PCT - CDT Journals

Posted by: wandering_daisy

PCT - CDT Journals - 08/08/11 01:50 PM

I have been following the PCT journals. They are quite interesting. One reason I read them is to get an idea of backcountry conditions. I have done long trips before, but daily mileage nothing of the magnitude of the PCT hikers. Most of the journals focus on town days, meeting people and eating! They all have limited time to write their journals, but I wonder why no more is said about the country they travel through? I admit that I am on the other end of the spectrum- I focus on the wilderness experience and scenery- actually not that keen on seeing others! My trail notes that I jot on my maps are lots of travel statistics, notes on wildlife, weather, route details. I have also observed that the younger backpackers are very social. So it just might be that PCT hikers = young folks = more social. When I am out a long time I do not crave food, people or other civilized luxuries. When I come out going to a resturant is low on my priority list- a hot shower is top of my list! These "town" things rarely make it into my journals. The longest I have been out is 100 days with three short town breaks. All I wanted to do was get out of town as soon as possible.

Anyway, I encourage you to read the journals. I even ran into a PCT hiker last month, so now when I read his journal it is more personal. I wish the best of luck to ALL the hikers- PCT, CDT and other trails.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 08/08/11 03:51 PM

I have been following Balls and Sunshine's PCT journal on trailjournals.com. Sunshine is an 11-year old girl hiking with her father, and she's been putting in 30-mile days without a whimper. What a trooper! They are just about to the California-Oregon border. I hope to be in Cascade Locks when they come through to help cheer her on as they cross into Washington!

I'm also, of course, following our own BrianLe's CDT journal! As I mentioned the other day (the thread is in the Trip Reports section, although it probably should be here), he's now traversing Yellowstone Park on his way south.

It appears that a lot more people than usual have dropped out because of the snow conditions on both trails. Except for New Mexico (in a state of drought with a lot of forest fires), there's no place in the West that isn't affected by the late melting snow!
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 08/09/11 02:57 PM

Attention all Portland area folk:

It turns out that "Balls" and his daughter "Sunshine" expect to attend PCTA Trail Days in Cascade Locks, OR on Labor Day weekend. I plan to attend at least the Saturday (Sept. 3) session anyway. I am in contact with "Mrs. Balls" and hope to find out when they will actually cross the Bridge of the Gods to Washington. It would be great to have a big cheering section for them as they enter Washington. I don't know if Sunshine (age 11) is the youngest to attempt the PCT (I think there was a 10-year-old a few years ago), but considering the conditions this year I really admire her!

I will post more (probably a separate thread) when I know more about their arrival and crossing dates. They still have to hike through Oregon! Fortunately, their home isin Oregon so they'll have a lot of support from home for the Oregon section.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 10/01/11 07:36 PM

Well, "Sunshine" got an infected blister which threw them off schedule. So did the Dollar Lake Fire up here on Mt. Hood which forced them to skip a 14-mile section of trail. They did attend PCT Trail Days, but I couldn't go. My dog started erupting noxious liquid from the rear (later determined to be giardia--after a course of Flagyl he's fine now). I had to stay home and let him out every half hour, to say nothing of a couple of hours spent cleaning up my car!

Update: "Balls" and "Sunshine" reached the Canadian border last Saturday. On Wednesday of this past week, I picked them up in Cascade Locks and took them to Wahtum Lake so they could hike the skipped 14 mile section between the two. Oregon Public Broadcasting met them on the trail and did an in-depth interview (plus hiking sections of the trail several times over for the cameras :D) for an "Oregon Field Guide" program that will probably air next spring. "Sunshine" is now the youngest person to hike the complete Pacific Crest Trail with no sections skipped!

Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 10/04/11 10:31 AM

The PCT finishers have achieved an amazing goal. This has been a tough year! Finishers, so far, have ranged from 11 yrs old to 56 years old! I am still following CDT journals- cheering for Brian Lee. It takes amazing fortitude and doggedness to keep on walking for months on end. Thanks, OM for being a "trail angel".
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 10/04/11 04:12 PM

BrianLe, by the way, is almost to New Mexico!
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 11/14/11 02:44 PM

W.r.t. the original comment/question:
"Most of the journals focus on town days, meeting people and eating! They all have limited time to write their journals, but I wonder why no more is said about the country they travel through?"

