We’ve decided to push our travel plans back a few months, about 6, so we can complete a Pacific Crest Trail thru hike this summer.
Is it crazy? Yes.
Is is necessary? No.
Will it be worth it? We think so.
What is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,600 mile long hiking trail that stretches from the US-Mexico border in the South, to the US-Canada border in the North.
Like the Appalachian trail in the Eastern United States, hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail, the PCT, eat, sleep and live in the wilds of the trail. No hotels, no restaurants or grocery stores, and no cars or bikes.
The average Pacific Crest Trail thru hike, all 2,650 miles of it, is usually completed between 4 and 6 months. That’s 130-180 days of nothing but hiking and sleeping outside.
Why? WHY Are We Doing This?
No really. I don’t think we have to explain what a huge undertaking this is. While not a lot of people are really prepared for hiking 2,600, after our somewhat pathetic 3-day excursion on the Appalachian Trail last summer, we seem extraordinarily unprepared for this.
What Made Us Decide?
Nikita has always mentioned wanting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, and I was always intrigued, but assumed we’d never get there. (Not a proactive mentality to have!)
I know we’re going to get a lot of shit for this, but it wasn’t until we watched Wild with Reese Witherspoon, that I became more curious about the trail. After watching, Nikita and I couldn’t help but do some research on the beautiful landscapes and environments shown in the film.
I knew that the trail passed through the dense, temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest- places I have always wanted to visit- but was surprised to see that it started in the desert and passed through the bare and rocky Sierra Nevada mountain range.
So much variation, and all of it so beautiful and rugged. Or should I say, wild.
I’ve never been one to let a movie solidify a decision to do anything, believe me. Hollywood is Hollywood, and though Wild conveys some of Strayed’s struggle with thru-hiking, 3 hours isn’t enough time to show the constant grind of trekking through uninhabitable wilderness for months on end, and all of the pain exhaustion and mental anguish it entails.
Sounds fun right?!
Well, yeah kinda. Even a weekend hike is full of pain and anguish, but it also feels amazing and liberating. The feeling of accomplishment of a long hike, is only matched by the physical highs of increased strength and a good night’s sleep.
Unlike Cheryl, neither of us are hiking to grapple with life challenges or to overcome serious character flaws- well, at least not ones like habitual infidelity and heroine addiction. We hike purely for the love of the hike and simply existing out there.
After finally admitting to one another that we both wanted to, we looked into the how of hiking the trail, which is one step closer to getting us there.
I think that if we didn’t already have plans to do something similarly “crazy,” like quit our jobs and leave our home country to travel around the world for a while, we would never be able to accept that something like hiking through the wilderness for 5 months was possible either.
The truth is, a Pacific Crest Trail thru hike is entirely possible. Many people do it, and have done it! The only thing stopping us from doing it was our own hesitation.
For me, it came down to one thing: would I regret hiking the PCT, or would I regret staying at home and going to work every day for those same 5 months?
Like quitting your job to travel around the world, sometimes you just have to accept that your plans will never be perfect, but that you can trust yourself to make it there.
Why Not Just Hike the Appalachian Trail?
Good question! The Appalachian Trail is much closer to home for us, and also much more traversed than the Pacific Crest Trail, meaning there’s more experience to call on for research, and more of a culture of support for hikers on the trail.
It’s also an environment we’re used to.
We’ve spent a lot of weekends up in the Appalachians, as they’re less than a 2 hour drive away. I also spent childhood summers in the nearby Blue Ridge mountains with my grandparents.
I’ve heard the AT being described as a “long green tunnel,” which I agree with completely. And it’s precisely that reason that I admitted I would never want to thru-hike the Appalachian trail. Everything looks the same. I get bored.
A Pacific Crest Trail thru hike offers a very different trail experience. It traverses multiple natural environments like desert, high mountains, and dense wet forests. Many of these landscapes are simply put, grander, than the never ending deciduous forest of the AT.
I’ve never been to most of the amazing places the Pacific Crest Trail walks through. And it seems a shame to leave my home country to travel the globe when I haven’t fully taken advantage of all it has to offer.
Here are just a few of the places we’ll be backpacking through that I can’t wait to visit:
- Mojave Desert (we won’t actually be hiking through it, moreso alongside it)
- Sierra Nevada Mountains
- Pacific Northwest Forests
How Will We Survive?
While we’ve never hiked and camped for this long a time, we do have experience with enough of the basics: hiking, eating, sleeping and yes, peeing and pooping, in the wild.
Since we’ve made our decision to do the trail, it’s been nothing but constant research. I want to make sure we’re both prepared to handle the wild west, and I’ve found a lot of reassurance in reading other hikers’ experiences, mostly because they sound exactly like what we’ve experienced hiking the AT close to home. It feels good having a least a little bit of an idea what it’s like, and having already experienced the trials and difficulties of long distance hiking.
We’re also both in pretty good shape. I’m a CrossFit junkie who hits the gym 4-5 times a week, and Nikita trains in Muay Thai just as frequently. We’re an active couple, and like to stay that way 🙂
Of course, working out at the gym for an hour everyday doesn’t compare to basically walking a marathon every day for 5 months. I’m not saying we’re 100% prepared for this undertaking, I’m simply hoping that some of the difficulties other hikers have with adjusting to the strenuous activity won’t be as difficult for us. At least at first.
What Does this Mean for Our Travel Plans?
We’re definitely still traveling! Our travel plans are set to commence shortly before the end of 2015, as hiking the trail will take up almost half of the year.
HALF THE YEAR.
MAY. JUNE. JULY. AUGUST. SEPTEMBER.
Ok, like 5 months. But seriously. Longer than a semester at school. Certainly longer than 1 weekend. Sheesh.
But yes, we will still be traveling.
After returning from the West Coast (from Seattle, if everything goes according to plan), I will be living in Atlanta for about 2 months. 1 of those months will be occupied entirely by the CELTA course. Once I’ve completed and received my certificate, it’s off to Southeast Asia!
Have you done the PCT? Do you think we’re crazy? Let us know in the comments!