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Jack and Barb
Begins: Apr 17, 2011
Date: Fri, Jan 7th, 2011
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This page is mainly for those planning to thru-hike or section hike the PCT. A behind the scenes look at the planning that goes into it. If you are a casual reader, you can hit “next” or if you are curious, then read on…
When hiking the PCT, one cannot carry five months of food with them at one time so food resupply points are a necessity. Some people choose towns with well-stocked markets and they peruse the aisles and grab whatever looks good and tasty (usually with little regard to nutrition or calorie count). If you are behind the pack, and only one small mini-mart is your resupply point, then you could find it stripped clean by the time you arrive and you might have to end out carrying.. Uggg, cans!.
We are taking a different approach, planning meals, purchasing food in advance and mailing boxes of food and essentials (like small amounts of toilet paper, batteries, vitamin pills, etc). By shopping at Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Smart and Final, we think this is a better option and less expensive overall.
So, the question: How many meals will we need? To solve that, we will first have to do some rough calculations. 1) Where are the resupply points and 2) How many days will it take to get from one to the next?
In the old days, this would be and extremely daunting task. You would have to pour over topo maps, look for nearest towns, check elevation profiles and calculate how quickly you could cover a section.
But, times have changed and thanks to Craig Giffen (see image above), you can do this with one handy internet app. It is called Craig’s PCT Planner and can be found here. Craig, if you are reading this, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
With the PCT planner, you can choose resupply locations from a list of reliable towns. Insert “zero” days at places you want to hang for a while. You can look at elevation profiles for each section and adjust your average miles per hour pace accordingly (example: climbing 3,000 feet in one day, add an extra 30 minutes per 1,000 feet). You can even insert how many hours you plan to hike each day for any particular section.
The PCT planner will spit out all the info you need. It will tell you to the nearest tenth of a day how long it will take to complete that segment (hence you can figure out number of meals) and it supplies info on the town and the distance of the detour you must take to reach the town from the trail. Once you enter a start date, it will give you an expected arrival date at each resupply point.
The data it supplies is only as good as the info you give it though. We used Yogi’s PCT handbook to look over the resupply points, we tried to keep our segments to 5 days or less, we factored in the distance a town was from the trail and how easy the hitching might be (go “ride bride”!), and we liberally sprinkled “zeros” throughout the hike.
So, our tentative plan is up. We feel it is a conservative estimate, but we doubt it will be our final plan - It will change if more snow continues to fall in the Sierras!! You can check it out by clicking on the “Plan” word at the bottom of the data box (above left).
Of the 47 possible resupply points, we chose 30. We set it up to start out slow, 16-18 miles per day for the first couple of weeks. By Big Bear, we hope to be up to a comfortable 20-21 mpd. From Agua Dulce, the altitude profiles start looking challenging and in the Sierras, the snow will slow us down so we knocked back the mileage there as well. Example, Lone Pine to VVR, we are hoping to cover 15 miles per day. It will take us nine days, one of the longest resupply segments on the trip. Plus factor in two pounds of food per person per day and we will be going in heavy! Yesterday we were discussing caching food or trying to convince some of our backpacking friends to carry in 10 lbs of food for us and meet us at Rae Lakes or somewhere along that segment. Tell you this, they better be very dependable friends! Scott, can you be on time for once?
After Sonora Pass, we can start cranking again and knock off mileage in the 20’s per day. Have a bunch of 25’s and 26’s. We expect we might actually do a 30 somewhere along this trip although it is not planned.
We inserted 23 Zero days to recover, recoup, and eat! Idyllwild, Lone Pine and Mammoth Lakes are great places to hang for a bit and we are looking forward to many of the other small towns as well.
So, with the planner, we can now determine what goes into each of the 30 boxes. We will factor in dinners in town when we arrive and big breakfasts on the way out in the mornings. These are fewer meals we will have to carry. We hear that some hikers try to hit the towns by 4pm so they can eat a big dinner, wait a couple of hours then eat another!
There it is. Check out our plan. April 25th to Sept. 23rd. Total days 151, Average miles per day, 21.0. Thirty resupply points, twenty three zero days. Our friends, Jim and Michelle will be shipping out the resupply boxes according to schedule (thanks JnM). Now we have to figure what goes into each one.
Jack And Barb Take On The PCT
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