We’re Going to Thru Hike the Pacific Crest Trail!

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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?

Majesty. Adventure.

Photo Credit to Mark Stevens under Creative Commons

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?

We’re stupid.

 

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.

backpacking camping and itness

Taking a break during a tough part of the trail on the AT. No matter how in shape you think you are, there are parts of the trail that will humble you and force you to catch your breath.

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?

From up top, these steep rocky mountains look like nothing but rolling hills. Don't be fooled.

From up top, these steep rocky mountains look like nothing but rolling hills. Don’t be fooled.

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.

The "long green tunnel" with an adorable dog in front.

The “long green tunnel” with an adorable dog in front.

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.

The Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Photo Credits to Steve Dunleavy licensed to Creative Commons

The Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Photo Credits to Steve Dunleavy licensed to Creative Commons

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.

backpacking camping

Camping, and especially backpacking is all about being self reliant and at times, sucking it up. Seriously, who cares that you have to pee in the woods?

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!

Comments

  1. LC

    Not crazy…. Awesome. I was just telling a co-worker today that I consider backpacking hard work, not fun, but it’s the hardest work I enjoy the most of all hard work that there is and has the best rewards along the way.

    1. Author
      Sally

      I can definitely relate! It can be hard to explain the “fun” to people who don’t backpack, and whenever I try it seems like I’m recounting times when I tortured myself for no reason. But it’s those hard, hard-earned rewards that draw me to go on another trip even after the last one kicked my butt.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Vati

    I was way up in the Sangre de Cristo mnts of new mexico as a teenager. You think you get tired in the Appalachians? Wait until you hit about 10,000 feet. You’ll be sucking wind like an old Hoover. It’ll indeed be AWESOME.

  3. Chris Awesome

    Awesome! I am living in Central Oregon now (just north of Bend), not quite on the pct, but they shot some of that movie at a place just a few miles from our house. Let me know when you guys are passing thru and maybe we can meet up, or at least know that if you run into trouble you have friends nearby.

    1. Author
      Sally

      You headed west- cool! I think we’ll be a good distance from Bend, but I’ll be thinking of you guys when we make our way into Oregon, and will reach out if we have some time to spare. In the mean time, we’re making some technical changes to the blog so you can see an accurate and updated location in our Trail Journal. Thanks!

  4. Kapiko

    YIP! Yuppie In Paradise – that’s what I’m talking about! Just stumbled upon your fun and adventurous blog. Crazy? That’s an under’statement! You’re alive and well. To set out for an amazing life changing experience is what many people will never know what’s it all about.
    Hi! My name is Kapiko. I attempted my very first thru hike last year on the PCT, starting from the southern terminus in Campo to Sanora Pass, mile 1018. Bummers: I didn’t make it to Canada. But, the trail will always be there. I made the right decision to leave the trail at that time. I’ll just have to make another attmept. Oh well, I’m really happy for you both taking on this adventure on the PCT. You’ll have the time of your life! Believe me – sure, it’s demanding and challenging. But, it is soooo worth each step you will be taking. The people in the hiking community are phenomenal. There’s this common bond. The trail life is one that I am hooked on. Sage travels. Happy Trails…

    1. Author
      Sally

      Hi Kapiko! Thanks for sharing your story with us! We’re excited to be starting the trip of a lifetime and hope to finish by the end of September.

    1. Nikita

      Thanks Daniel, you should take a break from reality and join us for a week!

      1. Daniel Montgolf

        Don’t I wish! Megan would be a better companion, she is much faster than me! Also, are you going to post a link to the GPS phone once you start? I need updates my friend!

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