T -70 and counting.
The PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is a 2650 mile trail that runs from the Mexican border to Canada. Over the distance, multiple deserts and dry spots are crossed, mountains are climbed, and even a pass of 13,100 feet altitude must be negotiated. Specifically, the route runs as follows…
Some of the trail in Oregon and Washington I’ve already hiked, or I am quite familiar with the trail. Other parts, like in California will be totally new to me. Although the trail starts in Southern California, and I will be starting my hike on 04APR, I will almost certainly be hitting snow within the first 100 miles, and challenging snow outside of Idyllwild/Palm Springs. So, I await eagerly the snow reports that will be forthcoming in March.
Training: I am trying to prepare my body for this feat. Already I’ve been hiking up trails and stiff peaks, holding about a 3 mph pace on average. This includes carrying a 30 lb pack, which I’ll be increasing to 40 lb soon. I don’t anticipate typically needing a 40 lb pack, but it still helps to improve the conditioning. The first day on the trail, I’ll try to get a 20 miler in, going from the border to Lake Morena. Why? There is a campground with water at Lake Morena and no guarantee of water before then. Also, there is a restaurant that serves hamburgers! I don’t want to be late for the restaurant. I also don’t want a situation where I burn myself out the first day. Most hikers will typically take most of their zeros (days where they do no hiking at all, like when in town to buy groceries and wash clothes) in the first 700 miles, which is just before the High Sierra.
Resupply: There are a lot of ways to resupply. Many will send most of their resupply packages, and depend minimally on needing stores and other resupply sources. Many will hit a town, and their purchase their resupply for the next two stops. Some will hitchhike into town at every road. I am doing a moderate higher resupply schedule than average, preparing between 20-22 boxes for the trail. I just need to go over them all one more time.
There are things that one cannot anticipate. That is how often one will need a change of clothes, or when certain equipment will break. For this, I am preparing contingency items for Betsy so that I could ask for some gizmo and she’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Other things, like shoes, I just plan on replacing every 500 or so miles. And yes, I already have 5 more pair of shoes boxed and ready to go.
The resupply boxes are all left open, so that if Betsy needs to slip in something or another before mailing the package, she may do that. They are all labeled. Since my trail name is Pilgrim, I printed many circular labels that include images of Pilgrim from Pilgrim’s Progress, that will help identify my packages. All she’ll need to do is to tape the box shut, put on an ETA (for me) at the post office, and send it off.
Sponsorship: I don’t need sponsorship. In fact, by doing this hike, my personal cost of living drops. You live simple when on the trail. Rather, I am trying to raise money for a mission project deeply of interest to me, which is the Huguenot Heritage. It is run by a good friend Francis Foucachon, who was a distinguished French chef who found Christ. As an ordained pastor, he now translates Reformed literature into the French language. It is a vital ministry, and God is working strong in French-speaking peoples of this world. I beg of you to support this ministry. I will be working with Francis to determine how you could support them on my backpack-a-thon. If you donate just 1¢/mile, you will only be out $26.50, or 10¢/mile, only $265.00, at most. That assumes that I am successful for the entire hike. I give myself about a 10% chance of making it all the way through. Please pray about this, and consider it seriously. Besides, not only does it further motivate me, it’s a great tax write-off.
Final Packing: I have my base weight down to 19 lb. In the old days, that would have been considered impossible. Now, it is still considered a touch on the heavy side. I will be vigorously scratching my head, packing, repacking and weighing everything that goes into my pack. Even fractions of an oz. matter. There are people that cut off their tooth brush handles to reduce weight. Many will not carry a stove. I’m not that valiant. Still, there are subtle ways to reduce weight, like omitting stuff sacs, re-thinking how much food you really need to carry, and picking here and there to lose weight. There are some interesting simple things. I will not be carrying paper maps. Guthooks Guides has the trail totally mapped out, with virtually every point of interest to the hiker, like campsites, water sources, obstacles on the trail, etc. This Guthook Guide goes on your cell phone. And, the map on your cell phone ties into your gps unit, so that you always know exactly where you are… so long as your cell phone doesn’t get damaged, or you accidentally burn out all of your battery supply.
Transportation to California: I’ll be taking the train down to California. A friend, Tom Braithwaite, who lives in the San Diego area will pick me up, let me stay at his house the night, and then dump me off at the trailhead. I’ll have to be purchasing train tickets soon for that.
Permits: Permits are now needed to do the trail, especially when going through the High Sierra. I have my PCT permit and California Fire Permit. All I need and am waiting for is the Canada Entry Permit. I don’t anticipate that they’ll turn me down, and if they do, I’ll reach Canada and then exit in the USA at Hart’s Pass.
Betsy and Home Arrangements: Betsy will be babysitting our 12th grandchild, starting the end of January. This will tie her up 5 days a week, up to summer, when Sarah gets off as a teacher for the school year. She will be going back in early September. This means most of my hike will be with her stuck at home. I’ll stay in touch day by day whenever I have cell phone coverage. Betsy needs to know which resupply package gets sent when, where all my camping stuff is, so that if I need something, she’ll have a clue where to find it.
Technology: I used to be on top of technology, until Technopoly took over (See Neil Postman’s book of that title). Determining how to do simple things, like posting a blog page from an iPhone will be challenging to me. Ultimately, I will figure some things out while on the trail. But, I’m making sure my camera can communicate with the iPhone, and that WordPress on the iPhone works well, as well as having FaceBook access.
Getting Psyched: I confess, I frequently look in the mirror, and wonder if I’m not blooming crazy. Yet, 10-20% of all thru-hikers (hikers that hike the whole tamale in one season) are over age 60. And, of all hikers, 30-40% are successful. Many of the unsuccessful are very unsuccessful for a reason, like not being prepared, or not thinking realistically about the endeavor ahead. So, I will do my best to be mentally prepared for this. After all, I’ve dreamed about hiking the PCT for many years, and I estimate that there are not many more years that I will be physically able to attempt such a feat. So, this will be my year, and I’ll give it my darnedest.
So, stay in touch. Pray for me, root me on, support my backpack-a-thon, and stay in touch. Pilgrim