Preparing for the Pacific Crest Trail

Sandy details some of our preparation for the Pacific Crest Trail trek.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile trek through California, Oregon and Washington. It should take us about 5 1/2 months to complete it. We have spent about that same amount of time preparing for this journey. Our preparation falls into three categories:


Resupply boxes ready to be sent

We expect to burn up to 4,000 calories a day while hiking, so nutrition is important to us. There are several schools of thought for getting food on the trail: people either buy it en route, send it to themselves or use a combination of the two. We chose to rely primarily on resupply boxes so that we could have control over what we eat and not spend precious time shopping. Darren did research into meals and snacks, and we decided to prepare our own dinners ahead of time, using a variety of dehydrated ingredients. We have eight rotating meals, including Pad Thai, Six Bean Chili, Pasta with Beef and Kathmandu Curry, comprised of lentils, beans, potatoes, carrots, rice and curry. In total, we packed about 150 dinners for our trek.

Kathmandu Curry waiting to be packed

We also stocked up on items such as peanut butter (a high calorie and fat food), crackers, bars, jerky, dried fruit, coffee and tea.

Items in resupply box for  Northern California
Items in resupply box for Northern California

We will be picking up resupply boxes at post offices, hotels, stores and from trail angels (folks who offer to help hikers) along the route. Our daughter Kristen and my parents will be sending the boxes ahead for us as we hike. The resupply interval will vary from three to eight days.


Working out on the elliptical machine and lifting weights

We made the decision to hike the PCT at the end of October, so have had only about five months to train. Since then, we have spent time at the gym on the elliptical machines and lifting weights. Eventually, we worked up to an hour with loaded backpacks on high levels of the elliptical, giving us a feeling of progress. A couple times a week we also did some local day hiking in the hills around our Palm Desert, California home.

The first 700 miles of the PCT is through the desert, and we took several backpacking training trips to get used to that environment. It also gave us the opportunity to try gear and make adjustments. Some items, like our sleeping bag, mattress pad and tent, are the same as what we used on our Trekking the Planet RTW journey, but others, like our backpack, stove and water filtration system, are new for this hike. Going on training hikes allowed us to learn what worked and what didn’t. Just a week ago we completed a two-day 28-mile trip in Joshua Tree National Park.

Another important aspect of the PCT trail is that many miles are spent in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and Cascades. We will almost certainly have to hike in snow. It is one area that we don’t have much experience, so we spent time watching instructional videos, reviewing the wealth of knowledge on the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) website and reading blogs of past PCT hikers. At the end of February we drove to Seattle to visit our daughter Lauren and took the opportunity to complete a day hike in Mt Rainier National Park, where there was plenty of snow to try out our microspikes and ice axes. An ice axe is an important tool when hiking in the steep mountains. If you slip, self arresting with the ice axe can slow your fall. Having the opportunity to practice in the snow was important to us.



Sandy and Darren at the Race Across USA halfway point in Texas
Sandy and Darren at the Race Across USA halfway point in Texas

Finally, there are the items that don’t fall into any category. These are mostly around the expectations of the trek. The PCT is a demanding, remote trail and many people don’t finish it. As some of you may know, Darren completed the Race Across USA last year, running 3,080 miles from California to Washington D.C. So he is familiar with the physical and mental pain in logging mileage day after day. I was there too, as the Race Director, and I saw first-hand what all the runners went through, dealing with blisters, injuries and fatigue. I am preparing myself for a similar experience on our journey and hope I am tough enough to persevere. Having Darren’s experience is invaluable, and I think will increase our chances of making it all the way to Canada in 5 1/2 month’s time.

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4 thoughts on “Preparing for the Pacific Crest Trail

  1. Abe Peters Reply

    Best wishes, Sandy and Darren in your final few days of preparation.

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