On the 1st July this year, I’m leaving the UK to head off for a massive adventure. It’s just over 3 months away and time seems to be passing very quickly. In this PCT Prep blog I share my realisation that I can’t do this alone – it takes a village.
Last month I decided to start a monthly Pacific Crest Trail Preparation blog, with hope that it will be of interest and also that I’ll find some accountability in the telling, to help me get my laid back arse into gear.
(If you missed it you can read my February one HERE).
This is to be a real life, non sugar coated, telling of how I feel as I prepare for something that scares the life out of me! (Today’s blog is pretty tame – talk of pants and bras is as ‘real’ as I go. Next month’s might get more interesting!)
I’ve named this blog “It Takes a Village” as that’s what I’ve learned and felt this month. I’ve felt an unexpected, and therefore all the more precious, sense of interest, care and kindness and assistance.
Reminder: What am I doing?
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2650 mile long distance walking trail across the U.S.A. The majority of folks hike north bound, from the southern terminus on the US-Mexico border to the northern terminus on the US-Canada border. However I’m hiking it south bound. I’ll be walking through the States of Washington, Oregon and California and I’ll be carrying all my kit and camping on the trail. I’m planning on starting in early July and finishing by early December.
What have I done in this last month to prep?
- Researched and planned my food supply
- Researched and purchasing more kit
- Worked with a physiotherapist to prevent further Achilles issues
- Working with a personal trainer to get strong and to stay injury free
- Winter skills training
- Confirmed who I’m fundraising for whilst I walk.
I’m going to be walking about 18 miles per day and I’ll have to carry my food for 5 to 6 days at a time. Fuelling myself with good nutritious food feels both important and challenging.
Some through hikers buy food resupplies in towns that they divert to. Others pre purchase food and post it out to the towns. And some do a hybrid of the two. There are pros and cons to both approaches: pre purchasing and posting your food can be cheaper but it means you lose the flexibility of being able to decide which towns you want to divert to and also you may tire of the food you’ve packed.
I’m keen not to live off junk food and when I’m tired I find food shopping and decision making quite stressful (I have had disordered eating in the past). I’m also vegetarian and need to be mindful of my protein intake. This is an area that I’m willing to spend more money on as my health and wellbeing are everything to me.
I use Expedition Foods freeze dried meals in the hills in Scotland quite regularly – they taste good and are easy. I emailed them asking if they’d consider sponsoring me. To my delight they’ve very generously agreed to by providing a very significant discount.
They will send the meals out to Seattle and when I get there I’ll pack them into my Supply Boxes for posting out to various towns on the trek.
I’m staying with Anne, who is a friend of a friend, in Seattle for a few days before I start the trek and she has kindly agreed to take me to Costco or the like so I can but lots of other food for my boxes.
I’m still sorting through the logistics of where she or I then send the boxes to on trail. It’s complicated logistics – but I quite like that sort of thing. #geek
Kit List Updated
It feels great to see this list getting more solid. A huge concern for me is keeping my base weight down but still being warm. Massive thanks to my friends and work partners Simon and Myrddin from Trek Scotland for their advice to me on kit.
My Big Three – Tent, Sleeping bag and Rucksack – come to just under 2kg, which I’m really happy with.
|Tent: Nemo Hornet Elite It’s a one person tent with good head room and easy assemble.||Tried and tested. (In fact I wrote a blog about losing it!)||0.67 kg|
|Rucksack: Osrey Lumina 45 litre. It has good reviews for comfort and function.||Not ordered yet||0.77 kg|
|Sleeping bag: I think the Thermarest Hyperion. It’s rated to -6 degrees. I am a cold sleeper so I may take a silk liner.||On order.||0.55 kg|
|Mattress: Neo Uberlite mat regular size.||On order.||0.25 kg|
|Poles:||I’m going to use my existing Black Dimond Walking poles.||N/A as I’ll be walking with them|
|Waterproof jacket: Women’s Outdoor Research Helium II.||Not ordered yet||0.164 kg|
|Warm jacket: Women’s Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket.||Not ordered yet||0.19 kg|
|Shorts** Nike Tempo running shorts||I own them already||N/A as I’ll be wearing them|
|Leggings (for sleeping and for cold days): Don’t know yet|
|Shirt: Craghopper Ladies Walking shirt||I own it already||N/A as I’ll be wearing it|
|Base layer top (for sleeping and for cold days): Don’t know yet.|
|Underwear: 2 pairs of pants and 1 bra||I’m going to try some IceBreaker Merino ones. Stay tuned!
I’ve a new bra on order that a friend has recommended. It’s from www.Molke.co.uk ; a local Perthshire based company. I’ll update next month.
Getting the right undies feels key to comfort.
|Weight of one pair of pants is all that matters as I’ll be wearing the rest.|
|Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Trail Running Shoes||I bought a pair from Run for It in Inverness they are excellent.
