Long Trail : Pacific Crest Trail – PCT
The Pacific Crest Trail commonly known as the “PCT” is designated as a National Scenic Trail which is part of the National Trail System formed by the U.S. government in 1968 under the National Trails System Act. The PCT was an idea conceived by Clinton Churchill Clarke in 1932 who worked with public and private groups to lobby local, state, and federal governments for it’s formation, he would later be known as, “The Father of the Pacific Crest Trail” though he never thru-hiked it. Central to the trails creation were the efforts of the PCTA. The PCT in it’s current form is 2,659 miles long following the crest of the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges through California, Oregon, and Washington states. The first officially recognized thru-hiker of the PCT was Richard Watson who completed the entire South to North terminus trip on September 1, 1972, today some estimates place the total number of users per year at over one million, this includes thru-hikers, section-hikers, day-hikers, those using the trail as part of a connection for loops, as well as horse riders. The PCTA recently reported that in 2016 users came from 50 states, and 41 countries making this beautiful American long trail a world wide attraction.The sheer scale of the PCT generates millions of dollars into the nations “recreational economy” every year and sustains many towns and businesses on or near it’s path with it’s thru – traffic. However what should not be lost in the historical, economic, or logistical timeline is the human experience of hiking the trail, thruhiker Colin Arisman put it this way…
“When you think of wilderness, you think of isolation — but really, it’s a community that’s very different than our normal definition of the word, the PCT is a linear community, and as such, there are a lot of random, fleeting encounters along the way.”
In the wild everyone has a story.
“The trail is a microcosm of society: you’ll meet professors, people who dropped out of high school, 13-year-olds, 70-year-olds, professionals, dirtbags,” he says. “And being in nature makes us more comfortable being vulnerable with people. In the city, you’re over-stimulated with interactions; when you’re out on the trail, you’re starved for it.”
But as shared and collective as the experience is, it is also intensely personal and transforming, you are simply not the same person walking out as you were walking in.
– John Muir
There is an intense but simple thrill in setting off in the morning on a mountain trail knowing that everything you need is on your back. It is a confidence in having left all inessentials behind, and of entering a world of natural beauty which has not been violated, where money has no value, and possessions are a deadweight.”
– Paul Theroux
“I was expecting that when I got to the Canadian border, something would be unlocked, there’d be this big moment of release. But there wasn’t. It was more just, ‘This is it. This is where it ends.’ I realized it was less about the fact that I got there, and more about the process it took to get there.”
– Colin Arisman
“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
– Cheryl Strayed