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Begins: Jun 27, 2012
Date: Tue, Jun 19th, 2012
Start: Rochester NY
End: Rochester NY
Daily Distance: 0
Entry Visits: 1,358
Journal Visits: 43,354
Guestbook Views: 1,904
Guestbook Entrys: 33
So, why the PNT? I don’t have a long winded philosophical answer. I love thru-hiking, it seems like a cool trail, it fits right into the 2.5 months I have between other trips and has just enough information to make it hikable but not enough to make it anything close to easy. Probably the biggest downside is that I’ll be one of the only thru-hikers actually on the trail. There are a few others (like less than 10 I would guess) surely out there this year but it will be lucky to bump into anyone so it could get a bit lonely. I did 40 days on the Arizona Trail without seeing another hiker with a backpack (except for a lost 10 year old boyscout I “rescued”!) but this trail is about twice that time. However, I did just spend 5 months on a trail with Annie and my next trip is also with a partner so being on my own for 2.5 months shouldn’t be a big deal and I’m sure to see lots of locals, hunters, etc.
The PNT was created out of thin air by Ron Strickland about 30 years ago and was just recently added as a National Scenic Trail. When I say “created” it means that Ron pieced together maps and a guidebook of existing trails, old roads and connecting bushwhacks from Glacier National Park west across Montana, the Idaho Panhandle and all of Washington through Olympic National Park to the Ocean. In those 30 years I doubt much trail was actually built for the PNT but by identifying a route it begins the process.
Planning for this trail has been the most difficult of any hike I have done. It’s not like planning an unchartered route or anything but it has taken up a lot of my time. Looking back I can’t think of a previous trail I hiked where planning was really a big deal. I did the CDT before Yogi’s town guide so I had to do my own little resupply research but that wasn’t a big deal and Ley’s maps were already available. The Te Araroa Trail I just hiked needed a lot of resupply research but Annie did most of the legwork on that. The Te Araroa mapset was pretty good and I did spend some time on a few alternates and river issues but it wasn’t too hard. The PNT has was surpassed any of these planning’s.
The main issues are twofold. One, the guidebook is approximately 12 years old and hopelessly out of date, yet still the best (and only) guidebook available. Second, the trail was named a National Scenic Trail in 2009 and until the trail corridor is finalized the PNTA won’t update the guidebook and isn’t really releasing a lot of good guidebook or trail condition type information. There surprisingly is a fair amount of information “out there” from other hikers but it needs to be wrangled, modified, condensed and presented in such a way that I would actually use it while hiking say through an alder choked trail while it is pouring rain on me. This is time consuming but has been fun it a way.
So here is what I have accumulated:
1) Maps: A few hiker friends fortunately let me know about Li Brannfors. Li has hiked many of the National Scenic Trails and made his own mapsets for the AZT and the PNT. It’s too bad I didn’t know about Li when I hiked the AZT because the maps from the old AZT guidebook were very poor and Li’s were awesome. However, having a good set of PNT is much more important and Li’s maps are amazing. He hiked the trail in 2007 I believe and actually walked the whole way with his GPS on in order to ground truth the trail so his maps are very accurate. His maps have the old guidebook route, the new official route (although what is actually the official route is fairly confusing these days), and a ton of alternates that he or other hikes have hiked and even some other possibilities. So I’ll have Li’s maps and his GPS trail line which should be very helpful.
Very recently the PNT actually produced its own set of maps which are pretty good but are nowhere near as good as Li’s, the main difference being the commentary Li provides on his maps as well as more alternates or suggestions. I looked at these but didn’t see anything on them that Li didn’t already have.
Bravo, a past hiker also produced a mapset for himself and is providing it to others. Since I already had Li’s I didn’t think I would be using these but I wanted to check them out and they are quite good as well. I won’t be using the actual maps but Bravo had 700 waypoints with “notes” at the waypoint which should be helpful so I imported the waypoints into my GPS and printed the notes to carry along.
2) Guidebook: I’m definitely carrying Ron’s 12 year old guidebook. It’s an oldy but a goody and will be nice once updated in the future. I actually have a partially updated but also outdated version. A few years ago the PNTA was updating the guidebook electronically so I have an updated version for about ½ the guidebook from a few years ago except that even that half has changed since then but it’s still better than the original ½ and the second ½ is still from 12 years ago. Confused yet?
3) Data Book: The PNTA has produced a bare bones electronic data book which should be handy although it doesn’t always jive with what they say the official route is. Seeing a consistent theme?
4) Hiker notes: This is the first trail I’ve hiked where past hikers seem to have made a concerted effort to help future hikers. Combing through the sparsely used PNT forum and hiker journals I found lots of trip reports and tidbits of good information. When I read something helpful I copied it into a word document which ended up being like 40 pages of random information. I then tried to identify what map and guidebook section it related to and sorted the information, weeded out repetitive stuff and labeled it. This was a pain in the ass but like I mentioned before if the information isn’t in an useful format then it’s worthless. Too much information or random information is worse than no information at all. It just confuses me while hiking. So I now have 30 pages of really good information from past hikers about all the really, really bad sections and lots of good tips.
5) Resupply: There was a fair bit of good information from hikers on resupply, most notably from Suge. I created my own little resupply sheet which had plenty of good information but then Melanie produced a town guide for the PNT which is kind of like a slimmed down Yogi’s book. I was a little skeptical as she hasn’t actually hiked the whole PNT but she did scout the resupply spots I believe so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a nice little book that has lots of good information. It didn’t have any stops I didn’t already know about but it has a lot more current information on lodging, camping in towns, restaurants, libraries, etc. which I enjoy. If you only care about whether a town has a store or not and some other information then there is plenty of free stuff on the internet from other hikers but Melanie’s book looks good and I like to know what’s in the towns as that is a lot of fun on a long trail.
6) Delorme Maps: I’ve got the Delorme maps which the trail vaguely traced along it. Mostly for a highlevel overview in case I have to bail.
GPS: I’ve got the 100K Garmin topo’s loaded and Li’s GPS file. This will be my best friend for much of the trip.
So that’s it. It’s a lot of stuff it seems but when I boil it down on a daily basis it’s really just guidebook pages, map pages, maybe some hiker notes about a particular section and my GPS. I feel like I’ve done the best I could to be prepared without overdoing it. I haven’t really focused on the minute detail. Just trying to gather the information so I have it when I need it on the trail.
Pacific Northwest Trail
The 1200 mile Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail runs from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park west to the Pacific Ocean at Olympic National Park.
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