Saturday, November 25, 2017
Finally, after daydreaming about the Pacific Crest Trail since completing the Arizona Trail in 2013, I begin!
I’m not quite the same hiker as I was in 2013. Back then I was planning to thru-hike, but now I understand that I prefer hiking slowly to just getting to an arbitrary point B. Therefore my plan is to begin at the southern terminus in March and walk however far I can before the season ends, I get injured, or I’m no longer enjoying the trail.
Hikers walking more than 500 miles can apply for a long-distance permit that (mostly) negates the need to apply for specific permits along the trail. They’re released on two dates, one in November and one in January, and not having obtained a long distance permit during the first release, I had to wait until the second release day. That was a blessing in disguise, because between date #1 and date #2 I learned that the bus to Campo (which provides access to a point near the southern trailhead) doesn’t run on weekends, and the start date that I had originally wanted with the blissful ignorance of someone who doesn’t know bus schedules was a Sunday. There are trail angels who shuttle people to the trailhead, but I have a thing about asking favours (the thing is that I hate it) and I like the idea of getting there myself.
So, I readied myself for pouncing on a permit on Permit Day #2. 15 more permits were released for each start date, adding up to 50 permits per date in total. My overall impression was ‘group of stray dogs fighting over a scrap of meat’. Here’s a helpful visual in the form of screenshots taken six minutes after the release.
During the first release some people were timed out, but the PCTA upgraded their servers for the second release and lengthened the amount of time available to complete an application to 20 minutes. I was done in three minutes, so no problem there. The April dates filled up almost instantly, but I would advise anyone hoping for April to keep refreshing the page, because spots were continuously opening up as people switched their dates. If you want a date further into March or May, there’s less need for urgency, just so long as you aren’t non-urgent and then don’t get your date and send me nasty messages.