Hello hello! It’s been a while since I’ve last used this thing – two years actually. Last time I posted I was quarantined at my parents house in Virginia in spring of 2020.
The start of the pandemic coincided with me wanting to get out of the seasonal lifestyle, so when my guiding job in Alaska was canceled in summer 2020, I moved to Montana. For the first time since college, I’ve actually stayed put in one place for more than seven months. I chose Montana because I knew I wanted to be out west, it was familiar to me from visiting every year growing up – both my parents are from here – and I still have a handful of family members here. Also, there are oddly a large number of “iceholes” (folks I worked with in Antarctica) that happen to live in Montana. A couple of those iceholes, my friends Geoff and Liz, had a spare room at their place in Bozeman summer of 2020 and told me to spend the summer living with them – I didn’t need much convincing!
Long story short, I moved from Bozeman to Missoula and put my college degree to use for once, working in outreach & marketing. But I found myself miserable working an office job and I quit three of them over the course of a year – including one that I once thought of as my dream job (marketing for an outdoor brand). After quitting the last one, where I spent my days day dreaming about thru hiking, I thought why not try to score a PCT permit? Side note, the PCT wasn’t permitted until Reese Witherspoon made it internationally known in the movie Wild. Thanks a lot Reese.
So here I am five months later, having left my partner Pete & my friends in Missoula (I’ll be back after this adventure), on the train to Portland to start my hike. You’re probably thinking, ‘Wait, don’t you start the PCT at the Mexican border in March/April/May?’ Yes, the vast majority of PCT hikers start at the Mexican border, and they start between March-May. But I’m going to be hiking Southbound (SOBO). Now you’re probably thinking ‘Okay, but if you’re hiking south wouldn’t you start in Canada?’ Yes, normally one would start at the Canadian border, which had been my plan up until a week ago. I was going to fly to Seattle and make my way over to Mazama WA to access the closest trailhead to the border on the US side, which requires hiking 30 mi north to the border, turning around and hiking south. On the Canadian side, the closest trailhead is only 6 miles from the border, but you’re not “supposed” to enter the US that way since there’s no customs there. I didn’t mind, I had heard those 30 miles from Harts Pass to the border are arguably the most beautiful and I would get to hike it twice! Alas… snow.
This has been the biggest snow year in some time for the PNW and it’s been cold/rainy late into the spring, so there is still way too much snow to safely start hiking at Harts Pass. Apparently a couple of people tried a few days ago, and turned around. This morning at a coffee shop in Seattle, the guy behind me was inquiring about my fully loaded pack and I told him I was headed for the PCT. He said he had just been in the North Cascades last weekend skiing…So, yea still a lot of snow. According to the Facebooks, it sounds like people are either waiting in Mazama for the snow to melt, or starting now in northern CA or OR and doing what’s called a ‘flip flop’ where you hike north to the border first, then fly/bus/hitch back to where you started to finish the hike south. So I decided last week to flip flop – I’m keen to start hiking, plus there’s a short window to get through the Sierras in the fall before the snow falls there, so I didn’t want to wait too long.
I know, it sounds like a bit of a headache and honestly it was making me anxious figuring out these logistics. But I wanted to do a SOBO hike to avoid the crowds hiking north (again, thanks Reese), and I wanted to start my hike in the mountains because I’m not sure I’ll do the whole trail. I want to be done hiking by the end of October, so my goal is to get through the Sierras by then. I’ll have to make more miles/day than Lizzy & I did on the Colorado Trail to meet that goal. I hope to do an average of 25 or so miles a day, but I’ll start at about 15/day and build up from there. Speaking of the Colorado Trail, it turned out to be a great training thru hike – it made me realize that we carried a lot of unnecessary stuff. Like hammocks. We didn’t sleep in the hammocks. We brought hammocks in addition to tents. And as Lizzy recently reminded me, I was hellbent on bringing my hammock because I wanted “something to sit in during breaks.” And you know what, I don’t regret it. But I’m absolutely not bringing it on the PCT. It recently ripped anyway on a river trip when my friend Katie and I both sat in it (it’s meant for one person) and it ripped clean on either side of an ember hole. We fell about 3-4 feet to the ground. Anyway, I’ve paired down my gear list and my pack weight this time around is at least half the weight of my Colorado pack. There’s no way I’m hauling a 50+ lb pack 2000 or so miles (the whole trail is 2600 miles).
My plan as it stands right now is bussing out to Cascade Locks from Portland, buying food and then start hiking north. There’s definitely still snow in southern WA, but less than what’s in the North Cascades. I’m hoping by the time I get to Snoqualmie Pass in a couple weeks the snow will have dropped enough to hike to the border. From there I’ll hike back to Harts Pass, and make my way from Mazama to Seattle to Portland. I’ll take a brief hiatus from the trail to spend time with Pete (!) in the Portland area and then continue hiking south.
As far as resupplies go, I haven’t shipped myself a single box. For the most part, I only plan to ship to places where I can’t buy food, like Stehekin, WA where you can only get to via hiking or boat and there’s no grocery, only a (quite tasty) bakery. I’ll ship ahead to these places along the way. I decided to do this for a couple reasons: 1) we did this on the Colorado Trail and it was usually pretty easy to hitch to towns 2) I didn’t want to do that much pre planning/ buy a bunch of food ahead of time that I was going to get sick of and 3) with all the uncertainty surrounding snow/fire/unforeseen circumstances, I didn’t want to pay for all the food & shipping and potentially have to get off trail and have it go to waste. I figure that with the cost of shipping, paying a bit of a premium on food in small towns will even out anyway.
I think that about covers it. I plan to post here from time to time throughout my journey if you’re keen to read about my adventures. There should be a way for you to sign up for an email alert when I put up a new post – check the home page.
Wish me luck!