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Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a planner. Not just a planner by general terms, but a very detailed, overly paranoid, cover all the bases, and exhaustive PLANNER. When preparing for the PCT, you would think this would be a blessing. I’m not so sure about that. People often confuse my over compulsive planning with the idea that I enjoy planning. Quite the opposite. I just can’t stand the feeling of being unprepared! With that in mind, here’s some insight into my head as I plan for 5 months of hiking on the PCT.
Maps, guidebook, and laptop used for planning.
Resources: Having never done a thru hike before, I’ve spent endless hours reading hiker blogs, trail journals, gear reviews, etc. They are great resources for knowing what lies ahead, what gear to get, and just plain motivation and inspiration. The two resources that have helped me most with the details of planning are Yogi’s PCT Handbook (the bible for many PCTers) and the PCT-L (the official PCT online forum).

Gear: I can’t even begin to explain how draining this process can be. Especially for a first time thru hiker. Once a backpacker makes the shift from casual weekend trips to extended thru hiking, it becomes a whole other animal. EVERY…OUNCE…MATTERS! I just recently spent a solid 4hrs on choosing rain gear. My current rain jacket is 11oz and that is NOT acceptable for the trail. I’ve done research. I’ve talked to thru hikers, and read the blogs and gear reviews. I looked on every major company’s website and checked the weight of every rain jacket they sold. If it was under 9oz I looked up reviews and took notes. I still came away with no perfect fit for what I needed. I begrudgingly went to bed exhausted and frustrated. I woke up the next morning and randomly saw a rain jacket recommendation on the PCT-L. It was as if the clouds had parted and my destined rain jacket was floating there waiting for me! Yes, I probably could have picked any old rain jacket or a cheap poncho, but when I know it’s one of the few pieces of clothing I’ll have for 5 months outside on the trail, it becomes much more important to find just the right thing. I have found what I was looking for (and on sale!). The perfect multi-use rain jacket that can also be used as a wind breaker in S Cali, for added warmth on cold mornings, and also double as a soft dreamy pillow at night, has been found. Check one more thing off the list! I will be posting my gear list soon so everyone can see what I’ll be using and how much weight I’ll be carrying with me.

Food: This topic is one of much internal debate for me.  Some hikers use the buy as you go method. Others prepare drop boxes before they leave and a trusted home contact (Dad & Robin) ships them out as you go. Many hikers say they prefer to buy as they go because there is no way to predict what or how much your body will crave on the trail. For those who know me, you know that I am a very routine eater and that most of my diet already consists of what thru-hikers eat (mac & cheese, Ramen, spaghetti, Lipton Noodles, pb&j, bagels, snickers, choc pudding, etc). I’m not exaggerating when I say this IS what I eat. I know it’s sad, but it’s like the thru hiker diet is what my body has been training for all of its life! Knowing this, I have decided to probably prepackage some boxes that Dad and Robin will send out as I go. This process takes A LOT of forethought and planning, I will post more details on this as I get closer to leaving in April.

Logistics: When and how do I start? How do I get my food/gear? Should I journal online and what device should I take with me to post online? What about work? How much money do I need to securely do this? What if I don’t finish or get injured? What training should I do? Which maps do I use? How much food fits in a bear canister and where will I need one? I’ve been thinking about this trip for about 10 months, so these questions and many others have had plenty of time to swim in my head. I’ve had time to arrange my life so I can take time off to do this. As a substitute teacher, I can leave for an undetermined amount of time and return to my job as if I never left. I’ve been able to save up by going back to my babysitting/nanny roots. I’ve found a safe spot (with Dad and Robin) for my belongings and car. I just got my first smart phone (iPhone). Gasp!

As you can see, this can go on forever (as it does in my head), but I also know that no amount of planning will prepare me for what lies ahead. Being a substitute teacher, I like that no two days are the same. I rarely know what’s coming until it’s right in front of me. I just have to think on my feet and hold on for the ride. This trip will be quite a journey and I look forward to all the surprises and challenges to come. Bring it on!

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