Thru-Hike of the Pacific Crest Trail

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 32.60600°N / 116.468°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 25, 2006
Activities Activities: Hiking
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall

Why do you want to hike from Mexico to Canada?

Starting at the Mexican BorderStarting at the Mexican Border

How do you put a five-month hike into a trip report of a few pages? Most of my daily journal entries are about a page each. That is the main reason it has taken me so long to get around to writing this - it seemed like an overwhelming task. So I will mostly hit a few highlights and share some thoughts and feelings.

Why would anyone want to spend five months walking from Mexico to Canada? Most thru-hikers get asked that question over and over. It's like asking a mountain climber, why do you climb mountains. For me it started when I was active in the singles group of my church in Manhattan Beach, a suburb of Los Angeles. Jason, one of the class members, started leading monthly hikes for the group, usually in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains, just north of Los Angeles. I was already mountain biking, roller blading, and rock climbing; and enjoyed the mountains and the other group activities, so became a regular on the hikes as well. This was the start of my love of hiking. Jason also organized a few camping trips and backpacking trips, including to the Grand Canyon. I had been brought up camping but had never done any backpacking before. One trip and I was hooked on that too.

On many of the hikes in the Angeles National Forest, we would see signs for, and hike on part of the Pacific Crest Trail. When I found out that it went from Mexico to Canada I thought that would be something fun to do someday. In the years that followed, I joined an adventure racing club and the outdoor activities progressed to longer, harder and more frequent. In the summer of 2002 I went to Peru on a two-week hiking mission trip. That turned into a three-year stint the following year. In 2005, knowing that my term would be up in January of 2006, I started making plans to thru-hike the PCT. The timing all came together, no job, no mortgage or other expenses, and some money in the bank from selling my house when I went to Peru.

Southern California, the Deserts

Sunset, Mojave DesertMojave Desert
PCT Hikers Going up Baden-PowellGoing Up Baden Powell

I started my hike on April 28 at the Mexican border. I was trying to finish in four months and I had already purchased my return ticket to Peru based on that schedule. The first week went well, and then I started getting blisters. I was also hiker faster than most of the others so I was passing a lot of people but not spending much time with them, and wasn't making any friendships with other hikers. After two weeks I had to take a few days off to let the blisters heal. I also realized that I needed to slow down and spend time with other hikers if I wanted to make friendships, which was one of my goals for the hike. After leaving Big Bear, CA, I did slow down and started hiking with four other people. Two of them were section hiking and one had to stop due to injury, but I hiked with go-Big, the other one, most of the way to the Oregon border.

The desert areas of Southern California were hard; I told myself then that I never wanted to hike them again. We had to constantly be aware of where our next water source would be, and many times carried three to four liters of water. And yet they had their own beauty, they didn't last forever, and they provided bonding experiences. They were also broken up with the snowy mountains and beautiful trees. The town stops were frequent and gave us time to relax with other hikers as well.

Sierra Nevada - Lots of Snow, Fast Rivers!

Go-Big in Fast Water, Mono CreekMono Creek Crossing
Ready to Help up Mather PassReady to Help up Mather Pass

Just after we started the High Sierra, we met Swiss Miss and Pang. I hiked together with them the rest of the way to Canada. Along the way, I spend varying amounts of time with other hikers as well. A group of 12 of us left Yosemite together - The Dirty Dozen! Half of us were from the U.S. and half were from other countries, so it became a very international experience. Each of us had strengths and weakness, and we learned to work together as a team, and to help and depend on each other. My greatest fear before starting the hike was crossing the rapid flowing, icy cold rivers. They turned out to not be as terrible as I had expected. We had a few close calls and some struggles, but the teamwork was amazing and we did it together.

We entered the Sierra Nevada on June 11, in a very heavy snow year, so we spent about a month hiking through snow, sometimes only getting down below snow level in the evening to camp. I had very little experience hiking in deep snow, and no experience navigating when the trail was covered with snow most of the day. Mostly we did it with map and compass but we did use a GPS some to pinpoint the trail location, and to confirm which was the right pass a few times. I had crampons at the beginning of the Sierras but soon lost them off the back of my pack before I ever used them. One thing we didn't have to worry about was water. We got spoiled by only having to carry a liter or two of water. We often drank directly from springs and the snow melt streams, without bothering to treat the water.

