. We used it to listen to music, podcasts, a presidential debate, and an audiobook together. Awesome way to pass the time, and great for spurring conversation. I also started carrying a strand of battery operated Christmas lights after my sisters came to hike with me for a bit and brought them along. So great. We'd string them up over wherever we were all eating our dinners and it created a nice little ambiance. My mosquito net was another game-changer. I highly recommend getting the full torso one with long sleeves, not just a head net. Oregon would have been mostly misery without these. One thing I loved but that I ditched toward the end when I was sending home everything possible was a lightweight collapsible bucket. I had two shirts, 2-3 pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear that I rinsed in that, dried on my pack, and alternated each day, especially in the first 2-3 months when it's hot enough to really get sweaty. Rather than washing directly in a water source. It was also great for getting water to put out bonfires, carrying dinner supplies to a pretty eating spot, and for sitting on."

"My friend and I decided to make a bunch of dehydrated dinners for our trip and it was a fantastic decision. Thai peanut sauce with rice noodles, black bean chili and rice, mashed potatoes with ground beef and green beans, chicken coconut curry with veggies and rice, spaghetti... You can do so much with a dehydrator. We learned a lot and some meals were better than others, but overall I really liked my food. It takes a lot of time, cutting up vegetables, making sauces, getting everything cycled through 8-ish hours of dehydrating, packaging the different elements together, but it was worth it for the taste and better nutrition. The total cost wasn't a lot different but I think overall it's a little less than buying pre-prepared everything. I did also supplement most of my boxes at grocery stores for snacks and lunch stuff." 

HER TRAIL ADVICE...

"Get the app "Overdrive" and a library card for access to lots of free audiobooks and ebooks. You log in with your card number and any ebook or audiobook your library owns can be "checked out" remotely and downloaded directly to your phone so it's even available on airplane mode.

Swim as often as possible. It doesn't take long to take a dip, it feels so good, and it's a great way to experience your surroundings, not just walk through them. 

Make bonfires often (when safe) and invite other hikers to come over and join you. Especially when the mosquitoes are bad!

Spend a night at Evolution Lake in the Sierras if you can. And take at least one on-trail zero!

You become able to do the trail in the process of doing it. 30-mile days sound crazy now, but when you just walk all day, that becomes a really doable distance. You will build up the mental and physical strength to keep going as you go, you don't need to have it all in the beginning. 

Being with other people is REALLY helpful. For enjoyment, for safety, for pushing through and staying motivated."

Pippi Longstocking

Backpacking Experience
Started backpacking about 10 years ago at the beginning of highschool. Since then did quite a few trips from two days to two weeks. Before the trail had never hiked more than 17 miles in one day with a full pack

Training
Didn't have time to train but runs and bikes regularly and was in good shape for hiking

Start
July 4th from Rainy Pass. Went directly south instead of tagging the border.

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows  
October 8th

Hike Result
Successfully reached the southern terminus on Nov. 3rd

LIFE NARRATIVE

Pippi Longstocking was finishing up a post-graduate internship in Nepal when Grahamps, one of her college friends, managed to convince her to join him on the PCT. They started from Rainy Pass and went south directly from there, taking about 4 weeks to finish Washington, 2.5 weeks covering Oregon, and the remaining 2.5 months in California. Pippi and Grahamps were lucky to have some friends and family meet them on different sections of the trail, and they also enjoyed meeting other SoBo hikers on the way. Pippi’s favorite sections of trail were (in order from N to S) Glacier Peak Wilderness, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Goat Rocks, Three Sisters, and the High Sierras. She loved being in the mountains all day, sleeping under the stars every night, meeting other hikers, and being disconnected from off-trail stresses.

ON HIKING WITH A GOOD FRIEND...

"Overall, I was happy to hike the trail with a friend. Fortunately, Grahamps and I had done a lot of hiking together in the past and knew that our hiking styles and personalities would be relatively compatible. There are numerous benefits to hiking with a partner; it’s safer, you can share some gear, it helps prevent loneliness, and it’s neat to share such an amazing adventure with someone else. However, there can also be many challenges; people have different hiking paces, it can be hard to stick together if one person gets injured, and being with the same person every day for 2650 miles could be a little annoying. Before starting the trail with a partner, make sure your hiking styles are compatible and have a frank discussion about what to do if hiking together isn’t quite working out. Maybe plan to hike apart for a week or two so that you can experience what it’s like to be on the trail alone."

MT. WHITNEY STORY...

"Like many other PCT hikers, we decided to make the day trip to go up Mt. Whitney. We stashed some of our food and gear in the bear box at the Crabtree campsite to lighten our loads, as is common practice amongst thru-hikers attempting Whitney. Unfortunately, when we returned later that day, we found that someone had stolen our tarp (our only shelter), a thermarest air mattress, and a few other smaller items. Luckily there was a backcountry ranger at the Crabtree station who loaned us a tent and sleeping pad to use for the night, which was quite necessary since it got down to the single digits F. We were very surprised and disappointed to have this happen; previously, we had had only positive encounters with others on the trail and had perhaps become too trusting of other hikers. We had to hike out to the nearest town and spent a few days and a lot of money replacing our gear before we could get back on trail. However, even though we had some bad luck, I was very heartened by the reaction of the other PCT and JMT hikers and trail-angels in the area who offered their support and even donated some of their own gear to help us get back on track. Unexpected obstacles do happen on the trail, but in general, the good always manages to outweigh the bad, and there will always be other people willing to lend a hand."

TRIALS IN SO CAL

"Honestly I didn’t really like So Cal. After coming through such amazing scenery in the High Sierras, I found the desert to be a huge disappointment. I wasn’t very interested in the scenery, didn’t like the dryness and seemingly perpetual wind, and was ready for the trail to be over. To ease the boredom, I relied heavily on audiobooks and podcasts, but the days still felt incredibly monotonous. Just south of Wrightwood we ran into 3 other SoBos whom we had hiked with earlier in Nor Cal. Hiking with others made the days go by a bit faster, so we opted to stick with them for the final days of the trail. There are, of course, PCTers who do like the desert, but unless you’re one of those people, you will have to rely heavily on willpower to persevere through the desert. Hiking with friends through So Cal definitely helps."

HER TRAIL ADVICE...

"Take the time to enjoy the best parts of the trail (even if it means putting in hard miles in the “boring” sections so that you can take it a bit easy in the more beautiful sections). Side trips and detours can also be worth an extra few days of hiking. I highly recommend side trips in the Sierras to climb Half Dome and Mt. Whitney.

The trail can be exhausting and uncomfortable. Your body gets tired, your mind gets tired, and sometimes, all you want is a fresh salad, a warm shower, and a soft bed. But trust me, all of the pain and discomfort is worth it when you get to the end and can feel the satisfaction of completing such a difficult journey. Focus on the positives to help you get through the difficulties. Set small goals for yourself so that you have something to motivate you each day and can feel as though you are accomplishing something.

