An automated translation for those who want to follow me in English on the PCT - please use e.g. DeepL to translate the german description :-)
March 31, 2022
I can hardly manage to sleep deeply and soundly. Now but the nervousness and anticipation rises mightily. I have now gone through several times, whether I have everything with me - up to the nail scissors, sunglasses and signal whistle! Furthermore, I have dealt intensively with whether now a prepaid world SIM card makes sense or a mobile phone contract on the spot - not so easy. And the "saving pictures on the hard disk" works now, too. In addition, I was now several times with the fully packed backpack on the road and have also tried the backpack umbrella. So, what is not settled now, that must be done either then on the trail....or must wait until in a few months. Two more days....
March 29, 2022
The only thing that can prevent me from flying next Saturday is....a corona infection. So everyone keep your fingers crossed that the chalice passes me by!
March 28, 2022
A much too warm March in Germany is coming to an end soon. Next Saturday, half a year of weather in America begins for me. Slowly real nervousness comes up. So long I have never been "away from home" and at all....nun I have already read hundreds of reports, watched umpteen movies on Youtube me - yet the mixture of nervousness and especially anticipation remains. It keeps me still awake this morning despite the tiredness after the long night duty.
The first hikers are on the PCT and I can read and see their reports. Conditions are getting better by the day as last winter's snow melts away. Let's hope that the too warm March in Germany does not turn into a fire summer in the Sierra. Because it has also been rather too dry in California. But until then it is only a few weeks of beginning spring. In general, I will not only hike 4265 km north, not only walk through several different climate zones, but also follow the cycle from spring to the beginning of winter.
It will be simply exciting!
The last week I will rather rest again, regenerate. I will wear the backpack a few times now and see what can possibly be improved. But actually I'm ready for the trail. The shoes are broken in and ready to carry me as far as I can go. The goal is the Northern Terminus!
March 24, 2022
The Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung (RNZ) reports about my preparations for the adventure PCT2022
Link to the RNZ article by Jana Schnetz
March 21, 2022
Visit to the mayor Jan Frey of the local community Schönbrunn
Mr. Frey, mayor of Schönbrunn (https://www.gemeinde-schoenbrunn.de; districts Schönbrunn, Moosbrunn, Schwanheim, Haag), has been actively supporting my fundraising activities for quite some time. So also this time with my donation project "Project PCT2022". The recipients of the donations are "Doctors without Borders", the hospice work in Eberbach and the Johannes Diakonie. But of course, the extraordinary adventure I have ahead of me was also a topic of conversation at the meeting in the municipal administration. My anticipation of these months of walking makes not only me smile.
March 17, 2022
One of the last big training laps before the start of the PCT. I hiked from my hometown over the castle ruin Stolzenfeld down to the Neckar. Then across at Zwingenberg through the impressive Margaret Gorge and on to Moosbach/Obrigheim. The way back was shortened by a friend of mine, so after a break I continued from Neunkirchen. In the end, 51 km were in my legs - without any great strain on me. I think I am fit for the PCT!
The snow levels in the Laguna and San Jacinto Mountains are fortunately melting. So the first part of the hike up to Mohave Desert will probably be less dangerous in this respect (until then there are several mountains and passes above 2500m/8300ft to climb).
Link to trail conditions on the San Jacinto Trail: https://sanjacjon.com/
However, cleanup on the trail has been neglected the last two Corona years, so there are probably many downed trees making the trail difficult. How it will look after Kennedy Meadows in the Sierra Nevade, I have to wait and see. There are still a few weeks to go and hopefully the snow should be mostly melted by then. Like every year there were already the first serious accidents because of ice and snow on the way.
March 15, 2022
My contact with Barbara, who hiked the PCT last year, brings me some more important information. Among other things, that she has walked through a total of five pairs of Altra shoes in addition to two that she had to claim. That makes about 1000 km per pair of shoes - after that, they are definitely treadless and also haltless.
If you don't want to get involved with having to pay a lot of money for medical treatment that may become necessary, you should consider taking out health insurance abroad. These are not exactly cheap for such long trips and, depending on age (e.g. >60 years), can put a noticeable strain on the travel budget. This is partly due to the U.S. health care system, which is not based on a solidarity community like the statutory health insurance in Germany.
