Richard and I will start our Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike attempt in just over two months. See you soon, April 17!
To be perfectly honest, I had not given much thought to the exact date we would begin. I knew it would fall into place as we got closer to April, finished buying all the gear, completed test hikes and, you know, bought airplane tickets out there.
But there is a new step in the preparation process for 2015 thru-hikers. The Pacific Crest Trail Association will limit the number of thru-hikers who can start each day this year to 50.
It is not new that thru-hikers need a long-distance hiking permit, but limiting the number of hikers who can start on a given day, is brand new.
The process is not hard, time-consuming or expensive (READ: it’s free!). But it’s an interesting strategy.
The movie/book “Wild,” is the reason for the new daily limits. The PCT is in the press and more people know about it since November, and the release of the movie, than ever before.
Ultimately, that is very, very good. The more people who care about the PCT, the better it will be.
The reality of the trail is that it is hard, potentially dangerous and snaking through an already stressed ecosystem.
This daily limit will give people another moment to pause, plan and consider if hiking more than 500 miles (the distance you have to intent to cover to apply for a long-distance permit) on the PCT is something they really want to do.
But for trail users who know the remote nature of the trail, seek the escape from modern conveniences and worry their experience will be less than “wild,” the daily limit is a rude reminder that the trail is changing.
The PCT is the less populated, less accessible and lesser known cousin to the Appalachian Trail. The AT gets millions of visitors every year. It follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and is “within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the population of the U.S.”
(Neither the AT, nor the PCT are as wild or remote as the Continental Divide Trail — the third long-distance hike in the Triple Crown of America’s distance trails.)
Now, change is not always bad. And the fact that the PCTA is trying to manage potential overuse of the PCT is a good sign for all trail users.
For PCTers seeking the “Wild”ness that Cheryl Strayed found, it still exists. But those first couple hundred miles will be crowded and water will be a hot commodity.
I say, let’s all be nice, keep an eye on each other and be open to the potential trail family members just over the next rise.