pacific crest trail f.a.q.

So do you have to carry 5 months of food with you?

Hahahaha, thankfully NO. I would die if I had to carry that much weight. Every 3-7 days or so, the trail crosses a road leading to a nearby town where I will resupply food and other necessities, hopefully find a place to shower, and possibly take a zero (rest day) to reenergize myself. Depending on the size of the town and the supplies I need, I may send myself a box in advance or have my family send me a box with resupply needs.

Are you quitting your job? How can you afford to do this?

In short, yes. Since it will take 5-6 months, I can't really expect work to give me that much time off. And while I have loved my time at JH Specialty (esp. the people!), I might want to explore different options when I'm done with the trail. Maybe that means moving somewhere with mountains, or exploring missions opportunities, but you have to be willing to let go in order to take hold of something new. And I've been dreaming about doing this for a few years now. When I first started thinking about it, I took a look at my finances and realized if I started saving I could make it happen. I don't have any student loans or debt (besides what I'm paying back to my parents) and I live beneath my means. (Dave Ramsey and YNAB for the win! Seriously, if you don't have a budget, make one now, cause it's how this trip has become possible for me.)
Because I've been planning for a few years now, I've been able to snatch up gear when it goes on sale, which has helped me save money. I also plan on eating on a budget. I'll go into more detail in a future post, but if you really want to do this, start looking at your finances and make a plan!

How will you protect yourself? Are you going to carry a gun?

While wildlife and strangers might seem to be the biggest threats while hiking alone, statistically they're not. Of the millions of people who enjoy the trails in CA, OR, & WA, the number of bear and mountain lion deaths is in the single digits. And a little pistol isn't gonna do much to a bear. Not only are guns heavy, but I have no experience with them and would feel uncomfortable carrying. Instead, I'll be carrying pepper spray for personal protection, though everything I've read shows it would be more likely I'd need to use it in my day to day life in Fort Wayne than on the trail. The bears along the PCT are black bears, so they typically will run away if you make loud noises and don't threaten their cubs. Honestly, I am kinda freaked out about being stalked by a mountain lion, but this is why I plan to mostly camp with people if I can :)

Why are you hiking solo?

For one thing, it's pretty difficult to find another person you know who's willing to quit their job for 5 months to hike with you. Hiking with someone else adds extra pressure - you have to decide what will happen if something happens to one of you, and if your desired hiking style/pace is different, that could really test the relationship. Hiking solo will actually allow me to push myself at a pace I know I can handle, and I can just join up with people hiking similarly as I go. I'll learn how to trust own judgment when it comes to my safety. Finally, I am looking forward to times of solitude alone with God to pray and grow in my relationship with him. It's so easy in our society to drown out his voice with noise, and I can't wait to quiet that noise and hear him speak. The PCT is also a very popular trail for thru-hiking, and I've heard from other hikers that you only really travel alone if you're intending to. I'm hoping to be a part of a little "trail family" of people going at the same pace as me.

What if something happens and you get hurt? How will you communicate with your parents to let them know you're okay?

Though there is cell service in certain places on the trail, it's often unreliable. I purchased a Garmin Inreach Mini, a satellite messenger that will track my location and report it to my parents, send preset messages with ease, and can text if needed. It also has a panic button that will deploy search and rescue if me or someone in my group were to get into a life-threatening situation.

Are you going ultralight?

For the non-backpackers, this means that your pack base weight is less than 10 lbs (not counting food, consumables, and stuff you're wearing). And while I am going as lightweight as I can afford, I'm not an ultralighter yet. Ultralight backpacking gear is really expensive, often not as durable, and has more of a learning curve. We'll see how I feel about it after a couple hundred miles :) I've tried to keep my Big 3 items (tent, sleep system, and pack) lightweight without compromising on comfort, and I hope to save additional weight by leaving the little luxuries at home. Extra changes of clothes and books are for car camping, not thru hiking. I'm shooting for a base weight of 16 lbs or under since I will have to carry every pound of that 2600 miles... but ultimately, base weight isn't the determining factor of whether or not you'll make it. I may invest in more ultralight gear in the future, but I'm happy with my setup so far.

