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[motivation/hosting fund]

new news: [September 10th, 2022]

I need to do some server upgrades, hence pctplanner will be offline at 1:30pm Saturday September 10th PDT. It shouldn't take long
My PCT Hiking Tips
PCT Hiking Tips: Cerebral Things

This stands for "hike your own hike". It is pretty straightforward as to what it means: what works for you might not work for anyone else.

"Act like you want to act
Be what you want to be
Find out who you really are
And don't pay any attention to me"

It's Not Funny Anymore
Grant Hart / Hüsker Dü

However, HYOH is not a reason to eschew any personal responsibility. e.g. "Who are you to tell me I can't bathe in this spring that everyone is drinking from, HYOH man!"

If your choices affect other hikers then you are no longer "Hiking Your own Hike". Common instances of this include:
  • Don't camp in the middle of the trail! This is only really acceptable if you are caught in a storm and have no other choice. If you pitch your sleeping bag on the trail, be prepared to have early rising hikers walking overtop of you at 6:00am.
  • Remember the other hikers behind you. More than once I had to put up with an angry hotel manager complaining about how dirty hikers left the room or letting in other folks stay/shower in the room without paying the fees for an additional person.
  • Be honest. Nobody really cares if you skip sections of trail, as long as you are honest about it. I met several hikers that said "The desert sucked so we skipped up to the Sierras so we could enjoy ourselves more", who cares in this case? People skip ahead for all sorts of reasons.

    Do not skip a section of the trail (like 1/4th of a state) and later say you hiked it however. This is a dick move and disrespectful to your fellow hikers who actually took the time and energy to hike the sections. The gossip grapevine has always been incredibly thick on the PCT, and is 10x more thick now that Facebook exists.

    People get really annoyed if you are five days behind them, then suddenly you are three days ahead of them a week later...and still write "Mexico to Canada!" in the trail registers. In one trail register entry I saw from 2011 (a really hard snow year) someone had written "No Skips! No Flips!" in their register entry. A few others proceeded to annotate the entry with "bullshit" and "yeah, except for that ride you took from ____ to ____!"

"Getting away from it all"

One of the great things about hiking the PCT is that you have several months to just...think. The problems of the world get put on the back burner for awhile. When you return, the problems are still there, but hopefully you'll have a new perspective in dealing with them.

If you want to really "Get away from it all" on the Pacific Crest Trail, then STAY OFFLINE, especially Facebook. I mean, seriously, do you really want to be off on this grand adventure of discovery and have to also look at 15,000 baby photos, conspiracy theories, rants, and links to news articles about things you are trying to take a temporary break from?

In the 90's I would call my parents every 7-10 days when I was at a payphone in a resupply town. When I returned from my PCT hike I felt like I had gone to a far off land and came back with all these tales of adventures and wonder.

In 2013 I was on Facebook, updating my website, and texting friends from the trail. To be honest, I never really felt like I left home. If I could have changed one thing about my 2013 hike would have been to go dark on my Facebook account. Maybe this is just that I've been falling out of love with Facebook for the last couple of years and a non-issue for other people. Again, this is just a personal preference, for you it might be different. People ask me a lot though is what I would have done differently and this is my #1 answer.

Sometimes there could be useful information on the PCT Facebook page (such as a fire closure), but if it was important enough you would know about it from talking to people on the trail. Being on the PCT Facebook page (and PCT-L email list) while on the trail made me feel like I was taking part in a group tour bus activity rather than my own adventure.

Determination and reaching/not reaching your point B

I'm really not a fan of the whole "There is nothing you can't do if you want it bad enough" mindset and find it to be a sort of "blame the victim" mentality. Yes, I was determined to finish the PCT and never once thought about quitting, but I also realize that I was lucky. Before you all write me saying "The instructor in my $800 motivational seminar said there is no such thing as luck!" I believe in luck simply because I believe in dictionary words:
Luck is defined as:

"A combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person"
Despite what the makers of those inspirational posters say, luck does play a part in whether or not you finish the trail. Being in top mental and physical shape does not get you excluded from the Shitty Things That Can Happen to Anyone.™ lottery.