We carried ice axes but after the first couple of passes, they were used mostly for digging cat holes. The sun cups were one of the biggest problems, along with post holing in the soft snow in the afternoons. Almost everyone used trail running shoes, except the Europeans who wore mountaineering boots. We had wet feet the whole way through the Sierras from the snow and river crossings, and much of Washington from the rain and new snow, but surprisingly it wasn't much of a problem. We did get tired of the snow and needing to be constantly on the search for the trail. I would like to go back and hike the John Muir Trail (most of which is the same as the PCT) in the fall, when you can actually walk on the trail.

Oregon and Washington - It's Finished

The US/Canadian BorderU.S./Canadian Border
Crater Lake from the Hiker s PCTCrater Lake

You realize how long California is when you hike the whole way, it took three months and one week to reach Oregon, but I never got tired of the continually changing and always beautiful scenery. From Mt. Shasta on we had numerous forest fires, causing hazy skies, beautiful sunsets, and closed trails and detours. For the last month we weren't sure we would be able to finish the trail at Manning Park. We did have to skip a section in Oregon due to fires, but the final section before the Canadian border reopened just before we got there. Unlike some just ahead of us, we were able to finish at the official terminating point, and get our pictures at the border monument. That is the thru-hiker's "summit" moment, similar to when a mountaineer reaches the top of the mountain.

Oregon was only three weeks and Washington took four weeks, and then it was all over, except for the very emotional goodbyes. Unlike the mountaineer, who still has to get down the mountain after the summit, the hike ended on an emotional high, with nowhere to go, no descend time to unwind. We spent a couple of days there, not wanting to say goodbye and go home. It's hard to describe the feeling of watching the mountain peak landmarks pass below on the flight back to L.A, five months going by in fast reverse in a couple of hours! And then came trying to go back to a "normal" life, when our main concerns for so long were just walking, eating and sleeping. Now we were home, at least our bodies were, but our minds keep wandering back to the trail.

Saying Goodbye, Ready to Hike Again

Saying GoodbyeSaying Goodbye
Time to Retire These ShoesReady to Hike Again

Many people have commented on it as being "The trip of a lifetime". I understand what they mean but I have a problem with that. There is a common disease that affects many long distance thru-hikers. I have the disease and there is no cure. It is only alleviated to some degree by going on another long hike. When and where I don't know, but I’m sure it will happen. It's been 11 months since I finished the hike and I can still spend hours looking through some of the thousands of photos, or watching someone's slide show, and every time I do, I wish I could grab my backpack and head back to the trail. Just writing this and thinking about it causes me to get emotional and longing for the "simple" life on the trail. Of course like most difficult, but rewarding experiences, it's easy to forget the hard times and only remember the good.

From the Mexican border to Manning Park, British Columbia, Canada, took 151 days. It was an experience I will never forget. God showed me His faithfulness and provision every step of the way. The friendships made on the hike are very special, the shared experiences of the joys, hardships and dangers of the trail made for deep and lasting bonds. I could not have completed the hike without the help of many of those I spent a lot of time hiking with. Others added a rich dimension to the experience and made it a delight, even through the difficult times. I give thanks to God first and then to each one that He provided to make the hike such a wonderful experience.

If you are interested in reading my full daily journal of the hike (with daily photos), it is available as an e-book download from


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-18 of 18

jordansahls - Oct 5, 2007 3:22 pm - Voted 10/10

Long journey.

Cool trip, I have only done the Washington parts of the PCT, but I have always thought about someday doing the whole thing. Great story and great trip.


Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 5, 2007 4:38 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Long journey.

