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Everything but the Kitchen Sink

If you are anything like me, you start packing for a week-long vacation a week in advance and have everything finalized the night before. Now imagine planning for a 6-month trip, where you need to carry everything on your back and plan your meals ahead of time. Thinking about how much planning I have accomplished over the last three weeks makes my brain short circuit. With my start date just around the corner, I am still not 100% prepared. I am constantly going back and forth between what if I need this, or do I really need this? What if I hate this food after the first week, or what if I physically can't do this? I know that I will not feel 100% ready for this adventure. Instead, I need to understand I have done as much as possible to prepare and get excited about the first steps heading North.


As people learn about my quest to hike 2,650 miles through Califonia, Oregon, and Washington, they often ask questions about how I am preparing, what I am taking with me, and how often do I get to sleep in a real bed? To give those curious a better idea of how I have organized the journey over the last few months, I have detailed the logistics in this blog. Granted, I have been slowly planning this expedition for over two years. It got down to the wire when my long-distance permit was finally approved in January 2022.


ITINERARY


I didn't start planning my itinerary until January 2022. Because I wasn't sure if I would be able to snag a long-distance permit, I didn't want to spend weeks organizing my daily mileage and resupply destinations for no reason. Once I did get started on my daily itinerary, it took me almost a month to complete it. Using the FarOut app, Craig's PCT Planner, and my National Geographic PCT maps, I built a spreadsheet that included various data to help keep me on track. The date, day count, trail mile, daily goal distance, town (when applicable), resupply (when appropriate), layover (when appropriate), budget (when applicable), day miles (actual miles covered that day), total miles, and notes are each a column on the spreadsheet (see the image below for an exact layout of my itinerary).



Referencing my National Geographic PCT maps, I selected resupply towns that would be the quickest to reach from the trail. They also easily show the distance between resupply towns to figure out if we needed to pass on one or add an extra to shorten the days between resupplies. Ideally, we spend 3-5 days between towns. However, there are several sections where it could take up to 9 days to reach our next resupply. The maps will be carried with me for referencing where we need to cut off the trail to get into town. These will primarily be helpful if my phone dies on the trail.


Craig's PCT Planner is a website that can calculate how long it should take to get between resupply towns that have been selected, considering the trail's elevation changes and hiking speed. Zero-days and layovers that we may want to take can also be selected on the website and calculated into the overall trip. Craig's PCT Planner is what I relied on primarily to figure out daily mile goals. By splitting up the distance between resupply towns based on the average miles calculated from Craig's PCT Planner, paired with the FarOut app to find a campsite for the end of each day, I figured out the goal mileage for each day.


With the FarOut app, I could check waypoints along the trail to ensure we won't be camping in a prohibited area. Highlighted in yellow on my itinerary are the days when I couldn't find a designated campsite near the destination mileage for the day, so we will have to find a good camping spot along the trail when we get in the vicinity. Reading the details of the waypoints in town also informed me when post offices are open and where the best places to stay are, alongside the general cost for amenities at each stop. Waypoints are updated in real-time by hikers on the trail. Once on the trail, I will be able to check waypoints ahead of me to see if there are reliable water sources, trail magic, campsites, etc., making the FarOut app a beneficial tool during the hike.



While the itinerary I have put together looks pretty and seems well planned, I know there will be many days where we fall behind schedule or hike more miles than anticipated. The itinerary needs to be flexible and easy to adjust on the fly. Not only will I be using the itinerary as a guide back home my boyfriend will be following along for resupply logistics. So while I keep a paper copy with me on the trail, I will also be updating the online Google Doc version for him periodically.


RESUPPLY


There are a few options when it comes to resupplying during a thru-hike. Some do not plan their resupplies ahead of time. They instead rely on purchasing food and supplies along the way whenever they come to a town. On the other hand, some box up meals and supplies ahead of time and ship them to destinations along the trail, called resupply boxes. Lastly, some people use a combination of resupply boxes and what they find in town. All options take planning—either ahead of time or on the trail.


