Well, it’s been a very long while between drinks and actually posting a blog update to this site. And what a way to kick this blog back off again by announcing that I’ll be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) next year.
During my hike across the length of New Zealand 2 years ago, I got bitten by the long distance hiking bug and got bit bad. Hiking, I love it! And the longer and harder the better. The PCT has been on my bucket list for many years but without some long distance hiking experience under my belt I felt it to be out of reach. Now, having completed the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand on top of my extensive shorter hiking resume I am more than confident I have the necessary experience to take on the PCT.
For those unfamiliar with the PCT, it is a 2650 mile dedicated scenic trail in the United States, extending from the Mexican border near Campo, California, to the Canadian border in Washington. It covers diverse and challenging terrain, starting with 700 miles of desert walking, including the Mojave desert, moving the Sierra mountain range, dry northern California, volcanics through Oregon and into the North Cascades in Washington. Check out the PCT Associations page for all the ins and outs of the trail: www.pcta.org
Planning has been underway for a while and it is quickly coming together now. My first hurdle was actually securing a long distance hiking permit to walk the trail. A first come first served ballot was launched online on November 1st his year and I found myself glued to the laptop at 3:30am Australian time to match the US time of the launch. It was like trying to buy tickets for a Rolling Stones concert. You have 13 minutes to complete the application but with everyone around the globe attempting to get a permit at the same time the server was really, really slow. I would enter my name and hit enter… tick, tick, tick… the clock ticking down and the timer showing 11 minutes left… The screen would refresh and I could move onto the next question with the same result…tick, tick, tick… and time disappearing, fast! Each page would take 2 to 3 minutes to complete and refresh onto the next. The whole process timed out on my 3 times. But fourth time lucky I secured a start date and a permit. What a relief. Without securing a date I was going no where.
With a permit date confirmed and knowing I would be hiking, it was time to start the US visa process. Luckily I started planning early. To obtain a long term B2 visa for the States required that your passport has at least 6 months validity beyond the date you expect to be in the US. I was out of luck. Expecting to depart the US in October, my passport only extended to February and I was 2 months short. So, off to get a new passport it was. With a new passport in hand I then kicked off the visa application process and I’m pleased to say arrived in the mail this week. Wohoo!! This trip is definitely on. Now to apply for extended leave from work.
The biggest challenges on the PCT are mainly logistical and mental, not physical, although a high level of endurance will be required to back up 20-25 mile days, day after day. Starting too early from Campo could mean that winter snows still block passage through the high mountain passes in the Sierra; and leaving too late in year could mean walking through the desert in mid summer or allowing the summer snow melt to turn the many river crossings into uncrossable torrents. Then, it’s a case of staying strong mentally and physically to reach the Canadian border before the winter really kicks in and deep snows make it impossible to reach the northern terminus. Early May is my chosen Goldy Lock’s zone to start this epic journey and I expect it will take around 4.5 to 5 months to complete.
The logistical challenges come from the gear swap outs required for different sections and the need to ship food resupplies ahead for some locations, particularly in the northern states. Hikers in the US typically have some support from home to mail food/gear supplies to key locations on the trail ahead of hikers which are picked up at as the hiker comes through. Being a foreigner, I won’t have that luxury of support from home and it’s a bit tricker trying to work out how to stay supplied or swap gear out. I’ll be looking to switch to warmer gear through the Sierra and add equipment like micro-spikes and an ice axe; switch back to summer gear for Northern California and switch again to wear gear and better rain rain for Oregon and Washington. I’m really thankful to have enlisted the support of a fellow thru hiker who I met on the Te Araroa who may be able to assist.
Very exciting and I can’t wait to get back on trail for an extended period of time.
I thought about creating a separate blog page similar to my Te Araroa page but have decided to use this one. So watch this space for many new updates over the coming months and to follow my journey from Mexico to Canada.