How To Walk The Pacific Crest Trail

We love day hikes, and week-long hikes, and short spontaneous trips. But nothing's quite as enamouring as a months long expedition. This is the story of a group of English women's first experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, a six month endeavor! Makes you rethink your ventures, doesn't it? Photos are by Israh Goodall. Read more from Frontier Bushcraft here. -Victoria

The Through-Hiker Ritual

Before, during and after my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, my partner and I met many people who “would love to do something like that but, really I couldn’t”.

Following that statement we were given a reason why: “my job, my family, my dog, my knees, my age”, etc.

For every reason listed, we met someone on the trail who had met that same reason for not doing it, but had gone ahead and done it anyway.

Jobs – quit or sabbaticals taken. Family – people took their family with them – on the hike, or in a support vehicle. Dogs – were equipped with small socks and boots and came along too. Knees – were braced and supported, and our 75 year-old friend completed the trail the day after us; for the second time.

Perhaps anything is possible…. Though I had no idea if it was before I started.

Sat at home, in a sunny conservatory in England, it was hard to imagine how I would walk 20 miles a day, let alone 25 and 30 miles. In fact, I didn’t really know what 1 mile felt like. I’d always walked in kilometres.

The best advice I received was to take one day at a time. So take them I did, all 166 of them. I really whole-heartedly took this on board. On that day in the conservatory, I was planning, not walking. So I didn’t let myself think too hard about it.

I read that you can walk yourself fit, that anyone can do the Pacific Crest Trail if they want to badly enough.

Some people say the PCT is a mental challenge and the Appalachian Trail (2,160 mile trail on the east coast of the US) is a physical challenge. I think there is no mental challenge without the physical challenge and no physical challenge without the mental challenge. They are entwined. You hope that when you are not mentally strong, you can be physically strong and when you are not physically strong, that your mind will keep you walking. When you have both strengths, you enjoy walking. When you lose both, you stop walking.

Having worked in the outdoors for a number of years, I felt I already had everything I would need to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. Regarding my kit I was right. The more you enter into the world of ‘thru’ hiking, however, the more you realise that walking for 5 months is very different from a one or two week excursion in the Scottish Highlands. I wanted to make myself as comfortable as I could afford to be.

The principle of being ‘lightweight’ came to me instantly in the planning stages of the hike. I had never been particularly lightweight. Having only really ever been out for a few weeks at a time, I would always choose to take comforts over the lightest possible option.

By the time I was ready to leave, my stove had been replaced by a lighter, slower option; my sleeping mat had been replaced by a lightweight, warmer pad; my pot was titanium. I had made some alterations and, by the end of this process my pack was a mid weight, not in the lightweight category but not heavyweight either.

From the moment I arrived in San Diego, at the house of our first Trail Angel’s, ‘Scout’ and ‘Frodo’, I was making more alterations to my kit, and I would be doing this for the whole journey.