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Cherry picking the best bits of a California thru hike

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Cherry picking the best bits of a California thru hike

Postby retiary » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:03 am

Hi, I am hoping to do a PCT NOBO section hike from Campo to Seiad Valley starting early May 2020. However the problem comes that i am going to take a sabbatical from work and can only really get 3 months off. Since the proposed section is 1662 miles and Craig's planner indicates that this would take 110 days without any zero's I am clearly going to have to adjust my ambitions.
My questions are two fold:

1. If I go ahead and apply for a California section thru hike when the PCTA site opens in a couple of weeks and, say I am successful in getting a permit, are there any restrictions on arrival dates at intermediate way points. My feeling is that since I am starting out late the dessert will be brutal and, possibly not as inspiring as the Sierras, so since this is supposed to be a vacation why not skip ahead after a month on the trail and rejoin the trail at Kennedy Meadows or close by and enjoy the full Sierras sections. It would be disappointing to get to Kennedy Meadows and be turned away for getting there too early. I know that there are new restrictions this year on flip-flop but does that include just a flip...
2. Has anyone got any suggestions on the bits to skip and the must do sections. I figured that the easiest way to skip a section is just to hitch into town, hire a car and rejoin somewhere further up where there is a rental outlet.

I realise that some flexibility is always required because of fire and weather closures so I am planning to adjust the itinerary as the hike evolves. Obviously this adds some complexity to resupply logistics but again i am naively assuming that I can probably get a reasonable resupply in most trail town and am planning on having a bounce box follow me in the more difficult sections.

I know that this is not a purist approach to the hike, but the constraints of family, visa and work mean that I have to be realistic about what I can do. If I love it i can always come back and fill in the gaps in 2021.

Any advice greatly appreciated. Many thanks
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Re: Cherry picking the best bits of a California thru hike

Postby markv » Sun Jan 03, 2021 1:42 pm

You never got a reply to this, and probably with the pandemic you didn't do your hike. I'm bored and miss the PCT, so i'll give you an answer! Maybe it'll still help.

1. There are no restrictions for arrival or intermediate way points. However, i think early May isn't necessarily that brutal. During higher snow years it's the perfect time to start, since snow holds late up high. I know the trend now, thanks to the permit system, is for hikers to start earlier and earlier, but in the free and easy no permit era, late April was average for starting, and early May wasn't far behind. You just need a good siesta strategy for when you're in the heat of the lower elevations, generally hiking from first light (or earlier) until 11, resting someplace shady until 5, and then hiking until dark. Plenty of time to get plenty of miles.

So i'd just figure out how many miles you want to do, pick your start location, and never skip. If your start of choice isn't Mexico then you won't be part of the Campo permit crush. Personally, and i'm a pretty slow thru-hiker (which makes me a high mileage normal hiker anyway), for a 3 month hike to Seiad i'd start somewhere in SoCal, but maybe not all the way south. Maybe start from Big Bear or Idyllwild, or if you can get there and are a strong hiker, Mile 150 Paradise Corner. Then you could go back any time of year to do the first 150 miles someday, since those miles are all low.

Having some SoCal to warm up and dial in your hike can be good. Starting at Kennedy Meadows with the heavy pack and harder trail is a rough way to start. And having continuity really helps mentally (and possibly socially, if you want that). People who skip seldom have that same positive experience, though of course there are exceptions.

2. All that said, the parts to skip, if you're skipping, are Warner Springs to Paradise (~m.110-150), and then maybe Wrightwood all the way to Kennedy Meadows. (Just trail north of Wrightwood is beautiful for ~30 miles, but then you're in some burned out zones with no easy egress.) Another section to skip is Section O, from Burney Falls up to Castle Crags/Dunsmuir/Mt.Shasta. The rest is really great. The best of the best is the High Sierra, the part just north of Echo Lake/Tahoe, and from Dunsmuir to Seaid.

Happy hiking, past or future!
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