Food. Thoughts of it will consume your mind on a long hike. When will you eat next? What will you eat next? How soon is it acceptable to stop for lunch after stopping for breakfast? How can I fit as many calories as possible into my body during one sitting? How can I make the instant mashed potatoes that I have for dinner tonight somewhat bearable?
A fairly typical resupply.
When I was researching and preparing for my thru-hike, I really enjoyed and found it very helpful to read posts where people laid out the kinds of things they ate on their own hikes. This year’s class of thru-hikers are currently feverishly preparing to set off on their journeys, so I decided to try and be semi-helpful and write a food post of my own. Plus, I just really like talking about food. Below, I’ll write a blurb about what I typically ate for each meal, as well as my final thoughts on my food strategy and if I would eat the same shit on my next hike.
A taste of the horrors that lie ahead: this is a tortilla with peanut butter and mayonnaise.
Continue reading “What I Ate on The PCT – A Horror Story”
There are now exactly 3 weeks left until my Pacific Crest Trail adventure begins! I cannot believe how close it is, and I feel like I still have a ton of little things to do before departure day arrives. This also means that before too long, the posts on this blog will probably be filled with hiker jargon that, if you haven’t thru-hiked before, may get confusing. But never fear! I have prepared this handy guide to common thru-hiker terms to help you figure out what the heck we are all talking about.
Base weight (noun) – the weight of everything in a hiker’s pack, minus consumables (water, food, fuel, etc.)
Bushwhack (verb) – to travel off-trail, often requiring fighting through thick brush or trees
Backpackers Bushwhacking in Donoho Basin
Camel up (verb) – to drink a large amount of water at once (usually while at a water source) in order to decrease the amount of water one has to carry to the next water source (whether this actually works or not is rather dubious)
Cat hole (noun) – a hole one digs to poop into
Cowboy camp (verb) – to camp under the stars, with no shelter (the solution to being too lazy to set up your tent at the end of the day)
Continue reading “Glossary of Thru-hiking Terms”
There are now less than 6 weeks left until I head out on my Pacific Crest Trail adventure. It’s a very exciting time, but it’s also around the time that I’m starting to stress about all of the little things I have to do before I leave. I did all of my major planning months ago, and I’ve been procrastinating on finishing up all of the little things (which have added up to quite a long to-do list!). But, one thing that I have been consistently doing in preparation for this hike is training.
Every thru-hiker has their own take on training, and strategies range from not training at all, to religiously hitting the gym. While the former may not be the smartest strategy, the latter may not be entirely necessary either. Relying on “on-the-job” training during a thru-hike might be feasible for many people, but the person whose training begins at the trailhead will likely be moving much more slowly and in a lot more pain than the person who spent months getting physically prepared. It is probably impossible to fully prepare your body for something as intense as a thru-hike. The only thing that can do that is, well, doing a thru-hike. A couple of months into the hike, someone who didn’t train may be in just as good of shape as someone who did, but there’s a good chance the person who trained saved themselves from a world of pain in the first few weeks.
All loaded up for a training hike!
Continue reading “To Train or Not to Train”
So, you’ve decided to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail, but are unsure of what to do next? Planning a thru-hike can seem like a daunting task, and while there is a lot that needs to be done, it doesn’t have to be the super-stressful process it’s often made out to be. One of the biggest parts of preparation is putting your gear list together, so if you are still working on that, check out my gear guide. If you’re ready to move on to the next stage of your planning, read on!
Get ready to fill out some paper work! For taking a trip into the wilderness, there are quite a few bureaucratic hoops to jump through before you’re able to set off into the mountains.
The main permit that is required* for thru-hiking the PCT is the PCT Long Distance Permit, issued by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). This free(!) permit covers any journey of 500 miles or more along the PCT, and allows you to hike and camp anywhere along the trail. This permit is convenient because, without it, a hiker would have to apply to a multitude of different permits from the many land management agencies the PCT passes through. That being said, the long-distance interagency permits are limited to 50 people per day and some prospective hikers may miss out on nabbing a permit for their preferred start time. It IS possible to thru-hike the PCT without the thru-hike permit, but it will make the journey a lot more logistically challenging. I’d recommend finding out when the PCTA will start issuing permits, and being ready to apply as soon as the application opens (I booked the day off work to do this, it’s serious business).
