It’s that time of year when Tahoe’s hiking trails start attracting hordes of happy hikers checking out the wildflowers and sparkling mountain lakes. One of those hiking trails is the Pacific Crest Trail which on it’s 2600 mile journey between Mexico and Canada passes about ten miles west of Lake Tahoe along the Pacific Crest. In fact, between Carson Pass to the south, and Donner Pass in the north, the PCT is very much a part of the fabric of our natural surroundings. And right now, after over 1000 miles of hiking from Mexico, a steady stream of PCT thru-hikers are walking through the Tahoe region in route to Canada.
If you are out on the PCT over the next few weeks you are bound to see the long distance hikers passing through. While they are all unique and come from a wide variety of backgrounds these long distance hikers do have a few things in common: First, they walk fast and smooth, as if they floating above the ground. They also most likely have lighter packs then us shorter distance backpackers, and most importantly, they are obviously very determined and focused.
Over the last week, I spent a few days on the PCT and encountered perhaps 25 thru-hikers. Many seem to be more covered from head to toe, even in the heat, wearing lightweight long pants and long sleeved shirts, and often some sort of large hat. I did speak to one long distance hiker who said that the reason for this is that she doesn’t want to put on sunscreen, because it attracts dirt. And as you can imagine when you are hiking for months at a time…you do attract plenty of dirt. Of course, this leads to another indication of a long distance hiker, by the time they finish the trip, they may want to burn their clothing, because the smell of all those miles may never come out.
Above all, thru-hikers are focused on adding up the miles. Take 2600 miles and divide it by 20 and you come up with 130 days. That means that if you can carry your backpack and make 20 miles per day on average, including zero days, and time spent resupplying…it will still take you 130 days or 4 and a half months to make the journey. I’ve backpacked quite a bit, and don’t remember doing 20 miles in a day with a big pack on my back, let alone averaging it for a whole trip. But many of these hikers do that. They do it by getting up early in the morning, steadily hiking all day, and being very efficient with their time.
So these hikers are focused, and may not want to take the time to stop and chat, but if you do get the opportunity, it always make for an interesting conversation. You will most likely learn a lot about hiking, but perhaps even more importantly, you will learn about perseverance. This hike is an absolutely amazing athletic feat. They have already walked a thousand miles, and are bound and determined to make it another 1600 miles. Now that is perseverance.