The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is approximately 2,650 miles long, and extends all the way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. It travels along the higher points, or the crest, of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges and climbs nearly 60 major mountain passes, its highest being 13,153 ft. at Forester Pass in California. Many thru-hikers take the side trail up to Mt. Whitney, which is the highest point in the lower 48 states at 14,505 ft. (I plan to give this a try for sure!) In addition to several climbs and awesome mountain passes, it also descends into 19 major canyons, passes more than 1,000 lakes, traverses 3 national monuments, 7 national parks, 24 national forests and 33 federally mandated wildernesses. For someone like me attempting to thru-hike it? It’s a great big playground. :)
For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail, visit the PCTA.
:: How I decided to thru-hike the PCT ::
Since I finished hiking the ADT in 2006, I’ve probably thought about that hike in some way or another every single day. I jumped right back into my job and routine that I had before the hike as soon as I could when I got back, but from day one being back, I had always wanted to do something big like that again. I’ve managed to keep my wanderlust at bay by going on backpacking trips here and there, and I was even able to thru-hike the Tahoe Rim Trail in 2009. In 2011 I went with a group of great friends to the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana for a cross-country backpacking adventure that was totally satisfying and awesome in every way.
But I would still daydream of leaving life behind to live on a long trail and do another big thru-hike… one that I didn’t have enough vacation for. And I needed to get out of the office and spend most of my time outside, where I belonged. I loved my job, loved the company I worked for, and loved the people that worked there. Leaving would be hard, and at times I felt it would be impossible. Not just because of the paycheck, or benefits, or structure. Impossible because of the relationships I’d established there.
But it had to be done. I had to hike another long trail… but which one? And HOW?
After much thought, I secretly settled on the Pacific Crest Trail. I like how it’s kind of the “middle child” of the three big trails. The Appalachian Trail is pretty heavily hiked every year with several shelters, town stops, and (from what I hear) even toilets along the way. The Continental Divide Trail isn’t completely finished, and much more rugged and remote, which appeals to me… but the Pacific Crest Trail is right in between the two. It’s perfect. So I thought about it, dreamed about it, looked at photos online, dreamed some more — and then I’d head out for a weekend backpacking trip, hoping to hold it off a little bit more. Then it happened. My weekend excursions were no longer keeping my dreams at bay. I was being pulled – pulled HARD. I knew this feeling, and I knew it well. I had the same pull before I settled on the ADT. I didn’t quite know what that pull was back then, and it took me quite some time to figure it out. This time I knew. Right away.
However, there was one major piece of a PCT thru-hike I needed to figure out to even make it a possibility. How do I include Adam (my husband) when he’s not a backpacker? He’s not a hiker. He’s not an outdoorsman. He’s what Jim Gaffigan (comedian) refers to himself as “Indoorsy.” My husband and I love each other with everything we are. He’s my best friend in the world, but we have completely different interests. The ADT hike, as amazing as it was – in all honesty – was quite a strain on our relationship. It was hard being away from each other for so long. We do best together with the more time we spend together. I vowed that if I ever did a long hike again, he’d be there in some way.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to convince him to hike with me. Well, I take that back — I’m pretty sure I could eventually convince him to do it FOR ME, because he’s that kind of awesome, giving guy. But it wouldn’t be right, and he wouldn’t enjoy himself. And I wouldn’t either. It had to be done in some unique, different way. Which is cool with us.
We started to talk. We both wanted something new, something adventurous and we wanted to be together through it all. I like backpacking. Adam likes driving. I like moving on two feet. He likes traveling on four wheels. He likes to help people. We both like to meet people. He’s helped me on hikes before, and always made a great support person. It started to sort of come together!
So after much discussion, we came up with a loose plan. He could drive along and act as my personal bounce box on four wheels. It will cost quite a bit more than your average PCT thru-hike, which comes in around $5,000 for the average hiker. We would have to add on at least double that for the cost of gas and vehicle maintenance, not to mention food and lodging for a second person.
We started to plan more, and then save. We moved from a large 2-bedroom apartment to a tiny 2-room studio apartment and got rid of a lot of “stuff.” Half-way through the year we started to realize that we were going to actually be able to pull this off! It was exciting.
We’ve got a few phases we are going through in the next five to six years, and this is just one of those phases – for me to thru-hike the PCT and have him there meeting me in towns along the way. We are really excited to start this journey.
Our next phase is to leave Wisconsin on March 22 to road-trip the country.
On April 22, a month later, Adam will drop me off on the Mexico/California border so I can begin hiking north toward Canada. 2,660-some-odd miles. It’s different every year due to potential detours from fires, snow, and sometimes even noxious weeds (stay AWAY, poodle-dog!)
After-Hike Phase :: In October, after I’m done thru-hiking the PCT, I go to school and earn my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and Adam and I switch gears and drive a semi all over the country together as a team. It’s another thing we’ve both dreamed about, and we figured it would be a perfect transition. We are also very excited for this adventure! So much to look forward to!!
…and after that, who knows. Maybe I’ll work on that triple crown!