Here is what you can expect on a typical (but fictional) day on the Pacific Crest Trail.

First 180 miles

Flowering Cholla

You wake, with sore legs and painful blisters on your feet, to a 5am watch alarm to make sure you can get an early start to your long day. The air smells vaguely of smog, but the birds are chirping. You pack up your tent, which partially fell down in the night due to the rabbit burrows below you. You cook some oatmeal, slather some sunscreen onto your gritty skin, and head out on the trail within an hour and a half. The sun is already getting really hot! You wonder why you didn’t set your alarm for 4am. You hike about 2.5 miles per hour for several hours, watching your feet in the sandy soil and trying to avoid poodle dog brush. You notice a LOT of ants. You look down on the valley floor below you and at the snow-capped mountains way in the distance. It registers to you that they are both along your path. You are hiking the freaking PCT!! You run into several hikers, but no one lingers long to talk. You look at people, wonder who will make it to the end, and find out where they are from. They give you their names, but it’s hard to remember them all. You think about the world you left behind. You wonder about your email. You check your email. You stop to take a photo of the occasional blooming cactus or black lizard. You take a break under the shade of the largest bush you can find, but the sun is straight overhead. You aren’t really that hungry, but you scarf down some trail mix whose chocolate pieces have melted all over everything else in the bag. You change out your socks and apply new duct tape to your filthy, blistered toes. An ant goes up your shorts while you sit there. You drink the last of your water and look at your guidebook for reassurance (one more time) that there is more water soon. You decide to camp wherever that is. By 7pm, the sun starts being less intense. You wipe your salty forehead and decide to camp near the spring. You had hoped for more miles, but you are wiped out. Within minutes, you are joined by 6 other tents that all look the same. You all cook your pasta dinners together and are in bed by 8:30. It feels amazing to climb into your sleeping bag and you hope tonight will be warmer than last night. It still hasn’t sunk in that you are hiking the PCT…

Desert CampingHigh Above Desert Floor

Mile 1300-2000

You wake, with strong legs and feet, with the sun. The air smells vaguely of forest fire, but the frogs are croaking nearby. You haven’t had to pack up your tent in several weeks, as you just sleep out under the stars. You eat a bagel slathered with Nutella and you head out on the trail within a half hour. The sun seems bright orange! You wonder where the nearest fire is. You hike about 3 miles per hour for several hours, watching not to stub your toe on sharp lava rock. You notice a LOT of lakes. You look down on the valley floor below you and at the line of volcanoes to the north and the south in your path. It amazes you that each day you see a new one up close. You are rocking the freaking PCT!! You run into several hikers, and discuss the fire closures and re-routes. You look at people and wonder which couples will make it to the end still together. SoBos give you their names, but it’s hard to remember them all. You think about the breakfast buffet ahead. You wonder if they really do have fresh squeezed orange juice. You stop to take a photo of the occasional lava flow or steam vent. You take a break under the shade of the largest resort, but the food is so expensive. You are really hungry, so you scarf down a $13 cheeseburger. You change out your socks with some less filthy ones from a hiker box. An ant goes up your shorts while you sit there. You drink the last of your beer and look at your guidebook for reassurance that there is another resort soon. You decide to camp wherever that is. By 7pm, the sun disappears in a spectacular sunset. You wipe your salty forehead and decide to camp away from the road. You couldn’t have hoped for more miles; you have done 30 every day for the last 2 weeks. Within minutes, you are joined by 6 other hikers that now all look the same. You all cook your pasta dinners together and are in bed by 8:30. It feels amazing to climb into your sleeping bag and you hope tonight you might hear Bigfoot. It still hasn’t sunk in that you are more than halfway through the PCT…

Hug w/ HoodWikiup Plain

Mile 2300-2655

You wake, with sore knees and painful hips, to a 7am watch alarm. You notice that it isn’t as light out as it was at this time last week. The air smells vaguely of winter, but the birds are chirping and the creek nearby is babbling as it pours over the moss-covered granite. You pack up your tent, which has a hint of frost on it. You down a fruit pie, slathered with peanut butter, and head out on the trail within 20 minutes. The sun is taking its time to get up, and you slowly shed layers. You wonder why you didn’t set your alarm for 8am. You hike about 4 miles per hour for several hours, barely watching the trail, but effortlessly avoiding rocks, roots, and the occasional half-frozen mud. You notice a LOT of huckleberries and you have gotten good at picking them without even slowing down. You look down on the creeks far below you and at the snow-capped volcanoes to the south. It amazes you that you were there only a couple days ago. You are a hiking god!! You run into several hikers (the same hikers you have hiked with for the last 500 or more miles), who will be your friends for life. You look at these people and wonder where they will go when this is all over. You think about the world you are about to leave behind and you can’t even remember what the “real” world is like. You wonder about your mail drop and calculate that you have to average 23 miles a day to get it before the Post Office closes for the weekend. No problem. You stop to take a photo of the occasional black bear fattening up on berries. You take a break in the sun and dry out your tent. You are starving; you eat a king-sized Snickers and it takes all of your willpower not to finish everything else in your bag. You change out your wind shirt for your puffy jacket while you wait for your friends to catch up. An ant goes up your shorts while you sit there (damn, those things are everywhere). You drink the last of the water you got at the last source and, without looking at your guidebook for reassurance,you know there will be more water soon. If not, you know you can cover 10 miles in 2.5 hours and you are bound to find some. You camp wherever you run into your trail family. By 7pm, it starts cooling off. You had considered fewer miles, but you lost track of time. Within minutes, you are joined by 6 other tents that vary in style and wear. You all cook your pasta dinners together and are in bed by 8:30. It feels amazing to climb into your sleeping bag and you hope tonight will be warmer than last night. It still hasn’t sunk in that you are almost done hiking the PCT…

Glacier Peak WildernessWA PCT ValleyDiana Moss

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