Yup, things do seem to get different on longer trips, but a 100 day trip with three short town breaks --- yowza, that's quite a long trip you took, with very little time off!

About the social aspect, I can say that it does have a powerful impact; I think I have a better social life overall on a thru-hike than in normal life, though the CDT is so unpopulated that it was an exception. I just find it wonderful to have an instant bond with people that I otherwise have nothing in common with, because of the one thing that we have so very completely in common.

As to the focus on food, once a person has lost all of their discretionary body fat (I think most of us carry at least some in 'normal' life, certainly to include me), and they're burning so many calories per day, it's hard not to obsess on food, either on trail or in town.

"Towns mess you up", is something one hears from thru-hikers a lot, and in part it's because they're trying to make up for a caloric deficit run while on trail, typically in a relatively short time. I think I've finally learned how to maximize caloric intake in town without walking out of town feeling ill --- too often. But it's hard. I've heard of thru-hikers taking a restaurant menu with them on trail and reading it aloud to each other at night; not sure how much that's "trail porn" (food lust) and how much it's sado-masochism.

Why folks don't write about the wilderness experience and scenery as much as one might think they would do: in part I think because after a time it all just becomes the normal backdrop, so that it takes relatively special stuff to rate a comment. Some people do a reasonable job of this; I certainly try to do so at least a bit, augmenting words with pictures if possible. And in general the pictures aren't necessarily representative of the "norm"; we all tend to take pictures of the unusual or special stuff.

For me personally, part of the issue is that I know so very little about flora and fauna, and ditto about the geology, history, geography, etc of the land I'm walking through on a long trip. It's another one of the compromises that one makes on a thru-hike, which for me is more like a quick survey, sort of like walking fast through a big store before settling down to browse a few aisles of special interest. I hope that some of the more "special aisles" on the thru-hikes I've done are places I'll someday be able to explore at a more relaxed pace.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 11/17/11 01:22 PM

My 100-days out was not like your through-hike. I just worked three 35-day NOLS courses, back to back. We were like a little community, so there was never a lack of human interaction (in fact often too much interaction!). I never tired of the wilderness, but by the third course I was burned out on students. It is interesting that even on NOLS mountaineering courses, in the student's evaluation of the course, the cooking instruction was always their favorite!

Your journal was good- I liked the details you presented. I am very surprised that after those long days you had the energy and desire to write so much.

Now I will ask you the same question that I asked another "triple crown" hiker- which trail was your favorite and why? If you had only one to do again, which would it be? If you could choose one phrase or word (flavor) for each, what would they be? You are in a unique position to compare these three long trails.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 11/17/11 06:10 PM

"Now I will ask you the same question that I asked another "triple crown" hiker- which trail was your favorite and why? If you had only one to do again, which would it be? If you could choose one phrase or word (flavor) for each, what would they be? You are in a unique position to compare these three long trails."

Hands down it would be the PCT as my favorite, and this isn't just a matter of "be true to your school" (I live in WA state, the PCT is sort of my 'local' trail). The PCT is for me (and I think many/most I've talked to) the best balance of beauty, scenery, and variety of terrain and experience, balanced against the 'cost' of hiking it, i.e. it didn't kick my butt too-o hard. The CDT is the toughest of the trails (though I think I started a bit too early on a fairly tough year), and the AT is IMO just about equally tough as the PCT, but with less (or at least different) benefits.

ONE word for each? That's tough. Can I have two each??
AT: "Least Scenic"
PCT: "Beautiful & Varied"
CDT: "Beautiful & Tough"

Okay, and I'm cheating with the ampersands, but ... !

I don't mean to completely knock the AT; living on the west coast, it was kind of cool from a history and geography perspective, and really a cultural perspective to hike that trail. I'm not saying it has no scenery (!), just that the knock about it being a 'green tunnel' is indeed more true than on the other two trails. And unlike what some folks think, the AT isn't necessarily easier; it's "differently hard". The Whites and parts of Maine can be quite difficult, and the "pointless ups and downs" and the overall trail quality (despite a lot of work by dedicated trail clubs) is lower. And also on that trail, I started on the early side (late Feb last year) in a high snow year for the south, which likely skews my sense of how difficult it is vs. the others (the coldest nights I had on any of the trails were down into the teens on the AT in Georgia and Tennessee/North Carolina).

