The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs 2,700 miles from the Mexican border through California, Oregon, and Washington State all the way up to Canada. Each year thousands of ambitions hikers set out to complete the entire length, which can take anywhere from 5 to 8 months. While Sarah and I were getting ready to drive across America, our friend Joey was planning to cross the country on the PCT.
“Its six straight months of hiking.” Joey said. “How the hell do you prepare for something like that?”
Joey stands next to our kitchen cooking a pan of sizzling bacon and eggs. He has gotten a little bit thinner since the last time I saw him and several weeks have passed since his last shave. The faded puffy jacket he’s wearing is pockmarked with burn holes and both his hiking shoes have been bandaged with silver strips of duct tape.
But these minor hardships don’t seem to bother him. Joey chats back and forth with Sarah and me, telling us about life on the trail and asking about friends and happenings back home.
“What’s been the toughest part?” I ask.
“I could hardly sleep during my first week. I’ve had a lot of aches or pain to deal with.” Joey said. “But I haven’t had any trouble with the feet. I’ve been lucky.”
Lucky indeed. Foot ailments can ruin a PCT hike. One of Joey’s hiking partners had just come down with a wicked case of blisters. The injury had forced them to take a couple days off in a backpacker camp and provided the opportunity for Sarah and me to drop in for a visit.
Another hiker dropped out after just a couple hundred miles when he couldn’t stop chafing between the legs. Unable to take it anymore, he had packed up his things and returned home to Arizona.
“Everybody out here is dealing with something,” Joey tells me. “You just make the best of it and help out where you can.”
He turns down the stove and empties a pan of bacon onto a plate for Sarah and me. Then he oils up the frying pan for what must be the 3rd or 4th round of our bacon, eggs and hash brown breakfast. It seems like a sickening amount of calories to be eating, but when you walk 20 miles per day it’s rarely a problem.
Joey looks down at the loaded frying pan and grins.
“I’ll probably end up handing out leftovers to the people around camp,” he says.
Around the campground a dozen or so hikers sleep in the grass, read, or hang out in small groups. Most are on their way north and still have 2000 miles to go before the finish line in Canada. Nobody who hikes the PCT is 100% prepared, but the bonds formed through common experience make it surprisingly manageable.
Joey picks up the leftovers in a frying pan and starts walking from tent to tent. Hot bacon on a cold morning is enough to make anyone smile, even after a night of sleeping in the dirt.