The very first step of hiking the PCT does not take place outside, but behind a computer. Seems only fitting for me. You need a permit from the Pacific Crest Trail Association if you are hiking for more than 500 miles. Getting that permit from the PCTA saves you from having to get a permit for every single National and State Forest you’ll pass through.
To protect the fragile ecosystem only a limited number of permits are issued. Today, 35 permits will be released for each day in March, April and May. Later in January, they will release another 15 permits for the same window.
Here is where it gets complicated. There is a time limit to this race. Everyone who hikes north needs to make it to Canada by October 1st. Once you get past October 1st, the weather in Washington becomes dangerous for hiking, even for an experienced winter camper like me. So, it would seem to make sense that a starting date like March 1st would give you the most time to complete it. However, you have to cross the Sierra Mountains. They might not be safe to cross until June 15th. Generally, it takes forty days to hike from Mexico to Kennedy Meadows, the traditional town where you swap your desert gear for your mountain gear. Therefore, most thru-hikers aim for April 20th.
I have decided that I want to start my hike on just one date — April 6th. It is the one year anniversary of my best friend, Dennis passing away. I will walk with a relaxed pace to start to avoid blisters and to build my hiking legs. If I get there early, I have friends in California I can visit.
So I sit in an empty house waiting for 12:30 Central Daylight Time, when every single person thinking about hiking north is going to sign up for one of those limited number of permits. It is going to be a mad rush! I’ve heard horrors about this process.
Yes. I am nervous.