Why a Thru Hike at all?
So before I get too deep into my hike let me explain a little bit about how a thru hike came to be a good idea in my head…
I grew up in a science based household. Both of my parents have very technical backgrounds and encouraged us to make experiments and always question and explore. Around the age of 5 I did my first hike in southern New Hampshire (it went ridiculously as do most of my hikes).
I grew up obsessed with numerous outdoors based things and watched National Geographic and continue to watch Planet Earth with all the giddy excitement of a little kid. These obsessions included the Titanic, the Great Barrier Reef and Mt. Everest. While I do hope to hike to base camp of Everest one day I do not think my frugal side would every allow me to get over the sticker price of hiking Mt. Everest… So I set my sights on “more reasonable” goals.
I have always lived on the east coast of the US within driving distance of the big apple, which means I have also always lived near the Appalachian Trail (AT)! In fact, my first (and second) backpacking trips were on a small section of the AT!
I have read quite a few books including AWOL on the Appalachian Trail and A Walk In The Woods. These books, along with my traffic filled commutes and constant planning of hikes and anything that sounds fun planted a seed to do one of the long trails.
There are 11 long trails as part of the National Scenic Trail system around the US, and in my head the three trails I was considering were the ones that were part of the triple crown … AT, CDT and PCT!
AT, CDT or PCT?
While I very much have dreams of doing the entire triple crown, which would mean completing the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail that MIGHT not be possible, and any way I have to pick one to start with!
I did what I normally do, think something over till there is no way I can possibly think about it anymore… I researched and researched, found SUPER helpful websites, in particular: The One of Seven Project! The side by side comparison of the three trails was SUPER helpful in this decision making process…
I also spent countless hours talking to my husband and very dear friend (and avid hiker and adventurer) Cait. The bulk of the narrowing down came from a day locked in a room with Cait, a box of Thin Mint girl scout cookies and two laptops!
My original plan was to NOBO the hike in 2020 (Another post will go over why that changed!)
My feelings before this meeting with Cait were… Go big or go home, and to do the CDT!
The AT is a 2,190 miles long trail that goes North-South near the east cost of the United States, going through 14 states! This is the shortest of the three trails and goes through the most states! It has the nick name “the green tunnel” as much of it is in beautiful woods that overhang the trail!
I grew up along the AT, and have previously hiked many of the northern sections. While I would still love to do the AT one day, I know there is a chance I might not get to do another thru hike in my life, so I crossed it off the list for a longer trail with wider scenery changes, new areas I haven’t hiked before, and more expansive mountainous views!
The trail I planned on doing before this talk with Cait was the longest of the trails at about 3,100 miles the CDT. The CDT is a North-South trail that runs along the continental divide traveling through 5 states in the center of the US.
I was interested in this trail because if I am going to do one, I might as well go all the way and do the longest! In addition, my husband and I are moving to Colorado, so it was a way for him to be able to spend weekends and time off hiking with me easily, especially for the 740 miles that goes through Colorado! In addition, the northern section goes through the wonderful Yellowstone National Park and finishes near Glacier National Park, which is somewhere I am dying to get to!
For all of these reasons and more this was the trail I was planning for! The almost 4 hour conversation with Cait lead to the following conclusions:
- The CDT is the least hiked of the 3 trails, which makes it appealing to me, but also MUCH harder to find information on and to plan for as my first thru hike. (I feared it would take a lot more research than I might have time for)
- Around 300-400 miles of the CDT are road walking, and the trail is NOT set in these locations, making it possible for me to get lost.
- The biggest factor was something Cait said:
We are moving to Colorado for the specific reason to go hiking… We will likely eventually hike all or most of the CDT while we live in this beautiful state. I could hike the PCT and get totally different experiences and hikes and save Colorado for the future!
Keeping all of this in mind I made my choice… I would hike the Pacific Crest Trail!
The Pacific Crest Trail.
I chose the PCT for the reasons above and because it sounded like a “manageable” challenge!
It is the middle length of the 3 trails at 2,650 miles. It is also a North-South trail that run through three states on the west coast of the United States, Washington, Oregon and California! The PCT goes through 6 ecosystems including deserts and mountains.
A NOBO PCT is a well documented and popular hike, which means there would be plenty of company, lots of “easy” research with many different perspectives, opinions and tips! I thought the middle of the road popularity of the PCT would be a nice balance of company on the trail and some peace and quite!
The plan was a NOBO PCT 2020…
As I mentioned… That changed, and it will be a SOBO PCT 2019, more posts to follow on why the change!