Up until this point we have addressed every hikers’ (and person’s) worst fear: bears.
However, since bears do not pose a threat until somewhere around mile 700 of the Pacific Crest Trail (at least those we are aware of), I feel as though I must address the things most likely to kill you in the desert portion of the PCT.
First up: snakes.
Rattlesnakes to be specific. I have only been on the trail five days and I have already had multiple rattlesnake encounters (have yet to do battle with one). They love to hide in the spaces between rocks or beneath the low growing shrubbery lining the trail where they wait to lash out at the ankles of unsuspecting hikers. Quite terrifying.
My research tells me that should you happen to be bitten, you are dead if you fail to get yourself some anti-venom. Chances of survival on the PCT? Zero.
Another lethal creature lurking along the Pacific Crest Trail is the black widow.
On my second day out on the trail I found one waiting in ambush on my backpack, and following a failed photo-op, I sent the bastard to hell. They are the reason I sleep with my shoes in my tent (I have since stopped doing this), and they are the first thing I think of when reaching into any dark, unseen space of my backpack.
I have not conducted much research in regards to these creatures, but I doubt that your chances are any better than they would be with the rattler.
Lastly (note: I am omitting mountain lions because I have yet to see one (although I know they are watching me)), is the most deadly killer of all: dehydration.
Just two days before I began down the PCT, border patrol pulled two hikers off the trail after they ran out of water in temperatures of over 104˚F (40˚C). I have been viciously combating my body’s desire to expel all its water and shutdown, but it is quite difficult to maintain adequate levels of hydration in the desert (especially when you could potentially go 30 miles of more without encountering a water source).
Oh yes, and PCT Checkers.
Is this person also a desert murderer? Maybe. But I prefer to think of him as a well-intentioned trail angel offering rides and miscellaneous food items at Scissors Crossing (I was lucky enough to receive a warm Coors Light and an orange). I did not happen to need a ride, so after a brief conversation regarding the triple digit heat expected in the coming days we said our goodbyes and PCT Checkers left me to enjoy my ramen alone, under a bridge, fearing the tribe of desert murderers lurking in the darkness.
Perhaps the Sierra, Oregon, or the great state of Washington will offer less to fear (although lightning strikes and known bear populations do not provide much hope).