Now I had a few days to let the dust settle. It’s still hard to believe that I just walked from Mexico to Canada during the last five month. 4.265km. It doesn’t feel like it. The wounds healed pretty good and besides a general stiffness my body feels pretty good again. But I guess it was time for a break of hiking now.

My former colleague Arden who did our revenue forecasts in the team also forecasted something about me before I left. In my last presentation he included a prognosis of how I will look like after the hike in New Zealand. Now my journey has even be longer but his forecast skills are also pretty good outside of the revenue world.
On the top: his guess. On the bottom: me on the last day of the PCT.

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And this was on the last day on the trail. I don’t know what you think but that’s pretty close!

Where to start? Many people have asked me along the trail and afterwards what my favourite sections of the PCT were. I have to say in general the great diversity is probably one of its major beauties. You get all the extremes from deathly desert over high snow capped mountains, alpine areas, glacial lakes, volcanos, forest and so much more. It is incredible how the landscape changes over and over again. But if I only had limited time to do a few weekend or week trips here is my recommendation.

My favourite parts of the PCT:

From Mt. Laguna to Big Bear: Pure desert, very dry and a deadly environment which surprises with life everywhere! Beautiful flowers, lizards, snakes and tough plants combined with the beauty of endless views over deep valleys and plains.

 

Walker Pass to Toulumne Meadows – the Sierra Nevada: Without a question the most outstanding section of the PCT. The high Sierra Nevada brings you up to over 13,000ft / 4.000m. Massive granite mountain, high passes, glacial lakes and stunning scenery. Must do!

 

Kennedy Meadows North to Truckee: A short but absolutely unique and beautiful section. Volcanic valleys, ridge walks and the most dense amount of wildflowers on the trail. Really cool stretch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elk Lake to Ollalie Lake: Starting out with the Three Sisters Wilderness – a stunning volcanic area which is very different to the rest of the trail. Rough and beautiful. And the stretch to, up and over Mt. Jefferson is definitely the highlight of Oregon. Sitting on the ridge between Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood – outstanding!

 

Trout Lake to White Pass – Goat Rock Wilderness: Maybe the most stunning stand-alone section on the PCT are the last 25 miles through Goat Rock Wilderness to White Pass. Views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helen & Mt. Rainier at the same time, high alpine terrain, ridges, lakes. Amazing.


Snoqualmie to Canada: Basically the entire North Cascades are just worth going to! High alpine terrain, lakes, ridges, valleys and in late summer early fall an unlimited supply of huckleberries. North Cascades I my go to place for hiking also offside of the PCT!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail itself.
The trail itself? It is not overly challenging itself. It is extremely well maintained – a hiking-highway. This makes it easy to cover great distance (we mostly hiked high 20s / low 30s every day when we had our hiker-legs) and also enables you to enjoy the views since you don’t have to watch every step. Since it is an equestrian trail it is also not very steep. The grade is very gentle and every hill or pass is approached with endless switchbacks. You still have to go up and down but it never makes an challenging climb. The river crossings can be challenging or even impassable in certain conditions like this year with very heavy snow conditions. But generally they are great fun and good refreshment along the way. Navigational wise it is usually very easy to follow the trail. It is the clearly heavily used trail with many footprints and hiking pole pokes. Sometimes marker exist but mostly it’s very clear. If not the various GPS apps (Guthook’s / Halfmile) are a great support. The keepers of the PCT – the PCTA organisation – also provides water reports, trail status information, updates on closures, alternates which are an excellent resource for planning. So all in all a very doable “hike”.

So should it be considered an easy hike? No! It is still a great challenge to master all of these things together. Especially if you have never hiked or spent much time outdoors. You will be very busy and challenged with your own body and the outdoor-basics and the hiking comes on top. The length of the adventure makes it tough too. You have to take care of yourself properly to be able to last for five month. It is not a short hike where you can kill yourself and then recover again at your desk at work. No, you have to be able to walk for five month. That requires extra care of your body, especially your feet but also your diet. And the mental aspect of pushing yourself through rough days must not be underestimated. Having to walk with blisters, being hungry, warm or cold on a miserable day knowing that the next town and place to rest is still a few days away and that it won’t get better – probably even worse until then – requires mental strength to continue. And we all have these days where you just feel like not walking anymore.

So all in all it is a great adventure and challenge. But it is definitely doable and with some preparation and the right mindset no-one should be afraid of starting.

Having done quite a severe amount of hiking, mountaineering and time outdoors I was probably not to challenged by the trail itself. But it gave me time and room to enjoy and fully take in the beauty around me. Also the fact that I had completed a long distance hike before made me worry way less about the challenges ahead and being able to finish. It was never really a question. I knew as long as I wouldn’t injure myself severely I would be able to do it. This definitely helped to relax, and having more capacity for nature, encounters and myself. I truly enjoyed this incredible journey through a stunning landscape.


