2017: I hiked 745 miles from the southern terminus to Lone Pine, CA. Shortly after climbing up into the Sierra, I slipped on compacted snow and smashed my tailbone/pelvis. Within a few days I could barely walk and recovery took about five months.
2018: I hiked 1150 miles from Dunsmuir, CA to the northern terminus. The idea was to start in northern California to minimize the snow and wait to do the Sierra once it was melted, but by the time I got to Canada and was ready to flip back, California had become a smoky fireball and I didn’t feel like finishing the PCT anymore. Did the Colorado Trail instead.
Bearing in mind I haven’t even hiked the whole thing yet, here’s a few comments which may be more or less useful:
- I set out from Mexico having never actually backpacked overnight. I’d done a 6-week bicycle tour so I suspected I would enjoy thru-hiking, but I very strongly do not recommend starting the PCT this way. At least do an overnight trip to test your gear.
- If you are small, everything weighs more to you. I heard 15 pounds was a good target baseweight, but 15 lbs means completely different things depending on your size and fitness level and desire to crush big miles. My current baseweight is about 8.5 lbs and now I can’t imagine how I came up with the extra 6.5 lbs of stuff.
- I naively assumed people were exaggerating about the mosquitoes. They were not. I didn’t know mosquitoes could exist in swarms of that size and density: it seemed to defy the laws of physics somehow. I didn’t want to saturate myself in repellent and only survived by wearing a headnet and long layers (leggings work surprisingly well if you’re constantly moving) and only stopping for bathroom breaks. During the worst hours, my rain jacket served as armor and I became a sweat factory. You will get very quick at leaping into your shelter and zipping it up behind you. Unzipping it the next morning will be one of the hardest things you have to do on trail.
- Pack out your used TP. Pack out trash you see on the trail. “Biodegradable” soap is a lie. Do not swim in water sources, especially not if you use sunscreen or mosquito repellent or any other products. Don’t leave graffiti along the trail. Tip generously in towns. Be nice to everyone, especially locals and trail angels.