Sweet Success! PCT Thru-Hiked in Six Months Four Days
Updated: Oct 18
After six months and four days, on October 7, 2023, Texas Time successfully completed her thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail! The adventure of a lifetime began on April 3, 2023. During her trail experience, she exhausted six pairs of shoes, ten pairs of socks, three pairs of sun gloves, two pairs of hiking pants, one hiking shirt, and who-knows-how-many packets of ramen and pre-packaged foods.
The high altitude and diverse landscapes in the Sierra Nevada boasts some of the most spectacular views on the PCT. At 14,505 feet, Mount Whitney holds the honor of the highest mountain in the Sierra Nevada range and also in the contiguous United States. From the PCT, Texas Time and her hiking buddies, hiked eight miles up, summited Mount Whitney, and then eight miles back to camp. Several placards, such as the one she holds in the photograph are available at the summit to commemorate the event. Readers, kindly note the evidence of the many years and thousands of dollars of dance classes in Texas Time’s stance as she holds the Mount Whitney sign and as she sits on the monument at the Washington/Canada border. The placards are fairly heavy to prevent being blown from the mountaintop. As the three young women climbed Whitney, they kept a close watch on each other as they experienced headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath from altitude sickness. Most of the Sierra ranges from 7,000 to 13,200 feet in altitude. Hikers quite often experience altitude sickness off and on throughout the trail. The closest I will come to heaving a Mount Whitney placard over my head for a photo op is if I DIY one and lug it to the top of Humbug Mountain.
Besides mountains, the trail offers views of beautiful alpine meadows, dense forests, rugged granite peaks, and glacial lakes. The vegetation along the trail is diverse and gorgeous. The area is home to black bears, mountain lions, deer, goats, sheep, beaver, squirrels, and other animals. Texas Time saw two bears, several deer, pikas, and goats, and mountain lion tracks.
Park authorities require that overnight hikers carry food in approved bear cannisters in areas frequented by bears. Bears possess the strongest sense of smell of all animals on earth. Even though slight food odors permeate from the cannister and attract bears, if sealed properly, the bears cannot open them. They should be stored 100 yards from the campsite. But the cans add weight and take up precious room in backpacks, leaving less space for other necessities. The PCT in the southern part of the Sierras required them, because if a bear learns to associate hikers with food, the bear must be eliminated—a fed bear is a dead bear. For readers of sufficient age to remember Yogi Bear and Booboo, if this rule had applied to Jellystone Park, our beloved Yogi and Booboo would have been doomed. As soon as Texas Time calculated an ETA for her group to reach the start of the section of the trail requiring only a bear bag (a canvas type bag with a drawstring), she requested that we ship her bear bag to a trail location that accepted mail for hikers, and she in turn sent her bear canister to us.
Arriving at the southern end of the Sierras at the end of August, the hikers worried they were in for a colder than anticipated experience when their water bottles froze overnight shortly into their expedition. As is typical, the temperature dropped in the evenings throughout the Sierras, but luckily, the first few nights were the coldest. Even in September, patches of snow dotted the landscape with especially heavy areas around the John Muir Trail. Most afternoons threatening clouds rolled in, but didn’t always develop into storms. Close to Cottonwood Pass, Muir Pass, and Seldon Pass, hail pelted the backpackers. Texas Time testified that pea-sized hail is amazingly painful when striking boney body parts, such as collar bones and fingers.
One day, the trio hiked 30 miles through the Desolation Wilderness area. Exhausted, they pitched their tents closer together than normal and hit their sleeping bags after a quick meal. One of the young women gasped loudly enough to wake the other two. They heard something running heavily and crashing into the woods. After gathering their wits, they decided their friend awoke due to a bear sniffing around her tent, and her gulp frightened him away. An option the trio never considered, perhaps a Sasquatch rummaged around their camp. Anyway, the creature—bear or Sasquatch—knocked out a tent stake before lumbering off. Thank goodness bears/Sasquatches are scaredy cats! Once the young women concluded they experienced a close encounter with a large creature, they assumed they’d never manage to fall asleep. But within fifteen minutes they conked out, the beauty of exhaustion. Texas Time failed to share this event with me until after she completed the PCT. The sunrise photo was taken the morning after. I saved the picture with the caption, “Morning after Bear/Sasquatch Attack.”
Most evenings, Texas Time left her shoes and socks outside her tent to dry overnight. On one of her final days on the trail, she woke to find only one sock with her two shoes. After searching the camp area unsuccessfully, and upon sighting deer hoof prints, she concluded a deer had absconded with her sock. Deer frequently snatch hikers’ trekking poles and chew the handles for the salt. She assumes that became the fate of her sock. Luckily, it occurred close enough to the end of her hike that it didn’t create a hardship.
Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is quite an accomplishment as well as an experience of a lifetime. I am beyond proud of my daughter. As of this writing, she has no plans to thru-hike again. Future excursions will include section-hikes of around thirty days. Still amazing.
The trail experience forged great friendships among the trail family. They supported and lifted each other up during difficult times and shared in celebration through the good times.
I thoroughly enjoyed, thru-hiking vicariously through my daughter and her trail family. While I appreciate extreme athletes, I am wiser than to attempt extreme activities myself. It is called recognizing my limitations. After one day of hiking fifteen to twenty miles while shouldering a thirty-plus-pound pack, setting up camp and taking it down the next morning, I would be done. Don’t judge me, but some days in my routine life, it’s too much effort to make my bed, setting up and breaking camp each day would push me over the edge.
Congratulations to all thru and section-hikers. I am in awe of you!