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Carl "Z-man" Zimmerman
Begins: Apr 30, 2017
Date: Mon, Jun 26th, 2017
Trip Distance: 745.3
Entry Visits: 867
Journal Visits: 33,370
Guestbook Views: 210
Guestbook Entrys: 14
Post Trek Thoughts
I am disappointed that I wasn't able to finish my hike. But, I felt that I made the correct decision. My back acted up after Kennedy Meadows. It hadn't hurt since I got on the trail. I was surprised that I was able to do so well for so long after my Feb 7th back surgeryt. The snow levels and subsequent stream runoff were well also above my comfort level and competence. To put it another way, the conditions in the Sierras scared me.
How does the PCT (the portion that I hiked) compared to the AT?
In 2004, I hiked the JMT. This trail followed or paralleled the PCT from Tuolumne Meadows to Crabtree Meadows (jct with the trail to Mt. Whitney). In 2012, I hiked from Lake Tahoe (forget which trailhead I took) to Tuolumne Meadows (185m or so). This year, I hiked from Campo (mile 0) to Trail Pass, 745m (exiting Horseshoe Meadows Campground). I have no experience on the rest of the PCT in northern CA, OR, or WA. So, this is the reference material I have for the PCT. On the AT, I hiked the entire trail in 2013.
Daily Distance: On the PCT, you tended to hike longer distances when compared to the AT. A lot had to do with the grade of the trail (see below). It also often had to do with the distances between water (see below). To avoid dry camping, you often had to hike some long days.
Grade: The PCT is graded for pack animals. As a result, it has a gentler grade than the AT. All things being equal, the PCT trail is easier to hike and you tended to do longer daily distances.
Trail markings: The AT is very well marked. Much better than the PCT. The PCT wasn't badly marked from what I could see. With the AT, you could effectively hike it without the use of any map or phone app. The PCT requires a map or some sort of GPS-enabled phone app (Guthooks) to follow it.
Resupplying: The distances between resupplies is greater on the PCT when compared to the AT. Some of the resupply towns on the PCT were much further from the trail than the AT. But, I saw no instance where these distances (trail miles or miles from the trail) prevented adequate resupplying along the way.
Water and heat: The Southern California section of the trail was very arid. Fortunately, the winter and spring had unusually heavy rain and snowfall. As a result, there was much more water along this section than normal. Even so, you often had long stretches of trail between perenial water sources. Your bible was the PCTA Water Report. This updated report listed all water along the water-challenged sections of the trail. You always printed out a new, updated copy of this report whenever you left a town. Often, you were forced to carry heavy loads of water to make it from one perennial water source to another. There were often water caches on the trail. But, you were leery to completely rely upon them. If you needed water at the water cache and there was none, you were in trouble. On the AT, water was rarely an issue. Many AT hikers hiked with a liter of water most of the time. Numerous streams and water sources were along the trail. Heat? It got hot on the PCT. It was a dry heat. Sometimes, the heat necessitated real early morning or late night hiking. Combined with the lack of water on the PCT, this was sometimes a challenge. On the AT, the heat was not quite as hot but much more humid. It was often accompanied with a mosquito problem.
Hiker infrastructure: The AT is much older and more established than the PCT. There are towns that have been catering to hikers since the 40's along the AT. Lots of town hostels and other businesses that want the hiker's business & money. The AT also has a long tradition of 'Hiker Magic' along the trail. Hikers would reach a road and there would be someone giving out food, drinks, etc to hikers. Often, you'd experience some sort of hiker magic multiple times a day. Particularly in the southern part of the AT. The further you went north, the less Hiker Magic you encountered. On the PCT, Hiker Magic was less prevalent. When you did get it, you REALLY appreciated it.
Hiker behavior: On the AT, there was a lot of drinking and smoking of marijuana in the backcountry. In towns, there was a lot of drinking but I saw less marijuana smoking. Particularly in the early going. The drinking and smoking seemed to lessen the further I went north. On the PCT, I saw less drinking but much more marijuana smoking. CA had legalized marijuana smoking. I think the effective date of the new law was 1/1/18. But, no one seemed concerned about that enforcement date as people openly smoked marijuana at their camps as well as in towns. Personally, I find smoke - marijuana or cigarette - very offensive. I got really tired of smelling all the marijuana smoke.
Bad weather and dangerous trail conditions: On the AT, it was quite possible to experience snow and icy conditions on NoBo hikes. Sometimes, these were quite significant in the early goings. A lot depended on the particular year. Often, traction devices such as MicroSpikes came in handy for the AT. The AT trail was often very rocky as well as wet. Sometimes, the footing was slick as glass as well as slick. On the PCT, there was often snow conditions in the mountains of southern CA. A lot depended on when you hit these locations. If you hit them early, you need full traction devices (MicroSpikes or crampons) and possibly an ice axe. With this year's record-setting snow pack, the snowpack in the Sierras was quite significant. It was often so deep that the CA officials were unable to measure the snow's depth. When it warmed up, it made the stream crossings very dangerous. Extremely dangerous. As a result, most hikers in the Sierras bunched up in groups for safety.
Almost There... Just Around The Corner!
I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm thirsty... Are we there yet?
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