Thru-hiking, or through-hiking,
is the act of hiking an established end-to-end trail or long-distance trail with continuous footsteps.
On the 14th of April 2014 I flew out to San Diego to begin my first long distance hike. I was about to start hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
At the age of 52 with nil hiking experience and with two dodgy knees I had decided to hike one of Americas gruelling long-distance foot paths
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,663 mi (4,286 km) long and ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon–Washington border to 13,153 feet (4,009 m) at Forester Pass in the Sierra Nevada. The route passes through 25 national forests and 7 national parks.
I would be hiking and living on the trail carrying all my supplies in my backpack.
Coming off the trail every 5 to six days to resupply before re-joining.
I had estimated that this hike would take me approx. five to six months to complete.
I started on the Mexican border , slogged through the desert in intense heat and little water, Then I headed towards the Sierras, The Sierras are a chain of mountain ranges that consists of an almost continuous sequence of such ranges that form the western “backbone.
The Sierra runs 400 miles (640 km) north-to-south, and is approximately 70 miles (110 km) across east-to-west.
Here I encounter all types of snow and conditions, ranging rivers, post-holing , ice, Many times I had the crap scared out of me and was relieved to be over this range before heading into Oregon then on to Washington and finally the Canadian border
One day I was getting a newspaper when a book on the shelf caught my eye
It was Called “the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”
Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.
It was such an uplifting story and even though fiction I felt I would like to do something similar, but I did not have a goal or purpose to do such a feat
Several month later I found out that an old college friend was currently hiking the Camino de Santiago . A 500-mile walk from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago I was impressed and again I thought this is something that I would really like to do , but didn’t have the funds or motivation
Whilst at work one day I managed to snap my wrist opening a door.
After being plastered up I spent several days sat at home watching day time telly, and was beginning to go stir crazy.
To escape I caught the bus to my mums, for a change of scenery. Whilst there I flicked through a Sunday magazine and was fascinated by an article in the Sunday Mail’s “You magazine” about a lady called Cheryl Strayed.
Wow! What a story, “Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found”, Which is her story of her three-month, 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), from the Mojave Desert in Nevada, through California and Oregon to Washington State.
At just 26 and a first-time hiker, she walked the arduous trail largely alone, blistered and bruised, hungry, dirty and exhausted, wearing the same set of clothes for weeks, and frugally eking out a few dollars for food. It’s also the incredibly honest and deeply moving account of how, at 22, she suddenly lost her mother to cancer, then lost herself in grief – destroying her own early marriage and dabbling in drugs – before finally piecing herself back together in the wilderness of Western US.
I needed to read the whole story and as soon as I got home I was straight on to Amazon and ordered the book. I was so excited when it plopped through my letter box I quickly raced through Cheryl’s memoirs, I was hooked
This book has since been made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon
I think it’s a great story with the PCT’s amazing and breath-taking backdrop.
Thank you Cheryl Strayed
It was this book that inspired me to do my first Thruhike
I completed my FIRST thru hike in September 2014
I have to say, like Cheryl in her book I started green and with far too much stuff and therefore an overweight pack.
For the first few days my language was blue, with sentences like!
“OMG what have I done”
“ I quit my job flew 5,200 miles and I just can’t do it”
Expletives expletives expletives !!!!
But I didn’t give up, although it was an extremely steep learning curve.
I ended up throwing gear away that had cost me a lot of money as it was the wrong type of gear to carry on the PCT.
Several shakedowns later and the loss of ££££ and Pounds (weight)
I was a lot happier and began to enjoy it . I was beginning to know what I was doing.
I have now completed 3Thruhikes and I am hooked. So I highly recommend that if you ever get the change even if it’s only a week’s try it
The thing about thru hikes is that most of the other hikers that you meet will have the same goal as you and that’s to get to Canada and so they are encouraging, helpful, inspiring and many other great words
Although it’s fair to say that whilst hiking you can meet a few wankers, (But thankfully very FEW)
During my first thru hike you meet other hikers who talk about other long trails in the USA the Appalachian trail and Continental Divide trail.
A lot of hikers try to complete all three of these amazing trails giving themselves blagging rights to say that they are a :-
Triple Crowner .
Once the Pacific Crest trail was completed, I began researching the Appalachian trail, but it would take me several years to save the money to allow me to go.
In April 2018 I flew out to Atlanta to start my hike of the Appalachian ,completing the trail in September 2018
Once again , once over I began to research my “final” trail the CDT.
I was ready to Go in 2020, but then Covid hit and in 2021 The US president banned us smelly Foreign Hikers lol
In April 2020 I flew out to Tucson, Arizona to start my hike of the Continental Divide Trail ,completing the trail on September 20th
I have to say I thought that the Appalachian trail was a lot tougher than the PCT, if you see a mountain or hill then your going over it and in several places there was hand over hand climbing which came as a bit of a shock!
I would say that I found the AT more sociable as hikers tended to gather at and around the many huts, whereas the PCT, you just looked for a flat spot !
but the CDT wow the strap line is “Embrace the Brutality” and hell I did and even thou it was tough and brutal this is now my favourite trail
All the trails are completely different, I thought the PCT was possibly easier to hike due to it the elevation of the trail
My Video Blogs can be found here
Snailtrainers Appalachian Hike 2018
So, what is next ?
Hiking Q and A’s
Do you have to be fit, young or strong to do a thru-hike?
I am not, but you do have to really, really want it.
How much does it cost to thru hike
I have seen various figures mentioned? My hiking budget for the PCT was £3000. (2014)
This does not include my kit, airfares etc. Just food and accommodation and a little for exchange kit (repairs)
The rule of thumb seems to be allow a £1000 a month, although some spend far less others far more .
when I hiked in 2014 the £ went a long way not so much in 2018 where I spent closer to £6000.
and aging after hiking the CDT my budget was double and I spent a great deal more
What is your Resupply Strategy?
As I am a BRIT my resupply strategy is quite basic I brought as I went, but from some towns I brought food and send it ahead knowing that there could be a poor selection at that location **
What is the most important advice you would give to next year’s thru-hikers?
Get your base weight down, I carried far too much
(base weight is everything that you carry except food, water or fuel).
I typically hiked on my own, it was my own personnel challenge , but if you are going to buddy up then hike with people who make you laugh, and never, EVER complain.
Why Thru Hike ?
After reading Cheryl’s Street’s book, I decided I was going hike the PCT ,it was for my own personal challenge; I was going to walk it on my own, experiencing freedom, excitement and fear. Challenge and adventure are words that may begin to describe ‘why’ I decided to do hike.
For me, it is hard to understand ‘why’ you would not do something like this if you had the health, finances and freedom to do so. I did not have the finances, but I was going and hope to finish the trail before I run out of money.
An experienced PCT hiker named Billy Goat once said
“If you have to ask, then you’ll never understand.”