Sunday, 3 April 2022

On This Day 40 Years Ago I Began The Pacific Crest Trail.

At the Mexican border. No mention of the PCT there back then.

On the 3rd April 1982 I set off from the Mexican border to walk to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. It was to be the defining walk of my life. 

It was a different world then. A larger world. The communications and digital revolutions were a long way in the future. There were no mobile phones, no GPS, no Internet, no social media, no digital cameras. I communicated with home by postcard. No one knew where I was from one week to the next. I took photographs on film and sent batches back from post offices. I wouldn't see my pictures until I returned home. 

My pack at the start

My equipment wouldn't look that unusual now, though it was heavier than I'd take today. The biggest visual difference is that no one used trekking poles then. 

PCT Gear List. Some still familiar names.

There were guidebooks to the trail. As these were heavy and bulky I tore them up and sent sections ahead in supply boxes, as I did with paper maps.

Guidebook sections

The landscape in Southern California was strange. I'd never experienced hot and dusty desert hills full of spiky plants and with little water before. I had to learn a great deal in the first few days. 

Southern California scenery

The PCT was little-known and little-hiked in 1982. That year just 120 thru-hiker permits were issued and only 11 of us completed the trail. In 2019 5,441 permits were issued and 988 finished. (Information from the Pacific Crest Trail Association). Hiking the trail must be a different experience now, though the landscape is still glorious.

Ten years ago I dug out my trail journals and my Kodachrome transparencies and wrote a book about my PCT hike, which was published in 2014 by Sandstone Press. Writing the book brought back to me what a wonderful adventure it had been and reinforced my feeling of the walk's importance to my life. It was intensely fulfilling.


  1. Love the reminder of brands that have fallen by the wayside... Snowdon Mouldings, Wintergear (before it merged into Wild Country) and the Bronzo boots / Atlas pack.... and that you didn't have to list what model of thermarest !

    Awesome Chris

  2. Thanks for sharing! A much different experience indeed.

  3. This is absolutely wonderful and sad at the same time to hear of all things in the past that have have faded it just reminds us how short life really is and how much we all should be more thankful and grateful for all we have and try to live out dreams the best we can because we aren't granted tomorrow. I will find this book and own it because it truly is a blessing to hear that someone is or had lived there dreams.thank you, totally awesome. And may you be blessed with many more.

  4. Is it really that long ago, I remember that you lent me your 50 metre/11mm climbing rope, that Alex & I managed to lose in Glencoe!! Mxx

  5. I hiked the trail in 2015, age 67 and some 40 years after I first heard about the PCT and always wanted to go. How different it is now compared to when you hiked the trail. I did use some of the digital tools that are now available, but tried to stay away from the social families and gatherings that now represent the changes in how the trail is hiked now. I envied your style of hiking compared to what it has become after the Strayed novel and all those hikers that are now trying to "find themselves". Count your blessings you went when you did! How it has changed. Thanks for the memories.