Pacific Crest Trail

Blow Out Mountain in central Washington was just one of the picturesque places that Mike Towne stopped at on his hike on the Pacific Crest Trail between Mexico and Canada. 

Editor’s note: Elizabeth Ketterer of Cle Elum is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this spring and summer and will be sharing stories about her experience in a series of columns in the Outdoors section of the Daily Record.

My journey on the Pacific Crest Trail actually started four years ago, when I read the book “Wild.” Reading about Cheryl Strayed’s life experience, which included backpacking 1,100 miles on part of the trail, gave me the permission I had long been searching for – permission to forge a long-distance hike on my own.

At that time of my life, I was in love with an amazing man and deep in a demanding career at a boutique investment firm in California. The only wilderness forging my life schedule would allow me was an overnight backpacking trip in the Sierras, with my little 12-pound Bichon poodle, Cochinella.

I told my boyfriend I would be fine out on my own with my trusty backpack (from a month long backpacking trip I took in the Himalayas of China eight years prior) and my furry companion. I bought a tent at REI on my way out, only to end up with a flat tire on my car as I drove too quickly up the mountain dirt road before I reached the trailhead. I had to spend the night in a motel with my brand new tent still neatly unopened. After getting my tire fixed early the next morning, I made the long drive home feeling defeated. While little Cochinella sat happily in the back seat with the wind blowing through her spotless white fur, never having touched a paw to the trail, I wondered if I’d ever be the girl who had the guts, and the outdoor smarts, to embark upon a trail like the Pacific Crest Trail.

About the PCT

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,250 miles long. It begins at the California-Mexico border and ends just past the Washington-Canada border. It travels through deserts, mountains, lakes, national parks and the states of California, Oregon and Washington. The hiking season begins in late April to early May and usually ends in September. The season depends on the weather, such as snow levels of the previous winter and the onset of cold wet weather the following fall. Starting this year, a permit is required if a hiker plans to complete more than 500 miles of the trail. In efforts to preserve the trail, only 50 permits are available per day, when starting from the Mexican border. Other various permits are required such as a California campfire permit, and national park and national forest permits throughout sections of the trail. The trail takes a hiker approximately five months to complete at the rate of 20 miles per day, with a rest day once a week. Most long-distance hikers prepare resupply boxes before they start the trail and mail the boxes ahead for pick up, to keep the weight of the pack manageable, carrying seven to 10 days’ worth of food at a time.

Carpe diem

As it turns out, sometimes life is not about guts or smarts. Sometimes it is about timing. Then the guts and smarts follow. After a heart-wrenching breakup with the amazing California man, simultaneously getting turned down for a career changing promotion at work and rejection from the graduate program at my top choice school, life suddenly summoned me to actively make a choice. As a newly formed party of one, I no longer needed the giant house for which I moved two years ago to the beautiful state of Washington. My life in a small town was not enough to ground me without the promise of love, a rewarding job, or the challenge of a graduate school program. So I did what I often do when faced with pain and heartache; I decided to tackle something big and intimidating to remind myself that I am still alive. I seized the moment. I faced my fears head on. I began the preparations for my very own journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Follow Cle Elum resident, Elizabeth Ketterer, as she shares weekly with The Daily Record about her preparations for, and five-month journey on, the Pacific Crest Trail.

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