Planning for the PCT – Part 2

The Magical, Funkalicious, Giant Disco Pickle Resupply and Schedule Spreadsheet

Okay, so maybe I’m a little too excited about a stinkin’ spreadsheet. Hey – when it’s all about backpacking stuff – it doesn’t take much!

Rachel and I had all of our resupply-strategy materials spread out around my nearly-empty apartment to get this thing goin!

Rachel and I had all of our resupply-strategy materials spread out around my nearly-empty apartment to get this thing goin!

It’s a big, but fun project to come up with a tentative schedule for a 5-month hike with so many variables. And if you dig around online, you’ll find several spreadsheets that other hikers have put together already, so it would be pretty easy to just pick up someone else’s work and run with it. I looked at a few of them, and I was able to sort of make sense of them, but there are a few benefits we would get from creating our own from scratch… besides an excuse to get together and share our excitement on a Thursday night!

The first thing we did to get started on this project was to list all the towns that are potential resupply points along the trail. We certainly won’t stop at every single one, but they are all potential places we could meet up with Adam. Listing the towns also helped us become familiar with the names of places we’ll hike past, and since we also listed what PCT mile each place is at, we know where they are located along the way and about how far apart they are.

Next to the towns, we listed the distance from the trail each town is and how to get there. It tells us whether we would need a ride into town from a road, if it’s a short enough distance to walk, or if we’ll need to take a side trail and then catch a ride. Once we decide what town we’re going to resupply at, this will tell us how to meet up with Adam to get there.

Random bacon. Because it's bacon.

Random bacon. Just because it’s bacon.

Once we had our towns and mileages down, we were able to mark our resupply schedule. Our resupplies are roughly scheduled to hit about every 210 miles, or 10-15 days. This is when my parents will send us a package with another 10-15 days’ worth of food and supplies, which we’ll keep in the car. Rachel and I will only carry about 3-4 days’ of food at a time while hiking, on average, and when we meet up with Adam, we’ll grab another 3-4 days’ worth and get back on the trail.

Next to resupply, we marked a few “zero days,” which are days we hike zero PCT miles. There were a few towns and places we knew we’d like to take a whole day off, so we marked them right away. We have room for more, so we’ll take those when we need or want them, and when our schedule allows it. Sidenote: In addition to zero days, we’ll be taking some “nero” days, which are days of low mileage… or “near zero.” On a typical “nero” day, we might meet Adam at a road early, head into town, resupply, get some dinner, get a hotel and shower, then in the morning have Adam drop us back off on the trail where he picked us up. This way we’re still getting everything done we need to get done in town, but we’re still getting some miles in each day.

In addition to getting resupply, we have maps bundled in sections that we’ll have to get along the way. This is also marked on our spreadsheet, so we know at first glance about when we’ll need to get a new pack of maps for the next section coming up.

Our last column lists our tentative schedule. These dates are ROUGH. We started by picking a start and finish date to shoot for, figured out our overall average hiking pace to hit our tentative finish date, and from there I called Adam in. In about 10 minutes he had an Excel formula created that filled in what date we’ll be in each town listed on our spreadsheet… all based on our average miles/day. Thank you, Adam!

A lil' sampling of our spreadsheet.

A lil’ sampling of our spreadsheet.

So our exciting end result is a spreadsheet with all the towns along the PCT from Mexico to Canada and what date (roughly, on average, based on a tentative finish date) we’ll be at each one. It’s funny because we know these will all change. The important thing we’re getting out of this reference is when we need to be to a few major points along the way to stay on schedule. Staying on schedule is pretty important if we want to finish… because being in Washington, in the Cascades, in October can be dangerous. So our goal is to finish before the major snowstorms hit. The rest of the dates are super-flexible.

“Now all we have to do is hike.”

And that right there, in my opinion, is the magic of a having a rough plan. If we can comfortably say that, then we’re ready to go!


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