PCT The Trail, When to hike and our style

The Trail The Pacific Crest Trail itself is pretty much a continuous path over 2,600 miles long and the construction of the trail is an impressive tribute to the hard work of park services and hundreds of volunteers. Each year repairs are required to the trail as bridges collapse, trees blew over the trail etc. Although the path exists there are many variants and we new that we would have to be flexible in snow covered areas, where the trail wasn’t possible due to damage and when we wanted to do more scenic diversions.  You can camp almost all the way along the trail with few restrictions which was a great delight to us.

Our Style Our aim was to stick to the wildest route that we could and to spend the absolute minimum time walking on roads. To do this, we aimed to carry camping equipment and up to 10 days food, water and stove fuel with us. This will give us the freedom to camp where and when we like, vary our itinery and stay as flexible as we can…

Our general pattern was to walk for around 5 days at a time then descend to town and ‘rest’ for a day. In practise though the rest days were a busy hotch potch of eating, washing, cleaning and repairing with a little sleep thrown in!

When to tackle the trail Because of the great length of the trail, many hikers choose to tackle a section at a time and split the walking into a number of separate holidays. This enables them to choose a suitable season to walk a particular part of the trail. For instance, a desert crossing could be arranged to avoid the summer when the highest temperatures could be expected.

In order to cover the whole 2,600 miles in one continuous journey however, we had to plan carefully to fit our walking into the most suitable seasons. In particular, we wanted to cross the mountain ranges in reasonable conditions avoiding the worst weather and after the winter snow pack had melted. In the highest mountains this restricted us to June to September. The desert areas can be a cauldron of heat in mid-summer and many water sources can dry up. So these are best tackled outside the summer season.

We eventually decided to leave from the Mexican border in late April, planning to walk between 15 to 25 miles per day in order to reach the Canadian border by early October. This meant that we would cross the dry arid regions around the Mojave desert in early May and begin our crossing of the highest region, the Sierra Nevada mountains, in June, hoping that the winter snow pack which had accumulated would have melted sufficiently to enable our crossing. By keeping to our planned daily mileage we would also reach the northern Cascade mountain ranges of Washington by October – hopefully before the winter snow falls start in earnest. At best though, this plan was a compromise and we realised that we would be walking through many regions in less than perfect conditions.  

We decided to allocate a rest day per week into our plans which would allow for much needed rests, washing and dealing with mail etc.

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