CRAZY OR COOL?
There are two reactions when I tell people of my plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for 2 weeks this summer. Some say, “That is so cool!”, and some say, “You’ve got to be crazy!”. Regardless of whether people think it’s “cool” or “crazy”, everyone gives me a blank stare of bewilderment when I inform them I will be hiking alone. I’m still confused as to whether people actually think I’m going to be a tasty snack for the wildlife, or be stalked by a crazed serial killer; or does it all boil down to people believing a female has no business being in the wilderness alone for anything longer than a day hike? After all, it wasn’t uncommon for me to take off to a local wilderness trail for the day when I lived in Vancouver. It was also quite normal for me to take the quad or dirt bike for a rip up a logging road during camping trips. Furthermore, not a single person expressed a single worry when I went skydiving. So, you can imagine why I’m slightly confused as to why people are so vocal about their objections to this upcoming hike. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware of the risks, and am extremely realistic in the thoughts of all the dangers that I will encounter everyday while on trail. Saying that, the dangers in the wilderness scare me far less than the dangers I encounter everyday in civilization. I’m more likely to die in a vehicle accident while driving to work than succumbing to anything the trail throws at me (I’m putting money on highway 7 taking me down before a mountain lion ever will).
Once I had my own fears sorted out (no, not the fear of being some creature’s lunch, or being squished by a falling boulder -yes, someone is actually worried about that-, my fears consist more of ‘am I physically capable of completing this goal?’), it was time to tell my parents this trip was set in stone…
Over the next few months, as I continue preparing for my July 18th departure, I will share the information I’ve gathered, my gear list, which sections I will be hiking, my thoughts, fears, expectations, and the reasons that have compelled me to follow through with this adventure. While on trail, I hope to record each day’s events in a journal, which I will share with all of you upon my return (unless I become some creatures snack, of course.)
So, until next time, I’ll leave you with some notable Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) facts:
- Length: 2660miles/ 4279 km’s
- Location: California USA, Oregon USA, Washington USA, Manning Park British Columbia
- Trail Heads: Campo, California, USA (Southern Terminus) to Manning Park, British Columbia, Canada (Northern Terminus).
- Elevation: Highest Point- Forester Pass 13,153f Lowest Point- Cascade Locks 140ft
- Trail Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
- Hazards: Sever Weather, Dehydration, Wildlife
- Months: Late April to Late September
- It takes the average hiker about 5 months to complete the entire trail (I’m attempting 270 miles in 14 days. More on that in future articles.).
- Crosses 26 National Forests, 7 National Parks, 5 State Parks, and 4 National Monuments.
- In 2015, 2486 Northbound thru-hike permits were issued. Only 600 hikers reported completion.*
*It’s important to note that these numbers are self reported, meaning they are not a true count of PCT Completions, both because finishers who don’t bother to report their completion, and the PCT Organization dose not verify anyone’s claims of completion. ~ pcta.org
Time To Tell The Parents
My parents have known for awhile that this is something I’ve been interested in doing, but it wasn’t until I brought home my first piece of equipment (my backpack) did they realize this was 100% going to happen. They weren’t exactly thrilled to see me going through with this, but they feigned happiness for me. Over the next few days, I avoided bringing up the subject, but answered the questions they had -mostly mom asking questions ranging from “Aren’t you worried about being raped and murdered?” to “How many pairs of underwear do you plan on bringing?” (Really mom?! JEEZE! *insert dramatic eyeroll here*). Their switch from feigning happiness, to legitimate interest was almost an overnight transformation. It’s a moment I don’t think I will ever forget, even long after I return from my trip. Mom’s transformation became clear to me when she started talking about a water report that was released on the official Pacific Crest Trail website. In fact, I had read the exact report hours earlier. In that moment I knew she was supporting me. We locked eyes locked, and she was smiling. A twinkle in her eye. What can I say… we had a moment (que the ‘awwws’). It was a few days later when dad displayed his support. He was teaching me how to read and navigate only using a topographic map and compass (no electronics GPS). The magnitude of it all hit me. I visualized myself off trail and lost. Probably hungry, tired, sore, and soaking wet because it’s rained for days on end. I had only my own skills to rely to find my way out, no one to help guide me to safety. If I couldn’t figure out my location and the way back to the trail I could very well die. I muttered, “This scares me.”. Dad said, “I’m only going to say this once…. This is the craziest idea you’ve ever had, and I don’t like it.”. “Oh crap, here we go.” I sigh to myself. “But I’m going to help you as much as I can so you can do this as safely as possible.”. A few seconds pass before he smiles, “I know you can do this Jack.”. I smile internally. Those 7 words bury themselves deep into my soul. Now I visualize myself on trail, still hungry, tired, sore, and soaking wet, but I’m pushing forward because I have those two moments of reassurance from my parents ringing in my ears. “OH!” his voice snaps me back to the room, “and because of all of this reading I’ve been doing, I’m going to want to do this hike too!”. My internal smile in now external. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I was going to do this hike with or without people’s support, but to have it makes everything that much sweeter.