I need new shoes every 500 miles, so another 4 pairs, which I’ll post on to myself at different sections of the trail.
|Socks: Don’t know yet|
|Water purifier: Sawyer Squeeze||Not purchased yet|
|Stove: My existing MSR Pocket Rocket 2||I own it.||TBC|
|Pot: Don’t know yet|
|Phone charging unit: Don’t know yet|
|Head Torch: Don’t know yet|
|Parama beanie hat||I own it.||0.05|
|Buff||I own it.|
|Gloves: Don’t know yet|
|Small travel towel||I own it.|
|First Aid Kit: Still to be assembled|
|Toilet Trowel: Don’t know yet|
|Phone||I’ve ordered a new I-Phone Xr. It’s been recommended to me for its battery life.||0.194kg|
|Phone protective cover|
|Personal locator beacon|
|Total weight so far||2.75kg|
**I’ve ordered Oiselle Roga Shorts from the U.S. as they were highly recommended by an American through hiker who I love and follow on Instagram (Nicole Antoinette). However I forgot that U.S. clothes sizing is different and I was quite confused when I received them in a U.S. size 10 which I think is a UK 16.
It felt a bit indulgent, expensive and a hassle to order them internationally anyway . So I’ve sent them back and having seen the shorts, I think my Nike running shorts will be absolutely fine.
It’s also made me realise that some of my existing gear – the shirt, hat and buff that I use in Scotland – are absolutely fine. I don’t need to get everything shiny and new as long as it’s light and functional that’s enough. It’s so easy to be enticed into buying new things but there will something nice about the familiarity of old bits of kit. It will be like having old friends with me!
Physio and Personal Training
I had a long and boring Achilles injury from late 2017 until late last year. Finding and receiving shock wave therapy last year was a complete revelation and my injury vastly improved.
However this year I started having twinges again. Fergus at Alba Physio in Inverness assessed me and felt that the problem stemmed from the fact that I was much stronger in one leg that the other. He gave me calf and glute strengthening exercises which I practiced religiously to make sure I was landing and powering off strongly from my weaker leg.
He discharged me after 2 sessions and I’m currently pain free and moving well. This makes me so happy as injury is a major concern and risk with a trek this long.
On the Cape Wrath Trail last year I developed plantar fasciitis due to not having good insoles. I healed quickly and my learning is to wear Superfeet insoles when I walk the PCT.
My friend Louise Johnstone, a personal trainer in Dundee, was looking for people to try out her new online training programme and I applied. I’m delighted to be following the training programmes that she has written for me and to receive her support and guidance. I’ll share more about the specifics of my training next month as this blog is already long.
Winter skills training
Although I’m starting my hike in July, snow is a major consideration in my planning. I’m starting at the Cascade Mountain range in Washington State and I need to wait for the snow to starts melting before I can start. This is predicted to be in early July.
Far off in the distance from my starting point are the High Sierras. I need to be sure I can get through all the High Sierras before the first Fall snow. I’m aiming to arrive in Kennedy Meadow (the end of the High Sierra) by first October.
I’ll take micro spikes and an ice axe for the Cascades and then I’ll post them back to Seattle or in a ‘bounce box’ in-case I need them later for the High Sierras.
I’m really glad of my experience of Scottish winter mountaineering and the recent 2 day training that the Inverness Mountaineering Club put on with Mountaineering Scotland. Day one took place in the Cairngorms and we practiced cutting steps, self-arresting with an ice axe, navigation, assessing avalanche risk etc. Day two was navigation specific.
Sponsorship and Fundraising
I was completely blown away to be contacted by the wonderful Cathy Macdonald from The Art of Communication. Cathy is a complete legend – a former police officer specialising in hostage negotiation who now runs communication training whilst training for Ninja Warrior in her spare time! She is sponsoring me with some financial support as well as writing very kind things about me. You can find out more about Cathy’s wonderful business here.
And I’m delighted to share that I will be raising money for Mikeysline while I walk. I’ll set up a giving page soon. They started up in 2015 response to the high suicide rate in the Highland area and they offer a text support service and a drop in service.
For me, walking is such a gift to my mental health and it would be amazing if my walking can also support other peoples mental health.
I titled this post “it takes a village” because, as you can see, there are so many people rooting for me and helping me along that way. I hope I can give back in a small way both through fundraising and also through posting while I’m away.
Talking of which my dear friend Shauna Reid has kindly offered to send out my email newsletter while I’m away. I’ll be posting from the trail to my Instagram and every so often Shauna will whack them in an email. YOu can sign up for my E-newsletter and follow my adventure if you wish.
Phew! I think that’s it until next month.
I’d love to know what you think and if you have any questions about prep. Seriously – ask me anything – bears, periods, toileting, boredom – whatever interests you.
Or if you want to ‘camp and coach’ with me in the future or if you are interesting in counselling or life coaching have a look at my Work With Me page.
Thanks for reading me! Shona x