Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail | Interview with a PCT Thru Hiker

Published on: September 29, 2020

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Chris thru hiked the 2650 mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) a few years ago.  His trail name was “Rocket Man” and his sister’s trail name “Snake Bait” after a run in with a Mojave green rattlesnake (myth or not, Amy’s got the real tale of being chased by one of these pit vipers).

Chris was kind enough to share a few of his backpacking experiences.

How long did it take you to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail?

In total it took about 150 days - we didn't keep track of the exact number.  We started off strong at the southern trailhead in Campo in late March, but both ended up getting tendonitis from pushing too hard after a week of hiking 20 miles a day. 

We took 2 months off to go to PT and sail in the Carribean then started at Kennedy Meadows (southern part of the Sierras) in early June.  We hiked north from there to the trail’s end in Canada, arriving in late September, then flip flopped and hiked south from Kennedy Meadows back down to Campo in October.  

Do you have any recommendations for someone preparing a thru hike?

four-hikers-shadows-on-red-rock-at-sunset-with-Chris-quote-honestly-I-think-people-over-think-and-over-prepare

Honestly, I think people over think it and over prepare. 

I would recommend that you talk with people who have hiked it before, or read their blogs, and get their gear recommendations.  Spend as much money as you can on a high-quality sleeping bag.  Do leg strength training a few months prior to starting. 

Stretch every morning.  Find a lightweight trail running shoe that is comfortable for you.  Don't ship your food ahead. 

Don't have a plan.  Just start out with a few days of food and figure everything out as you go :)

Was it hard to re-adjust after you finished the 2650 mile hike?

It was very strange.  I had a strong urge to go in the backyard and dig a hole instead of using the bathroom.  Driving a car was a weird experience after not driving or traveling fast for 5 months; being on the freeway did not feel normal. 

I didn't want to go back to work - it was great being out in the wilderness for so long with zero responsibility.  The first week we pretty much just ate good food, sat on the couch, and watched TV. 

All in all, it is a life changing experience and you come back to the real world as a different person - so yes, it is difficult to adjust to a lifestyle that you aren't used to or maybe don't want anymore.

Tehachapi-wilderness-along-the-Pacific-Crest-Trail

Taking a step back - How did you get into backpacking?

I got into backpacking through Boy Scouts at 13 in Anza Borrego. I was hooked. I remember the last day it started raining, but the only clothes I had were jeans and a cotton t-shirt.

I didn’t know the slogan “cotton kills” at the time.

I was totally unprepared and was soaked, freezing, and miserable.

But it was still great! I loved camping in the middle of nowhere where there was no immediate access to civilization.

What's one of your most memorable hiking moments?

There were several memorable moments while hiking the PCT.

Along the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington

I remember being in Washington when it had been raining for 10 days straight. We would wake up and it would be raining and our hands would be ice cold while packing up. Then we would hike in the rain for 20 miles.

 

It was miserable.

 

We stopped in this town and stocked up on boxed wine and other food. When we left town it finally stopped raining!

 

We stopped in this meadow and the sun came out. We had a picnic with our boxed wine and cheese, laid in the sun, and took a nap. It was rough hiking up a mountain after drinking wine,... but it was totally worth it.

Along the PCT in southern California: Tehachapi

In Tehachapi there was torrential rain and we got stuck in a lightning storm. We had to run down the side of the mountain onto private property. From there we were able to get a few hitches into town.

 

There were terrible flash floods and a lot of the trails and roads were wiped away. At the Red Cross shelter in town a guy offered to fly us to the next town so that we could continue our hike.

 

That was pretty awesome.

 

hikers-catching-a-helicoptor-ride-on-the-PCT-to-avoid-mudslide-area

If you had only one word to capture what you love most about hiking, what is it?

Adventure... unknown.

What are your essential non-essentials for the trail?

  • Candy
  • Pringles
  • Peanut butter, honey, and tortilla sandwiches
  • Fly fishing rod
  • Chapstick. I once use tree sap and pine needles and various leaves and moss as Chapstick. It was terrible being without Chapstick!

Do you have any favorite gear?  What is it, and why?

Western mountaineering sleeping bag because it is high quality and always keeps me warm.

Z-packs triplex tent because it’s lightweight, extremely durable, and roomy.

What hikes are on your bucket list?

  • Camino de Santiago
  • Te Araroa in New Zealand
  • Appalachian Trail

If you enjoyed this article with Chris, stay tuned for the next post with an AT thru hiker.  And, be sure to check out our last interview with a hiker series with Maria.

camping-in-light-snow-in-the-Sierra-Nevadas-on-the-PCT

 

 

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