Treat your body well. Stretching every night can help prevent injuries. If you feel an injury starting to form, reduce miles or take a few days of rest to let your body heal. Give yourself good fuel; a lot of people revert to eating almost nothing but candy and junk foods, but my body always felt much better when I filled it with healthier trail foods."

Siesta

Backpacking Experience
Backpacking since college in 1984 so 33 years. Longest day backpacking prior to PCT hike was 31 miles

Training
Pedaled a bike through town @ 200-500 miles per month to stay in decent backpacking shape. Felt very much in shape for the N Washington start.

Start
Took a boat up Ross Lake to Devil's Junction then hiked the PNW to Holman Pass on the PCT, hiked N to the Canadian border, then turned around & headed sobo.

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
10/3 but skipped @ 550 miles from the RIm Fire in Ashland, OR to Echo Lake

Hike Result
Completed 2,088 miles
 

LIFE NARRATIVE

Siesta owns & operates a small real estate firm in Northern Kentucky where he helps buyers & sellers with their real estate needs as well as he buys & sells property for himself. His kids are all grown & he’s done a decent job raising and providing a comfortable life for his family, so he decided it was time for him to give himself a 6 month leave of absence from his office. He had an amazing time on the PCT, can’t wait to go back in June to complete the 550 he had to skip & is already planning to hike the CDT sobo in 2018.

HIS TRAIL JOURNEY...

"I ended up completing 2088 miles. I was caught in the Rim fire in Ashland, OR & made a choice to flip all the way down to Echo Lake with a group of hikers to get the Sierra high passes out of the way. I then completed Echo Lake to Walker Pass, hitchhiked back to Echo Lake & hiked N to Truckee, CA. At that point a Typhoon hit the OR/CA coast dumping rain & heavy snow in the upper elevations & I could not complete that section. It was a blessing in disguise because I get to go back this Spring/Summer of 2017 & hike the missed 550 while the streams are ripping & the wildflowers are popping. Overall, epic hike!!! I started with the “Dirty Dozen” which then turned into the “Wolf Pack” then I finished at Campo after not seeing another hiker on the trail for the last 500 miles. This gave me the best of all worlds. I met many many amazing people for ¾ of the hike & at the end I was able to reflect on my adventure on my own without distractions.  

I got caught up in a group decision when I flipped down & skipped to mile 550 & I should have listened to myself & walked around the closure but on the other hand I also enjoyed helping other hikers who I felt needed someone else to hike with. Hiking by myself in the last month & a half was a real treat!! I was able to make my own decisions & stop to talk to everyone along the way, never feeling like I needed to be somewhere at some time.

People today ask me how the hike was & my answer is: “it was twice the adventure I ever thought it would be.”

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Age is just a number. Do a few shakedown hikes prior to stepping on to the PCT. Take it one day at a time on the PCT. Break the hike up into many shorter section hikes from one town to another.

Support anyone in your relationships with their dreams & deservedly expect that in return. Be a dream givers not a dream killer.

Love yourself & pass that and your experience on to others along the path.

Embrace the test of pushing your body & mind to it’s limits, it may hurt but it will return the favor & show you what type of machine you can be.

Always stop to offer help to anyone in need along the way, what you have in your 1st aid kit may be just what they don’t have & are in need of.

Sloooow Down."

Solar Body

Backpacking Experience
Appalachian Trail '15

Training
Taekwondo master. Hikes about about 3~4 times per month, tries to stay in generally good shape. 

Start
July 1st from Devil's Juction, north to border. Started south on July3rd from the border. 

Reached So. Kennedy Mead.
October 1st

Hike Result
Made it to US/Mexico Border

 

LIFE NARRATIVE

Solar Body was raised by Buddhist parents and has been practicing philosophy and background of Buddhism for several years. He believes that each mountain has its own character and spirit. Not only do mountains have spirits, but all parts of nature like trees, rocks, water, sun, and so on are living things and they can talk to him. Solar Body has been communicating with nature’s spirit since the AT. He is certain he was able to finish the AT and the PCT successfully not because he was strong enough, but because of the help from nature and everything surrounding him. You don’t know how many times he had said, “Thank you” on the trails. He probably said it roughly about 1,000 times. Mother Nature, listened, guided him, and protected him. After all, he was able to finish the PCT as he had planned without any barriers such as skipping, flipping, or getting off the trail.

Things were not always easy for Solar Body. He had a hard time hiking the desert in Southern California. Solar Body is from New York, home of the green tunnel. Therefore, he got tired easily in dry conditions with no shade and no water. Sometimes he would even blame the person who built this trail. However, he would quickly realized how much he appreciates all the water that is set up by someone else.

Solar Body also kept a video blog of his PCT trip that can be found on his youtube page. 

KEEPING A VIDEO JOURNAL

"Originally, the reason why I started recording my hikes was for my future generation. I want to give them inspiration and challenge their spirit. Then, all of sudden, I asked myself, “Why only for my family? It could be for everyone all over the world.” This is why I added subtitles in my videos even though my English is not perfect. I wanted everyone and anyone to deliver a message to young Korean citizens who are struggling in the rat race in a tiny country. I want to tell them to get out! Be adventurous! Challenge yourself!! This is the message I wanted to send to them. In order to do this, I thought video recording was the most effective way than any other method.

When I hiked the AT, my cellphone (Galaxy S5) was the only device for recording. I was happy with that for sure. But this time, on the PCT, I brought a mirrorless camera (Panasonic G7) for better results, especially to take landscape images. I also used my cellphone for self videos. Personally, I don’t like fish eye images of the GoPro.

If you plan to film the trail, you can be flexible and take whatever you want. Video recording is time consuming work for the thru-hiker but it is totally worth it."

HIKING SOLO

"I began hiking the mountains in 2010. I had never heard of the Appalachian Trail before then. Actually, I never even hiked before then. One day in 2011, I ran into one stinky AT thru-hiker in Harriman State Park New York. He inspired me in various ways. I then began dreaming about AT thru-hiking.

In order to fulfill my dream and train, for a couple of years, I hiked sections of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, in that order, by myself. I’ve also done solo backpacking trips in several National Parks. During this time, I realized that I prefer to hike solo due to the flexible time management. However, this isn’t the case all the time.

In 2015, I tried to find someone to hike the entire Appalachian Trail with me but I couldn’t find anyone. So I went solo. It went well. I learned a lot from the hikers, nature, townies etc. As you know, the trail life is like this : You meet other solo hikers on the trail, form a group, and then separate as you go along your different ways. You may meet people that have more backpacking experience than you or you may meet people that have no backpacking experience. Either way, as you meet people, you can pick at their brains. You might end up changing your gear setup, your maildrop strategy, or even food ideas based on what you learn from others. So you say you are not an experienced hiker? That’s fine. The execution is what is more important."

