Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My General PCT Strategy

This will be a budget hike*, because I don't have a lot of money right now, and my hiking style is one that doesn't incur many costs other than food anyways. I hope to spend $12 a day on the hike, $15 max. I will be trying to minimize unnecessary costs, such as restaurants, booze, and hotels. 

*Note that I already have practically all the gear I will need and that some of it is expensive. When I talk about my low budget, I'm referring to the actual hike of the PCT.

I will be hiking alone, or at least starting off alone. I expect to meet other PCT hikers at the annual "ADZPCTKO" event Apr. 24-26 and am looking forward to the new acquaintances and comraderie. At the same time, I am hardly a herd person and have my own plans for what I want to do in towns along the way. I sort of expect to be meeting a lot of people and spending short periods of time with them, but I don't foresee hiking long distances with the same people, unless we just hit it off incredibly well and have similar hiking strategies and goals. 

I will be limiting my stays in town to buying food, occasionally visiting the post office for resupply purposes, and spending hours at the local library working online for free. There are several reasons for this:

  1. Budget. The big reason. The reports I've read speak of restaurant and hotel prices that I am simply unable to afford. Like $20 for a meal, $50 for a room, etc. I have $500 a month max to spend while backpacking.
  2. I dislike the loss of time and focus that comes from spending the night in town and am going to try to wash stuff and keep clean on the trail day by day rather than saving it for town.
  3. I need the mental activity that comes from doing stuff online, writing for any of my various projects, etc. I found that after a couple weeks on the trail in Colorado, I came to crave mental work and information from the Internet. I want to be able to sit down and write about the things I've noted down in my notebook while on the trail. I want this time to be productive to me as a writer and adventurer and not to vegg too much while on the trail. My MP3 player can also help with this (I've found that 1-2 hours a day of listening to music/recordings is perfect for me).

I am going to try to generally enter town fairly early in the morning, grab food from the supermarket to gorge myself on during the day, head down to the local library and spend 3 to 5 hours there, then return to the supermarket to buy food for the next stretch of trail. Then I will leave town, either by hitchhiking or walking (if the town is on the trail). The days I am in town, I will try to hike as little as possible, and eat as much as possible (especially fresh fruits and veggies). These will basically be rest days with a little bit of hiking in the morning and the evening.

I will be gradually increasing mileage. I know that I can average at least 20 miles a day on terrain such as the CDT through Colorado. That was with my girlfriend, who slows me down a bit, but brings other benefits. Alone and on the PCT, I think I can eventually hike 30 miles a day, but I will have to listen to my body and force myself to hike less initially to avoid knee overuse (a problem I had a year ago from too long hiking days without adequate preparation). I expect to start out doing between 15 and 20 miles a day. If I want to finish the PCT by the end of September, I will need to average no less than 20 miles a day on the PCT. 

I will be resupplying as I go, as opposed to mailing myself food beforehand. We mailed ourselves "key food supplies" while hiking the CDT in Colorado, and the results were terrible. We couldn't swallow most of it down anymore! I don't know beforehand what food I'm going to want, so I'm not going to guess. However, along the way I may mail food from a storeside town to a point further up the trail if the stores up ahead are not supposed to be very good. 

I hope to see friends and relatives join me for parts along the way. That would be a lot of fun, and they can bring me pizzas and hamburgers and stuff :)

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