Te Araroa vs. Pacific Crest Trail

I had promised myself to never compare my journey on the PCT with my first thru-hike on the Te Araroa in New Zealand. Why? The TA was my first thru-hike. The first of everything will always be unique and special for many reasons. And the TA for me was very special. It was the end of my 15 year long lasting corporate career and the first episode of my “new” journey. Therefore the TA was besides the mind-blowing Kiwi-nature and its hiking challenge probably even more a journey to myself. The TA will always be on of the most important and outstanding episodes in my life. My love for the TA, New Zealand and the Kiwis will always be special #germanbypassportkiwibyheart

But I have been asked many times now: “Which trail was better?” or “How are they different?”. Looking at the trails themselves in a retrospective now is interesting. Scenery-wise these two trails have much in common. They are epic! They both share and outstanding diversity in nature. I couldn’t pick a favourite. Concerning the trail itself though the TA is definitely a lot rougher. Amazing trail conditions like on the PCT can only be found on very few parts of the trail. Mostly the trail is more narrow, overgrown, full of rocks and roots or partly doesn’t exist at all. Combined with mud up to your hips it partly slows you down to way less than 1km/h. The Kiwis also have never heard of the word switchback. If there is a hill to climb there is usually only one way: straight up 😂. Way more river crossings and challenging parts – if it rains you pitch your tent for a few days and watch the water rise and (eventually) go down before you can continue. Also the weather in New Zealand is rougher. A lot more rain, wind and unpredictable conditions. All in all a bit rougher when it comes to the hiking and outdoor part. Doable? Yes! Fun? Oh yeah!< /p#>

When I hiked the TA in 2015 we were 12 people in total going northbound. 12. What does that mean? I most of the time didn’t meet a single person for days. It was a very individual journey and a lot of time to spend with yourself. Going southbound on the TA will give you more fellow hikers along the way since it is the more common direction but still way less than on the PCT these days. I sometimes referred to the PCT as a “social experiment”. Roughly 3,000 hikers start within a few weeks and all head the same way – north. Therefore you will rarely be alone. And since there are many great and interesting people out there it is almost impossible not to mingle, make friends and hike together. For many younger hikers it is also the first time away from home and an important time in their self-exploration process. Who am I? How do I fit into a group? What do others think? How am I perceived? So the social aspect of #tramilies (trail-families) is very important and integral part of the trail. This also applies for the amazing trail magic happening around the trail. Organised groups and individuals – sometimes former hikers, admirers, churches and other organisations or other just great people – who come out to remote areas to maintain water caches in the desert, place a cooler full of beer and food in the middle of nowhere, pick you up from remote areas, host you, invite you for a meal or a shower at their house. So there is a great community around the PCT and a lot of interaction. Whereas on the TA most people who live right next to the trail don’t even know it exists but the spontaneous Kiwi-hospitality which will almost be forced on you is a class of its own. For me the loneliness of the TA was the right thing at the right time. On the PCT I have to say I also stayed away from the big crowds and was way more interested in my own hike and nature than social interaction. But I enjoyed meeting people, hiking together with some of them and being able to share some of the most stunning moments for life.

So which one is better? None. They both are beauties in themselves. They share the great outdoors. The PCT is probably the easier start since there is more support along the the trail and the TA a bit more a physical challenge. But I would recommend to just do both and find out for yourself 😉 Hike your own hike!

I truly enjoyed my time on the trail. The journey was perfect the way it was. One thing which is referred to very often is “Hike your own hike!”. It is almost overused sometimes. But what does it mean? It means to hike your own hike. There is no right or wrong way to hike the PCT. It is a very personal and individual journey which goes way past the hike itself. Therefore it is important to follow your heart and do do whatever feels right or good to you. How I always say – Do What Make Good.

Don’t believe the fear mongering that some people do.
Don’t believe people who tell you that you are doing it wrong.
Don’t listen to the people who call themselves “purists” and tell you what the rules of a “real” thru-hike are. Have you ever seen “THE Rule-Book of thru-hiking”…?

The trail is not a race (unless you want to break the speed record) or any sort of competition. It is a journey through nature and to yourself. So you better Do What Make Good and just whatever you want to do or what feels right for you at that particular moment. Hike your own hike.

Leave no trace.

The only idea I would like to encourage everyone to follow is the one of leaving no trace. All of us who are privileged to enjoy these amazing spots out there should do everything we can to preserve them. They don’t belong to us and the beauty is only sustainable if we take great care of it.

There is a great organisation which is also called Leave No Trace which has produced some good guidelines to help us with this. Some of them are very obvious others might have not been relevant to some of us so far. I found them really helpful. Just as a quick teaser the 7 principles – make sure to check them out if you don’t know them:

Plan Ahead and Prepareminimise your impact by good preparation.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfacesdon’t step on sensible vegetation at any time, don’t cut switchbacks to minimise erosion and use established campsites instead of creation new ones.

Dispose of Waste Properlypack it in, pack it out. Dispose human waste properly in a 6-8 inch hole and far enough away from any water sources.

Leave What You Find don’t take anything and don’t introduce any non-native species.

Minimize Campfire Impactsmy opinion: if you don’t need one, don’t start one.

Respect Wildlifekeep a distance and also follow proper food storage procedures (hang food) – not to protect you but to protect wildlife. A fed bear is usually a dead bear.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors – a no-brainer; even though you see people with loud speaker in the middle of nowhere on a regular base. Some people may enjoy the peace and chance to see wildlife…

Check out the principles here: Leave No Trace 

Thank you Pacific Crest Trail for hosting, thank you PCTA for supporting and taking care and thank you all volunteers & trail angels for making this journey so special!

Happy Trails.

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