I have known hikers who have done everything correctly and not reach Canada due to circumstances beyond their control. On the other hand, I've known a couple hikers who spent six months doing a lot of drugs and never really cared if they reached Canada or not....but they got there anyway.

I fell a few times on both of my hikes. Several times had I been just a little to the left or right I would have hit a sharp rock possibly ending my hike. I didn't get sick like several other hikers did when they drank from the same water sources, and I was the one who was more lax about treating water. Other hikers much stronger than me had to quit the trail due to freak injuries, it had nothing to do with their lack of determination or will.

When crossing the passes, it is entirely to chance whether or not you punch through the snow and sprain your foot or not. In 2013, one hiker left about an hour before me, punched through the snow, and sprained his foot bad enough to end his hike. I walked the same route as him and did not punch through, even though the snow was now softer and I had a much greater chance at punching through and spraining my foot.

I was also fortunate in that I did not have any unplanned external circumstances (eg family member dying) which would cause me to stop my hike.

Hiking Partners and "Dude I wanna go with you" friends
Express route to my point:
  You can hike the trail solo and be just fine.

Scenic route to my point:
This is another thing that non-hiking people back home will give you grief on. "YOU ARE GOING ALL ALONE?!?!" If any piece of advice I could have given myself way back when would be that it was ok to hike the trail solo. I felt like I needed to have a partner, well, because that is what everyone said I needed to do. By "partner" I mean someone whom you are hiking with throughout the day, camping in the same spots, sticking to the same plans, etc.

By "hiking solo" I'm saying that you are the one in control and not having to compromise. You dictate how far you walk in a day and where you camp. I hiked with a lot of different people for days on end who became lifelong friends. They might decide to make camp and I would continue onward for another hour or two. We might see each other a day (or a month) later.

Hiking the PCT with someone whom you are not romantically involved with can be really difficult. You will rapidly find that everyone has a different hiking style and trying to stay in sync with someone else can be difficult. Some days it would hit five o'clock and I felt like stopping, while other times I would hike until 10:00pm. My favorite time of the day to hike was from 6:00pm to dark, which was also the time when most hikers stop.

I have no advice I can really give about hiking the PCT with a significant other. From talking to couples, I do know it can be really difficult and both people have to be committed to the hike.

Remember, this is YOUR hike. If a friend wants to come along, don't let them dictate when you can and cannot leave due to their schedule. If you are wanting to leave Campo in mid April and they cannot get away until late May, perhaps it would be better for them to meetup with you when they can, or maybe you should just have your own PCT adventure. Too many times I met pairs of hikers where one hiker couldn't leave and the other was a bit annoyed in having to wait a few extra weeks.

Then again, I met a couple hikers in 2013 who heard about the PCT from a friend and decided to tag along. Ironically, the tag alongs ended up falling in love with the trail and finished while the person whose original idea the hike was had long dropped out.

It is quite common for 2-3 hikers to start out in a group and then rapidly realize it isn't working for them and they split up. Keep this in mind if you are leaving Campo with a couple of friends. Be sure and discuss beforehand the fact that you might need to split up.

Going off trail
Shifting from hiking mode to non-hiking mode can be really difficult. One guy I know went home for a week and his girlfriend couldn't figure out why he was not mentally there and distant. I had zero desire to go home to Portland when I was in Cascade Locks. I had my friends come out to see me instead. Going home would be like waking up from a good dream, then trying to fall back asleep and return to the dream.

To some hikers this a complete non-problem. They went home more than once and had no issues whatsoever. I am not of this mindset. To me it would be like being on a beach in Hawaii, deciding to fly home and mow the lawn, then fly back to Hawaii to resume my vacation.

Be careful of planning your trip when there are outside commitments. Leaving the PCT for a short time can be a logistical nightmare. The most common reason seems to be weddings. I know of several hikers who had to hop off the the trail to go to a wedding and had a really hard time getting back on the trail. One hiker I met was a bit annoyed at his friends in how after he had left Campo, they decided to get married in the coming summer and expected him to be at their wedding. He ended up having to really alter his hike. Other hikers left the trail for two weeks and then were not able to finish the trail due to getting snowed out in the North Cascades.

