I have mentioned, on several occasions, that my wife will be undertaking the ultimate travel adventure in March, 2023, when she attempts the hiking of The Pacific Crest Trail, 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. I have stated that this is a remarkable and magnificent journey she will be on, and I’ve mentioned how proud I am of her for committing to it.
What I haven’t mentioned, however, is how damned dangerous thru-hiking truly is, so I’m going to fill in that little gap in your knowledge right now.
Guessing the weather while hiking
Hiking a continual trail for five months is a crapshoot at best. The climates are so much different from the desert of Southern California to the Canadian border, and those climates change drastically within five months.
Leave in early March and you avoid the oppressive heat of the desert, but that strategy also puts you smack-dab in the middle of the Sierra region in May, and that means spring snowstorms and raging rivers to cross as the snow melts.
Leave in May and you risk sweltering in the desert, and you also risk running into fall snowstorms and torrential rainstorms in Washington State in September.
The weather is no joke. Hikers have suffered from heat stroke. Hikers have experienced hypothermia. Several have died, over the years, to weather-related difficulties, and more than one has walked off, or fallen off, cliffs during white-out conditions.
The scenery is spectacular, but it comes at a cost. Hikers pass over several mountain passes which tower over ten-thousand feet in elevation, and it is not unusual to suffer from altitude sickness.
Accidents are many
Two years ago, a young man, twenty-one years of age, fell from an icy slope, only 200 miles into the hike, and died. Four years ago a woman was killed when a tree fell on her during a windstorm. Only about half of those who begin this hike actually finish, and many of those who do not finish fail because of injuries. A sprained ankle will end a person’s hike, and a sprained ankle is a high-probability when hiking over unbroken or rough trails. We won’t even talk about broken bones or deep cuts, both of which are a distinct possibility.
Let’s not forget the wildlife while hiking
Rattlesnakes populate the first seven-hundred miles of The Trail, and they are not too keen on sharing shade in their desert. Cougars will attack and are constant companions for about half of the thru hike, as are black bears. Food should never be eaten near your tent, and food must be stored in bear cannisters, or hung over the limbs of tall trees, at least 100-feet from the sleeping area. Bears have a keen sense of smell, and it would not make for a restful night of sleep to have a black bear rummaging through camp in search of a meal.
And, yes, there are scorpions for extra fun.
Am I worried?
I know Bev is careful. I know she will take her time and not rush in dangerous situations. I know she will be in backpacking shape when she attempts this hike. And I know that she will turn away if faced with a life-threatening scenario.
It’s the unknown I’m worried about. As one hiker, many years ago, so wisely said, “how do you know what you don’t know?” Truth be told, one of the reasons I’m not going on this hike with my wife is that, at seventy-three years of age, I no longer trust my body to respond to certain situations, and if I can’t trust my body on a 2,650 mile hike, I shouldn’t even attempt it.
Bev is in better physical shape than I am, but still . . .
All you can do, as a thru-hiker, is be as prepared as possible, and hope for the best.