Back in a bit

Tags: , , , , — Jeff @ 05:00
Woman with an anxious look on her face, sitting in a seat on an airplane -- from that great classic, Airplane!
I’ve gotta get out of here

I tend to take either relatively brief vacations (a day or two at a time) or very long ones. Brief vacations serve specific purposes, so they only mentally recharge me a little. Only long vacations let me set my head straight. Recent long vacations have been:

I haven’t taken any long trips to unwind since 2014. Injuries (a persistent high ankle sprain ultimately requiring arthroscopic surgery, a stress fracture to the same foot) are partly to blame. Regardless, I haven’t fully decompressed in a very long time.

During the last weeks of the A.T. thru-hike, I stayed at a hostel with a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker guidebook. When I finished reading it, I knew I would hike the PCT. I wasn’t sure when, but I knew it would happen.

This year’s the year.

Conventional wisdom holds that if you can hike the ~2175mi A.T. in N months, the ~2650mi PCT will take N – 1 months. (The A.T. is a rugged trail of rocks and roots; the PCT is a well-graded horse trail.) Obviously this breaks down eventually, and I suspect a relatively-fast 137-day A.T. pace passes that point. I’m guessing I’ll need four months: 240 hours of PTO (Nᴇᴡ Hɪɢʜ Sᴄᴏʀᴇ!), then three months’ unpaid leave, including a cushion. I’m guessing I’ll be done by mid-September.

The A.T. is generally non-technical. No special equipment is required (except during snow extremes at the north end). Civilization is almost always nearby. The PCT is more technical, with a trail unmarked by omnipresent white blazes or signs regularly identifying the PCT. Lingering snow may completely obscure the trail. Swollen, icy creek crossings present dangers I only approached a single day on the A.T. Resupply locations are less frequent and comprehensive. It’s necessary to mail food to oneself at certain points, to resupply at all at them.

New equipment I've had to pick up for the PCT: crampons; wraparound, UV-blocking, polarized sunglasses; crampons
With trekking pole/ice pick in hand, I’m ready for my next political assassination

The learning curve for the PCT is steeper than for the A.T. Some people might worry about this, but I won’t be one of them. Worrying isn’t helpful: why allow it take root?

Caution and preparedness are different matters. For example, I know ~zero about safely hiking through alpine snow. And this year was a roughly every-six-year snow year, maybe worse in localized areas. But I can address that with training. There should be room to learn other PCT peculiarities in the first few hundred miles.

A graph of California north/central/south snowpack over each season, for various winter seasons; 1982-1983 establishes a high mark, 2016-2017/2010-2011/2005-2006 are high but not historically so, and 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 are around the recorded minimums

My only uncontrollable concern is that foot stress fracture. It happened two and a half years ago; the fracture has healed; and I’ve walked, run, and hiked on it for a year. A sports medicine doctor cleared me to walk to Canada on it.  (I was very specific about doing exactly that.) But my right big toe still isn’t 100% flexible, its ligaments semi-regularly ache during or after exercise, and it sometimes bruises. I’ll do what I can about this through cushioned socks, ongoing flexibility exercises, and moderating pace if needed. But I can’t eliminate the risk that it might significantly slow me down or even stop me.

If all goes well, I’ll return in September, mentally refreshed, with a peculiarly developed endurance for walking and very few fast-twitch muscle fibers. 🙂 I’ve turned off Bugzilla request capabilities, so don’t try asking me to review patches. If you must contact me, email might work. I’ll rely heavily on server-side filters to keep the firehoses hidden, but that doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily see an email. If possible send reviews and questions to the usual suspects. Moreover, the PCT is much more remote than the A.T., so I’ll likely go longer between email access than I did on the A.T. In places, a two-week delay in responding would not be unusual. (But I’ll try to keep people updated on where I am whenever possible, specifically to reduce the risks and dangers in a moronically-avoidable 127 Hours-style rescue snafu. I put the best odds on Twitter updates because they’re quickest. But I’ll post some pictures here as well to one-up roc. “My country’s scenery beat up your country’s scenery”)

I’m currently on my way to San Diego. Some helpful souls who love the trail (“trail angels”, in the vernacular) offer aspiring thru-hikers a place to stay just before, and a ride to the start the day of, their thru-hikes. I’ll stay tonight with them. Tomorrow the rubber hits the trail. It should be good.


  1. Happy trails!

    Comment by poiru — 10.05.17 @ 15:42

  2. Good luck!

    Comment by Gervase Markham — 10.05.17 @ 16:10

  3. I’ll happily concede to you on beauty quantity, but not on beauty density (temporal and spatial) :-).

    Comment by Robert O'Callahan — 10.05.17 @ 16:31

  4. Jeff, this is a very inspiring post. I am happy to hear that you’re planning on hiking the PCT this year. Since 2014 I’ve been living in Washington and have been exploring the backcountry. I know the PCT is mostly a solo endeavor if you’re looking to clear your head and experience it on your own but if you desire some company toward the end, look no further. I’d be happy to hike a section with you, whether it be a day or 10 while you’re covering~100 miles between stops. Or if you need some company for the 5 day trek from Snoqualmie Pass to Steven’s Pass. I could provide some additional supplies and some company as you’re reaching the end. Either way good luck in this great attempt! Either way..there is a chance my wife and I will see you out there in beautiful Washington. Have a great hike!

    I miss AP Physics…
    John Krystof

    Comment by John Krystof — 17.05.17 @ 19:19

  5. That’s a tough but also awesome thing you just started! I can imagine that there will be times when you just want to give up. So keep strong, enjoy the nature, and come back with a ton of experiences to talk about. I will definitely follow your posts with updates!

    Comment by Henrik — 31.05.17 @ 13:30

  6. I’ll keep you in mind! Of course at that point I might be doing high-20s days at a consistent 3mi/h pace, and syncing could be an issue. Or maybe schedules don’t match up. Or I don’t know. Anyway, miles to go before then, tons of other challenges to address first. When I’m a while lot closer, we can talk. 🙂 Gotta not die in the Sierras first, at a minimum!

    Comment by Jeff — 17.06.17 @ 20:58

  7. As it turns out — and there being a bit of difference doesn’t surprise me — Snoqualmie Pass to Stevens Pass took me a bit less time than the five days you suggest. I left Snoqualmie Pass at ~16:50 on September 10, and I was at Stevens Pass by ~14:15 on September 13, so maybe three days total. 7.17mi from a late start the first day (camping by Ridge Lake), 22.30mi the second day (camping shortly after the fragile area surrounding a couple lakes), 27.59mi the third day (to Glacier Lake), then 13.59mi the fourth day to Stevens Pass. Syncing up pace with a thru-hiker isn’t easy!

    Comment by Jeff — 26.09.17 @ 16:09

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