Basic Advice for Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hikers
My most basic advice for an aspiring thru-hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail is twofold:
First, regardless of how strange it seems, you must buy a pair of low-cut trail running shoes that are at least one size larger than normal. The surface in the desert is so scalding that your feet will turn into kangaroo feet. And please, under no circumstances wear boots. The thought of boots in the desert (and resulting silver dollar-sized blisters) is truly gut wrenching. Please do yourself this favor.
But an even better favor you could do yourself would be to attend the annual Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff Party held the last weekend of April in Lake Morena County State Park, 21 miles north of the California-Mexico border. Thru-hikers traditionally hike to this party in one day. This party is thrown by ex- thru-hikers who not only feed the current year’s class copiously, but also give seminars on relevant topics (water reports in the desert, snow levels in the ‘High Sierra’, bears, etc.). Better yet, it is a great butterfly killer and ice breaker; many people meet long-term hiking partners at the PCT Kickoff.
Don’t miss this great event. Along with Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, it is the marquee event in the hiking community.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, as well as ‘The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago’ (2012). Walker, who is just shy of 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.