Day 1: A Very First Day on the Trail

A 5:15 AM alarm at Girlscout’s house began our first day on the trail. After months and months of preparation (and literally years of thinking about it), it’s kind of crazy to suddenly have it be here like that. We dressed (in hiking clothes, of course), put our all-too-heavy packs into the back of his car, and off we went. The night faded into the grey of dawn as we drove…I don’t honestly remember the conversation much, because

A Last Hurrah

The Louisiana countryside is pretty much a perfect place to relax do some final preparations for a couple of days before leaving.

We’ve brought all the resupply boxes inside, laid them all out in neat rows, gone through our packs one last time, prepped them for the plane trip, done a last load of laundry…pretty much everything that can possibly be done. We have only a little bit of stuff to do today (most of which will be spent at an Easter celebration at Clare’s grandparents’ place, in a nearby town), and then we’re finally ready.

It’s both a little nerve-wracking and exciting

So Much Food!

Tonight, I offloaded a few photos I took over the last couple of months, documenting all the food I packed into resupply boxes. The scale is insane.

As We Set Out

We’re currently in Austin, TX, visiting some close friends (who are about to have their first child!) on our way to Clare’s parents’ place in Louisiana. Our car is loaded with our packs and 23 resupply boxes, which we’ll leave with her parents to be shipped to us as the summer progresses. We fly from Louisiana to San Diego on Monday, April 6th, and then start at the trailhead on Wednesday, April 8th — less than a week away now!

The past two or three months have been a blur, in many ways, as I kept myself laser-focused on the enormous amount of work to be done to allow us to take this trip. Now, however, I feel such a wide range of emotions as the beginning of this hike actually approaches.

Fun Facts Discovered When Buying Food For Six Months

  • You can buy Nutella in tiny individual foil-top containers, perfect for the trail.
    They come in boxes of 120. The boxes weigh a ton.
  • Freeze-dried ground beef is extremely calorie-rich and great for making backcountry dinners. Staring at an entire two-pound can of it is kind of disgusting. Staring at five two-pound cans of it is even worse.
    Also, its “use by” date is December…2039.
  • Freeze-dried broccoli comes in what can only be described as a giant bucket, which contains 222 servings. It costs over $100. We bought one. We used nearly all of it.

Read on for more

I’d Like 240 Granola Bars, Please…

(The photo above of the table full of food is maybe one-fifth of the total food we’re bringing on this trip.)

There are three big projects to tackle before a hike of this magnitude. In order of importance, you will need information, gear, and food.

The first two are complex, and the Internet is full of postings about them. The last, however, is impressive in its sheer scale. The statistics work out like this:

  • 2 people, each needing to eat
  • 4,000–4,500 calories each day, over
  • 6 months of hiking
  • …means…
  • 816 meals, and
  • > 1,000,000 calories.

Only on the PCT (or similar hikes) do you really have to pay attention to these numbers. As an example: say you just “eyeball it”, and bring 3,500 calories/day worth of food, while you’re burning 4,500. Over a one-week hike, this means you’ll lose two pounds — probably something you’ll appreciate! On the PCT, this would mean you’d lose fifty pounds, which is, perhaps needless to say, life-threatening for many people. (Realistically, you’d have to give up long before you got there.) Crunching the numbers and wrapping your head around what you need is important.

It’s really an astonishing

Aren’t You Afraid Of Bears?

Besides “you’re doing what?”, I’ve been asked quite a few interesting questions over the past couple of months as I talked about my plans to people.

How far do you hike each day? About 21 miles, on average. This is the pace you have to keep in order to do the whole trail in a season, between spring and fall snows. It’ll vary a lot, too: slower at the beginning and in the High Sierra, faster in the middle as we come out of the mountains and are in great shape.

What do you eat / how do you get food? The amount of food required is prodigious: over 4,500 calories per day just to maintain body weight. Between the two of us, over six months, that’s over one million calories. The food preparations alone deserve a separate post, but the short version is that we’ve packaged up 36 boxes full of freeze-dried food, and are having Clare’s parents ship them to us over the summer at various points along the trail.

Aren’t you afraid of bears? Not

About the Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail stretches from the Mexican border in southern California all the way to the Canadian border in northern Washington. En route, it covers more than 2,650 miles, from low deserts to the highest mountains.

The trail begins just outside Campo, California, on the Mexican border (yes, you can touch the border wall). Nearly everyone starts sometime between late March and early May: if you start too early, you run into deep snow in the High Sierra in California and can’t cross; if you start too late, you can’t make it to the finish before the big snows come in northern Washington. The trail ends at the Canadian border, in Manning Park, British Columbia.

You can divide the trail into roughly four stretches: