This summer I’m planning a solo thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as a fundraiser for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. The PCT is a 2650-mile long continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada that traverses along the spine of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges. I’m leaving my job at Microsoft as of the end of February so I can focus my efforts on preparing for the hike full-time.
This trip has been my dream for several years, culminating in hours of research, planning, and training. My decision to have hip surgery in October 2015 was ultimately in preparation for this adventure. I hiked the Wonderland Trail last summer as a trial run – to test out my gear and discover if I even like hiking alone for two weeks (the answer is YES!).
To sponsor me, click here: https://www.razoo.com/story/aramblingunicorn
I’ve received a lot of questions about my trip so I added an FAQ below to satisfy the curious:
Q: What is a thru-hike (or thru-hiker)?
A: A thru-hike is a continuous hike from the beginning to the end of a long trail. Folks who hike long trails in sections are called section hikers, and those who enjoy hiking one day at a time are day hikers.
Q: How will you resupply food?
A: I will dehydrate food and gather supplies before my trip and pack them into resupply boxes. My partner, Daniel, will mail them to me along the trail (thanks baby!). I will also stop off at towns along the trail every week or so to get additional supplies, as well as to shower and do laundry.
Q: When is your start date?
A: I don’t know for sure yet but I’m targeting April 13. Today I will be applying for a long-distance permit from the Pacific Crest Trail Association, so fingers crossed! The trail has become increasingly popular since the publication of Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The permit now allows only 50 people per day to start hiking from the Mexican Border in an effort to preserve the trail.
Q: How long will the hike take?
A: Most thru-hikes take 5-6 months to complete. There is a finite window during the summer when Northbound hikers typically complete the PCT. Hikers try to arrive at the High Sierras when the snow melts just enough to permit them through (usually sometime in June depending on the snow pack that year) and then hike as quickly as possible to reach the North Cascades before it starts snowing (usually mid-September).
Q: I can’t believe you are hiking alone. Aren’t you afraid?
A: I’m a little nervous but I’m not afraid. I’m looking forward to some time alone for self-reflection and meditation, and to prove to myself I can do it.
And, given the number of hikers going northbound on the PCT these days, I’ll have lots of company if I want it. I’ve heard from other hikers that folks tend to fall into groups that match their hiking speed and style. I plan to find other folks to hike with through the High Sierras, but I like having the flexibility of going off myself if I choose.
Q: What gear will you bring?
A: My goal is to go as ultra-light as possible while not compromising safety. The lighter my pack, the less likely I am to get injured on the trail. I’m still refining my gear list and will post it to my blog before I go.
Q: How have you researched and prepared for your hike?
A: There are so many great resources on hiking the PCT and thru-hiking in general. Stay tuned – I’ll be sharing a list of my favorite resources in an upcoming blog post.
Q: Are you going Northbound or Southbound?
A: Northbound. 90% of PCT thru-hikers travel northbound each year. You can hike southbound, but you’ll be starting in the North Cascades in June or July and have to immediately contend with a fair amount of snow on the ground. I’m not *quite* ready for that yet.
Q: What if there is an emergency on the trail?
A: I’m hoping to avoid getting into an emergency situation through careful preparation and planning. As the adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. I’m taking classes on wilderness navigation, wilderness first aid, avalanche awareness, and a snow camping class to learn how to use an ice ace and navigate the snow.
However, should an emergency occur, I’m prepared for that too. I’m bringing my DeLorme InReach Explorer, which is a device that enables 2-way satellite texting and includes some basic GPS capabilities. I’ll be able to communicate even when I’m in remote areas with no cell reception. The device has an “SOS” button which I can activate to summon help in case of an emergency.
Q: Why are you calling yourself Unicorn?
A: Most long distance hikers adopt a nickname called a “trail name” during their hike. The name is typically bestowed by another hiker while on the trail. I am hoping for the name Unicorn, as it is my name when I attend Burning Man and it has some personal significance for me. However, should the universe decide to bestow another trail name to me while on the PCT, I am open to that too.
Q: Why are you hiking the whole PCT at one time? Why don’t you just hike it in sections?
A: Many hikers choose to tackle the PCT section by section. I briefly considered doing this, but I want to do the whole trail at once. I’m OBSESSED with thru-hiking the PCT. And so I figured – why not go for it? You only live once, right?
Q: I already forgot how to sponsor you and I’m too lazy to scroll up to the top of this FAQ to find the link. How do I do that, again?
A: Please click here: https://www.razoo.com/story/aramblingunicorn