HIKING BIG MILES

"Believe me when I tell you this, I’m not a fast hiker. Therefore, I tried to hike out earlier than others and called it a day later than others. I set my own rules such as, start hiking before 6am. My average hiking time was about 14~15 hours every day until I finished the journey. Sometimes I hiked until 10pm or 1am depending on my condition. I carried 6 extra batteries for the head lamp for the hike during the night. The only reason I spent lots of time on the trail was because of my video recording. I had to stop a lot. Some of the hikers that I hike with know how often I stopped to take a shoot. Stop and go, stop and go, and you continue this.... Sometimes, I didn’t want to lose the momentum but I had to stop because it was so beautiful. I just couldn’t keep going.

At the same time, as a thru-hiker, there are certain miles I have to go everyday. Especially Sobos who have relatively a shorter window should be in a hurry. There is no secret to make big miles for me."

PCT vs. AT

"This is one of the most common questions I’ve received on the PCT. When it comes to comparing between AT and the PCT, I need 5 pages. But I’m going to make it short here. Which one is harder?

Weather : PCT is colder and hotter and drier. AT is a wet trail. Your feet get wet almost half of your trip.

Resupply : There is not big difference. You need to hitch anyway. I’ve never felt that the resupply on the PCT was harder.  

Water source : You will have no problem with water on the AT. I carried only 1 liter most of the time on the AT. On the other hand, the PCT is no joke! Lack of water is one of the difficulties of the trail.

Trail : In my opinion, AT is 2 times harder physically. Let’s do the math. It took 5 months for 2200 miles of the AT. It took 3.5 months for 2650 miles of the PCT. Consecutive 20 miles on the AT is very hard. On the PCT consecutive 30 miles is doable."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Be thankful for everything that surrounds you and say it.

If it rains 3 days in a row, say thank you for sending the rain. All living things need the rain.
If you see the trees, say thank you for giving me a shade.
If you see the rocks, say thank you for letting me sit.
If the sun is hot, say thank you for giving me a breath of life.
If the wind blows, say thank you for touching of life.
They all listen to what you are saying. And they give it back to you.
Treat all the nature and animals like a friend. Then you won’t be afraid of anything anymore.

Stop complaining and start being positive.
When you start complaining, there is no end.
Don’t get upset about the never-ending road walking or sandy trail, no natural water source, no shade etc, it’s over before you know it.

Treat it like a vacation.
Think how lucky, how happy you are. Your job is to wake up whenever you want, walk for as long as you want, eat whatever you want. And you will meet the most amazing people ever on the trail and in trail towns."

Pit Bull

Backpacking Experience
PCT was first thru-hike attempt. Before that, had been on several hiking trips with the longest one being 5 days.

Training
Ran collegiately and continued to be competitive after graduating. Relied exclusively on that fitness (not heavy training but still running 30-50 miles/week). 

Start
July 12th, 2016. Harts Pass to the border then south on the PCT

Date Reached So. Kennedy Mead.
October 5th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border (footstep-to-footstep)

LIFE NARRATIVE

Pit Bull enjoys endurance sports and finding personal limits. He had known for several years that he wanted to attempt a long thru hike in the U.S. and, after researching the various options, had decided that the PCT was calling. The relative solitude and novelty made going Southbound an even easier choice. Less than a week after finishing a Ph.D. in Biology, he sold his house and was hiking on the trail. He spent much of the trail hiking alone, and completed his goal of hiking every inch of the trail - footstep to footstep from Canada to Mexcio. He's also an uber-planner and meticulously tested all of his gear pre-trail.  

HIKING ALONE

"I started the trail alone and wasn’t really looking to join a large group. In fact, the potential solitude was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to go Southbound. That being said, I still ended up hiking with other SOBOs for 30 out of the 114 days that I spent on trail. This turned out to be a good mix for me. I was able to enjoy the social aspects of the trail (you really do meet some incredible people) while maintaining a solitary lifestyle for the majority of my hike. I think this mixture is a really nice aspect of going Southbound. You can find a trail family if you like (several groups of 4+ hikers formed during 2016) or you can be by yourself. To each their own." 

FOOTSTEP TO FOOTSTEP

"I knew long before I started the trail that my hike would be a footstep-to-footstep attempt. I wasn’t a hardcore purist- side trails in and out of town were fine with me as long as I had continuous footsteps from border to border. In the end, I was successful in sticking to that criteria but it took a good mixture of luck and determination. In 2016, the Gap Fire closed a large section of trail near Seiad Valley. Many SOBOs had no choice but to hitch around that area. Luckily, I passed through just a few days before the trail was officially closed.

At other times, I had to be diligent and stubborn. I made sure to walk across to the other side of a road before getting a hitch (so I knew I had done that section already when I came back to trail). I also paid attention to information about closures and re-routes. The worst section by far was an area just south of Agua Dulce, CA that was closed by the Sand Fire. Even the PCTA didn’t know of a viable re-route. Fortunately, other SOBO’s had scouted ahead and found a combination of powerline routes, mining roads, and highways that allowed for a workaround. That was probably the worst day of hiking that I had on the entire trail but it allowed me to say, pure and simple, that I had walked from Canada to Mexico. I wouldn’t trade that for anything."

EXTREME PLANNING

"I tend to plan things to the extreme. Months before getting on trail I had already mapped out all of my resupplies (except for the Sierras). I knew where I was going to buy food, where I was going to ship, and even which places I wanted to take zeros at. I ended up adhering to that plan almost exactly, though I would HIGHLY recommend that people stay flexible. The fact that I stuck to my plan so closely was mostly a fluke- I was constantly assessing a Plan B or C but my original Plan A always seemed to still be the best option. Most of this was probably unnecessary: apart from Washington and the Sierras, you could plan resupplies as you go. I also found that the list of resupply points from Yogi’s book (the pages where hikers list “how they would resupply”) was incredibly useful and I carried a laminated copy of those three pages on the entire trail. Other hikers were always asking to borrow it in town- it makes for a really quick way to see what your options are for up ahead, the mileage to them, etc.

I also made a habit of planning out each of my campsites to my next resupply. I never met anyone else who did this but I found it incredibly useful for several reasons. 1) I knew exactly how much food I needed 2) I could plan my miles according to elevation gain and loss. I found that staying under 12,000 ft total for a day kept injuries to a minimum and my legs were always fresh. 3) I could plan to be at an established site, thus minimizing damage to the trail, near a water source and 4) I always had a goal for the day. I found out on the trail that I’m VERY goal-oriented and having a campsite that I was aiming for really helped me mentally. "

A GREAT TRAIL STORY

"I spent 1.5 days waiting out a storm at Kennedy Meadows North with 6 other SOBOs. The problem was that, by sitting around that long, several folks were going to get to Tuolumne Meadows exactly one day after they stopped letting people get packages. We called ahead and were told that if one person showed up before they closed with a signed affidavit and everyone’s IDs then they could pick up the maildrops for those who would be a day late. The decision was made: Decaf and I were the faster hikers in the group so we would try to get there before they closed. We left the next day, affidavit and IDs in my hip pocket, knowing we could get there by 2PM on the third day. At 10am on the third day we met Whiskey who informed us that, since it was a Saturday, she was pretty sure the Post Office closed at noon. Halfmile’s app confirmed that. And we were still 11 miles away. Shit. Luckily, Decaf and I were the perfect match for the job. He’s a bodybuilder and I’m a runner. Decaf voiced what we were both thinking: “I’ll carry your pack if you’re willing to run.” I grabbed the IDs, chugged some water, and shot down the trail. Decaf carried my pack on his front. I got there in time and picked up everyone’s packages- certainly an interesting day!"

