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What is the PCT?

 

Now that you know a little bit about our back-story regarding the trail (if you haven’t read it, here’s our Decision post) I’ll try to describe the PCT.

 

PCT Map

The map hanging on our living room wall.

The Pacific Crest Trail is approximately 2,650 miles long and connects the California/Mexico border to Canada following the Sierra Mountains in California and the Cascade Range through Oregon and Washington.

Hence the “crest” in the name.

The elevation of the trail ranges from around sea level to over 13,000 feet as you can see from the elevation chart I snagged from Postholer.com.

Source: http://www.postholer.com/databook/elev.php

Source: http://www.postholer.com/databook/elev.php

The distance of the trail changes depending on trail conditions from year to year, and the accuracy of the “ascent” and “descent” values shown above varies depending on the equipment used and who’s measuring, but I think it’s safe to say that it is a long walk with plenty of ups and downs.

The trail passes through a multitude of national parks, state parks, and Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas as it winds its way through the mountains, but the Pacific Crest Trail Association is the steward of the trail.

PCTA_square_1000

The PCTA’s mission is “to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.”

If you want to help them in their endeavor you can become a member for 35 bucks. Doooooo it.  You’ll get a sticker. 

As far as the history of the trail goes, the PCTA has a great page on their website outlining key milestones of the PCT as well as information on who was involved in the creation of the trail.

 

There are a million other ways to describe the PCT besides what it consists of physically. A journey, a life changing experience, a chance to disconnect from the rest of the world for a time and reconnect with yourself. I’m sure Rt and I will be able to describe it in our own words and give you all an earful soon!

If you have questions about the trail then send us a comment and we’ll answer them for you.

 

The Human Bean

The Human Bean is a drive-up coffee chain located all across the western United States. My experiences originate from the locations along the southern Oregon coast.

Without Human Bean leading the way, the small towns along Oregon’s southern coast would be nearly void of espresso offerings. Human Bean has invigorated the coffee spirit in these areas, providing a quick jolt of caffeine on the go without sacrificing the quality of the coffee bean or customer service experience.

The Human Bean

While there are cafes around Coos Bay and it’s neighboring towns, The Human Bean franchise locations were the first quality drive-thru espresso joints I encountered in the area. There were a couple of others around in the years before Human Bean came to town, but my experiences at those locations were always sub-par, even at the other local franchises, such as Dutch Bros.

I’ve visited Human Bean on dozens of occasions, each time leaving satisfied with my experience and drink. The free candy covered coffee bean they give with every drink is always a pleasant treat as well.

Customer service is a key reason why I keep returning to Human Bean locations. The staff is always smiling, consistently provide great small talk, and do what they can to make sure the customer is satisfied.

Not so long ago at the Bandon location I had ordered a drink, only to be told that the card reading machine was down. They were only able to take cash. I had nothing but a few loose coins scattered about my car. I looked at the woman’s face, and together we frowned. She hesitated for a moment, and then said “Don’t drive off just yet. I’ll get you your drink. Just pay it forward to someone else some other time.” She gave me my drink. I thanked her for being so kind. This is the type of service that brings customers back, and that experience alone has been enough to keep me loyal to Human Bean when I find one.

I’m glad my hometown has a great drive-thru coffee option. The big beverage bros haven’t made their way to these small towns yet. You won’t find any big coffee chains. Human Bean is a shining example of the quality of product and service that any business should provide, especially to small communities which are always the last to be introduced to modern marvels, such as a creamy, dense, luscious latte.

Brooks Cascadia 9 Mens

Across the sea of PCT forums and blogs, Brooks Cascadia trail-runners are the most noted and praised shoe by PCT thru-hikers. The shoes were available at my local REI. In the store they looked snazzy and felt comfortable, so I bought a trial pair. So far, so good.

20140507-153126.jpg

I bought them a size too big, as recommended by thru-hikers. At first it felt awkward, and I wasn’t so confident in my decision, but after several steep downhill hikes and runs I understood why getting my shoes too big was the correct choice. My laces keep my feet from sliding forward while going downhill, and my toes have yet to be crushed.

As of now I have only put about 60 miles into my Cascadias, but they have been strenuous miles through various terrains and weather. I had blisters on my feet from my running shoes, and they have since disappeared while hiking in my Cascadias. My feet have been very comfortable in these shoes, and the confidence in my footing has never been greater. I have no trouble with loose dirt and gravel. My steps are always secure.

The first time I wore my Cascadias I was surprised by how well ventilated they are. I can feel every gust of wind under the arches of my feet. That’s amazing! I haven’t had the opportunity to get my feet soaking wet in these shoes yet, but I’ve heard how fast they dry due to the open ventilation. My feet stay cool and dry in my Cascadias. I’ve been used to hot and sweaty feet on my hikes, but that is now a discomfort of the past.

