It was only about two months after I finished the Appalachian Trail that I figured I had to hike the Pacific Crest Trail as well. It’s the natural progression of things. Like dessert after dinner. Except in this case dessert required a lot of planning.
The next two years went by quickly, with little concrete thought about the Pacific Crest, just an idea of when I would do it. The last four months before the intended start date, however, were a flurry of planning and activity for me. I picked friends’ brains about their PCT hikes in years past, I bought Yogi’s PCT Planning guide, spent hours on forums dedicated to PCT hiking, bought new gear, weighed everything over and over again, and even managed to hike for a month on the Appalachian Trail in order to get back into shape for the long days I would need to do in Southern California.
My west coast hiking experience was limited to day-hikes near the Pacific Crest Trail, the most recent of which was three years ago. I had plenty of east coast backpacking experience, though, and loads of information from Yogi’s guide, forums at Backpackinglight, Whiteblaze, and Postholer, and some stories from past through-hikers, so I wasn’t worried about much. I had bought a new headlamp for the night hikes I would have to do in the desert, I planned to get a ULA pack at the Kickoff and a bear canister to put in it, I had several pairs of my trusted New Balance sneakers at home ready to be mailed out, and I had a handful of new gadgets and equipment that I figured would be necessary for the long walk ahead. Most of all, I had an open-ended schedule and plenty of flexibility that I knew would be the most useful tool for a long hike.
After walking on the AT for a few weeks, the time came to board my plane to San Diego and head out to the Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off party. I was expecting an overwhelmingly large gathering of crazy, drunken hikers, like what I’d seen briefly at Trail Days on the AT a few years ago. I was happy to find that my expectations were completely unfounded. In fact, over the next five months I found that much of the information I found before hiking the PCT was at least somewhat inaccurate. In some cases there were frequently repeated myths that were taken as fact. In other cases the information was a product of overblown trail gossip. Mostly, though, it was just my expectations being knocked down by reality.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be adding to the story of the past six months. Stay tuned for the next bit…