Mountain Education Resources
Why Manning by Mid-September
The research I did by talking with PNW Rangers and Park Administrators indicated that if I didn’t get to Canada by early September, the usual early snow storms would bring my dreams of a PCT completion to an abrupt end. Since then, hiker testimonies and trail journals show exactly that happening to many.
So, rather than hiking for 5 months only to be stopped short of the goal, I decided to start “early,” of course back then there was no “early.” That is why we encourage aspiring thru hikers to consider following these steps:
one, know themselves well enough to decide whether they are “hikers” or “campers,” gleaning what they truly want to get out of their expedition, specifically, how many miles per day they are willing to do,
two, divide that daily amount into the trail mileage total to get their total number of hiking days,
three, add in the number of “days off” of “zero days” they anticipate they want per week for relaxation, exploration, laundry, peak climbing, side trail wandering, fishing, picture-taking, resupplies, bad weather, or just plain goofing off,
four, guess at the end date to which they’re willing to continue hiking while risking running into early season storms,
then, five, back-count the total hiking days and days off from this end date to establish their start date.
This way an easy pace, based on their own previous long-trail hiking experience, is established and a schedule set that allows for maximum fun and wilderness absorption within the parameter of disabling weather at the end.
Snow is not an obstacle if it is realistically planned for. It is a joy of awesome beauty not to be missed! You will have to walk over the stuff somewhere along the route, pretty much no matter when you start, so learn what it will do to your menu, daily mileage expectations, gear needs, and overall risk before you finish planning.
The only thing supposedly “wrong” with leaving before the end of April is that you may not have dry trail all the way. Learning how to handle inclement weather, dangerous creek crossings, bears, bugs, and snow-covered trail makes the hiker stronger, more versatile, confident, talented, competent, wisely independent, capable, more of a “mountain man” or “mountain woman,” and, personally, better off for it!
Most of all, our plea to future thru hikers is this, plan your trip for who you are, know why you are doing it and what you want to get out of it, as realistically-based as possible (personal hiking realizations and choices and the advice of those who have gone before), and for as long a period of time as you can (to reduce your daily mileage demand and maximize your wilderness fun-time).
Everyone goes into the mountains with their own personal and societal baggage and expectations, but we base our plea on the assumption that the majority of long-distance thru hikers want to spend time in the mountains rather than run away from society (though reality is a mixture of both). Wilderness is medicinal. Give this therapist as much time as you can!
And be careful out there!
Mtnned & Lady J
South Lake Tahoe, Ca