PCT was first thru-hike attempt. Before that, had been on several hiking trips with the longest one being 5 days.
Ran collegiately and continued to be competitive after graduating. Relied exclusively on that fitness (not heavy training but still running 30-50 miles/week).
July 12th, 2016. Harts Pass to the border then south on the PCT
Date Reached So. Kennedy Mead.
Made it to the US/Mexico border (footstep-to-footstep)
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.
"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."
"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."