How can I keep up with you while you're out on the trail? Are you going to be blogging or posting on Instagram/Facebook?

I'm going to do my best to journal on my phone every day and post regular updates to the blog on this site when I have access to wifi in town. My first priority will be staying in touch with friends and family, but I'll also probably continue to post photos on my hiking Instagram (@hikersteph) and Facebook - which my mom and I will be managing. I really don't want to get too caught up in the craziness of social media while I'm on the trail, but I'm all for using this journey to inspire and encourage others.

Dang girl, this is awesome! Can I support your hike in some way?

First, thank you!
I really want to use this hike as an opportunity for good, since in many ways, thruhiking seems like a bit self-centered to me; it asks a lot of family, friends, and kind strangers. So to give back, I've decided to raise money for Compassion, an incredible organization that strives to release children from poverty in Jesus' name. I interned for Compassion in 2015, and I can personally vouch for the lives that have been changed through their child sponsorship program.
I'd be so honored if you'd support me with a few pennies per mile (it adds up!) here. Or choose to sponsor a child. Plus I have some sweet rewards if you donate.

Can I send you snail mail while you're on the trail?

Yep, but as a heads up, it’s kinda complicated. I’m working on a post that will include detailed instructions about how to do this. Thank you for wanting to send me snail mail, I appreciate that so much! Honestly, knowing people are praying for me/thinking of me on the trail is all I need! But if you want to send a morale booster, I won't say no ;)

Is there something I can do to show I love you and support you during this hike that is less complicated than sending you a thing?

Yes! You are the best for wanting to encourage me! Here are a few ideas:
My food budget is one area where I'm definitely trying to save some money (read: eating a LOT of Ramen, Knorr sides, and instant mashed potatoes), so if you'd like to be a trail angel from afar and send a little money for a nice meal in town to my personal Square Cash account, I would love you forever. Again, this is TOTALLY not expected - but it's a convenient way you could be a part of my hike without having to worry about timing with mail.
More importantly, if you're a praying person, please pray for me as I prepare, and definitely while I'm out there, that I would listen to the Lord and not lose heart. Pray for the people I'll meet along the trail. So many are searching for fulfillment in life that only a relationship with Jesus can bring. Also feel free to text me/comment on Instagram/Facebook. I might not respond for a while depending on cell service/wifi, but I am sure it will be so good to get encouragement from people who know and love me while I'm out there.

Wait, so what exactly are you doing?

Starting in April of 2019, I'm solo-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail - a 2,650 mile long trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada. It takes around 5-6 months for the average person to complete. If this sounds crazy to you, check out my post about why I'm hiking the PCT.

Can I meet up and hike with you along the trail?

While I would love to say yes, the reality is that meeting up and hiking is a logistical nightmare. Most people in the real world are on a schedule and have jobs, while my day to day will be hike, eat, sleep, repeat. My timetable is limited to how far I decide to walk each day - so planning/timing is really difficult. Also, I'll be hiking upwards of 20 miles a day once my body gets acclimated to constantly walking, and I need to get to Canada before the snow hits Washington in the fall. I don't want your body to fall apart trying to keep up when it's not used to hiking that far. Sorry ya'll. However - I am all for town meetups, especially if you're a friend on the west coast or can be flexible with when you fly out. I'm going through (or will be near) some rad places like Yosemite, Lassen, Lake Tahoe, Sisters, and Leavenworth. So message me for ETAs, and we can try to get together over a burger :)

Have questions about my thru-hike?  Curious about the logistics of such a thing? Questioning my sanity? Then read on! This should address some of the more common questions and reactions I've gotten to my upcoming adventure.