Summer 2000 Trekking

Each summer and Spring Break I leave the classroom and office to learn & teach in a different setting, usually traveling on some adventure. Though I usually go alone, sometimes a few people (mostly students) go at the same time and we link up. However, I do not run a summer camp or a travel tour -- if you go you are on your own, but welcome to trek with me, near me, or off-and-on bumping into each other as we all cover similar territory.

Pacific Crest Trail Backpacking -- Tips for AT hikers

A Great trail with wonderful views. I hopped on the trail in Echo Lake (near Lake Tahoe) at about the time the "thru-hikers" were coming through and hiked with the bunch for the next six weeks up toward the Oregon border. It was a worthwhile trek but it differs considerably from the Appalachian trail.


  1. Trailway. The footpath is much easier though at times it is rocky. Hikers who make 12 miles per day on the At can make 18 here with the same effort. The path itself is often "dust" though, like the Grand Canyon Trails. The grade is so gradual in most places an AT hiker won't notice them (heh heh heh that's never true--you always notice grades)
  2. Views. Out of this world. It will make it hard to return to the AT for that "good view per day" again. The PCT is almost one long continuous view! (there are tree-tunnels" here too, but they are rare in the Southern half.)
  3. Hikers. Far fewer on the PCT. But you can still count on a few every day.
  4. Snakes. Sure, but they are bashful and nobody get bit by them.
  5. Bears. Sure, but where they are common you have to carry one of those cursed containers or get arrested-- unless you can afford a UR sack (which I used and was pleased with it)
  6. Water. On long parts of the PCT you have poor water. Sure in the high Sierras you have plenty. And by the time you get to Oregon You are waling in the water, but there are long desert stretches-- at the beginning and even in Northern California where you'll have several stretches where you'll have to carry 30 miles worth of water.
  7. Sun. Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun Sun! At one point when a cloud came up I stopped and took a picture of it. 200 was a very dry summer, but I hiked for six weeks and had only one single rainstorm-- a 2 minute shower which dried off in 2 more minutes. (remember the fires of summer 2000?)
  8. Wildflowers. Everywhere! Like grass until late August. It is almost impossible to find a place to sleep without crushing a few.
  9. Lean-tos. Forget it--PCT hikers camp out. Some carry tarps, a few bivys, very few take clip-flashlite tents, and some nothing at all. Most hikers link up with others to camp however.
  10. Humidity. Forget your sweatband. Bring sunglasses instead.
  11. Campsites. Many.
  12. Horses and Llamas. Yeah some, not enough to bother in most sections. In six weeks I saw one fellow out for the day, another woman out doing the whole trail in "bits and pieces." And a third set of two women doing 600 miles who gave up after discovering their first hundred trees they couldn't get over. You can hike about as far as they ride anyway.
  13. Trail marking. For an AT hiker you'll think it is not marked at all. It is not uncommon to find three trails diverging with no markings as to which is the PCT., Luckily most hikers ahead of you "drag their sticks" down the right trail enabling you to stay on track (except when following jokesters who consistently drag their sticks 100 yards down the wrong trail.)
  14. Temperatures. Get ready for blazing hot days and chilly nights. I get cold easily but I needed 4" of loft in August in Northern California and slept with a fleece even then.
  15. Boots. Forget 'em unless you have broken ankles. They walk in sneakers on the PCT. New Balance reigns supreme, though I used a pair of 19.95 junk-sneakers and they were great. Forget fat socks too--most hike in liners alone.
  16. Blisters. You may have done the AT getting blisters only once, you won't hike the PCT that way. Even the thru hikers still had them often after 1000 miles. Heat.
  17. Supplies. Well, sometimes. Most send lots of food ahead to Post offices. I never do that, but had to on the PCT. And you'll laugh at the "100 mile wilderness" when you're on the PCT-- that will be your average hike between re-supply points. Luckily it won't be hard to do--on the AT I usually hiked 10-12 (up to 20 or so on a reeeeeeealy long day) but on the PCT I could average 18-20 (and got up to 30 on one day, but that was a mistake). However, there are plenty of thru hikers who hike 30 mile days every day (but most of them stayed in town several days and averaged far less over the long haul.)

Finished the AT and interested in a PCT hike? You're in good company…perhaps as many as one out of five PCT thru-hikers are AT alumni. One hint--don't tell anyone you are--there is a standing joke about the "AT'ers" comparing the two trails all the time. Just keep quiet until they find out some other way.


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