War chest filled. VISA approved. Gear dialed in, Tickets booked. Wrapping up work. The juggle was real, but I’m finally there! Let’s get this (voluntary) homelessness started!
Just 2 weeks ago I was cruising through the Sierra Nevada (the Spanish one) with a friend that came over for the week and we were about to explore its highest peak. But the van decided to throw a challenge of which the signs include, but are not limited to, a ticking engine and smoke coming from the oil dipstick. Long story short, we spent the weekend stranded in a mountain-town, drinking in the bar with locals didn’t speak a word of English. But Google Translate and the alcohol made up for the lack of understanding from both sides ;). My insurance decided to bring the van home for me and get me a flight home, so a week earlier than planned I got back in The Netherlands which did feel a bit like a rude awakening…
So the plan…
Last Thursday I had my in-person VISA interview at the American Consulate in Amsterdam, which is mandatory if you want a VISA. And the visa I will need because I’m staying longer than 3 months. 5 to 6 to be precise. My passport will get mailed back to me soon.
Next Friday will be my last work-day, so after that I have 2 weeks to chill out a bit, say goodbyes and mentally prepare for the brutal first weeks of hiking, as that will be the time to adapt my body to the daily habit of eat, sleep, hike, repeat.
I’ll be visiting my best friend and his new family who lives in Finland, who I wouldn’t see for over a year otherwise.
Fly to Los Angeles and either stay there for one night, or directly go to San Diego where I’m staying to acclimate until my official start-date. There I have booked a hostel riiiight at the beach, no complaints there ;). And then on…
I’ll be at the Southern Terminus (Monument) of the Pacific Crest Trail, which is located in Campo, right next to the Mexican border. I heard you can even stick your hand through the wall, not sure if that body-part will get arrested or chopped off though…
Somewhere in September or early October
I will be arriving at the Canadian border in Washington (state) hugging the Norther Terminus (Monument) all exhausted, sad and happy after which I take one last 3 day victory-lap back to the nearest signs of civilization. Disclaimer: This is the theory.
- Are you going alone? Yes, and no. Yes I’m not traveling there with somebody I already know. That being said. The Pacific Crest Trail Association gives out permits to hike this trail. And it allows 50 people to start hiking on any day between March 1st and May 31st. Meaning I will be starting that day with roughly 49 other idiots 🙂
- How far will you walk each day? That depends on the section, I’ll start relatively slow, with (I intend to) hiking 15-20km per day and slowly increasing as my body adapts. The slowest hiking will likely be in the Sierra Nevada (after 700km) as there will still be a lot of snow to hike through/over. The average person finishes in 150 days. So that’s 28km/day on average, so that includes days where there are no miles hiked (so-called zero’s).
- Is it dangerous? I’ll be the last to say it’s easy and there are no risks. There certainly are risks. The biggest ones are hypothermia (getting too cold), heatstroke/dehydration, water (river crossings) and falling. I’m aware that that can happen to me as well and I do my best to prevent it by reading about the dangers and how to mitigate them, traveling together with others when that is safer (snow traversing and river crossings for example).
- What about the bears? Yes, there are black bears in the Sierra Nevada. There are techniques to reduce the change of one visiting camp in search of food at night, like a bear-can. That’s a big, way to expensive plastic bottle that seals the smell of food. And besides that, black bears are generally scared of humans and will run away as soon as they see you. Bear attacks are quite rare.
- How do you keep in touch with the outside world? There will be stretches of several days (5+) where I won’t have cell-service. To stay in touch, or in case of emergency, I have a Garmin Inreach Satellite communicator (with GPS). I can send text messages via satellite, or press the SOS button if I happen to get into a life-threatening situation somehow. I’ll also be automatically sending my location over satellite every 20-30 minutes. And for the fun things I created a WhatsApp community where I’ll share photos/videos and whatever else I can come up with.
- Where do you sleep? At any campsite along the trail in my tent, in nature. Sometimes when passing a town i’ll be staying in hotels to wash/clean.
- Do you work while you’re away? No, I will hike every day, all day. There is no time left to do civilized things. I saved up money and sleeping in my tent mostly so costs are low.
Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow, ….
Nature likes to throw a challenge as well, since a big chunk of the hike will be covered in snow. Usually, once a Pacific Crest Trail hiker arrives in the Sierra Nevada (the American one) in early to mid June, most of the snow has already melted. In my case, most of it will still be there as Western USA is experiencing record snow-fall. Even more than the highest year in the 80’s, that’s 40(!!!) years ago. But let’s not get intimidated by this yet, it’s more than 700km before I even get there, so there’s no use in worrying too much about it yet.