In the first month of my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail I told myself, “I am one and done.” This is not to say I wasn’t enjoying the hike, only to say that I couldn’t imagine doing again something so difficult for so long.
By the time I reached Virginia, I was convinced of this and told my wife the same thing. I knew there was travel we wanted to do together, and I didn’t wish to over-extend the support she had given me for my six month hike.
On my last day of the hike, as I was walking the final two miles with my family, Logan asked me if the Pacific Crest Trail was next for me. I repeated again what I had told myself and my wife before, "I am one and done."
It took about two months for the aches and pains of my thru-hike to wear off. In the meantime, I went back to my old job, and life returned to about what it was before I left to begin hiking.
Slowly, though, I began to realize something was different. Something felt missing.
In truth, it was the same feeling I felt before my thru-hike. I thought once I had finished it the feeling would be gone, but it wasn't. I still needed to be outdoors. I still needed a challenge.
Only a little time had passed before I realized this because I had known this feeling all too well. It had built up over many years in preparation for thru-hiking the AT, so I shouldn’t have been surprised the feeling hadn’t left me.
Kim has always been my biggest supporter, but I was reluctant to tell her what I was feeling. When I finally did, I didn’t say right away what was on my mind. I just said I felt like I needed a challenge.
When she asked me what I wanted to do, I hesitated for a moment, then said, “I think I want to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail.”
There was no hesitation on her part. She said immediately, “Then do it.”
So there we are. Another adventure begins.
Attempting to thru-hike the PCT won’t be the same as thru-hiking the AT. There are many ways in which the two trails are different.
When I hiked the AT in 2017, it was 2,189.8 miles in length. The trail goes through 14 states. The PCT is 2,653.1 miles long and goes through only three: California, Oregon and Washington.
Though the PCT travels over much higher mountains, the trail is easier in some respects to walk than the AT. Most people who have done both will say a hiker who can average 15 to 18 miles a day on the AT can usually do 20 to 25 miles a day on the PCT.
The PCT is generally drier and resupply opportunities are not always as convenient, though. It’s usually necessary to carry more water and food than on the AT.
Because of the extra 460-plus miles and a more narrow window for favorable weather, it’s necessary to hike more miles per day on the PCT. Otherwise, dangerous conditions will likely force you off the trail before reaching Canada.
The terrain is also significantly different. The AT is known as the “green tunnel” for good reason. Once leaves come out in the spring, hikers are mostly walking with a leafy canopy over their heads. Views are limited to a few spots here and there.
In much of the PCT, you can see miles of the trail ahead of you and behind you. The first 700 miles are mostly over desert. That’s followed by snowy passes of the Sierra Nevada that can climb twice the height of the highest AT mountains.
Northbound AT hikers usually finish atop the dramatic summit of Mt. Katahdin. Northbound PCT hikers finish at a remote and unassuming spot on the Canadian border.
I will have my own reasons for making the PCT different, as well.
Though I will be carrying some of the same gear as before, I have replaced some gear. I’m most excited about my new pack, which was built to my specifications by a small company.
When I started the AT, Kim dropped me off at Springer Mountain and I began hiking alone. When I begin the PCT, I will fly alone to San Diego, but I will begin hiking with Tengo Hambre, a friend I met and hiked with in Maine.
All of these differences are exciting, but there is one difference that brings sadness to me each time I think about it. My dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders during my hike. He bragged about me to his friends whenever he got the chance, and I enjoyed calling him from the trail to give him updates.
After a short illness, my dad died on January 1. I miss his support and encouragement.
Because I have already been successful at thru-hiking, I have extra confidence going into this hike. Still, being successful once is not a guarantee of future success. I still need to take it one step at a time.
And that’s what I plan to do, starting March 24.
It is the springtime of my loving
The second season I am to know
You are the sunlight in my growing
So little warmth I've felt before
It isn't hard to feel me glowing
I watched the fire that grew so low, oh