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.

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