PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Filtering by Category: First Time Backpackers

Bright Eyes

Backpacking Experience

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

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



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.  


“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.”


“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.”


Backpacking Experience

Rode bike 7 miles to and from work every day

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


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.


"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’…"


"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."


"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. "


“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.”

The Greek

Backpacking Experience  
Had never hiked for multiple days.

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"

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

Date Reached So. Kennedy Meadows

Hike Result
Stopped at Chester, CA


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!


"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."


"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 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."


"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."


"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."


Backpacking Experience 
One previous two night trip

Didn't train (broke in shoes a little). Would do a lot more

Started at Stehekin headed south with 1 friend - July 10th

Reached So. Kennedy Meadows
Oct 8th

Hike Result
Made it to US/Mexico border


Carbon and his friend The Greek has just finished up their PhD programs in Computational Chemistry and decided to attempt a thru-hike. He thought the hike would be a fun and relaxing way to celebrate the PhD. Instead he wanted to quit on the first day of hiking, and the second, and for almost all of Washington. What kept him going was when he started to believe, “I’m here because I chose to be and I can do it.” After Snoqualmie Pass the trail got easier and he felt confident from having done one of the hardest parts of the trail.

“The first day, even just going 7 miles, I quickly learned it wasn’t going to be all fun and games. I hadn’t even tested out my tent so it took me two hours to set up my tent. Very quickly I realized that this was going to be really hard.”

“ I wanted to quit a lot, constantly. And I just kept not quitting. That’s Washington for me. Wanting to quit and not quitting.”


"The Greek and I had hiked over 1,200 miles together, and had both gone through the grief of adapting to trail life. We both knew that he was going to leave the trail to meet up with his girlfriend from Germany for a couple of weeks in September, but we had initially thought that he would return to the trail after that was over. He decided not to return in the end and stopped in Chester, CA. He had to catch a bus there on September 13th to get to Quincy and then San Francisco by the 15th, so we had to rush for nine days to make it on time. This entailed a lot of night hiking and anxiety. We made it, but The Greek and I were exhausted. After The Greek left I was not sure that I would want to continue with the trail, but after taking some rest in Chester I decided that it would to stupid to quit given that I’d made it halfway. The Greek was a lot tougher than me at first and pushed me harder that I wanted to go. I have come to appreciate that and the toughness that first half of the trek gave me made the Sierra and So Cal much more enjoyable."


“Research a lot about gear and trail conditions. Talk to people if you can about the difficulty”

“Prepare your body and test you gear”

“Get trekking poles!”