Brooks Cascadias are trail-running shoes. They are not designed for thru-hiking a trail with a heavy pack. Brooks’ own site has this disclaimer:

The Cascadia is designed as a trail running shoe. While a lot of people love it as a fastpacking and thru-hiking shoe while carrying ultralight gear; the Cascadia is not pack-rated and may not hold up to the extra weight and demands of long pack hikes. We’re your go-to option for trail runs, but a sturdy hiking boot may be better suited for heavy packs.

But heavy hiking boots are not recommend for a thru-hiker, at least by most people. The weight and lack of ventilation are not ideal. Being waterproof and covering far up the calf are good qualities for fording rivers and traversing snow, but those features can be a detriment to the hiker in the sweltering desert, and useless on many of the forest trails along the PCT. Trail-runners are the highest recommended footwear for the trail, and I’m choosing to follow the crowd on this one.

At $110, the price was steep. That’s more than I’ve spent on any shoes, ever. The quality of the shoes live up to that price point, however. My feet have never been more cozy out on a trail.

I’ve still got some more tests to run by these shoes, but as long as the quality of their durability is as high as the rest of their traits, I think these are going to be the shoes for me.

I’ll have updates and a full review in the future. There are more miles to hike and mountains to climb!

PCT – The Decision

So we decided to take on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I can’t say for sure when the PCT showed up on my radar. I remember hearing someone talk about the PCT when I was in Oregon, or at least I’m assuming I’d heard of it prior to moving to Boston in 2011. Possibly a fellow student at OSU was contemplating the idea of spending five months in the wilderness.

I was in Boston working at Target when I saw a copy of the novel Wild and recognized the words Pacific Crest Trail on the cover. I had no knowledge of the trail and the mystery was enticing, but I was on the other side of the country preoccupied with making rent and exploring. Those three words buried themselves in a corner of my brain, resting cozily and waiting while I continued my adventure with Rt in Boston.

Eventually Rt and I packed our belongings, returned to the west coast in June 2012, and promptly began looking for employment. There must have been a moment between filling out applications and writing cover letters when I needed a break, or maybe I was procrastinating. Whatever the reason I found myself googling the PCT. It just so happened that the top result was a solo female hiker named Wired who had blogged every single day of her 2011 PCT thru-hike. I clicked on that link and was immediately hooked. I sat on the couch in our apartment on for hours, ignoring my rumbling belly and the incessant call of my bladder until someone came home and commandeered the living room for television. After three days of devouring Wired’s words and pictures, I finished her 170 posts describing her experience on the PCT. The mystery of the trail had diminished but I found that I had developed a hunger to hike the trail myself.


PCT Sticker

I started working as a biological monitor in later that month and then as a consulting engineer in September which required travel during the week. The trail slipped back to its unobtrusive place in my mind as Christmas came and went (I had the PCT guidebook on my wishlist, but I didn’t receive it and I didn’t care too much) and I became a full time employee at my company in March 2013. Sometime near the end of 2013 I went back to Wired’s blog to discover she had hiked another long distance trail and blogged about it, so naturally I jumped back into the world of hiking. Rt noticed my interest in the trail (or more like listened to me talk about it nonstop) and he bought me Yogi’s PCT handbook that had been on my list.

There was no doubt in my mind now that I was going to hike the PCT. Rt was willing to join me since he loves to walk, and frankly I think he can’t pass up an adventure. I had the idea that the hike would happen someday; something as large an undertaking as a five month hike would require lots of planning and thinking-about but Rt argued that there is no time like the present and one year was plenty of time to plan, and he was absolutely right.

So here we are starting our blog together, doing gear research, playing the what-if game, and generally getting totally stoked about hiking the PCT.

Who Do You Look Up To?

Who do you look up to? Have those people changed since you were a child? Why did you look up to them to begin with?

I just finished watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. The episode was in Jerusalem, but it was in a Palestinian refugee camp where Bourdain discussed with a man about who the children look up to. Boudain balked at the idea that Palestinian children have politicians and war heroes to look up to. The idea of it was far away from where in America it’s all about movie and sport stars.

And it got me thinking about who I idolize. All of my life, and even to this day, it has been characters such as Indiana Jones and The Man With No Name. I’ve been awed and inspired by the actions of running backs and wide receivers. My parents have done a great job raising me, but the people I look up to are all fictional. They’re fake. The people I hope to be like have nothing to do with the person I want to become.

There are values maintained by action heroes and sports figures which resonate with people and deserve admiration, sure, but such characters fall well short of deserving the privilege to be honored and emulated as model for how one should live his or her life.

I’m only realizing now, at the age of 27, that my childhood heroes have fallen short of my expectations. I may have learned a few valuable lessons from them in my younger years, but now I need some real heroes to look up to. I need to find men and women who can teach me more than Indiana Jones can with his charm, good looks, and balls of steel. I need heroes who create characters like Indiana. I need everyday heroes who get up each morning and work to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. I need to look up to artists, inventors, authors, retirees, world travelers, and the like.

My idea of a hero is changing. Has yours?

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