Planning Resources Fortunately there is a depth of information available about the Pacific Crest Trail which we were able to tap into. The Pacific Crest Trail Association produce guide books containing detailed maps for the whole trail and these were a chief planning resource. They also have a little gem of a book called the PCT Data book which provides information on important features (such as water supplies, road crossings, nearby towns, landscape features) where we could plan out the distance we would have to hike between refreshing our supplies. Once we had a list of preferred resupply stops and the distance between them, then we had a basic structure to our hike. It has to be said though that, partly because of the type of people we are, and partly for flexibility, we did try and build in as many variations as possible and were constantly changing plans as we went along. I suppose we would only find out how we would hike over thousands of miles when we started out and hiked!
One other major source of help to us was an internet PCT mailing list where aspirant hikers, seasoned hikers and anyone interested can talk away online. We were able to put questions to the group and to get caught up in the enthusiasm through the previous winter with other hikers preparing for a long hike. It was here that Martina chatted to Greg from near LA who had hiked the trail twenty years ago and, fantastically for us, agreed to help out with our resupply parcels whilst we were on the trail. In defiance of modern technology and equipment he walked the whole PCT in jeans! His generous background work was the key to giving us a chance to succeed.
From the online discussions we thought that there might be around 50 people trying to do a complete thru hike from border to border. That sounds like a lot but given that some might start from Canada and some from Mexico and all might start on different dates we guessed we would probably be hiking alone much of the time.
Resupply Tactics The purpose of our resupply was to pick up food and any other items that would allow us to hike to the next resupply. In reality this was mostly food, but also stove fuel, repairs and replacement items. Some towns that we were to encounter would provide all our needs but in some more remote areas we decided to pre pack a box of supplies and mail it to ourselves to be collected when we arrived via ‘general delivery’. We also packed maps for each section of the hike and some photographic film to avoid having to carry these items too far.
In addition we gathered some other optional gear in a box and forwarded this on to ourselves to the next resupply- this contained things like spare warm clothes, a music player, novels, other guidebooks, repair items, new socks etc. Before starting the hike we pre packaged supply boxes for the first 4 weeks or so and arranged with Greg for him to send them to our next post office when we were nearing it. After this initial period we adopted a more flexible approach which was just to shop locally for supplies at the time as much as we could. This allowed for our changing dietary requirement through the hike and mostly saved us one big supply packaging job!
Gear We were both fairly experienced outdoors people before starting the PCT so had a good idea of what equipment to take and it was mostly well tested. What would be new to us was the huge length of the six month undertaking and the need to travel as light as possible in order to stay fresh enough for the duration. I had read a handbook by Ray Jardine who had some imaginative ideas about lightening the load to carry on a long hike and had proved these worked by completing some ultra long hikes (including the PCT) with his wife in fine style. Ray was known to me as he had also achieved success inventing a new piece of climbing equipment – the camming device or friend- whilst being at the forefront of rock climbing standards in Yosemite National Park.
Our main items were our Terra Nova Voyager tent, down sleeping bags, inflatable thermarest sleeping mats, MSR Whisperlight stove running on Coleman fuel (a cleaner petrol readily available in the US), tried and trusted rucksacks and we intended to try lightweight footwear from hiking boots, running shoes to sandals. Our rucksacks weighed about 10kg loaded with gear but without food- not super light by any means but we were prepared to change the gear we carried and evolve as we hiked.
Read about our journey starting on the Mexican Border in Southern California….