MYTHing the PCT in a Time of Change

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable MYTHing the PCT in a Time of Change

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    Drew Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Companion forum thread to: MYTHing the PCT in a Time of Change

    Searching for grace and gratitude through the smoke.

    Erik G
    BPL Member


    Locale: Central Coast

    A captivating read. Really well-written and thought provoking.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    “A thru-hike is an end-to-end hike of a long distance trail completed in one calendar year.”

    matthew k


    I loved that. Bittersweet in the best way. Thanks for sharing it.

    Andrew C
    BPL Member


    I truly enjoyed this.  I, too, am engaged in a MYTH of the PCT, but on a shorter timeframe than you.  I’m trying to do it over two years — 2021 and 2022.  Although it may now stretch to three given injuries I’m dealing with.

    It seems like much of this is written about your section hike last year on the PCT.  I was ahead of you, also heading north.  If you use FarOut, I was that crazy guy reporting on all the water sources from Sierra City to Santiam Pass.

    The part I loved the most in your article was this: “The trail has changed and it will continue to change. It is a living thing, and change is the essence of life. All we can do is keep moving and appreciate what good remains and work for more good to come.”

    I hadn’t thought about the trail changing.  (By “trail,” I’m focusing here on the PCT.)  In fact, it seems like the trail doesn’t change at all, that only we do.  But you’re right.  It’s true given climate change and wildfires in the West.  A single-year thru hike of the PCT is not a given anymore.  It feels like it’s now a rarity, that it requires incredible luck or an extremely early start.  This makes me sad.  I’m desperately trying to find an upside to it.

    Sorry about your dog.  I’ve had two I’ve hiked with in my life on overnights and short multi-day hikes.  One is dead and gone.  The other is now old with hip problems,  Dogs are incredible companions on the trail.

    I’ve also been fortunate to have human companions, too.  My dad who got me started hiking when I was a kid.  My younger brother whom I hiked with when we were young adults.  My adult son who I currently hike with once or twice a year.  I feel blessed to have been able to pass my love of the woods to him.  After all, my father passed his love of the woods to me.  Now if only my wife enjoyed more than just a day hike.  :-)

    Take care.  Thanks again for your article.

    J David Sullivan
    BPL Member


    Locale: Deep South

    Enjoyed your thoughts/words immensely, and can relate. My first serious hike was to the top of Mt LeConte in the Smokies in 1956. Things have changed and will continue to change. I’m 78 now and each time I arrive at a campsite I toast to it’s with a good beverage, knowing I very well might not pass this way again.  Happily, I now see many more females and persons of color enjoying the gifts of the wilderness. They make me smile as I saunter along.

    BPL Member


    All I can say is…AWESOME article. I really enjoyed the read. Made me feel connected. Thank you for sharing.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    This was a heart-wrenching read. With 35 years of hiking behind me, witnessing how things change, and feeling pretty good about having the capacity to hike a few more decades, this story really made me pause and wonder about the future of wild places.

    Nevertheless, I’m about to embark on one of my big summer trips in a spur range west of the northern Colorado Rockies, and I’ll remind myself to be hopeful at the start and grateful at the end.

    Thanks for the great read, Drew.

    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Montana

    Really enjoyed reading this, Drew. Always a treat to read your observations and insights.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Getting used to the notion that I will never again see beloved sights has been difficult. And painful. Coming to grips with that suite of concerns has made me more mature…and led to growth. This last is important. This article starts with a beloved dog who grows old and passes away. That sense of passing is everywhere. How odd, in a way, since when backpacking, we also find geology that’s been around for thousands of centuries. Backpacking, we see deep time much more than in everyday experience.

    Old loves give way to new, if we know how to look. What’s the difference between a philosopher and a backpacker? The backpacker loves what she finds, so much so that all of the pain and effort seem welcome, if only she can be with nature. The philosopher thinks about all this…but doesn’t know it.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    A single-year thru hike of the PCT is not a given anymore

    Think there were some years young UL hikers could more easily hike all the miles continuously but the Lionshead is still off limits (on either side of Ollalie Lake).   It’s not only light gear anymore, it’s probably taking more sacrifice (in terms of short town stops) to make miles before NorCal/Oregon start to burn.

    A youngish hiker just finished a PCT NOBO in 77 days equals a late May start,

    77 days going north , time to turn around. from PacificCrestTrail

    … his last gear list (major items) being a Pa’lante pack, Deschutes Zero-G (no inner), Katabatic 15°F quilt, Xlite (length not specified), Pocket Rocket 2, Toaks pot, Frogg-Tog jacket, and Melenzma fleece.  His mileage averaged 34 or so MPD.

    That said hitting the right time is critical.  Was following another semi-young hiker trying an FKT at 40ish MPD with a early-mid June (!) start, whose gear was based on an according foam pad, quilt, and a WPB bivy sack (guessing OR brand Ascensionist ~18 oz) .. just throw on ground, .. and cold soaking (fwiw think I had more comfort in military basic training) with posts stopping as the trail closes for the McKinnley fire along the CA-OR Border.

    So it’s still doable but seems to require a high daily mileage/low gear wt.-fuss to get as many steps in as possible.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Add that parts of the trail are closing as of now due to fire.  From Etna authorities  got a school bus to drive hikers across the border to get around the McKinley fire closure.

    The PCT is also closed between Crater Lake and “Bend” OR, guessing McKenzie pass?

    California and Oregon border, and inside Oregon itself for now despite some record precip earlier iirc in the year in the latter.

    So quite a few hikers will need to go back to the area between the Shasta area (the last real transport hub) and Ashland to complete those miles, though most are headed towards Timberline/Govt Camp due to other Oregon closures.   So they’ll need to hike almost all of Oregon if experiencing those miles is of any importance.

    Not quite a MYTH but there’s still the definition of what constitutes a true thru with more fires … though in the PCTs case, the permit requires following the law, and even without a permit, there’s sheriff/ranger patrols of mandatory closure areas.

    Then there’s sacrificing a little sleep and town days  to average 35 MPD to make the hike in almost record time.

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