Bears, Snakes, the PCT and me. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail

Part one – Descent into madness

7 mins

Deciding to walk the Pacific Crest Trail is a big thing. First off it’s long, really long. 2650 miles long.

" for when I need to eat a Rattlesnake “Capricorn One” style"

Note to people who don’t know…The Pacific Crest Trail is a long distance hiking trail that runs from Campo on the southern Californian border with Mexico, to Manning Park located on the US / Canadian border in Washington state. The trail skirts a ridge of mountains up the western seaboard through the Sierra Nevada & Cascade mountain ranges as well as glaciated expanses and volcanic peaks.

The PCT takes four and half months to complete if you are fit (which I am not). It also means being away from loved ones for months. Four and a half months whizzes past in a twinkle of an eye to an old fart like me, but to a nine  year old, it’s an age. Perhaps slightly longer than the last Ice Age.

Next it’s the money you need. For the most part you are camping out in the woods and mountains so you actually don’t need much, but you do need to re-supply yourself  en-route,  and if you have an emergency you need enough cash to get to safety. You also need to get to the trailhead which is in the middle of nowhere and when you have finished you need to get home again. Oh plus you need to send yourself stuff you’ll need (but not right away), like an ice axe, snow boots and crampons for the high altitude sections. It’s a logistical nightmare really, especially for me coming from the UK.

This idea of mine to have “an adventure” started when I was a kid as it does with everyone. This idea that you can be “truly free” is a desire I have always either thought achievable or beyond the limits of my financial status. So when the day came that I could take an adventure I would grab it with both hands like my spaniel Ripley (err…except she doesn’t have any hands, but does have strong teeth).

For me this idea started when I realised I would be paying off my mortgage sooner than expected. Being released from this financial burden would, and has, played a significant part of formulating this “adventure”, in terms of providing for my family whilst I am gone and ensuring I have enough to live off for 4 months and access to an emergency fund in case I get partially eaten by a bear (Leonardo style) .

For me the next step was information. I needed to know everything about hiking the PCT. And forget Cheryl bloody Strayed (she didn’t even walk the whole way… pah!). Four books later, 1 motion picture, hundreds of YouTube videos, inches of maps and online pamphlets and countless forum posts later a problem started to kick-in…the fear.

Look I am from Basingstoke. Winklebury actually (stop laughing Cathy. There is nothing funny about Winklebury) and let me tell you, boys from Basingstoke don’t generally have adventures into the American wilderness. Basingstoke boys don’t need to worry about Rattlesnakes and Bears or catching Giardia from slimy water or sliding off a glacier to a certain death. So I went through the PCT scared phase, which I am sure everyone experiences if they have anything between their ears. Shit scared actually  so it was fortunate I saw the Wild movie with Reese Witherspoon and I thought if a tarty American girl can do it, then a ex Ritz Video manager will stomp home.

After the fear came the equipment phase. You need equipment for a gig like this and my goodness I am going to have the lot. Oh, and every part, every bit of tent or clothing, cooking, cutting or carrying is going to be ultra-light. Uber light even. I don’t want to carry a single ounce more than I need too.

I scrutinised dozens of tents, stoves, shoes, you name it. Some straight off the International Space Station. Because you need it. Well Bearman2015 says you do on his video and I believe him. Not just him. So the purchasing began in earnest.  Rucksack first, then tent, stove and sleeping mat. A sleeping bag from the US and a really cool single handed folding knife for when I need to eat a Rattlesnake “Capricorn One” style when all food is exhausted.

So now I have the kit and brimmed with enthusiasm I plan my first weekend away with my mate, Nottingham Andy. We are going to Wales and plan to Wild Camp after a long day of hiking mountains.

Can Darren overcome the mountains and Wild Camp? Or will he bottle it and spend the night in the car. All will be revealed in the next installment.  

Last updated on: 10 Apr 2018 04:27 PM

PCT Cascade Mountains Seirra Navada Mountains Rucksack Cheryl Strayed Winklebury