HIS TRAIL ADVICE

"Be flexible! The trail is going to send weather, people, and opportunities your way that are impossible to plan for. Keep an open mind, roll with the punches, and enjoy yourself.

Take more pictures! Specifically, more varied ones. One of my biggest regrets is that 99% of my pictures are of large, sweeping landscapes- do whatever it takes to remember the different aspects of the trail.

Use a journal. I had never written a journal or diary before hiking the PCT but I kept a small notebook with entries for every day during my hike. That journal has become one of my most prized possessions- I wouldn’t be able to remember all of the experiences I had on the trail without it."

Karma Forward

Backpacking Experience
Before 2015 had never backpacked or camped alone. Spent three months northbounding the PCT in '15, gave him a  sense of preparedness for SOBOing 2016

Training
Knocked out a hike or two in San Diego, but completed nothing over 10 miles. This was in large part due to an intensive work schedule -- the price of taking months off at a time.

Start
July 7th at Harts Pass

Hike Result
Got off trail around mid-August. 

LIFE NARRATIVE

Karma Forward was born in Spain, the child of two US Navy personnel. Raised on military bases overseas, he finally moved back to the United states at the age of 17. After the usual rebelliousness and adolescent angst, he reconciled himself with his Americanism then immediately shipped himself off to Hawaii where studied Ethics and Philosophy Science and Religion.  

Ever the risk taker, Karma determined that bartending would be a swell career, and proceeded to make margaritas for the next dozen years or so, all the while burning through even less suitable jobs. Justin had done about half the PCT in 2015 nobo, and came back this year to try and complete the trail southbound. He stopped his thru-hike due to foot injures shortly after Stehekin, but stayed around the trail and continued hiking off and on until mid August. In total he’s now hiked 1,750 miles of the PCT.

NOBO vs. SOBO START

"The difference between Campo and Harts Pass was extraordinary for me on several fronts.  Firstly the terrain could scarcely be more opposite in treacherousness, in amount of human contact, and in overall tone.  I liken SOBOing to immediately starting in the high sierras. Climb up 5000, go-down 4000.  Rinse and repeat.


The most dramatic difference for me however was that being so far removed from my home all at once had a deeply unsettling effect on my spirits.  The wind was cold and I was always wet it seemed. I felt far more alone SOBOing even though, in some cases I truly wasn't.  Suffice it to say, the effect was quite profound."

HIS TRAIL JOURNEY

"I took many breaks while SOBOing. I spent almost a week and a half exploring eastern Washington and towns few people outside their scarce residents had ever heard of. Why? I like to explore.

I wasn't at all disturbed to have finished my hike shortly after Stehekin, for several reasons. Firstly, my feet truly were in very bad shape: The result of poor decisions on my part but some quite necessary ones also.  More importantly though, I didn't hike the PCT in 2016.  Not really you see. I just needed to escape my life. To feel the fear again. Of course I told people I was hiking south. SOBOing and all, and I did to an extant. But I have never been one of those people, which are most of them if you think about it, that HAD to finish the trail.  I just had to be alone and afraid and at my wits end.

I've been struggling with a great ideological demon for quite some time now. I'll be honest, I've been broken by this struggle in more ways than one. No one understands me much any longer. I’m a bit of an outcast even amongst outcasts I'm afraid. Just recently, I suffered another blow, where I was basically disavowed by my oldest friend.  I tried to write about this struggle but inevitably find myself doing so in parables and narrative. My story “A dragons tale” is the beginning of one such telling.  http://www.notthewaterreport.com/

In any case, my time SOBOing last year was an attempt to best the beast once and for all.  I was able to fight him to a standstill, and in doing so, found a reason to live. That's what happened in the Northern Cascades for me. Immediately after I had made my decision the universe indulged me with a thousand verifications of the choice."

HIKING PHILOSOPHY

"When I came back from the PCT (both times) I would go hiking with people and they would get into these paces and just go non stop clambering up mountains at ungodly speeds. They would be disappointed at my lack of any apparent desire to do the same. I would inevitably lag behind distracting myself with some clouds or odd rock formation. At first I thought perhaps they simply wanted to impress me or even compare themselves to me and thus prove to themselves that they too could have hiked the PCT (even though i freely admit to only having hiked about 1750 miles of it myself.) Anyway it wasn't long before they stopped hiking with me. Perhaps they think of my hiking at all as some sort of fluke or something.  

 I’ll tell you something: these people don't enjoy hiking I think. I think they would enjoy it more if they looked around once in a while. If they ventured off trail and explored some hidden nook, they might find an interest in it. I'm sure I represent a different perspective when I say that self-improvement while noble in its ends, is quite limiting in its means.  If all we know what to do with a mountain is climb it, then a sad and limited species we have become." 

HIS TRAIL ADVICE

"Venture off trail.

Look for interesting people.  

Don’t feel bound by anything but your own whims."  

Hardcore & Luna

Backpacking Experience
Nothing big. Many day hikes, a couple of 2 days hikes and that’s pretty much it.

Training
In decent shape and decided to walk the road from a little campground north of Oliver BC to Hart’s Pass.

Start
Hart’s Pass, didn’t go to the border (should have)

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
 Around October 24th

Hike Result
Completed thru-hike but had to skip 100 miles of San Jacinto area

LIFE NARRATIVE

Jean-Sébastien is a 20 year old French Canadian. He studied social sciences in Quebec City and then started university in Criminology. At that point of his life he started asking himself questions about his happiness and his life goals. One day, Jean-Sébastien got tired of walking the path that people had made for him and decided to take another one. He quit his program and decided to travel around. He crossed Canada from East to West to end up in British Columbia, where he made a spontaneous decision to hike the PCT.

HIS TRAIL JOURNEY...

"I made the decision (to hike the PCT) when I was in that campground filled with partying French Canadians, Loose Bay campground. It’s just up north of Oliver, BC, where a lot of French Canadian young people crash for the summer to work picking fruits. So I was sitting on a camping chair on June 24th, a very hot day, in that campground. June 24th is the French Canadian national holiday, AKA the Saint-Jean-Baptiste, so needless to say I was hungover. At that point I had had many thoughts for the PCT. It was very appealing to me. Not only for the scenery it would give me but also because it looked like an unrealistic challenge that I could not achieve. For a long time I wanted to do something that was a little bit extraordinary, I was tired to be with the same kind of people that I had been around all my life. So sitting on that camping chair, I told my buddy that I would start walking toward Mexico 2 days from there. And I did. From that campground, at 5 AM, as the last person was going to bed, I started walking toward the Pacific Crest Trail. It was June 26th. I crossed the US border by night, on foot. The guy at the border was a little bit confused as I told him I was walking to Mexico. I told him I was going toward the PCT and he understood me a little better. I walked on the 97 and the 20. I slept mostly in orchards along the way, eating tons of cherries. I made it to Hart’s Pass on July 10th."

