PCT Q&A

What is it?

The Pacific Crest Trail is a long distance hiking trail spanning from the southern border of the United States with Mexico near Campo, CA to the northern border with Canada near Manning Park, BC.  It follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges through California, Oregon, and Washington.

How many miles is it?

2660 miles or 4281 kilometers, plus all the road walking, any re-routes, and Mt. Whitney side trail

How long is it going to take?

Somewhere between 5-6 months, depending on our side trips, health, and the trail conditions.  We are planning on taking a few zero days in San Francisco to visit some friends and then again in the Portland area for the eclipse in August.

How much will it cost?

We’re expecting to spend ~$5,000 each over the course of 6 months.  Since I’m not paying rent during the trip, just a storage fee, my bills are next to nothing.  Looking at it another way, this is pretty similar to my average monthly living expense while not hiking.  A lot of people spend $1000+ per week on vacation, so this is cheap in comparison.

Where will you sleep?

On the ground, in our tent.  Or cowboy camping out in the open on some nights.  Unlike the Appalachian Trail there aren’t any shelters along the trail.

What about food and water?

We’ll be carrying food in ~3-8 sections and stopping in various towns along the way to resupply.  Our diet will consist of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, peanut butter, snickers, candy, chips, tortillas, cheese, jerky, instant potatoes and just about anything else that gives us the calories, fat and protein we need to hike.  There’s a handful of places where resupplying in town is prohibitively expensive, not available, or poor selection.  We’ll be sending pre-packaged resupply boxes to those locations.  More on that here.

Water is scarce on a lot of parts of the trail.  Thankfully there’s great info on our map set and online from previous years, along with PCTWater.com which provides a Google Spreadsheet regularly updated by hikers and locals.  Water sources range from desert cisterns to waterfalls, to caches left by trail angels.  We’ll each be carrying anywhere from 2 – 8 liters of water at any given time.  All water will be filtered with a Sawyer Squeeze.

Why do it?

For the mental and physical challenge, the incredible scenery, sleeping outside more in a regular sleep cycle, skewing my work/life balance in favor of life, never been to California.

That sounds nice, I wish I could do something like that.

You probably can.  Save money, it will happen eventually.  It’s taken me years to arrange life for a thru hike.

Must be nice to have a trust fund.

Nope, don’t have one.  Just worked off and on since I was 14.  Saving a little bit here and there goes a long way.  As mentioned above, a thru hike costs roughly as much as normal living expenses over the same period of time.

Aren’t you going to get sick of each other?

Maybe at times.  But why should that discourage us from going?

But what about insurance?

On a more serious note, this is probably the hardest question to answer.  It seems like a lot of thru hikers either go with no insurance, their spouses cover them, or lately, using a HealthCare.gov plan.  No one is sure what will happen with healthcare at the moment, but Sara is using an ACA plan for now and I plan to as well.  My work insurance will cover me for a little while at least.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

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