The Planning Proceeds
Monday, January 1, 2018 8:15 pm

The new year has arrived, and soon with it will be the Pacific Crest Trail. In just 79 days, I’ll be taking my first steps on my second major long-distance trail. Over the last few weeks, my pre-hike preparation has slowly proceeded.

New Gear

A week and a half ago, my new tent and sleeping bag arrived, and these two pieces of equipment make up the largest change to my gear in terms of weight.

The tent, a Zpacks Duplex, weighs just 21 oz (595g), compared to my previous tent’s 52 oz (3.25 lbs, 1475 g). This is nearly two pounds less, and also will be quicker to set up and tear down. Part of the weight reduction is that it uses my trekking poles as supports, rather than having its own poles, so it also will take up a lot less space in my pack.

My new sleeping bag, also from Zpacks, weighs about six ounces less than my old bag.

Together, they add up to a 2.5 pound weight savings, which will just balance out the bear canister I’ll have to carry in the Sierra.

I still have a list of minor gear replacements to attend to (among others, I need to replace most of my stuff sacks; except for my two compression sacks, all four of them have small holes). I’m also on the fence about replacing my pack — I could drop another two pounds of weight just on the pack itself. I think, though, that changing out two of my “big three” is enough for one hike.

Passport Renewal

Although the PCT officially ends at the US-Canada border, the trail continues roughly another nine miles to Manning Park, BC, the nearest road crossing. Since the alternative is hiking thirty miles south back along the trail to get to the nearest US road crossing, my plan is to continue into Canada, and get back home from there.

Getting into Canada along the PCT requires filling out a form and getting approval for entry via a non-standard point of entry, however, before I can even do that, I need to renew my passport, which expired earlier this year. Having a current passport is doubly important, since even if I managed to get into Canada without one, getting back into the US would be problematic.

So, last week I got updated passport photos taken, and sent in the form for renewing my passport. This is probably cutting it a bit close, since I can’t apply for the Canadian entry permit until my passport comes back, but, such is the way of things.

Planning

I’ve put together a rather unnecessarily detailed hike plan for the first half of the trail, which I fully expect to throw out entirely by the time I get to the Sierra. Mostly, this plan, in conjunction with resupply plans other hikers have put together, are helping me figure out where I’m likely to send mail drops to, especially early on the trail.

In particular, I’m looking forward to mailing out a significant quantity of snacks I picked up early in 2017 to use on day hikes (and the first leg of my Long Trail hike this summer) that I haven’t finished.

I also spent a rather stunning amount of time following the trail on Google Earth, and I can tell that the landscapes and views I’ll see are going to be nothing short of amazing. I’m really looking forward to this.

Snow

One of the biggest challenges for PCT hikers in 2017 was an incredibly snowy winter that resulted in roughly double the average snowpack in the Sierra. For 2018, the snow situation is looking better.

The most recent figures from the California Department of Water Resources have the current snowpack at 27% of average for a few days ago, and 9% of the April 1 average. While there’s still plenty of time for snow to fall, the forecasts for this winter seem to indicate California may be in for a bit of a drought.

While it’s be great to not have to deal with too much snow in the Sierra, a drought may lead to more fire hazards. Still, it’s too early to make any definitive plans based on the snowfall in California — winter only started a couple of weeks ago. While I don’t expect this winter would be as bad as last winter, it still is a bit of a relief to see the snowfall levels somewhat below normal.

Pacific Crest Trail, 2018