There are of course great benefits on the AT too: generally the least amount of food, water, and gear to carry makes for light pack weight. Great and frequent trail towns and associated trail culture, where the thru-hiking phenomenon is well understood along the way. But my personal opinion is that the AT is so popular only due to inertia and the relative populations --- so many people live in the eastern part of the country and naturally want to hike "their" long trail. IMO would-be thru-hikers would do better to make the PCT their first long trail attempt if they think it at all likely that they'll only do one thru-hike. Unless due to proximity or for whatever reason, the AT is just more 'meaningful' for you. In which case, of course, hike the AT !

But I have little incentive to walk much of the AT again. Parts of the CDT I would like to see another time, in somewhat more benign weather conditions. If I were do to any significant miles on any of these again, however, it would definitely be the PCT.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 07/01/12 12:00 AM


Being rather new to this forum I was browsing thru some older posts most related to the kind of hiking that got me interested in this as a more serious hobby. I truly only have one big hike under my belt; a large chunk of the AT where I learned on the fly some basics on efficient hiking and maximizing town trips, etc.

I was quite impressed by your travels and the hikes you have completed. Would be very interested in how you go about preparing for a hike like some of the ones you have completed. This is my *new* approach after doing about a third of the AT with no clue what it would take......
For example, I trashed a tent a couple hundred miles in as it was a bulky 3 man that did not like to dry for a lightweight north face one, which took what felt like 10 pounds off at once. Anyway, I did enjoy things a lot more as I became more adept at what I was doing.

Another conversation at some point; I thought the NE part of the AT was really amazing (the Whites, Maine) and am curious how that part compares with some of the other regions of the two other main trails.

So as far as planning something new I am taking the couple of years approach so perhaps this site will help fodder my interest and give some greater connectedness and insight while I get to a point of feasibility.
These posts are great acknowledgements to possibility. Thanks for sharing about the PCT and CDT.
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 07/03/12 10:18 AM

"Would be very interested in how you go about preparing for a hike like some of the ones you have completed."

A timely question for me as I've literally been writing a book on this very topic ...
Short answer is that if you've already done about a third of the AT I'm not sure there's much I can tell you! You already have the experience to evaluate gear, miles per day, just a host of things like that. If there are specific things, start a discussion thread.

"I thought the NE part of the AT was really amazing (the Whites, Maine) and am curious how that part compares with some of the other regions of the two other main trails."

This is subjective stuff, but FWIW I thought that those NE parts of the AT were the best parts (of the AT), with the caveat that the whites can be pretty tough --- in some places it's low level scrambling in there. Hard to do big miles in the Whites. There are of course some other nice parts of the AT, but overall it's not nicknamed "the long green tunnel" for nothing.

In terms of scenery, if you think the Whites and Maine were good, then --- as the saying goes --- "you ain't seen nothing yet". The Whites are great, but both the PCT and CDT offer a whole lot more amazing scenery, and much more extensive scenery, and of course can be a lot more "remote" (especially the CDT).

If you're inclined to either the PCT or CDT I would strongly suggest that you start with the PCT. It's still beautiful and varied, but it will frankly kick your butt less hard and there's a bit more of a support system in doing it. The AT is a completely optional first trail IMO, a person can start out with the PCT as their first trail if they wish, but I really think that the PCT serves as an excellent training ground for the overall "takes it all to a next level" difficulty and perhaps danger of the CDT.
Note that this is a general comment on the trail as a whole if done as a continuous thru-hike. Section or chunk hikers can mitigate some (but only some) of the CDT issues by picking the right time of year to do their portions.