HIKING WITH A DOG

"Luna was my best companion on trail. You create an awesome relation with your dog and it just becomes your best buddy. But it was more work. Especially with a young dog like Luna that was still figuring things out. It can be overwhelming sometimes when you don’t feel like making discipline. Main cons : have to find dog food, carry more water, can’t go in restaurants (not a big deal to eat on the porch in my opinion), can’t take them in the National Parks, can’t ride some transportation. Main pros : buddy with a positive attitude, helps with getting rides, keeps the bears away, warm at night, eats your leftovers, never feel lonely, you give them a great time. When I boarded her to go hike the Sierras I felt a sort of a void without her. I thought it would be nice to have a pet caring break but I was just missing her the whole time. It made me realized how cool her presence was on the trail even if she was annoying sometimes. To me, it was all worth it."

INTERNATIONAL HIKER TIPS

"For Canadians that want to hike the trail, buying your gear in an REI might be a good move if it’s something possible for you. REI will basically refund anything that is broken up to a year after the purchase. Even a backpack shredded by a bear. And fact is that a lot of your stuff will break or be damaged because you use it 10 time more than the average person. Also, try to find a contact in the states that will be able to ship prepared boxes for you when you need them. If you don’t know anyone, don’t worry, you can send boxes from towns where they have big groceries like Cascade Locks, Tehachapi, etc. You can also thru-hike without shipping any boxes but you will save money if you do. Some stops are very expensive."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Hike your own thru-hike. You will meet people that will judge about how you or other hikers do your things. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting advice from more experienced hikers. But if you want to carry a bongo because you think it makes your hike more pleasant and it’s worth the weight, just do it. If you like fresh fruits enough to carry them on trail, just do it. You’ll hear people telling you what you should do or not do all the time but remember you are free tp ignore this advice. This is your thru-hike and only you know how to do it to make the most out of it.

Have a positive attitude. I noticed that I was having a much better time with the positive people than with the negative ones. Being positive will make people around you more positive too, and seeing positive people around will make you more positive… to the infinite. So avoid complaining even when you have a bad day and just try to see the good out of everything. It will make everyday a better day.

Injuries are all in the head. It’s always easy to blame injuries but the truth is that most of the injuries can heal fast enough to keep going. Don’t try to keep going if you break a leg, but if it’s a minor injury that heals in less than a week, it shouldn’t stop you. My ankle was sprained and after 2 days I went back on trail. It was hurting a bit at first and got better while hiking. For all your blisters, irritation and little injuries : yes it hurts, but it’s part of the deal. I promise that you won’t regret to have gone over it because the PCT is one of the best thing you’ll ever do and it’s worth the pain!

Little technical tip to finish : don’t buy all your pair of shoes before your hike. Your feet are probably going to get bigger and you don’t want to be in a pair of shoes that is too small for you!"

Candy Cane

Backpacking Experience
Backpacking since birth, but before the trail had never packed solo, or for more than 11 consecutive days, or over 12 miles per day.

Training
Generally athletic, for 2 months hiked a couple 13ers and walked to work 1-2 days a week (20mi total). Felt very prepared.

Start
Harts Pass to the border July 6th, then south on the PCT w/ 3 other hikers. 

Hike Result
Got really sick and headed home at S Lake Tahoe

LIFE NARRATIVE

Candy Cane was working as a physical therapist assistant as well as at Neptune Mountaineering before deciding that her life needed an overhaul. She planned the trip in two months and hit the trail. Middle and southern Washington were difficult for her due to shin splints. They healed and she got through Oregon. She got sick on trail, rested for a week with family, then attempted to head back out, only to get sick again. She decided she needed to listen to her body and take time for a full recovery which meant leaving the rest of the trail for another time. She hitched back to South Lake Tahoe and found a mother and son who offered her a ride to Oakland the next day. 

LEAVING THE TRAIL

"Leaving the trail was the single hardest decision I have ever made for myself. This hike was all about me. I upended my life for this trip. I felt so many emotions, healed so much, forgave so much, learned so much about myself, met so many incredible people and made so many friends along the way. I didn't want to stop short of my goal of walking to Mexico and feel like I had yet again failed at something. I struggled with shin splints through southern Washington which was difficult and painful but manageable. When I got the flu in Oregon I couldn't even sit up in my tent. I contacted family to let them know I might be in trouble. Family rescued me on trail and I slept for a week straight, unable to eat and barely able to drink anything. I attempted to get back on trail. I was so depleted and my body so sick in so many ways I couldn't walk a mile without sitting to rest. I decided to honor the promise I made myself at 18 when I vowed to never push myself so hard that I sustained lasting damage to my body again. Advice I would give others in the same situation is listen to your body. Yes, the trail is a huge suffer fest. It's painful. But it shouldn't be so painful every day that you aren't having fun anymore. The trail will always be there. You can finish it another time. Reach out to people for support. They will be there for you. People you hardly know will be there for you. You have so much support. You just have to ask for it. "

LIFE AS A FEMALE HIKER

"I think as women we tend to underestimate our ability levels. Know yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses. You know yourself best. Hear other people’s advice, but make decisions based on what you think is best for you. I took to heart everyone else’s terror regarding the snow and lack of melt before I left and thought I was going to die. With my experience, knowledge, and comfort with snow travel it ended up not being an issue at all and I never even used my microspikes. This is not to say that snow or mountains or other potentially dangerous situations should be taken lightly, but again, you know yourself best, so make decisions based on what your experience and comfort level lead you towards. Also, bring a pee bandana. You will want it."

STARTING THE TRAIL

"Northern Washington was surreal. The mountains were so different from the mountains in Colorado. The snow was a nonissue for me, although I was fully prepared for it. The scariest part was the “rainforest”. The trail was so overgrown and I was in the first group of people on the trail so the branches and vines were still completely covering the trail. While it was sometimes physically difficult to push and kick my way through the overgrowth, my main hurdle was psychological. I have a phobia of snakes. I have never allowed it to limit my outdoor exploration, but they are something that I factor in when doing a pro/ con list. Not being able to see the trail, my feet, or animals that might be lying in wait for me was hugely taxing both mentally and emotionally. That being said, I pushed through that fear because the views were unbelievable and so was Washington as a whole." 

HER TRAIL ADVICE...

"Have fun! Find beauty and be grateful for something every day. Yes you are in pain, yes you are hungry, yes you are more exhausted than you ever imagined. This is your life. This is your adventure. Live it. Love it.

Take pictures every chance you get. Take pictures of the amazing people you meet along the way, even if they are all candids. Everything. You will want to look back on them and each one will have so much beauty and be so amazing 3 months after your trip. You will remember so much from each picture.

Tennis balls are a great, lightweight way to roll out tight, sore muscles and feet. I highly recommend bringing one. 

You can do this! This is your journey. Do what is best for you."

