Oops! I did it again

You would think I learned my lesson.

After failing to complete the Tahoe Rim Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Arizona Trail, and the Tahoe Yosemite Trail, you would think I could come to terms with the fact that I am not a thru-hiker.

You would think.

But this year I have fallen ass-backwards into a plan to try another thru-hike.

This time I will go back to my first long-trail love, the PCT.

How did this happen?

Originally I was planning three big hikes this year.

First would be the New Mexico section of the Continental Divide Trail. I love hiking in March and April, and there aren’t a lot of options further north or higher up at that time unless I want to deal with avalanches. So the CDT was an obvious choice for a new hike to do in the Spring.

Second, my wife Half Cookie is planning to hike the Camino de Santiago with Guppy in May, June, and July this year, so I thought I would do a long section hike on the PCT in Northern California while she’s gone.

Finally, my buddy Goose and I have been talking for some time about doing the PCT in Washington in August this year.

Sounds like a good plan right?

But then I started thinking. (Which is never good.) On those two PCT hikes alone I would cover half the distance of the PCT….

Why not just keep going?

I could switch the CDT New Mexico hike to the PCT in Southern California.

And then when I am done with my Washington hike and say farewell to Goose, I could do Oregon in September.

So that’s the plan!

March: Mexico to LA
April/May: LA to the Sierra
May/June/July: Sierra to NorCal/Southern Oregon
August: Washington
September/October: Oregon and whatever is left of NorCal

My sabbatical does not start until mid-March and I have a couple of trips planned with family and friends, so my first few days on trail I will be back and forth to San Diego.

And I will want to be back to see Half Cookie off on her adventure in mid-May, and to meet up with her and friends for a trip to Mineral King in late July.

So there will be a lot of coming and going.

But the main idea is to do continuous footsteps northbound (NOBO) from Mexico until Northern California/southern Oregon, and then flip up north and do continuous footsteps southbound (SOBO) from Canada to the same place where I left off, filling in the remainder of this spectacular 2,650 miles of trail.


So what’s different this time? Didn’t I already say “I guess I’m not a thru-hiker?” What makes me think I can pull this off?

One thing that I think will be very helpful is that I have broken up the hike into sections where periodically I plan to reunite with friends and family. This may reduce the loneliness I felt on my last attempt.

Another thing that will be helpful is that during the hardest part of the hike (a snow-filled Sierra and a hot, bug-filled northern California) I will have no one to flee home to. Half Cookie will be away on her own adventure, so the allure of home will not be as strong. Maybe it will be easier to stay on trail after a bad day.

The timing may also be helpful. Washington is supposed to be best in August, after sketchy snow melts and before cold and rain fill the skies. And Oregon and NorCal are supposed to be best in September after the bugs and heat.

I should also note that this plan already lets go of the challenge of a single unbroken line of continuous footsteps. As wildfires have gotten bigger and more frequent, more and more sections of the PCT have been closed during hiking season, forcing many hikers to abandon this arbitrary goal for their hikes.

So instead, I would like to hike every mile of the 2,650 miles of the PCT that are open this year, continuous line or not. Since I am already planning to go NOBO for a while and then SOBO for a while, if I have to change up the order to stay safe or to make things a little easier, I am totally willing to do that!

Of course, the biggest threat to my hike is probably injury. I have struggled with patellofemoral pain syndrome on several hikes, and it is quite possible that I will need to rest for a few days here or there to recover. If it’s more than a few days then I might have to get off trail altogether and abandon my attempt to cover the whole trail this year.

We’ll see.

I recently told my friend Barrel Roll about my plan. He has completed all three major long distance trails in the US (a “triple-crown” of the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail) and many more. He knows all about my struggles to complete a thru-hike, and he was one of the first people to reach out to me and encourage me to keep going . And this is what he told me:

“I guess the PCT is your White Whale!”

Well, I am not Captain Ahab. (I think….)

But I am back! And I am happy to be trying again.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve says:

    Best wishes on your next adventure! I’m looking forward to the posts and pictures!

    The North Cascades are beautiful in August! Last summer, a hiking buddy and I did a 50 mile section of the PNT starting at Ross Lake in NCNP and heading east. After I got home, I blew up a picture we took at Whatcom pass. I look at it everyday and remember the smells of the trees and the never ending sound of rushing rivers (and try to forget the couple hundred of fallen tress that we went over, under, around, and through). Sadly, much of the valley to the east of that pass burned in the summer that wouldn’t end.

    But, the reason I wanted to comment is that I’m trying my first thru hike. I’m SOBO on the JMT July-August. Based on your schedule, it doesn’t look like we would cross paths. But, when you’re feeling tired, just remember–you could be that guy from Fargo with the mega pack huffing and puffing, plodding along. You got this! You’re going to do it! Best of luck on your PCT (2nd edition)! It’s gonna be awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Thanks Steve! And good luck on your hike too! You never know, maybe we’ll see each other. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. It all makes perfect sense. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Glide says:

    I’m very glad to hear this and I look forward to your updates! I may even try to catch you somewhere in N. Cal. for some trail magic. Happy Trails!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      That would be lovely! ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Arjan Haring says:

    You should come do the Camino de Santiago as well. Then we can meet up ๐Ÿ˜›

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Maybe Half Cookie will want to do it again! ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. saminland says:

    This makes no sense and also makes perfect sense ! Happy Adventures to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Here’s to sensical nonsense! ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Glide says:

    I also wanted to say I’m really looking forward to YOU hiking the section between Castle Crags and Etna. There’s a flowering plant up there I have not been able to identify but I’m confident that you will not fail to photograph it and tell us what it is. Thanks in advance!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. markbatz says:

    Starting on the 28th?
    Were you able to secure a permit?
    Your itinerary looks like it might put you in direct conflict with
    a lot of snow. Be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JimmyJam says:

      Thanks! I’m waiting on the weather. If I had to choose based on the current forecast, I would go March 2. We’ll see!


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