As fun (or stressful) as planning for your Pacific Crest Trail adventure may be, know that every minute you spend planning is simply an exercise in masturbation that results in nothing more than a lot of misplaced hours.
I too was once a bright-eyed pup, anxiously awaiting that fateful departure date from Campo (or Manning Park), and I understand the temptation to do whatever you can to dupe yourself into thinking you are already working towards your goal on the opposite side of the country.
However, I learned (as you will too) that all my time spent “planning” would have been better invested in something productive, like karaoke.
Sure, exceptions exist (non-believers, anal-retentives, or anyone preparing all their resupplies ahead of time (I hope you have an excellent reason for doing so)), but generally speaking, that time you spend “planning” will amount to little out on the trail.
So what are the things people try to plan? Generally, the two big ones are:
- Miles per day/days between resupplies
- Resupply locations/resupply boxes
Let's first examine “miles per day/days between resupplies”. Unless you have done a lot of backpacking (recently), predicting how your body will react to the PCT (and going a step further to predict what kind of miles you will be capable of doing on a daily basis) is unrealistic at best.
Sure, you may be able to come up with a vague idea of how long you may take to complete a particular stretch, but unless you're packing resupply boxes (which you're probably putting too much food into) for the next section, there is no point in even trying to figure out how long each leg of the trip will take you in the first place.
What's that? You are packing a resupply box? Well unless you're packing a resupply for somewhere in the first three hundred miles, then (personally) I would wait to send that next box from on the trail (i.e. buying food in town and sending your resupplies ahead from on-trail), but that's just me.
As for resupply/town/break stops? Does you today really know where you – dirty, hungry, smelly, sore, and beaten you – are going to want to stop for food and/or rest somewhere in Northern California three months from now?
No, you don't (and if you do, then you're a witch and should be burned).
Hiking through three straight days of freezing rain, a thousand miles or more into the trail, you aren't going to skip that next town because your “plan” calls for you to continue for another day to reach the next escape from the trail (or maybe you are – if you want to prove me wrong that badly, then you deserve it).
Attempting to plan how far you are going to walk, every day, for upwards of 150+ days, cannot possibly seem like a rational thing to, and if it does, then you just might be crazy enough to hike the PCT.
I know that despite being forewarned of the realities surrounding your plans (they will fall apart falling apart day one), you will continue to plan your hike as though your very existence depends on it (because actually, it might – but probably not).
Just relax before the trail. Focus on the tangible, like physical preparation and getting your gear together.
You can thank me later.
For more on “planning” a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike, check out my “PCT Planning” posts.