If you know me in any capacity, you’re already aware that I’m a bit of a strategist. I truly enjoy organizing and planning events, especially when it comes to hiking or traveling. So for my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, you can bet I’m up for the challenge. Each and every person goes into these thru hikes differently, and there is no one answer. Like with traveling, it’s important to do what’s best for you and plan according to your comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to the unknown. I anticipate meeting new faces, waking up each day knowing I’m in for an adventure I couldn’t have predicted, and seeing where the trail takes me. However, there are some things I’d like to nail down before setting foot on the trail – for my own comfort level, and so when the time comes I can live in the moment and focus my attention on the adventure itself.
So What Exactly Am I Doing to Prepare?
If you’ve ever had a desire to go on a big trip, invest your time into a degree, or any other meaningful challenge, you understand the ever-changing emotions running through one’s head the moment you commit yourself. I’ve read a fair amount about thru hiking and researched the PCT, stayed up all night watching videos and listening to podcasts, yet there are finer details that aren’t as easy to come across. As you can imagine, picking up your life at home and pressing pause for 5 months involves some planning. And for friends and family who are simply curious, or for those of you who aspire to thru hike one day, I’ve decided to let you in on my own process, from the beginning.
Preparations for Home
Below are a list of items that I created from the get-go to address the need for organizing life at home before leaving for the trail:
- Tell family and friends!
- Budget finances (this is key!)
- Determine job status
- Notify volunteer organizations
- Decide on paying for an apartment, subletting, or moving items into storage
- Understand options for auto insurance
- Research options for health and travel insurance
- Plan for student loan payments
- Schedule doctor appointments
- Cancel monthly subscriptions (Netflix, gyms, etc.)
- Research options for current retirement and investment accounts
- Put aside resources for birthdays and events
Preparations for The Trail
Of course, here is my list dedicated to planning for the trail itself:
- Decide on start date!
- Apply for permits (PCT long-distance, California Campfire, Canada Entry)
- Purchase flight and organize transportation to the trailhead
- Research transportation options for the end of the trail
- Read books and guides about the trail
- Print necessary documents (permits, maps, water reports)
- Research and purchase all necessary gear
- Set up GPS subscription
- Read blogs, talk with experienced thru hikers
- Outline estimated time frame of travel and resupply plan
- Bookmark and document weather sources, post office info, trail closure and water report sites
- Brush up on navigation skills
- Refresh with an outdoor safety course
- Learn how to self arrest with an ice axe
- Download music/podcasts/audio books
- Physically prepare – gym routine, shakedown hikes and overnight trips
- Mentally prepare!
How Goes That Physical Preparation?
The exercise physiologist in me has created an outline for myself to stick to in regard to physically preparing for this hike. If you’re a former athlete, you can already sympathize with the joys of dealing with haunting aches and pains related to old injuries. So for me it’s essential that I condition myself to be on my feet for 20 miles per day, while making certain that my muscles will be strong enough to endure the beating.
Outside of getting up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire to do some shakedown hikes and overnights with my gear, I’ve continued to climb indoors and weight lift at least 3 to 4 times per week. With much of my time limited to the gym, I’ve made sure to add in uphill treadmill walks and stairs with a weighted pack. Likewise, I’m pretty keen on keeping up with my physical therapy exercises for my hips, knees, and ankle. With dedicating so much time and energy into this adventure, I’d be quite disappointed if I fall victim to an overuse injury from being unprepared. Plus, I love being active as it is, so I’m really enjoying working hard in anticipation of a goal such as this is!
Mental Preparation – Seriously?
Yes, it’s a thing – I’m already being put to the test each and every day. I started by grabbing a copy of Pacific Crest Trials, which is a great resource to put me in the ideal mindset to prepare for and attempt a thru hike. It was only a few days after the initial commitment that I truly understood how often I would be put to the test.
You see, after committing to a thru hike, you doubt yourself. Over and over, you wonder if you’re making the right decision – if maybe, you should postpone your hike, or better yet, not go at all and just choke it up to an unrealistic dream. Perhaps a hike this challenging is too much for a solo female backpacker? Do I actually want to live in the wilderness without the comfort of a home? These types of questions are daily occurrences, and I’d be fooling myself if I believed that I wasn’t going to encounter these quandaries on the trail. So you can be sure I’ll be swatting at these doubts when they creep into my mind.
In the end, i̶f̶ when I’m standing at the southern terminus, and stare beyond the monument at the first leg of the trail, I know I will have already pushed myself so much further than I ever anticipated.
This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.