Thanks Jordan, Just looked at your foot picture, definitely PCT feet! Footcare was a major issue on the hike. After the first month I figured the blisters were past, but then got them again later, I think it was in Oregon, when we tried doing too many miles a day, too fast. You are still young, do a thru-hike while it is "easy". Although a bunch of us older guys put in a good showing. We finished with a 65 year old man.


vancouver islander

vancouver islander - Oct 5, 2007 4:07 pm - Voted 10/10

Give us more....

Vic, Why ever did you worry about this TR being too long? I for one would love to have read more details about your trip. Great job and, anytime you want to add anything, I'd love to read it.

Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 5, 2007 5:05 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Give us more....

Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. I have my original journal posted on my yahoo360 blog, but it is cumbersome to access the earlier entries. It is HERE

I have just published an updated and expanded version of the journal, it is available for download as an e-book here, as is a free copy of the appendix, which has lots of information for anyone interested in hiking the PCT - gear list, recommendations and resource links, as well as a free sample of the book. Available HERE



rpc - Oct 5, 2007 5:11 pm - Voted 10/10

great read.

"hike ended on an emotional high, with nowhere to go"

so how did you readjust back to norm? is CDT next in your plans?

Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 5, 2007 6:30 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: great read.

Thanks. I cheated, I didn't go back to a normal life. I started an adventure travel business and even though it is starting off slowly, I go hiking and climbing as much as possible, to research new routes. What a great excuse to do what I love to do! Some fellow PCT hikers just finished the CDT and I read their journals. Too much road walking and "find your own route" for me, hopefully it will be easier to hike before I get too old. I'm leaning towards a re-do of the PCT or maybe a southbound AT hike first (less crowded, less party scene).


Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Oct 5, 2007 5:54 pm - Voted 10/10

About Time You Shared This

Very enjoyable Vic.


Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 5, 2007 6:55 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: About Time You Shared This

Sorry to be so slow, Augie, I'll try to do better next time.
;-) Thanks for all your comments and votes. Hey, I expect to be back in L.A. sometime the first half of next year, maybe we can have an SP reunion in the San Gabriels.


Augie Medina

Augie Medina - Oct 5, 2007 7:35 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: About Time You Shared This

Keep me posted on your return to L.A. Vic. It would be great to get together.



klwagar - Oct 6, 2007 10:25 pm - Hasn't voted

cool trip

One I've always wanted to do but other stuff keeps getting in the way. Congratulations.

Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 7, 2007 12:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: cool trip

Thanks! Yes, it was a great trip. Watch out for the "stuff", don't let it get in the way forever!

Hiked for about a month with a woman from Canada. Unfortunately she had to take about a month off for a stress fracture, so didn't get to finish with her. She was going to start up again at Sonora Pass about a week before we got there, and then hike slow till we caught up to her. She must have been anxious to get home, she speeded up and we never caught her.

That's a wicked looking glacier on your profile photo. Where is that?



klwagar - Oct 7, 2007 2:14 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: cool trip

I know what you mean about the "other stuff". The glacier is in Glacier national Park BC near Rogers Pass. It is an incredible place for skiing, mountaineering and hiking. You'ld love it.


WalksWithBlackflies - Oct 8, 2007 8:58 am - Voted 10/10

Most Excellent!

Thanx for sharing.

Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 8, 2007 6:04 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Most Excellent!

You're welcome, appreciate the comment.



mishywishy - Dec 22, 2007 2:23 am - Hasn't voted


Cool Trip! I'm doing the John Muir Trail this summer/fall. I can't wait!

Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Dec 22, 2007 2:35 am - Hasn't voted

Re: awesome!

Thanks. The JMT was covered in snow when we went through, would love to see it later in the year. I'm sure you will love it, the scenery is the best! Vic


Deltaoperator17 - Oct 1, 2008 1:59 pm - Voted 10/10

Very Nice

Nicely done Vic. I am intrested in the PCT as I am origianly from Oregon now living in Idaho.

Sr. Adventurer de recuerdos


Vic Hanson

Vic Hanson - Oct 1, 2008 10:45 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Very Nice

Hi Steve, It was a great hike, got me hooked on long distance hiking. I hope to do it again someday. Give it a go if you get the chance. Vic

Viewing: 1-18 of 18



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