Everyone went crazy for Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild when it was released in 2012, and we went even crazier when the film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon was released in 2014. It tells the true story of when Strayed hiked the entirety of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail in attempt to start over and find her true self. It has inspired countless other hikers to take the plunge and try to achieve spiritual growth while in the wild.
Buy a Proper Bag It may seem like a silly thing to say, but the bag you buy will define your entire trip. Go to a specialized camping shop and buy a bag based on your height and weight. Men and women will require different bags of different sizes and if you’re taller, you’ll be able to carry more than someone short. It’s also important to remember you will be carrying your bag on your back when you’re hiking, so weight is vital. Most specialist shops have weights you can put in your bag to test the load you can bear before you buy.
Plan Your Route in Advance While Cheryl Strayed did the whole thing, there’s no mandatory law that says that you have to do the whole Pacific Crest Trail. If you don’t have months, plan in advance what parts you want to do and make accommodation bookings ahead of time. Make a target distance for each day and stick to it so you don’t go off plan and create your route according to the areas you’re most interested in. You’ll see different things on different parts of the trail, so keep it varied so you don’t get bored.
Get Comfortable in Your Own Company Unless you bring a friend, you’re going to have to get comfortable being alone. While there are other hikers on the trail and you’re likely to make acquaintances as you go on your route, the path is likely to be a mostly solitary route. People who own guesthouses and motels on the route are used to travelers and are open and friendly, as are other hikers who like to band together and help each other out. However, the reason for undertaking a trip like this is often to gain some inner peace, so the time alone in your own head will likely do you a world of good.
Bring the Right Food First thing’s first: get rid of anything perishable. Go to your local camping supplies store and they’ll be able to provide you with dehydrated and unperishable food that won’t take up lots of room in your pack. If you’re bringing a stove, it won’t be big and it could break, so don’t bring anything that you can’t eat cold. Obviously, you’ll be able to pick up meals along your way, but there will be nights where it’ll just be you, your pack and your tent, and it’s better to be prepared for all eventualities.
Get Fit in Advance Be warned – this hike is not for your average couch potato! You will want to be hiking upwards of ten miles a day if you want to make any real progress on the trail and often, this can be on an incline. You’ll also be carrying your substantial pack with you. Make sure you are in fit and able condition to undertake the hike. There’s no shame in carrying a few extra pounds, but if you’re not exercising regularly before heading out on a wilderness hike, you’ll end up being rescued by mountain rangers.
Go for the Right Reasons Cheryl Strayed’s book and the subsequent film have inspired many people to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to center themselves and find inner peace, but many are attempting to hike it so they can copycat something they saw in a movie. Cheryl Strayed was attempting to find peace in the death of her mother, overcome drug addiction and escape a marriage that had crumbled. The hike helped her find a sense of inner peace and to overcome the demons that had begun to creep in on her life. Make sure that you know the reasons why you’re doing this and the outcomes you hope to get from it.
Get Used to the Climate Hiking is strenuous at the best of times, but it’s even harder in extreme weather. You will get literally all kinds of things thrown at you by the climate on the Pacific Crest Trail. Depending on the areas you hit and the time of year you visit, you can get scorching heat, snow drifts or torrential rain. Prepare in advance by bringing sturdy, waterproof shoes, a good raincoat and a thermal sleeping bag to protect you from the elements. It’s not worth freezing out there just to say you completed a hike!
Have Fun While taking all of this advice and being a practical and sensible hiker, it’s also important to remember the most important thing of all: have fun! This will be the trip of a lifetime. You’re likely to make new friends, do things that you never thought possible and see a whole new side of the US – nature as well as yourself. Hiking is tough, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see what you can do when you push yourself to be the best version of you possible. Be open to new experiences and drink it all in. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime quest!
Once you’ve figured things out, seen some incredible scenes and found yourself, don’t forget to tag yourself on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #BUCKiTDREAM. Hopefully, the Pacific Crest Trail helps you see you can do anything you put your mind to!