Completely random PCT tips in a random place since I can't figure out where to put them on these pages:
  • If it was super cold out, I would put my camera batteries and phone in the bottom of my sleeping bag to extend their life.
  • Pretend you are going to summer camp, put your name on all your things. Stuff gets lost all the time on the trail and hikers are a caring much. Stuff doesn't get returned a lot of times because of dishonesty, it is just that nobody knows who it belongs to. Posting on the internet that you found something doesn't always work either.
  • Your smartphone (or ipod) can store PDFs. Store PDFs of the owners manuals for your complex tech toys
  • If you want to leave the Anderson's house, get up and leave before anyone else is up. Just get up and go. If people are up you will start talking to them and end up there another day.

Hiking Style
Taking a day off in town can be relaxing. Taking more than a day off an it can be really hard to get going again. The formula I worked out was:

days to recover = days taken off - 1

Example, if I took three days off in town. It would take me a full two days of hiking to feel like I was back in the groove again. One day off was really refreshing, any more than that would start to really wear me down once I was on the trail again.

Picky Semantic Side note: I use the term "days off" heer and on pctplanner.com since a "day off" from your normal routine is generally a positive thing. Most of the "zeros" I've had in my life have had negative connotations (a grade on a test, Yahtzee, etc), so I'm more of a fan of "days off".

I mentioned this earlier, but one thing people back home have a really hard time understanding is the concept of high mileage days. When Josh and Anish broke the speed records for the PCT in 2013, many of the online comments (and day hikers I met) would say things like:
"What kind of wilderness experience is that?"
What these people don't get is that sometimes it is just more fun to keep walking. I always wanted to see what was around the next corner. Sure, I took plenty of two hour breaks here and there, but I found my mind was most active and alive when I was walking.

One of the top three highlights of my 2013 hike was when I hiked 167 miles in 3.5 days. It was a euphoria I have never experienced before. Reaching my goal there at Shelter Cove was honestly a greater feeling of accomplishment than getting to Canada actually was. (long story short: Some Portland friends were going to be car camping at Shelter Cove one weekend, so I thought I would try and surprise them.)

But yes, sitting in a pretty creekside meadow humming John Denver songs in your head sounds quite nice. John Denver never wrote any songs about sitting in a mosquito infested meadow and having a panic attack though. This is generally what happens when you sit in said meadow. If anyone gives you flak about not sitting down and taking the scenery in, may I suggest taking them to Gracie Meadow north of Yosemite in late June?

Spot Devices
Ice Queen demonstrating the Spot Device I used in 1996
As an emergency beacon tool, especially in snow terrain, I think these are a good idea. For everything else...ugh. I have known two hikers who have been rescued because of the ability to send an emergency signal.

I didn't carry one of these at all since I didn't feel it was necessary. It was a low snow year and since I was heading northbound, the chances of getting lost in the snow were pretty moot. Many of the Spot models enable you to send a "ping" home so people can know that you are alive and alright. I hated the idea of this (and still do). Don't get me wrong, I think carrying a Spot is a good idea if you need an emergency signal, but as far as a "daily check in", no thank you!

To me, the daily "I'm okay" pings sound like a clusterfock of problems on a stick. (If you have medical issues then I could understand wanting to send home pings however.)

More than once I met a hiker who was stressing out that they couldn't find a good location to send a ping, knowing that their family members back would start getting anxious because they had not received their daily ping pellet. Two hikers on the trail were sending daily pings back home, but guess what? The pings were not being received even though the Spot said that it transmitted ok. The forest rangers were running all around trying to find hikers whose concerned family members had called the local ranger station. More than once a concerned parent would post to the PCT Facebook group because their son/daughter didn't check in the previous day. I told my wife that I would call from towns if I had the chance, fortunately she was fine with that.

One hiker who was sending daily pings home (that were not being received) told me how he came closing to "smashing that fucking Spot with a rock" after this happened. Another hiker told me how his family got concerned because the Spot device showed him as being off of a cliff.

Again, I think the Spot devices are good for an emergency signal, but really think about what you are getting into when you agree to send a ping home every night.

Disclaimer: all calculations and data are believed to be correct but are not guaranteed.
Please double check the calculations and trail/resupply data before starting a hike.