Monday, 30 March 2015

What's the Pacific Crest Trail? [Pt1]

I'm always moaning on about the PCT and how marvelous it is, but it just occurred to me, that not everyone knows what its about or where it is!  Well, here's a picture of it.  You see that thin red line meandering up the west coast of the USA?  that's it; that's the PCT.  A strip of dirt two feet wide and about 2660 miles long.  That's some path.  Its generally attempted as a northbound trip, but annoyingly, its not always heading north, and even sometimes goes quite seriously south.
It starts at the Mexican border near Campo, a border control settlement, and winds up through California, Oregon and finally Washington; terminating at the Canadian border. Lack of roads at the northern terminus means most hikers walk on another 8 miles to Manning park in Canada, and get a bus to civilization to return home.  As well as being long, there's a lot of up-ness and down-ness,  about 498,000ft of each, which is the equivalent of ascending and descending Mt Everest (from sea level) over 17 times.  That is serious.

So, it IS a long old path, but its hard going in places for more reasons than distance.  For example, the first 500 mile section is in the Mojave desert, which is a scrubby desert, rather than the sand-dune kind of thing you might imagine when you think of the Sahara. But that doesn't mean its not hot - it can be roasting and carrying enough water to get from A to B is a major undertaking.  Most people need about 5l of water a day to be reasonably well hydrated, but that varies from person to person a little.  You really don't want to get dehydrated in the desert heat - not just because you feel thirsty, but because you will eventually inhibit the body's ability to sweat and once that stops, you are in serious risk of heat-stroke where the body cannot shed heat fast enough, and overheats, possibly fatally.  Planning your water consumption and sources is therefore very important.  Its not a completely dry desert, and there are creeks and springs in places, often dry by the middle of summer, but in April, potentially still viable water sources, and on top of that, settlements, cattle troughs and sometimes water caches left by volunteers.   Water caches are coming into disrepute lately because of the trash they cause.  They can be a godsend of course, but I wonder if one ought to try not to expect them, and/or plan around them, simply because they are not obliged to be there and dependency on them becomes risky.  On the other hand, if I happen on one, will I fill up with water?  You bet your skinny, bone-dry ass I will.

[cont pt 2]

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