Why we decided to thru-hike during the COVID pandemic
March 11th, 2020 - Julian, California - Pacific Crest Trail
We started our thru-hike on March 11th, 2020. Which means when we planned, traveled, and arrived at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, we had no idea a week later that the PCTA was going to ask hikers to go home.
So we walked, and spent six days on trail without cell phone reception and when we came into town the whole world had changed. The USA and Canada closed its borders, governors put restrictions on restaurants and motels, and soon our grocery store and post office experiences would change too.
We were in Julian, California; six days and 77 miles into our thru-hike, and had to decide to stay on trail or to go home.
The last thing we wanted to do when we found out that COVID was spreading fast, was to travel back to a big city, hop on another plane, and fly across the country again. We had dropped everything to go on our second thru-hike together and we weren’t going home until we made it to Canada.
So we decided to stay on trail, despite what everyone else thought.
Of course, not everyone agreed with us. For months our social media pages were filled with trolls and people trying to report us for hiking with valid permits. All 2020 thru-hikers were on the hot burner, and everyone off trail wanted a say on the matter. We were even interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle and blasted on Reddit the drama was that juicy.
Every year brings different challenges for PCT thru-hikers. Some years have more snow, some more fires, but this year was a year like none other before. We overcame many hurtles on our way to Canada. Like the snow storm around San Jacinto, or the 10+ day resupplies in the sierras due to private resort closures. We overcame hitch-hiking during the pandemic, as well as public restroom and shower closures. We out walked forest fires, and hiked three days without seeing the sun due to the smoke in the air, just to name a few. Thru-hiking during the pandemic came with challenges we never expected, and we still made it to Canada!
It’s interesting; on a normal year there is always a percentage of hikers who get off trail. However, this year thru-hikers seemed to be of a different breed. Everyone we know who started their thru-hike before the pandemic, finished the trail.
Even though the PCTA isn’t honoring hikes this year, which is a subject for another time… anyway…
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