Continue reading “Planning a Pacific Crest Trail Thru-hike”
Your choice of gear can make or break a hiking trip. Your gear is what will keep you warm, dry, comfortable, hydrated, and fed. It is important to carefully consider each piece of gear you choose to bring with you into the wilderness. In this post, I will list and briefly review each of the major pieces of gear I take with me on overnight hiking trips! Keep in mind, hiking gear is a very personal matter, so what works for me may not work for you. Lots of research and trial and error will go in to creating your own perfect gear list.
Continue reading “The Caffeinated Hiker’s Gear Guide”
While many hikers who stumble across this blog will probably already know what the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is, most of the friends/family/random strangers that I mention the trail to don’t seem to have heard of it. I thought I’d use this post to formally introduce the PCT, and to answer some of the questions I am most commonly asked when I tell people about it.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a U.S. National Scenic Trail that runs 2,650 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border to the U.S.-Canada border. The trail crosses through 3 states: California, Oregon, and Washington, following the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Along the way, the trail passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks, as well as countless other wilderness areas.
Map courtesy of the USDA Forest Service
In order to complete a thru-hike of the PCT, a hiker must walk the entire length of the trail in a single trip. The climate, terrain, and environment that a hiker will experience on such a trip varies widely as the trail progresses. The PCT runs through 6 out of 7 of North America’s ecozones, providing a testament to how varied the experience is.
Views from the trail in Southern California
Most hikers start in California and walk north towards Canada, although there is a smaller group that starts at the Canadian border and walks south. This means that most hikers begin their trek with 700 miles of desert in Southern California. Hot sun, rattlesnakes, desert scrub and chaparral, and the welcome shade of trees in the higher elevation areas such as the San Jacinto Mountains.
Continue reading “What is the Pacific Crest Trail? (And Other Frequently Asked Questions)”
Well folks, this is a very exciting post for me. Today was the first day to apply for permits to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017, and after about an hour of refreshing the PCTA website and several minor heart attacks, I was able to secure a permit for a start date of April 11th!
Continue reading “PCT Class of 2017: It’s Official!”
Food. There are few things long-distance hikers think or talk about more. It is what fuels our bodies and allows us to complete these insane feats of endurance, and therefore it is all important. Many hours on the trail are spent dreaming about when you’ll next stop to eat, and what you’ll eat when you do. When you burn off five to six thousand calories a day, you’re rarely not hungry. This is a phenomenon known as ‘hiker hunger’, a term used to describe the insatiable hunger that allows hikers to consume massive amounts of food while rarely getting full.
So what do hikers actually eat on the trail? This is one of the more common questions I receive when I explain to someone what a thru-hike is. ‘What are you going to eat, and how are you going to get it?’ While the topic of obtaining food (or resupplying) needs its own post, this post will be dedicated to the glory and horror that is trail food.
One of my favourite trail breakfasts. Instant oatmeal, instant coffee, eaten while sitting in the dirt. (Eating while sitting down is a real luxury).
Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Food, Baby”
Walking all day, every day, for months on end. Living in a tent, sleeping on the ground. Waterless miles through the desert, sinking into snow fields in the Sierras. Listening to critters creeping through the dark night. Being exposed to thunderstorms, blizzards, the blazing sun, and everything in between. Spending days dreaming of eating real food (ie. anything other than bars and instant mashed potatoes). Countless blisters and bug bites. If this sounds like a nice way to spend a summer, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail might just be for you!
Photo from the PCTA website
As a master’s student with graduation approaching in a couple of months, the future is a hot topic of conversation with pretty much everyone I run into. Because of this, I’ve found myself explaining to a lot of people that my post-graduation plan isn’t to settle into a nice, full-time career, but to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This is usually met with a pretty predictable set of questions: “How far is that?”, “How long will it take?”, and “Who are you going with?”. I’ve already covered the topic of solo hiking in another post, but the answers “from Mexico to Canada” and “five months” usually elicit a reaction that falls somewhere between shock, awe, and sometimes horror. Given the description above, many people probably wonder why on earth someone would ever willingly subject themselves to this seemingly tortuous endeavour. I thought I would use this post to explain why I want to thru-hike the PCT, or at least try my best.
Continue reading “Why I Want to Thru-Hike the PCT (or, You Want to do What?!)”