If you want to start reading up on a PCT thru-hike, you might just buy Yogi's guide, though you'll really (also?) want the current-year version for the year that you actually hike it. Postholer.com has quite a lot of PCT-specific resources. The pct-l discussion list has a lot; I tuned out of that some while back as the signal-to-noise ratio wasn't high enough for me, but perhaps it's better now. You can also just peruse the archives of the pct-l without enduring it as email.

More recently folks have been interacting a lot via current-year facebook groups. For the CDT last year there was quite a lot of helpful interaction on the CDT 2011 group, and there CDT 2012 group looks to be similar this year. I expect there's something along that line for the PCT as well.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 07/03/12 06:01 PM

Thanks for the response.... I really appreciate the insights.
One thing I had noticed between your posts about PCT and some other things I had read was comparing the 'trail types' to the hiking experience....
Now, when I first went out on the AT I did not bother as much with the big groups or hostel jumpers.... I wanted to backcountry hike and camp as much as I could

And it is true, I did learn quite a bit from the experience which is my motivation to do a thru hike as it is something I *grasp* for lack of a better word.

Anyway, I was objectively interested in the CDT as it seemed to have less of the off trail distraction per say... Based on the context of how it has been described. That made it seem like a better option to me. I would love to do both, but I don't know time and resource wise if I could if I wanted to.....

It does seem like PCT would be a good training ground, and I am in near enough proximity to consider it, but I was really getting excited by the brief tidbits I have picked up from the CDT.... That sounds like my kinda trek.

Anyway, this one I am looking forward to, my first thru hike, is still well far off. I am excited but know the planning and preparedness factor is putting it well out of any time window *soon*

Glad to have this site as a resource and community and appreciative for the perspective and lessons from those who have been at this longer.
Good luck with the book; I have one under my belt... It is it's own process and adventure.
As far as starting a thread, when I get closer to gathering supplies and equipment I may have something to build on....
Alright, more to come as I continue to become more involved. This is great and thanks for posts and perspective!
Posted by: BrianLe

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 07/05/12 01:13 AM

"Anyway, I was objectively interested in the CDT as it seemed to have less of the off trail distraction per say... Based on the context of how it has been described."

Depends on what you think of as a distraction. I got off trail on the CDT about as much, as often as I did on the PCT. You have to resupply periodically or you're carrying quite a heavy load of food. The longest stretch between resupply I've had on any trail was 8 days. And it's typical (and pretty much universally desired) to shower, wash clothes, eat a restaurant meal or two, perhaps even sleep in a bed and relax a bit when in town to resupply.

It certainly can be cool to be "out there" for extended periods, and you can choose to do that more or less as you're inclined to. I think that few, however, would maintain that mindset for months at a time, perhaps with the exception of a special area or two along the way.

If by distraction you're thinking of other hikers then --- indeed, the CDT is much, much less of a social experience than the AT or the PCT is. Any trail can be minimally social if you choose to make it so, but the CDT is pretty inherently that was unless you bring your own social group with you from the start.
Posted by: Peak Seeker

Re: PCT - CDT Journals - 07/05/12 07:04 PM

Hmmm, maybe I gave off the wrong vibe....
I readily enjoyed my town days, usually every 5-6 days
And one concern I have at this point is making sure on either one of these trails
I can readily find water and then food. I got real good at the weekly grocery trip too, in fact too good from a weight perspective; just as I figured how little equipment and clothes and such I needed and bought lighter stuff anyway, my food weight got pretty high....
Something I need to learn for this one as it will make the difference of hiking comfortably
And making miles to do this in a timely manner.

Socially, part of why I do this and want to know more and be skilled is for that aspect. In fact, I would like to ultimately find someone down to do this hike with me when I go if I find a like minded individual who wants the same kind of thing out of a thru hike; and I would think that may be more likely than I suppose.....
I did meet some great people out there, hiked with a handful and we all kinda pushed
Each other and had some cool camp stories.

But I was just trying to ilustrate the fact that as I got some experience I gravitated to the 'hike' aspect of being out there, seeing such varied and amazing things and views and being challenged.....and knowing I had gotten myself there to these "hard to reach" spots.

So hopefully I do some justice to the social part too, it was fun when opportunity arose but I had more fun on the hike everyday. And I hope to build on those foundations and meet other people out there who think about things similarly.