Crusher

Backpacking Experience
None

Training
Rode bike 7 miles to and from work every day

Start
Hart’s Pass with 2 other women – north to Canadian border, arrived on on July 7th, turned around and headed south.  

Reached So. Kennedy Mead.
October 22nd

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border

LIFE NARRATIVE

Moving out to Washington State to farm the year before introduced Crusher to her love for hiking and established her relationship with nature as a great teacher. Although she had no backpacking experience, she was determined to become the type of person that could and would do a thru-hike of the PCT, and more importantly to become a woman that was comfortable and confident in the wild in spite of society’s limiting beliefs on what a woman is capable of. She had a lot to learn and with the help of the hiker community she learned very quickly, and this thru-hike became a life changing journey. Almost every day there was a moment where she didn’t want to continue on with this crazy hike, but every day also presented countless reassuring moments for why it was so worth it.

THOUGHTS FROM A FIRST TIME BACKPACKER

"Most people thought I was crazy for jumping into this journey with absolutely no backpacking experience. It was a little crazy, but I didn’t have the patience to slowly become a long distance backpacker. A friend I made along the trail compared this to jumping into the ocean without knowing how to swim. In those situations you quickly learn what you need to know to survive because you have to. I started with nothing. I had no gear, no knowledge of gear, no understanding of what it took to do a trip like this. Looking back, I realize how many stupid questions I asked. They feel stupid now because I gained experience, but at the time they were life or death questions. I certainly couldn’t have succeeded without an incredible support system. Before heading out on this adventure I gained backpacking mentors that would answer all of my stupid questions in great detail and never once made me doubt whether or not I could do this. While on the trail I learned an incredible amount from experience and especially from fellow hikers. It all became doable very quickly.

"There were a few gear choices I started to regret - since I had to buy everything at once, I ended up with the less expensive, heavier gear instead of the more expensive, lightweight gear that others were able to acquire over years of backpacking. But not having the perfect gear didn’t make the trail impossible; in fact I’m thankful for the learning experience that it provided. I learned from lesser gear and know how to improve my backpacking experience in the future. My close hiking buddy definitely made fun of me throughout most of the trail for my lack of knowledge and certain ‘beginner’ gear choices, but she was also one of my biggest cheerleaders. Once I made it halfway through the PCT, one of my backpacking mentors confessed that she didn’t think I was even going to make it through Washington but was extremely proud to see how far I had come and how much I had grown. I imagine there were plenty of others who also didn’t think I was going to make it. Thinking about that only made me push myself harder though, and eventually I made it to the southern terminus wondering how 2650 miles went by so quickly and how someone without any backpacking experience could gain the trail name ‘Crusher’…"

THOUGHTS FOR OTHER FEMALE HIKERS

"As a woman I got many comments before, during, and after hiking the trail. Before the trail, I received many concerned comments like, “you’re not going alone right?” And, “aren’t you scared?” A few people asked if I was bringing a weapon - a gun or a knife. During the hike I would often run into day hikers or people in town who would again ask if I was alone, or if I was with one of my female friends at the time they would say, “well at least you have each other.” It got to the point where us women wished that we were alone just so we could say YES and blow their conventional minds. I loved my friends that I hiked with for part of the trail, but it was infuriating that people didn’t think I could do it alone. One time, we encountered a couple of older men out for a weekend trip and they left us with the comment that we shouldn’t get up early to tackle a snow section but instead should get our ‘beauty sleep’. It was especially funny to us since beauty was the farthest thing from our minds while we were on the trail. These comments would always frustrate me and were part of why I chose to do this hike. Despite whether or not it was intentional, the sentiment that as a woman I was not capable of accomplishing this feat was felt through comments like these.

It was extremely satisfying during the sections that I did hike solo to be able to say, “yes, I am by myself” and watch the shock wash over their faces. The solo sections of my hike were especially important to me. To be absolutely alone in the wild and be comfortable with my own survival skills and content with my own company and thoughts was a key part of my journey. Those moments were extremely empowering for me and gave me a bold confidence that I can carry with me throughout the rest of my life. The idea of being alone in the wild can be unsettling since throughout history much of society has suggested that that is not the place for a woman, but most of us felt safer out in the wild than we would in the city. I never once felt threatened by a human while on the trail. I never felt like I needed a weapon at the ready – I didn’t sleep with a knife under my pillow. Hitchhiking can make some women pretty nervous, understandably so. Any time a big white van pulled over my heart would beat a little faster. For the most part I hitchhiked with other people until I was comfortable doing so alone. You learn how to evaluate a hitch situation, whether or not to trust the ride and act accordingly. There were rarely any sketchy situations though, since so many of the little trail towns are aware of hikers and have generous people willing to help out."

NORTHERN WASHINGTON

"Starting in Washington was definitely challenging. It made me wish I had done better training and conditioning beforehand. It seemed more like an obstacle course with the never ending passes to climb, the frustrating unstable scree, half the forest fallen down on Cutthroat Pass (aptly named) forcing one to army crawl under a tree or awkwardly haul yourself over a massive trunk. We often thought to ourselves, “I did not sign up for this obstacle course,” but then you’d turn a corner and see an incredible view to reward you for your struggle. I think the biggest challenge of Washington though was that we began to take it for granted. After the initial excitement about the journey fades into the pain of constantly pushing your body, you can become slightly jaded. We started to look forward to Oregon, where it was rumored to be flat, or at least flatter than Washington.

It wasn’t until we got to Oregon though that we realized how good we had it in Washington. The magnificent, grandiose views stood out even more once we were in Oregon’s more simple landscapes. The days and nights of being completely soaked seemed to fade away as new struggles filled your thoughts. You barely remember how wet your socks would be upon waking up in the morning as you painstakingly pulled them on and squished your feet into your soggy shoes before stepping out of your tent to get soaked all over again only 5 minutes into your day. Okay…so maybe I do remember, but for the most part the first thing that pops into my head when thinking about Washington is how breathtakingly gorgeous it was and I regret not stopping more to soak in the views like my clothes soaked in the rain. "

HER TRAIL ADVICE...

“Take training and conditioning seriously. You put your body through a lot. Don’t forget to stretch!

Prioritize taking moments to stop, look, and soak it all in. You’ll get the miles done. But it all passes too quickly.

Towards the end of the hike, start setting yourself up for life post trail. Of course don’t let planning for the future take away from appreciating the trail and being in the moment, but it’s a tough transition afterwards and making sure you have some of life figured out will be helpful.

Get a good headlamp - especially if you’re planning on summiting Mt. Whitney in the middle of the night to catch the sunrise.”

Delta

Backpacking Experience
A bunch of two day backpacking trips

Training
Ran exactly four times (8 miles each). Wouldn’t do anything different, four runs gave confidence

Start
Harts Pass headed south on July 5th

Reached So. Kennedy Mead. 
October 15th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border

LIFE NARRATIVE

Delta came to the trail having just graduated from college. He and his cousin Long John had dreamt of doing the PCT for a couple of years. He didn’t want to jump into a career, and wanted a buffer period to make an informed decision about the rest of his life.

