A hiker shelters from the sun during her long, long walk. Photo: Kodi Frost

A hiker creating shelter from the sun during one long, long walk. Photo: Kodi Frost

The Inertia

Editor’s Note: This feature is sponsored by our partners at Arrowhead Water

Plenty of people dream of escaping into the woods and finding like-minded people, but only a small percentage of folks do it. The Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles (4,265 km) from Mexico to Canada, from desert landscapes to the alpine tundra with all of the beauty in between. If you’ve been thinking about the PCT, these five experienced hikers might inspire you to get on trail now.

How did these hikers find out about the PCT and what pushed them to get to the trailhead? What kept them going when the days were too hot, too cold, too smoky, and just plain tough? People know that hiking these long trails is quite a physical feat, but it’s also a mental challenge. You’ll need to know your, “Why” to get through those rough moments. These five hikers shared their motivations.

Photo: Alina Drufovka

Alina “Abstract” Drufovka

Alina Drufovka learned about the PCT while researching the Appalachian Trail, a childhood dream of hers. She began the AT in 2015 but had to end her thru-hike early when she got injured in Pennsylvania. In 2017, she began again, and this time completed the trail. The PCT seemed like the “perfect next adventure” because of its vast landscape, the deep nature of the hiking community the trail nurtures, and the clear goal of hiking the whole dang thing.

She wanted to thru hike to “experience a sense of extended freedom” after 17 years of being in school. She had a “growing discontentment with life in mainstream society” that continued to propel her “deeper into thru-hiking as an alternative way to live and feel more alive”. 

Her advice for hiking the PCT includes keeping an adaptable mindset as trail conditions shift due to weather and environmental hazards like fire, which can quickly force you to change plans. Oh, and never letting “summit fever” (river crossings too) cloud your safety judgment. 

Why hike the PCT: Because it will take you to some of the most sublime landscapes in America.

Favorite section: Goat Rocks Wilderness. One of the most stunning sections of trail that truly blew my mind given you have three volcanoes surrounding you (Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens).

Most difficult section: Badden Powell/Fuller Ridge (given the snow conditions).

In terms of elevation I found the Sierras to be surprisingly challenging even though I had my hiker legs by that time. Afternoon thunderstorms added to the challenge in this section as well as long side trails for resupplying. 

Favorite trail town: Idyllwild, Calif. was a very cute and well-organized trail town. Lots of nice walkable eateries plus Mayor Max (who is an actual dog) added to the charm. 

Must-have piece of PCT gear: the Therm-a-Rest Neoair Mini Pump, a personal locating beacon like an inReach or Spot, which I think is a necessity for any trail, and the Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Long-Sleeve Hoodie for sun protection, plus it’s super soft

Instagram: @Abstract.Hikes

Website: AbstractHikes.com

Photo: Eddie Janicki

Eddie “Bard” Janicki

Janicki first learned about the PCT in 2018 from his best friend’s brother who, having previously hiked the Appalachian Trail, was getting ready for the PCT next. The three decided to do it together. Born and raised in Washington, Janicki was excited to hike the whole state and the two others, California and Oregon. It also seemed like a good time to take a break as a three-year project he had been working on as a field engineer was wrapping up. 

His advice: “DO IT! It is an incredible journey that you will never regret. Start to get in the mindset of taking things one step at a time, and living completely in the moment. The mind leads, the body follows.” 

As a triple crowner, his advice for deciding between the three trails is “to forget about the AT (rainy, miserable, no views, etc), and flip a coin between the PCT and the Continental Divide Trail. Or just hike the CDT, it is truly the most epic of the three.”

Why hike the PCT: The PCT is absolutely beautiful, didn’t have a single rainy day until Northern Oregon.

Favorite section: The high Sierras and Washington.

Most difficult section: Washington.

Favorite trail town: Julian, California, or Odell Lake, Oregon.

Must-have piece of PCT gear:  A good hat; a tight one that won’t fall off over high windy mountains or hitching in the back of pickup trucks

Instagram: @eddiejanicki

Side Note (ha!): He carried his guitar for the PCT and wrote songs while on all three trails. He released an album last year, which you can check out here.

Photo: Elaine Che

Elaine “Spikes” Che

Che first heard of the PCT in passing when she was living on the East Coast in 2018 from someone whose hiking partner was writing a memoir of their thru hike. At the time, she didn’t even have an interest in the outdoors, but when COVID hit a few years later and she’d just finished nursing school, she desired “to alleviate some stressors in my life … I sought refuge in the rawness of nature’s beauty. I found myself wanting to find ways to immerse myself deeper and deeper into the outdoors.”