As you first read in this post, I am a pre-planner, so preparing resupply boxes is the only option. I will at times purchase food along the way when I get tired of what I have packed or if I need a little extra to get by. I don't want to think about what is next to eat when I'm hungry and tired. I want there to be something ready. As an indecisive person, I know that going to a store and selecting what I want to eat and snack on for a week after hiking days to get there would stress me out.


Since I wanted my food to have some variety while keeping it as lightweight and straightforward as possible, I constructed a menu of three different courses—each with a different breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. My mom took a different approach with one resupply option containing different meals every day between resupplies. I am sure that we will both get very tired of repeatedly eating the same things.



A typical day will consist of breakfast with coffee, two snacks between breakfast and lunch, an electrolyte drink before lunch, lunch, two snacks between lunch and dinner, an electrolyte drink before dinner, dinner, and dessert. Instead of just eating three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) like usual, I will need to eat more frequently to replenish nutrients, as I burn them quicker than usual. My breakfast consists of oatmeal and granola. Snacks are a combination of snack bars, nuts, dehydrated fruits, crackers, and cookies. Lunches are finger foods that I can eat on the go, like tuna and crackers, jerky, and peanut butter and honey tortilla sandwiches. Dinners will be heated with my Jetboil and rotate between backpacker meals and homemade packaged meals. Desserts are all sweet and alternate between chocolate powdered milk and instant puddings.


As everyone is aware, food costs money. When buying a meal here and there, whether at a restaurant or the grocery store, you usually don't flinch at a price (I'm talking a $20 or $30 meal, not NOBU), it can become very costly when you plan for almost six months of meals in advance. Premade backpacking meals are not cheap, but they are convenient. I have prepackaged similar meals in Ziplocs to avoid relying heavily on backpacking meals. Buying in bulk cuts down on cost upfront. The only downside is manually divvying up the food into individualized Ziplocs. Packaging your meals also allows you to cut back on weight. When you have unlimited space, the choices are endless. When you need to fit nine days' worth of food into a bear bag or bear canister, options become very limited.


After looking at the same foods for the last three weeks, I can't say there is anything that I am looking forward to eating for days on end. I have tested all of my food items, and they are edible, but I wouldn't say they are anything close to gourmet. I am most excited about my snacks, like Kind bars (actually the Costco knockoff brand of kind bars), Nutella with animal crackers, blueberry bars, dehydrated fruits, and honey stinger waffles. I eat these things regularly, and I am happy that I will have these comfort foods with me.



Since I am not trying to hike the PCT unsupported, I will be relying on Tyler to send my resupply boxes for me. Currently, he has a list of items that need to be included in each resupply and approximately when they need to be shipped. As my journey progresses, I will be keeping the itinerary up to date so he knows if we have fallen behind or sped ahead. I will also be able to communicate with him for any additional items that I might require. If I run out of something ahead of schedule, then he can make sure to ship it in the following box he sends, which will be mailed about two weeks ahead of my scheduled arrival.

To keep things easy for Tyler, I have already sorted out most of my resupply items. Occasionally, he will need to purchase the more perishable food items and continue working on dehydrating fruits since I couldn't get as far along as hoped.


Resupplies also include replacement items like sunscreen, wipes, toilet paper, and chapstick. These are not as easy to plan since I don't know how soon I will run out of something. Most likely, I will find these additional supplies in town when I know I am getting close to finishing off an item.


While organizing our trip itinerary, my mom was busy figuring out where to ship our resupply boxes. Many towns along the PCT have a Post Office. We will firstly be sending our packages to the Post Offices when available. Otherwise, we will be shipping directly to hotels, restaurants, or supply stores. We aren't just randomly selecting a place to send our resupplies as it may sound. Resupply towns along the PCT are accustomed to thru-hikers during the hiking season. While some are more welcoming to us than others, they are well versed in what we will be looking for when we get to town. So there are certain hotels, restaurants, and grocery/gear stores that cater to the thru-hiker and offer a place to sleep, eat, resupply, wash, and rest. Of course, we are expecting to pay for these services during our visit. Some resupply stops along the trail were even created explicitly for hikers. Typically, these rest stops are run by trail angels, who offer up food/beverages and services for hikers and often go out of their way to help.