“I didn’t want that buffer period (between college and career) to be lazy or feeling unproductive, or be boring, or expensive. And I’m from the West Coast and I feel an affinity to the landscape here and I thought the PCT would be a great challenge and also a wonderful grounding foundation for the rest of my life. And I also think of my life as a story, and it seemed like the perfect first chapter to the start of my adulthood and independent life. Just to know I had that sort of backbone that I could walk 20-30 miles and take care of myself, and spend a lot of time alone. I was proving something to myself and setting the tone for the rest of my life that I could do really difficult things and work at them day by day.”

Lohg John completed a planned section hike of Oregon/Washington, then got off trail. Delta was alone for long periods of time after he left, then was joined by his girlfriend for the John Muir Trail section in the Sierras.

HIKING PARTNER UNCERTAINTY

“It’s a unique experience to start with someone and walk a really long way with someone and then have them leave. A lot of people will start with someone who doesn’t make it. That was the scariest moment on the trail for me (when Long John left). I really tried to remember that never in my life was I going to have this experience in solitude, and I kept reminding myself that this was super valuable solitude, and trying to be grateful for it rather than being pissed off that I was alone. I was scared I was going to want to quit, but I figured I would at least hike a section alone. But then I got to the next town and felt really accomplished having making it to town alone, and so I kept going. ”

“When you get somebody off trail to come in and hike with you, they add this other dimension, because they haven’t been hiking the trail, they’ve been doing a desk job or something. So the conversation shifts, and I thought that was really rewarding. And it’s also good to do it with someone you are romantically involved with because it’s challenging and really tests your relationship but it’s a beautiful challenge.”

“If someone is coming in to join you, you have to be ready to adjust your attitude towards the trail. I was so used to being on a rigid schedule that I’d push us and not let us enjoy things, but I learned quickly that that wasn’t going to be fun for her, or for either of us. And then if you are starting with someone, a lover or partner, you shouldn’t go in with the expectation that it’s going to be super romantic because it’s outdoors. You are walking almost every hour of the day, and when we were in the Sierras together it was freezing at night, so you couldn’t really hang out. Be prepared for it to be full of love, but not extremely romantic and making love under waterfalls.”

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

"Be social - I can’t imagine doing this whole trail alone, and don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it. The people I met on the hike were the most important part of the hike. The  trail is a great place to feel like you are starting from scratch and be a very friendly person.

Be flexible - There are so many moving parts in a thru-hike that you can’t predict or control your experience. A lot of people obsess about controlling the logistics of their experience, me included. Especially before the trail thinking too much about gear and food. At least for me it was nice to let go of that desire for control and not have super intense expectations or a rigid schedule.

Make yourself happy - When I was alone and getting pretty miserable, when I wanted to hike big days everyday, I was so unhappy, so it felt great to hitchhike into a town (unplanned) because I really needed it. And then also staying in the next town longer than I anticipated was great. And then skipping a couple road walks. It just all felt great. So do things to make yourself happy when you need it." 

The Greek

Backpacking Experience  
Had never hiked for multiple days.

Training
In the worst shape of his life having a sedentary lifestyle for the past 3-4 years. His only physical preparation was "to walk for a few miles with my pack full and get fat"

Start
South on the PCT from Stehekin, WA - July 10th

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
N/A

Hike Result
Stopped at Chester, CA

LIFE NARRATIVE

The Greek first heard about people hiking for months on the Appalachian trail around 2009 and was immediately fascinated. He always wondered if he would ever do something like that himself. A few years later he heard about a similar trail along the Pacific Coast and just by looking at the scenery knew that this was the trail for him. In 2015 he got to visit Mt. Hood and felt he had to attempt it or else regret it forever. After spending months fantasizing about it and convincing himself that it was not for him, in 2016 he was ready for a change in his life and finally decided to go for it.

He spent 3-4 months preparing by reading online gear recommendations, blogs, and any related information he could find. He trained for a couple of days and then started together with Carbon (they had been working together at the University of Minnesota) on July 10th, 2016 from Stehekin. Although he started with the will to reach Mexico he ended up putting the trail on hold indefinitely after reaching Chester, CA, on September 12th, 2016. He got off trail because maintaining a relationship while on the trail, especially one across the world, turned out to be a lot more difficult than he expected. At the end this made the trail not as enjoyable. But he will be back one day to finish it!

STARTING IN NORTHERN WASHINGTON

"Going SOBO is like riding a roller coaster straight from the top. Northern WA has some of the most difficult and isolated sections of the whole trail. Which is great, but in our case it meant a hell of time to get from Stehekin to Stevens Pass, due mostly to being unprepared physically and not having hiking poles. I ended up having to do most of that section with pain in my knees and swelling in my right ankle. The weather, which was quite wet and cold, as well as the presence of snow, fog, and bad trail conditions, made this section quite the ordeal. Having said that, those first sluggish (we probably didn't do more than 12 miles a day) and painful days were some of my favorite on the trail. Life on the trail was exciting, nature was magnificent, and the sense of accomplishment at the end was exhilarating."

INCOMPLETE PREPARATION

"A reason why that first section was so hard for me was that my preparation was one-sided. I spent a lot of time choosing gear and reading about other people's experiences on the trail and not enough time in preparing my body to endure. Reading was definitely worth it, I was very satisfied with almost all of my gear and had a very good idea of what the overall experience would be but not getting fit wasn’t. You can get fit on the trail but it’s going to be painful and risky. I recovered from my injuries without much of a delay but they could have also ended my hike prematurely. Another aspect of preparation is having experience with multi-day hiking. Ideally when preparing for the PCT you would want to do at least one 3-4 day trip and if possible on a section of the PCT with the gear you plan to use. If this is not possible plan for low mileage days at the start so your body can adjust and then larger mileage will come naturally. "

HIKING WITH A FRIEND

"Hiking together with someone else is comforting and makes the whole endeavor less scary. We saw a bear after about 5 miles into the trail, the first bear I had seen in my life! Although the bear got up and left it would have been a much scarier experience if I was alone. However, it turns out that it's not always possible for two people to keep the same hiking pace throughout the day. So what we did, and what most hikers traveling together do, is for each person to travel at his own pace but meet at pre-agreed locations for lunch breaks or camping at night. That way you still have the companionship of others and are not restricted in how fast you have to walk."

GETTING OFF TRAIL

"Although I was having a great time and was finally making big miles my decision to stop came from wanting to be with my girlfriend more than being on the trail. For this reason I decided it's better to stop and come back to finish it another time when I can enjoy it to its fullest. This decision was not something I anticipated or wanted when I started and it was a struggle against my urge to complete the PCT. I still feel I made the right decision and have no regrets. It made me realize what is really important to me. Hiking the PCT is about the journey, and journeys don't always take you where you expected.

No matter how hard the day was or how much my feet hurt I don't remember a time that I didn't feel happy lying on the notoriously uncomfortable Therm-a-Rest Z Lite trying to get some sleep. There is something magical about living in nature, pushing your body to its limits and the simplicity of life on the trail that I miss greatly since I stopped."

