Trenchfoot and Gap Year
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.
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.
Harts Pass to the border then south on the PCT all the way to the Southern Terminus
Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
Completed the thru-hike, only bypassing two sections of trail that were legally closed due to fires (Seiad Valley and Agua Dulce)
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.
"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."