“Ok, right now you need to come up with all the food and everything else you will need for the next six months. Find out where you will be everyday, what you will eat, what you will wear, where you will get your water. Now, pack of all of it. And then find maps of how you will get to all those places.”
One of the main challenges of the Pacific Crest Trail is the forethought and organization it takes to plan a five and a half month, 2,650 mile trip, Laina explains to me.
It’s 9 days until she leaves to begin her hike from Mexico to Canada.
If I know my little sister, by now she is looking forward to the physical struggle of the hike in comparison to the mental drain of packing.
The fact that Laina is even attempting to organize something this vast is pretty surprising. She’s rather disorganized and forgetful, really. She forgets to put on shoes before we go into to a grocery store. She’s so chill that she often spaces out the lithe things, little important things like looking up directions in advanced, or remembering where she leaves her keys.
I call her up while she and my mom are packing boxes that my mom will later ship to various scheduled re-supply points along the trail. There are 33 boxes on their living room floor, and Laina and my mom are strategically separating, weighing and packing food and other supplies. Each box holds about a weeks worth of food — granola, dehydrated beans and soup mix, trail mix, nuts and dried fruit, cocos, rice cereal, powdered milk and protein powder are a few of the items Laina lists off as they pack them. They are also dispersing fresh socks, blister care items, fuel and extra shirts between the boxes.
And then there’s stuff you don’t even think about,” she sounds indignant. “I have to have batteries for all my flashlights for six months. Take that.”
Laina and my parents made some of the food she will be taking, such as the rice cereal, but the majority was bought in a bulk food order through United Natural Foods Incorporated — a cheaper and healthier option than buying backpacker’s meals. Still, the food will be by far the biggest expense of the trip, Laina explained. The food bill was around $2,000. My parents paid for it for her.
Laina has saved money to cover other costs such as gear, which is she said is the second largest expense. She expects to spend around $500 on backpacking gear. She also bought her first smartphone and a solar charger, with the goal of having relatively reliable communication and also using apps to help plan and navigate her trip.
There are several smartphone apps and websites she has used to plan her re-supply locations and gather other information. Websites Plan Your Hike, Pacific Crest Trail Association and apps PCTHYOH:Pacific Crest Trail Hike Your Own Hike, and GutHooksHikingGuide have been key in her planning — and she hopes to continue to use while she’s on the trail for them for their map services.
“That’s another thing,” she adds, as if we didn’t have enough reasons to worry about her. “I have no navigational skills. I don’t even know how to read maps.”
I laugh. Maybe this is why 17-year-olds don’t usually attempt the PCT thru-hike on their own.
Just before I hang up the phone I ask her what she has left to do before she leaves home to head to Southern California.
Finish packing all the boxes and pack her backpack, she says.
I asked her if she’s planning to learn how to read maps.
“Oh no, I’m hoping to figure that out while I’m out there,” she states simply.