HIS TRAIL ADVICE

"Make sure you find a good pair of durable shoes that fit well. After a long day of hiking your feet are the ones that are going to make you stop, so having good shoes is crucial. My first pair of shoes (Altra Lone Peak 2.0), although very comfortable, completely fell apart after the first few days in Washington and I had to wrap them with duct tape to make it to Cascade Locks. Also, consider that your feet might grow while on the trail which might mean trouble if your feet are large to begin with. The largest shoes I could find in Ashland (size 13) were too small for my feet at that point. I was hoping I would break them in after a couple of days but instead I ended up losing two toenails and suffering for days.

If you are going SOBO expect snow in Washington. Even if online snow coverage maps appear to have little or no snow there might be a few small patches and they are enough to cause a scary experience or even worse, a serious accident. For me walking over snow covered slopes in WA was by far the scariest moment of my hike.

Another thing to expect that I didn't see mentioned a lot during my preparation is that the trail conditions, especially in WA can be extremely bad. There were sections with hundreds of blowdown trees, thick brush and washed out trail. Overall the trail in WA is really wild and isolated which also made it my favorite part. Just keep this in mind when planning miles and be prepared for a tough and slow start.

One more thing to expect when going SOBO is the solitude of the first few weeks. Most of the days in WA we would see at most 2 or 3 other hikers and camp by ourselves. This is a vastly different experience from going NOBO and I heard for some people it took weeks until they had a campsite on their own. If that's good or not it depends on you but it's good to keep in mind.

If you are not sure if you are going to need hiking poles then you are going to need hiking poles. In other words, unless you are an experienced hiker that prefers not using hiking poles then do yourself a favor and make them the first item in your gear list. I started without hiking poles thinking it would be a hassle to carry them around and ended up injuring both my knees and one of my ankles on the first few days of the trail. I then started to carry two sticks I found and although they kept me hiking despite my injuries they were heavy and tiresome. Upgrading to hiking poles made hiking so much more enjoyable and I didn't suffer any further injuries.

If you decide on getting a sawyer filter absolutely get the sawyer squeeze over the sawyer mini. The flow is like day and night, the extra money and weight is definitely worth it.

Talk to people. Talk to everyone you see. A few will talk too much or too little or their advice will be crap, but most of the times you will learn something useful or listen to a cool story they have to share. I found that the best people to talk to are middle-aged section hikers. They have the time to talk and the best stories to share. Of course when you hit the NOBO bubble you will get tired greeting more than 50 of them a day but it's still the best way to get information for what's coming up ahead.

Don't stress out! Things always work out on the trail."

Macro and Huckleberry

Backpacking Experience
Huckleberry is a life long backpacker, Macro got into it in college & post college. JMT ‘07

Training
Both trail runners in very good shape. Ran 30-60 miles per week.

Start  
Ross Lake Water Taxi to head of Devil’s Dome trail, met PCT at Holman Pass. Started July 6th 

Reached So. Kennedy Mead
October 10th

Hike Result
Made it to US/Mexico Border

LIFE NARRATIVE

Huckleberry and Macro had both been working full time in San Francisco for a decade. Since moving to the Bay they had started getting more into backpacking and hiking and running. Huckleberry had always thought about doing a thru-hike on the PCT, and Macro started thinking about it during their JMT hike in ‘07. In 2015 they decided that maybe they should do the PCT while they were still relatively young, instead of waiting until they were retired. They started planning in early 2015, then in late 2015 started getting their dehydrated meals ready.

Originally the plan was to go northbound but as they read more they realized that timing wise the SOBO window worked better and given the description of southbound (fewer people) it would fit them perfectly. Also they had hiked often in the Sierra and loved hiking in Sept/Oct, the same time they would hit it during a southbound thru-hike. For the couple, the hike was a great mental break and helped put their lives into perspective and realize what’s important. Their strategy was to plan very well, take Washington slow to avoid overuse injuries, and be consistent - they took only four zero days during their entire thru-hike. They also took their time through the Sierras, slowing down to enjoy the scenery.

HIKING WITH YOUR PARTNER

“Take the time to talk about things that are important, or if there is a problem just talk it out. We spent a lot of time backpacking together so we knew the ins and outs of that, and we knew what worked for us as a couple on trail.”

We hadn’t really come up with a plan if one of us couldn’t continue, but what we ended up deciding is that if one of us had to stop the other one would continue. This was our one chance to take this time off in our careers.

We didn’t always feel like we were going fast. We had a plan that we didn’t want to go to fast in Washington and have an overuse injury. So we planned on going 17-18 miles per day (for that first state), and mostly stuck to that plan.”

THEIR TRAIL ADVICE...

“Don’t get Gore-tex shoes. They are waterproof but they still get wet and then never dry. Waterproof shoes don’t work because they aren’t breathable. Once they are wet they stay wet.

Take it easy to begin with and don’t overdo it physically. Plan shorter days so you give yourself some time to break in your body. Don’t go out super hard each day because you’ll get an overuse injury or burn out really quickly.

Be prepared to have some adverse weather in the Sierra, but bring some cold weather gear and really take your time to enjoy it. Don’t feel like you have to hurry so much that you miss the beauty.”

 

Nightmoves

Backpacking Experience
Been on a couple of extended overnights (2-3 trips)

Training
Hiked 5 miles a day w/pack for 3 weeks. Stuck to flat ground. Would definitely do more

Start
Stephen’s Pass going south July 10th  - alone

Hike Result
Got off trail at Barlow Pass (south of Timberline Lodge in Oregon)

LIFE NARRATIVE

Nightmoves had just got out of a long term relationship and moved back to his hometown in Alaska. He was working there and had been toying with the idea of doing something crazy when he settled on the PCT. He was looking into the logistics of planning a thru-hike and he realized if he didn’t jump on it he’d be stuck in the snow and would have to wait until next year. He prepped for about a month or so, and then headed to the trail, starting at Stevens Pass. He ended up packing way too much food and really struggling through the first couple hundred miles. After a relative offered him a place to live in Portland, he got off trail and stopped his thru-hike attempt so as to not miss the opportunity.

GETTING OFF TRAIL

“I think it was a safe landing pad that was offered. Because otherwise I was just going to hit the end of the trail and be low on money and have no idea what I was going to do next.”

“Lighten up for sure. I carried a lot of stuff I didn’t need. I had too many extra clothing items, an extra pair of shoes.”

“I wish I would’ve finished. I mean, I left knowing that I could’ve done it. I guess I should’ve done it”

HIS TRAIL ADVICE...

“Don’t over plan things. It occurred to me at one point that I could spend a year preparing for this. But plan more than I did. Plan moderately well, don’t over or under plan.

Be in shape and be ready so you can hit the ground running, because it was tough immediately. At Stevens Pass you walk up a ski hill, then down the backside. That was rough. That’s how I got used to the trail. I suffered early on.

Stick it out, you probably won’t regret it.”