PCT Basics

Here are a few terms we have assimilated into our vocabulary over the past month. They may help you when reading further posts:

Thru-hiker: We are thru-hikers, hiking from Mexico to Canada. There are also section hikers and day hikers. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between these three based on smell, soiled clothing, and size of backpack. Day hikers smell like laundry detergent, and they may be carrying a small bottle of Aquafina in their hand. They look clean and refreshed, almost floating down the trail with their packless backs. Section hikers are on the trail anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. They have large packs, can be any variety of filthy like us, though their goal is always within sight and you can somehow sense that home is never very far away.

Nobo/Sobo: A northbound hiker is traveling nobo, while a southbound hiker is traveling sobo. We have seen very few sobos.

Zero/Nero: A zero is when you spend an entire day resting without covering a single mile. A nero is a day when you only do a few and then rest for the remainder of the day.

Hiker Box: Post offices, homes of trail angels, and hotels along the PCT each have a hiker box. This is a box which you can throw any unwanted gear or food into that you don’t want to carry. You can also rummage around these boxes and find a lot of great stuff to take out. These can be dangerous for those packrats out there because there is a lot of stuff in good condition in these, but chances are if you planned properly, there is really nothing more you NEED.

Water Cache: Bless the souls of trail angels who stock water for us along the way. Instead of carrying 5 litres (12 lbs) of water across the desert for a 20 mile hike, we anticipate there to be water at said water caches at various points in between. If the caches are stocked regularly, and the water report is up to date, we typically only carry 2 liters at a time. These are strategically placed along particularly dry parts of the trail. We rely on creeks and springs otherwise, though those are going dry quickly as summer approaches following a winter of little snow fall.

Water caches may also contain coolers of beer and soda, chairs to sit in, and are usually somewhere in the shade.

Trail Angels: Anyone who helps hikers along their journey. Trail Angels can be anyone from a friendly person who gives us a ride from the trail to town, someone who keeps water caches stocked, or even opens up their home to hundreds of hikers.

Trail Magic: Unexpected and often anonymous random acts of kindness toward hikers along the trail. I have mentioned in previous posts that we will suddenly find a cooler full of beer in the desert- this is absolutely trail magic.

The trail will provide: If you need something along the trail, chances are someone else may have it for you. There is an overwhelming sense of Karma and generosity on this trail.

HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike. There are hundreds of ways to hike the PCT, no two experiences are the same. We started the same day as a man named Ghan who was carrying an extremely large pack. It weighed 75 pounds. He had 14 days of food and stated that he did not want to stop to resupply that much. The majority of those hiking this trail think he is crazy, as our packs are less than half the weight and we stop every 5 days or so to get more food. Ghan is hiking the trail his own way, and I give him credit for it.

For those of you just tuning in, and for those of you who are not entirely sure what we are doing out here, I wanted to write this post and dispel any common assumptions:

We are NOT hiking on the pacific coast, it is the pacific crest trail, mostly on the Eastern side of California, Oregon and Washington. This is NOT an organized trip that we signed up for with a larger group. There happen to be hundreds of others doing the same thing we are, and we each planned our trip separately with the help of guidebooks and blogs from previous hikers. There is nobody in charge but us. We are NOT camping in campgrounds with picnic tables and fire pits. Most of the time we find any flat spot we can to pitch our tent on the side of the trail. It is now day 40 on the trail and we still have not had a campfire- although when you hike through miles upon miles of burned forests, it becomes very apparent how much damage fire can do.

6 thoughts on “PCT Basics

  1. Wow, I just love your blog. I am so proud of both of U and congratulations on your engagement!
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and the beautiful pictures of th ePCT. I pray for your safety and your determination to finish. Donna Thomas

  2. Jaime, it’s Charlotte, here in Utah. Congratulations on your engagement! What memories you are making! Stories to tell your grandchildren. I hope we can have a special “book club” after you return to “our world” so you can show us what this experience has made of you.

  3. Pingback: Hiker Jargon | Take a Long Hike

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