Every class of intrepid adventurers to hit the trail is unique for a myriad of reasons. Whether the journey takes them close to home or they travel halfway across the world to begin their trek, these hikers are bonded by one common goal: a walk from Mexico to Canada. But there’s more than one way to hike a trail, so we’re excited to share a wide variety of stories, perspectives, preparation strategies, and more from the PCT Class of 2023.
Choose from the six topics below to see what’s on these aspiring thru-hiker’s minds as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
@kristeenies - “One of the things that has helped my brother and I feel much more prepared for this high snow year is taking a course near Mammoth on ice axe and crampon skills.”
@lost_somewhere_found - “Preparation for this hike was similar to my AT thru hike. Lots of dehydrating meals, working endless overtime, and fine tuning gear selections.”
@theresa_walks_really_far - “I followed a personalized training program created by a physiotherapist in my town. I found it really helpful to follow a plan because it kept me accountable to my fitness goals.”
@kathrynbeehler - “I learned during my 2021 California PCT section hike that I much prefer to resupply on trail and not send packages, though I will be sending a few in the more remote sections of Oregon and Washington.”
@mypctjourney - “I do a resupply strategy where I buy all my food in the towns that we go through. We have to hitchhike to get into town most of the time and it has been a fun experience so far!”
@lost_somewhere_found - “Resupply for this one is a tad different since this is my first thru-hike since becoming vegan in 2021. So meal prep and town resupply / restaurants is a little more complicated but has been wonderful nonetheless and the west coast has been nice in terms of vegan alternatives.”
Bob Weston - “I resupply 95% by mail. I dislike shopping for the same old, same old at all the usual suspects in trail towns. Detracts from my more fun stuff like drinking beer with locals.”
@kathrynbeehler - “I want to be really intentional with my time on trail this time around and spend more nights camping alone and enjoying some solitude. I’m also considering the reality that water crossings might be a bit sketchy so I plan to do those with a group and always have my Garmin In-Reach Mini on my person.”
@kristeenies - “I have several pieces of gear that I’m bringing that are somewhat unique because of my Type 1 Diabetes. We’re carrying enough insulin and pump/sensor supplies to last me at least a month to give us flexibility. I’m also carrying backup options for both my insulin pump and continuous glucose sensor in case one of those pieces of tech decides to die in the backcountry.”
@mattilamar with @shainahroberts - “Plenty of communication. I’m not hiking this alone and would be too much for me to do alone, and so Shaina and I try our hardest to always look out for each other. This is our first thru, there is so much that is instinctive to one of us and not the other, so we try to remain open and flexible throughout!”
@jessicad1493 - “As an international hiker it is very challenging to send resupply boxes, so instead I’m focusing my energy on preparing to be flexible. I am making lists of different varieties of dinners I can put together using only grocery and convenience stores.“
@olennetteburg - “Hiking with kids requires a ton of advanced planning, mind-numbing logistics, then the adaptability to throw all that out the window at the last minute and roll with the punches. It’s constantly engaging little minds so they want to keep hiking. It’s taking care of five other people’s needs of food and shelter and health and comfort before even thinking about your own.
@django_hikes - “Within a month Norovirus was a thing on trail. Wash hands often!”
@theresa_walks_really_far - “For snow preparation: growing up in Alberta Canada I have seen some intense winters but I don’t have mountaineering experience. Knowing my personal limits is going to be key for the PCT.”
@lailarachel - “I spent hours researching, not sleeping, living, eating, and breathing gear. I made the mistake of getting on PCT Facebook groups and Reddit during this time. Those forums are wild and scary and honestly not worth the extra stress strangers on the internet make it out to be.”
@django_hikes - “We have a 20F sleeping bag and it is almost too cold. Take a second layer with you. This year challenges on a different level.”
@kathrynbeehler - Due to the high snow year, I am considering bringing micro spikes into Washington so those will be on standby with my package sender if it looks like I’ll need them.
@mattilamar with @shainahroberts - “In terms of shipping weather specific gear, we are hoping to flip up past the snow at various parts so that our novice selves can handle the trek without the expertise.”
@mypctjourney - “I am a total gear nerd, and I loved researching it! I OF COURSE love my Sawyer Squeeze and it is an absolute essential out here. My big three are Gossamer Gear The One (Tent), REI Magma 15 (Sleeping Bag), and ULA Circuit Bag (Pack). My favorite piece of gear that I have right now is my Thru Pack fanny pack - it’s been great to store my phone, earphones, and all the snacks!”
@jessicad1493 - “Thankfully as a Canadian I am comfortable with snow travel, so I am looking forward to helping out any hikers who are new to that skill. I’m also getting gear that better suits a slightly colder environment such as a sleeping bag liner and waterproof socks.”
@lost_somewhere_found - “I originally planned on hammocking as much of the trail as I could but given the historic snow year, I opted to tent. I am currently slumbering in a Six Moon Designs haven. Though I prefer to be a sky person... It has treated me well thus far.”
Bob Weston - “Big lesson I have learned is gear maintenance. Zippers and sliders wear out like an old quarter at the laundromat. Check often, especially 3-4 months before you go. Replace. Last year I replaced the zipper/sliders on my inner tent, puffy, and sleeping bag. This year I replaced guy lines, guy line sliders and replaced tent attachment loops.”
Shakedowns and Experience
@theresa_walks_really_far - “I live in Nova Scotia Canada right now so I did some weekend hiking and every time I did a workout I would wear my hiking gear. For example if it was raining I would wear my hiking raincoat and rain pants.”
@kathrynbeehler - “I had to get off trail during my 2021 thru-hike attempt due to a knee injury from overuse so I am training by hiking Colorado 14ers and smaller peaks near my home in Colorado.”
@lost_somewhere_found - “I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and honestly that was my first long term backpacking experience.”
@kristeenies - “I’m hoping that by doing this hike I can show other T1Ds that any crazy adventure is totally doable with diabetes. You have to carry a little more gear, be a little more intentional with your nutrition, and make several more decisions every day but you get to live the life that you want to live so it’s 100% worth it.”
@mypctjourney - “Trying to live a simple lifestyle. I love the simplicity of the backpacking life. Eat, walk, sleep, talk- it’s a wonderful and simple way to live. Lots of time to think and process.”
@olennetteburg - "At the end of the day, this is about building us up as a family. So if we ever get the sense we’re failing in that regard, we will bail and do something else. Also, there’s no way I’m arming my kids with spikes or axes and sending them out on snowy traverses. We will take a pass on those, for sure.”
@django_hikes - “Next to having a different experience with nature, I wanted to experience American trail culture and just be free for a year. I am a civil engineer in my other life.”
@kathrynbeehler - “The Oregon and Washington sections of the PCT feel like unfinished business for me. I enjoyed every single day I spent on trail in 2021 and felt confident, happy, fulfilled and leaving trail due to an injury was truly heartbreaking. I’m looking to wrap up this journey in my life and feel fully accomplished in completing the trail, even if it took me two seasons.”
@lost_somewhere_found - “For the AT I wanted to do something I personally was proud of... For the PCT I honestly just want to hike. To have that unmatched experience and feel all those emotions that come with it. To bond with strangers from all over the world, and share that experience with my fiancé.”
@lailarachel - “I know as soon as mountains come into my vision and my feet hit the dirt my soul will be at peace. That’s what hiking has always been for me. Hiking soothes and healths my soul faster than anything. And typically it’s cheaper than therapy.”
@theresa_walks_really_far - “As a solo female hiker who has been told multiple times that it’s too dangerous for women to travel solo, I want to prove people wrong. Women need to live in a world where it is safe for them to follow their dreams.”
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