PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Filtering by Category: Experienced Hikers

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.

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.

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!)


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.


"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."


"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."


"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."


"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."


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

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.

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


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.


"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.”


"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

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

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



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. 


"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."


"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."


"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."


"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."

Macro and Huckleberry

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

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

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


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.


“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.”


“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.”



Backpacking Experience 
Appalachian Trail '14

2-3 days of running per week

Hart’s Pass road headed north to border with 1 friend - June 29th

So. Kennedy Meadows Oct. 11th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border


Eastwood completed his dream of hiking the AT in 2014, and two years later found himself attempting the PCT. He was terrified a few days in going over Rock Pass in the Pasayten Wilderness, as he made his way to the US/Can Border. He wrote a detailed account of Washington State southbound that’s a great resource for prospective sobos.

“Don’t take Northern Washington lightly. It was a bit more that I bargained for. It’s not a hike at that point it’s a little bit of mountaineering.”

“Comparing the AT and PCT sobo is difficult because they are so different. The AT is so much rainier. On the AT the emotional and mental aspect that was difficult was the rainy weather. And on the PCT sobo the difficulty was the way you had to push yourself to go 450 miles further in less time. I never felt that on the PCT I could relax until I got to Kennedy Meadows South.”


"Best advice I got before my first thru-hike was, "Be stubborn."  Meaning, don't give up.  Ever.  You can do it if you believe and stay at it."

"Every 10 pounds off your back is a world of difference in comfort.  Go as light as possible, but don't suffer to do so.  Just do your homework and get the best, lightest gear you can afford.  If you can't get the best lightest gear, don't worry, people have been thru hiking with heavy gear for decades.  

"Don't be afraid to spend time alone.  Hiking and camping with the group has great benefits but spending time alone builds character. " 

"Most importantly.  HAVE FUN."