There are three major thru-hikes in the United States which make up the Triple Crown of Hiking. The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail.
I’ve already done the shortest one… so, guess what I have planned for the end of next April? If all goes as planned I’ll start the PCT at the end of April and finish sometime in September. People shake their heads when I describe the miseries of thru-hiking and then announce I can’t wait to go on another trail. I keep thinking this time will be more fun. Gosh I hope it is!
If you want to follow along, I hope to post stories and photos more often than I did on the AT. It depends on cell service and whether or not I can still function after hiking all day. Regardless, you will have fun joining me without worrying about lack of water in the desert, rockslides across steep mountain slopes, or 40 mph wind and snow in the High Sierras. You can always wonder what’s wrong with my head as you read along. I’ll never know.
You may remember I decided to never, ever hike the AT again. This is still true. However, I didn’t pound out my love of hiking on that trail. It was completely worth every bit of frustration and all the rain and mud. I learned a lot and was given much, both by the trail itself and especially by so many of the people I met. Hiking the AT strongly affirmed how good people really are, how folks are willing to help a stranger when they can, and of how encouraging the smallest acts of kindness can be. The people I met will always define the AT experience for me.
There were lots of other lessons as well, and some things I didn’t learn as well or as easily as I had hoped. Maybe the PCT will let me learn some of those lessons better. I want to not only learn, but adapt, to not just know something, but live it. People ask what I will leave behind when I go on the PCT. They mean gear, food, water and the like, but what I immediately think of is fear. I want to take less fear with me this time. There are plenty of new dangers, different ones with new strategies to match, …but I want to plan for them without being worried about what terrible fate might await me. I want to hike without worrying I will make a crucial mistake or literal wrong step. I want to hike feeling I have what it takes to adapt and persevere.
I’m looking forward to other new experiences as well, like open vistas rather than being under tree cover most of the time. Fellow hikers on the PCT right now say you can see your destination for days before you reach it. So open views will be a disadvantage, too. I wonder how well I’ll do on a lower grade, and if I can really finish a month earlier than it took me for the AT. Most hikers who have done both finish the PCT much earlier, even though it’s at least 450 miles longer. This is because the incline is less steep and path smoother much of the time – or so I’m told. There are plenty of challenges on the PCT to make up for an easier grade and smoother path. Long stretches without water sources, terrible weather in the higher elevations, snowmelt flooded rivers ready to sweep you away and long distances between roads and towns along the trail will make it hard. It sounds exciting!
I’ll tell you a bit more about the PCT between now and April. In the meantime, I have some training to do.