She entered the PCT permit lottery in 2022 and “left it up to the gods” to decide her fate; they decided it was time. “I just wanted to do something really, really hard and prove to myself that I could take on an enormous undertaking by myself,” she said.

As for advice for someone thinking about hiking the PCT: “Have little to no expectations for how your experience is going to be out on the trail. There are a lot of ‘unknowns’ that are out of your control when embarking on a huge journey.” Which includes not finishing the thru-hike. This mindset is much more enjoyable than letting the negative thoughts or situations and fear of failure get to you.

Why hike the PCT: I had a feeling it would be life changing. The PCT did in fact change my life (for the better)!

Favorite section: All of Washington.

Most difficult section: The Sierras. The altitude took my breath away.

Favorite trail town: Stehekin, Washington. The last trail town going north bound. A bus picks you up at the trailhead and stops by the bakery with massive cinnamon buns.

Must-have piece of PCT gear: A buff – a multi-functional piece of gear and a cute accessory.

Instagram: @elainewooff

Photo: Jochen Werner

Jochen “Taxi” Werner

Werner, from Germany, learned about the PCT in 2014 when he started googling “hiking in America” and knew right away he was going to do it someday. He started with the AT first, in 2015, at the Delaware Water Gap, and hiked about 200-mile sections until he completed the whole trail in 2022 in Gorham, New Hampshire. 

As a husband and father of three, section hiking is the best way to experience these long trails. The AT brought him to the PCT but in response to what brought him to long-distance hiking, he said: “That’s a more complicated story, but as with a lot of people on these trails, it is a way to deal with grief or loss.” Being outside is truly healing. 

His advice for hiking the PCT is “Just do it. It’s easy,” and “If you want to love all three trails, do the AT first.” Werner was interviewed at the aqueduct (Mile 540) during his first section of the PCT, the Southern Terminus to Mile 653.

Why hike the PCT: To soothe my demons.

Favorite section (so far): Wrightwood to Cajon Pass.

Favorite trail town (so far): Wrightwood, Calif.

Must-have piece of PCT gear: Sun umbrella. 

Photo: Kodi Sheyann Frost

Kodi “May Queen” Sheyann Frost

Kodi Frost first heard about the PCT in 2016 when she was on a backpacking trip in Bears Ears National Monument and a classmate mentioned he planned to hike from Mexico to Canada. She remembered thinking “Wow, only someone crazy would try something like that!” She then Googled the “Pacific Crest Trail” and “fell down a rabbit hole” of research and interest.

In 2019, after graduating, working a retail job she didn’t love, and in a relationship she “needed to leave,” she started “daydreaming, watching YouTube videos, and making a lighter pack, just for fun.” The freedom of being in the backcountry for days at a time was so alluring, especially since I felt rather stuck in my life,” she said. “Suddenly, that daydreaming was turning into a reality.” She got a permit to begin April 5, 2020. 

When COVID hit and everyone was encouraged to stay home and away from others, her hike was delayed for another two years. On May 21, 2022, she finally got out there and did the whole thing. Her dream came true. 

As for advice: “Standing here with multiple hikes under my belt, I can tell you the best advice I ever got was to just go. I hemmed and hawed about my first thru hike for a long time, scared I would be lonely or bored, but everything worked out on the trail. Everyone always says, ‘The trail provides,’ which sounds a little silly, but it’s true. You’ll make friends and miles and eat lots and lots of candy and it’s really amazing and worth every moment. So just go!” 

Why hike the PCT: I hiked the PCT to reconnect with myself and fall in love with some of the most beautiful places in the world.

Favorite section: The entire state of Washington, but especially Goat Rocks and the Northern Cascades.

Most difficult section: Northern California. After the beauty of the High Sierra, it was hard to go back to the high heat of NorCal, and the burn zones were tough mentally and physically. 

Favorite trail town: Stehekin, Washington. 

Must-have piece of PCT gear: A positive, flexible attitude and shoes that fit! And a silly outfit!

Instagram: @kodisfrost

So, Why Hike the PCT? 

These long trails are more than just a hike, they’re a break from the monotony of life. The trail gives people the opportunity to do something incredibly different, meet other people who chose the same “wild” goal, and experience all that nature has to offer for an extended amount of time.

Hike the PCT for the views, the community, the unknown. If you believe life is about living, make this a priority, and as most of these folks said, “Just do it.” Happy Trails!

Photo: Eddie Janicki


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