My permit start date is less than three weeks away – and within five weeks it will be too hot and waterless to be safe starting the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Southern California. Earlier this week, I cancelled my flight to San Diego, which was leaving April 17, because there isn’t a chance it will be safe to travel in just two weeks. Lots of friends have asked what is happening to my PCT plans this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic growing by the day, here is the short answer: I don’t know.
However unlikely I will start the trail before mid-May, there is no reason for me to make any other plans at the moment. I already have my gear, food box resupplies, and money saved. I’m able to stay hiker fit (at least for the moment) by hiking and walking in our neighborhood and at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Since I didn’t quit a job or sell a house – like many others who planned to hike this year – I don’t have to worry about where to live or a paycheck. In other words, I’m in a really good place to just wait and see what unfolds this spring. Excited as I am to hike the PCT, it certainly doesn’t have to be right now.
I’ll say this much: there are lots and lots of trails out there and a total of eleven National Scenic Trails. My back-up plan is to hike a couple thousand miles… somewhere else! Ever since I found out about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail a.k.a. Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT), I’ve wanted to hike it. It’s kind of short, only 1200 miles, and not well marked, so I would need to learn how to use my map and compass better. It runs along the northern wilderness of Montana, Idaho and Washington states. It’s so far north, the Canadian border is closer than roads much of the time. Most people wait until July to start. That’s three months from now, and I pray the pandemic is well behind us then.
The Ice Age Trail is another trail that looks good to me, and it’s also 1200 miles. It wanders all through Wisconsin, staying in relatively accessible areas, and would be a good place to hike while waiting for summer to arrive. It’s possible my PCT window will close before the pandemic ends, and yet there will still be much snow on the PNT. In that case, I can begin hiking the Ice Age Trail as soon as travel is safe. I’ll be very excited to hike either of these other trails, or both, if a PCT hike is not in the cards this year.
In the meantime, I’m lucky to stay at home and away from the virus while watching the wildflowers bloom, and I have plenty of home and garden projects to keep me busy. So don’t be disappointed if I cannot start the PCT this spring after all. I promise to take you on another exciting adventure soon enough!