Sander on the PCT

One more month


Wow, I just got an awesome email from myself. Which you would get too if you subscribed to this blog to receive updates by mail - on the bottom of this page that is. Afterwards, you can continue reading without having to worry about missing out on all the cool stuff. Convenient. I know. I don't intend to use my Facebook wall on trail.

Exactly one month to go. It will be a hectic one. Round off work, meet with people, finalise gear, dance as much as possible and clear out my apartment. And figure out what the hell I'm doing. I have four days of work left after the Gentse Hoppers Exchange - the Monday after not being one of them :) Not perfect but close. Last working day is Friday the 13th, which actually is one of the safest days as all the superstitious people don't dare to go outside. Leaving one week later.

My previous post was some kind of incoherent blabbering just to get my blog online. This time I actually want to give some decent info. By the time I reach Canada, this blog will be top notch! So what exactly is this Pacific Crest Trail I keep talking about..

The Pacific Crest Trail

Together with the Apalachian Trail (2200 miles) and Continental Divide Trail (3100 miles), the Pacific Crest Trail (2650 miles) forms the triple crown of hiking. Three of the longest and most prestigious hiking trails in the US. For reference, walking all the way from Hobbiton to Mount Doom to get rid of some jewelry only covers 1779 miles. Those lazy hobbits.

Running from Mexican to Canadian border, the PCT has 5 big regions. The Mojave desert in South California followed by the Sierra Nevada - in which lies Yosemite National Park. In North California you have the Cascade mountains. And after passing through the states of Oregon and Washington you arrive at Manning Park - Canada.

Los Angeles & San Diego

Touchdown in LA around 18:35 local time Friday evening April 20th, jetlag time. Staying in a hostel/B&B within walking distance of downton LA. And yes I consider most things "walking distance". It's about 30 minutes. Also given my future prospects, not the best time to get picky about walking. Say hi to Ella and the Duke at Hollywood Boulevard. Visit Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier. Try catch an NHL or NBA game at Staples Center, visit the Griffith Observatory and find a spot for some Lindy. Probably a bit optimistic to fit into 2.5 days. After my short stay in the City of Angels, the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner will take me towards the Santa Fe depot in San Diego.

As mentioned in my previous post, I will stay with trail angels Scout and Frodo for a few days in San Diego before heading out to the trail. Every year they host close to 40 hikers simultaneously in their home and backyard for the entire month of April, providing them with food, rides to AT&T for your cellphone and trips the post office to send resupply boxes, ... Staying with them is almost a must for aspiring thru-hikers. Very early morning the 26th they will drive me and other hikers with the same starting date to the Southern terminus at the Mexican border in Campo.

This is where all the meticulous planning stops and the trail begins.

Mojave Desert
(704 mi. - 1133 km)

Desert. Water can be problematic so I'll make sure to have the capacity to carry at least 6L of water in this section. No time to skip leg day here! On the bright side, they use Fahrenheit so I will have no idea how hot it actually is. Most important thing is to start slow and let your body get used to hiking with a backpack every. single. day. Luckily, I'm not competitive. At all. Watch out for rattle snakes. Don't hike with both earbuds in!

Sierra Nevada
(458 mi. - 737 km)

You enter the Sierras at Kennedy Meadows. Most hikers send a resupply box here with their Sierra gear - ice axe, microspikes and bear canister. Depending on snowfall, you typically want to arrive at KM around June 15th, at which time enough snow has melted to warrant a safe passage. If you arrive much later, you will face rough weather in Washington a few months down the road.

Bonus points if you take a detour to summit Mount Whitney (4421m), the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. After which the PCT follows the John Muir Trail, descending into Yosemite National Park. The most beautiful part of the PCT according to many.

Cascade mountains
(568 mi. - 914 km)

The Sierras yield to the Cascade mountain range. Rain combined with a rich volcanic soil produces vast forests in this region, where deer and black bears roam freely. A bear canister is no longer required though, unless you camp in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Still I'd rather not have them steal my Snickers. After almost 2800km, California finally comes to an end.

(430 mi. - 692 km)

The easiest - flattest - section of the PCT. Still surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. The last eruption was roughly 3200 years ago though, so statistically I should be safe. Next to the volcanoes, you pass plenty of mountain lakes. With Crater Lake National Park giving campers a most picturesque spot to pitch their tent. I'll add a picture in 5 months. Or Google it.

Washington state
(518 mi. - 834 km)

You enter Washington crossing the Columbia river at the Bridge of the Gods. This is where Reese Witherspoon ended her hike and one of the more famous landmarks. In contrast to flat Oregon, this section has the most rugged terrain of the entire PCT. Have your rain gear at the ready as weather in September can get pretty wet. Preferably you reach Canada before the end of that month unless you want to get caught in a snowstorm.


At the Northern terminus, you either turn around and hike back 30 miles to the nearest town to get a bus to Seattle. Or you continue 9 miles into Canada to Manning Park, where you take the bus to Vancouver. Since 9 < 30, I will do the latter. I always was good at math. I will book my flight home by the time I reach Washington. My mental state decides how many days - if any - I spend in Vancouver before flying home.

:edit: Seems like the Greyhound bus service from Manning Park to Vancouver - along with many other small town stops - got cancelled a few weeks ago. Might need another plan once in Canada. Plenty of time to worry about that though.

Los Angeles - San Diego - Mojave desert - Sierra Nevada - Cascades - Oregon - Washington - Vancouver

That's about it. A general breakdown of my planned journey.
Next post I'll cover my gear for the next 5 months and how to resupply on trail.