Last week, I had the opportunity and privilege of speaking on the PCT Days Panel about my thru-hike, along with three other P3 Hikers. Since I’m one of the ten P3 Hikers through the PCT Association this year, Osprey Packs extended the invitation to me to join the panel and I happily accepted. I even modified my own thru-hike a bit, just to ensure I’d make it the event on time.
PCT Days is a 3-day summer festival that celebrates and promotes outdoor recreation, with a focus on hiking, camping and backpacking. Attendees get to participate in activities, games, classes and presentations, win awesome gear at the raffle, watch a series of films and get great deals on the latest outdoor products from exhibiting sponsors at the Gear Expo.
This was my first time speaking publicly within the hiking community and it was awesome. In case you missed the panel or didn’t attend PCT Days, below are the questions they asked us, along with my answers.
First Question: What was your first foray in thru-hiking or backpacking?
Hiking the PCT this year has been my first thru-hike ever. Go big or go home!
My first backpacking trip was a two-night trip to Lake Ingalls with my best friend last year. My pack was super heavy because I had overpacked it with a lot of things I didn’t need.
When choosing our backpacking destination, we purposely decided to go further east, hoping to get away from the rain. It didn’t rain. Instead, it snowed on us. Since we weren’t expecting the snow, we spent the first night shivering in our tent. During that first trip, I learned a lot about what to bring, what not to bring and gear I needed to invest in.
Up until hiking the PCT this year, the longest hike I had done so far was the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, 25 miles each way, from North Rim to South Rim and back to North Rim. 50 miles in two days.
Second Question: What drew you into wanting to do the PCT or just thru-hiking in general?
A friend of mine told me about a continuous trail people could hike from Mexico to Canada. I was super intrigued and curious. A few months later, I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Then after doing my first Grand Canyon Rim To Rim hike in 2016, I officially decided to thru-hike the PCT. Hiking the Grand Canyon gave me the courage and inspiration to start planning and preparing for my thru-hike.
Third Question: What was your favorite section on the PCT?
Hands down, the High Sierra from Kearsarge Pass all the way through Yosemite. Hiking the 100+ miles from Kearsarge Pass up until Reds Meadow was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life because I had to hike this section all by myself. Everyone in my trail family had left the trail and went home from Lone Pine and Independence. I did my first hitch alone from Independence to the Onion Valley Trailhead. It would also be my first time camping by myself on trail, my biggest fear I had coming out here to hike the PCT.
On the flip side, hiking this section of the trail, I saw the most beautiful landscape I’ve ever seen in my life. Climbing up and over each pass everyday was like waking up on Christmas morning. I was excited to see what it looked like on the other side of each pass because the landscapes would change so drastically.
Fourth Question: What was the best meal you ate on the trail?
It’s hard to pick one meal so I have a top five:
1 – Lunch at Packer Lake Lodge, Mile 1207.3 – Outside of Pack Saddle Campground. I found this spot by reading the comments for the campground on the Guthooks app.
2 – Red House BBQ in Tehachapi. Easily the best BBQ I’ve had on trail.
3 – Chicken Alfredo Penne Pasta at Mono Hot Springs.
4 – Home cooked meal prepared for Grit and I by Punchline and Mooch in Mammoth at our campsite.
5 – Filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and broccolini at the Bar of America Restaurant in Truckee.
Fifth Question: What is your favorite piece of gear that you use?
My Osprey Aura 50 pack without the brain has been my favorite piece of gear I’ve used on my PCT thru-hike. I couldn’t have done my hike without it. My pack carries the weight comfortably, is well constructed, easy to pack, easy to organize and easy to adjust on the fly. The 50L size prevents me from overpacking and nothing has fallen apart on my pack yet. Not once have I ever had to worry about my pack at any point on the trail.
The main reason why I didn’t go for either one of Osprey’s lighter weight models is because of the missing hip pockets. They got rid of the hip pockets on the lighter models this year. I love my hip pockets. It’s where I keep my phone, wallet, headphones, GoPro and extra snacks to eat on the go.
My Osprey 3L Hydration Reservoir is another favorite piece of gear. I consider it an extension of my pack. Not only does it hold my water. It also keeps my food bag cool and prevents my chocolate from melting.
Sixth Question: Any piece of gear that you brought not thinking you’d use it but was a total life saver to have?
Bleeder’s homemade scoop. The scoop is simply an old plastic soda bottle he had cut the top off of and turned into a scoop to gather water. At first it was just a sentimental item I carried with me in the Sierra, but I’ve used it every single day of my hike. Now after having it for over 1,500 miles, it’s starting to fall apart. It will make it to Canada with me.
Trekking poles. As a day hiker, I’d never used poles and poo pooed on them a bit before I left to hike the PCT. After the strong suggestion from a previous PCT thru-hiker, I decided to bring them anyways. The poles have saved my face from sliding into a tree, kept me from sliding on rocks, falling off logs and kept me upright during multiple river and creek crossings. Now I can’t imagine hiking without them!
Guthook app. I didn’t really use it until my second month on trail. This app has literally saved my life in the High Sierra, helping me to stay on trail when I’dlose the trail, climbing up and down the gnarly passes covered in snow.
Seventh Question: What is needed to get more people into backpacking?
A few things: more education on traveling through the outdoors safely and responsibly, more positive LNT role models and previous thru-hikers being willing to share their experiences with curious people, both in-person and online. I’ve met many people, both on trail and on social media who’ve said the stories and experiences I’ve shared about hiking the PCT have helped inspire them to go hiking. That makes me feel pretty good, especially since my mission has always been to help encourage more people to get outside.
Eighth Question: What advice would you give to someone who is just getting into thru-hiking or thinking about doing the PCT?
My biggest piece of advice? Invest in good, multifunctional gear the first time. If you don’t, you’ll end up spending more money replacing it on trail. Also, start saving money now. Thru-hiking is expensive!
Thank you Osprey, PCT Days, PCT Association and Next Adventure for providing me with this incredible opportunity and taking all of the event photos posted here. I had a blast on the panel and at PCT Days this year!