Five things I couldn’t survive the Pacific Crest Trail without

September 21, 2018

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a long distance hiking and equestrian trail. The PCT traverses from the border of Mexico, through the Sierra and Cascade Mountains, all the way to the Canadian border. The trail stretches through three states (California, Oregon, Washington) and is 2,659 miles long. Here is what kept me moving during my time on the Pacific Crest Trail.

1-Sawyer Water Filter and Smart Water Bottle

The Sawyer water filter is an absolute must on any Thru-Hike. Giardia can be a real pain in the intestines. It’s an infection in your intestines (I’ll spare you the details of the symptoms) that is caused by microscopic parasites found in unsafe water and areas of poor sanitation.

The Sawyer weighed two ounces and killed 99.99% of bacteria.

The filter I purchased came with three plastic pouches to store water. Those pouches were cheap, none of them lasted the first 200 miles. Thankfully, the Sawyer mini fit perfectly on a Smart Water bottle, which was much more durable. The only time I replaced the water bottles were when I misplaced them. I kept two to three Smart Water bottles with me at all times.

Sometimes I would be as far as 15-20 miles from a reliable water source with two-to-three 1,000+ foot inclines on the way. Packing multiple bottles of water for the voyage was crucial. These bad boys could probably filter toilet water. I would never try it; I’m just saying I’ve fell on some harsh and feeble water sources.

2-Guthook

Guthooks Guides is an app with detailed maps showing your exact GPS location. Guthooks has elevation profiles, water source information, shelters, camps sites, trailheads, peaks and even information on nearby towns.

I honestly would not have survived the PCT without Guthooks. It has everything. I planned my entire days using Guthooks. I always knew what elevation I was at, I knew where my next water source would be, and I knew if there was a dangerous river crossing approaching. Guthooks included information about towns alongside the trail. I would plan my resupplies in these towns and hikers commented on places to eat and visit while you’re in town.

As I traversed through the John Muir Trail (160 miles of the JMT is on the PCT), there were a lot of times when the trail was not visible. I used Guthooks to keep me on the path. There were times when suncups would look like footsteps, and I would travel off the beaten path. When things didn’t feel right, I pulled out my phone and referred to Guthooks. There were two instances when I was two miles off the beaten path while hiking through Forester Pass.

You can download Guthook Guides in your smartphone app store.

3-Peanut Butter

When packing for a thru-hike, it’s paramount to keep your cargo as light as possible. I tried to keep my pack anywhere between 30-35 pounds. Most of the weight in my backpack was food. The tricky part here was packing the right kind of food while keeping it light. When hiking 20 miles a day for weeks, I liked to load up on carbs and devour protein. Unfortunately, sources of affordable protein are limited. Peanut butter was clutch. I threw that peanut paste on everything. I put it in my ramen noodles, my mashed potatoes. I would grab a tortilla and apply my chunky peanut butter liberally. After all, you can only eat so much tuna, you can only afford so much beef jerky, and you can only keep cold cuts fresh for so long. There were times that I would spend ten days in the mountains before detouring into a town to resupply on food. So I had to make sure I had enough food accounted for those days.

4-Trail Family

I set out on the Pacific Crest Trail with my best friend and roommate. We both had our reasons for this adventure. I chose this experience because I wanted to do something that excited me and scared the shit out of me at the same time. I have never been the outdoors type (until the hike) and the only time I ever camped was in my grandma’s backyard. With all that, this is something that would have been extremely difficult to do by myself. Thank God I had my right-hand man, Kyle Mort with me most of the time. Throughout the months we met a lot of people and hiked with a lot of people. Some people stuck around, and we walked together for hundreds of miles. These people became my “Trail Family.” It was the first time I felt like my ilk surrounded me.

5-Trail Angels

Trail Angels provided “Trail Magic” periodically throughout a thru-hike. These people are godsends. Trail Magic is a random act of kindness usually offered by non-thru-hikers. Trail Magic could be anything from water, food, batteries, a pair of socks, a ride into town, to a warm place to sleep at night. Those who would carry out Trail Magic are dubbed Trail Angels.

Typically you would encounter Trail Angels at a trailhead or in a town during a resupply for food. Trail Angels are the sweetest people you will ever meet. They admire your journey and want to hear your story. I never met a Trail Angel that did not go above and beyond to help me out. I would ask for a ride from a trailhead to a bodega and offer me a warm meal on the way. I would ask for a Gatorade out of a Trail Angel’s cooler, and they would also offer me a beer.

I appreciate every Trail Angel I ever met. I especially will never forget Deborah, a Trail Angel my Trail Family met in Oregon. We were closing in on the end of the excursion. Wildfires were roaring through most of the PCT in Oregon and Washington. Our group knew we were not done hiking, but we needed to devise a safe journey. For this, we required Wi-Fi, a safe place to stay and a space to clear our minds. Deborah picked up our group of four and brought us to her cabin on a lake. All we asked for Deborah was to stop at a grocery store where we can grab hamburger meat and some beer. Deborah stopped off at a store, bought our dinner, breakfast for the morning and our beer. Deborah doesn’t drink. She cooked with us, laughed with us, watched us drink our faces off and gave us a place to stay FOR THREE DAYS. We went water skiing, jet skiing, she fed us blueberry pancakes and steak. We had fires and played cards. Deborah was indeed an Angel. We were able to rest, plan out the rest of our trip and clear our heads. Cheers Deborah! Wherever you are!