The resupply portion of my journey is where I think I will learn the most. I can only anticipate what my body will need, but until I get on the trail, it is primarily a shot in the dark. I may not need as much food as I plan, or I may be starving and need more.


TRANSPORTATION


There are few shuttle services that hikers can access to get to the starting point at the Southern Terminus. Trail Angels are also an option and often post in Facebook groups of their availability. In my case, my mom and I will be dropped off by Tyler and Charlie. They are kind enough to fly to San Diego with us and deliver us to our starting point.


Several resupply towns are located within walking distance of the Pacific Crest Trail. However, there are still several that are not. To reach the towns that are 20 miles off the trail, we will need to hitchhike. Experienced thru-hikers say getting a hitch to town isn't all the hard and once you get used to it very comfortable. I have always thought hitchhiking was scary and not safe. Also, trail Angels and shuttles pick up and drop off hikers in certain areas of the trail, but this is not a reliable mode of transportation since it is infrequent. With a group of hikers hitchhiking, I am sure I will become comfortable with the ride and appreciate the help of a stranger very quickly.


We will plan our pick-up once we get close to the finish line. We will most likely have to hike an extra three days to reach the Canadian border and then back to Hart's Pass, where the last known access point for pick-up is located. Ideally, we would be able to cross into Canada and continue our journey to Manning Park. However, access into Canada is still highly regulated and doesn't look like it will lighten up soon.


GEAR


Durable, lightweight, and comfortable are my three essential qualities for planning my pack. Here is a list of the items I will begin my journey carrying.



Gregory Diva Backpack Garmin InRach Mini

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2 Tent Emergency Fire Starter

Western Mountainering Sleeping Bag First Aid Kit

Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad Repair Kits

Cacoon Silk Sleeping Bag Liner Compass

Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow Dueces Trowel

National Geographic PCT Maps Toilet Paper

Outdoor Research Rain Jacket Kula Cloth

Helium Rain Pants Wipes

Rain Cover for Pack Floss

HydroPak 3 Liter Water Bladder Toothbrush

Three Smartwater bottles Bandana

2 Sawyer Squeeze 1 Liter Water Bladders Lotion

Sawyer Squuze Water Filter Headnet

Solar Powered Lantern Hairbrush

Portable Charger with Cables Jetboil Stash

Two Headlamps Trash Bag

Leatherman Multitool Sit Pad

Merino Wool Sleep Shirt Down Booties

Merino Wool Sleep Leggings Knee Brace

Merino Wool Baselayer Shoe Gaiters

Merino Wool Leggings Neck Gaiter

Merino Wool Beanie Fanny Pack

Melanzana Hoodie Chapstick

Outdoor Research Down Jacket Bug Spray

Three Pairs of Underwear Chaffing Cream

Cold Weather Gloves Sunglasses

Two Pairs of Socks Sun Gloves

Two Sports Bras Sunscreen

Skirt for Warm Weather Sun Hat

Sun Shirt for Warm Weather Sunglasses

Black Diamond Trekking Poles Earplugs


I am sure I will swap, ditch, or buy new gear to accommodate changes during the trip. I have already removed a few items to lighten my pack and free up space. The crocs will be staying home. While they would be a nice item to have, they are a luxury and not a necessity.


When researching the best way to plan for the PCT, I came across many who planned the trip within a few weeks and others who just packed up what they had and hit the trail. Every person approaches life differently, so plan according to what floats your boat. In my case, I am trying to be as prepared as possible.

 


RESOURCES


FarOut App and Website


Craig's PCT Planner


Pacific Crest Trail Maps (Hardcopy)


The Complete List of PCT Resupply Points

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