March 11, 2022
While the world is watching the conflict between Ukraine and Russia with increasing concern, I am secretly glad to be able to escape this news madness soon. I'm also starting to get nervous and running out of time for all the things I feel I still have to do. But I am also secure in a circle of friends and my own little family. What remains undone won't be that important - and if it is, someone will find someone to take care of it.
The increasing number of Corona infections and the way I deal with them makes me fear that this problem is far from over. Hopefully it won't catch up with me so shortly before departure!
March 07, 2022
This morning, as I walk like many times the last weeks, the way from the night service back to my house, I feel once again intensely how lucky I actually am.
On the one hand, I am lucky to have this opportunity to take half a year off from my work at Johannes Diakonie, but I am also lucky to be physically able to take on this long-distance hike again. Regular physiotherapy still helps me to strengthen my muscles to such an extent that they can take over some of the tasks that my bones and, above all, my joints would otherwise have to carry. I still remember well my early days of walking along the hiking trails with a three-wheeled buggy, because I could not carry even a light backpack for four hours without pain. From the monastery of St. Odilienberg I walked along the Alsatian Way of St. James. I used the buggy as a substitute for a backpack and almost despaired at some rocky sections. But I learned from it - what works and what doesn't.
And today, seven years later, the stiff frozen leaves of last year are breaking under my feet as I look forward to the approaching sunrise. By now it's early March and my workout on the way to work is no longer lightless as it was a few weeks ago. By now, the eyes of deer and rabbits and foxes are no longer shining in the light of my headlamp. In the rising dusk they stand at the edge of the forest or run through the still fallow fields.
The air is as crystal clear as the view up to the stars. Thickly I am dressed, but feel with satisfaction that neither the climb nor the speed really exert me. Instead of focusing on my body, I can open myself completely to the outside world: the crunch of the frozen ground beneath my feet, the icy chill of the morning breeze stinging my face. There is little moisture in the air, so that only a thin layer of mist lies over the fields. They are already prepared for the next annual cycle of growing, ripening and harvesting.
An owl sits on an old apple tree that stands lonely on a hillside meadow. The distance is too great to see it clearly. But its unfamiliar call floats through the morning quiet, breaks on the nearby edge of the forest, and finally fades away somewhere behind the next hill.
It strikes me these days how great the difference is from four or five weeks ago. At the same time, it was still completely dark. It could be almost dead quiet on a windless morning. The animals of the night are not so numerous in our forests anyway. And the animals of the twilight were still sleeping. But now, a few weeks later, the forest awakens during my walk home. Already at my start at the Johannes Diakonie the first birds begin to sing. So the song thrushes are already warbling fiercely an hour before sunrise. And gradually more and more birds join in this chorus, most recently greenfinches and chaffinches.
The sun still shimmers through the bare trees as it slowly rises above the horizon. But the forest floor is already preparing to be bathed in colorful patches of mostly green and white. Wild garlic and anemones already cover the still light-flooded forest floor in masses, interspersed with yellow dots of the winterling and soon purple ones of the larch spur. But it is still too early in the year for most early bloomers.
I stop and look up. The last stars are fading in the already brightening blue of the clear morning sky. The moon's narrow crescent still shines, but by the time I get home the bright light of the sunny day will outshine it before it sets.
Yes, it is good fortune that I get to feel all this so intensely. I am well prepared for the Pacific Crest Trail. Mentally and physically. I am at one with myself and fit for the exertions that are to come. Only sometimes my thoughts already wander to the end of the trail. What will it be like to return to the "old" life after five months? But now, now I am looking forward above all to it beginning! With these thoughts, the last kilometers fly by like nothing in the brightening morning.
04 March 2022
Yesterday I started early in the morning for the longest training round so far. Across the high-lying fields and forests of the Odenwald down to the Neckar valley and then later, of course, back again. The total of 45 km I have brought within 8 hours well behind me and am very happy to have no complaints this morning. Even the worn shoes without much "residual stability" were no problem - the muscle building of the last few weeks has helped very well. Of course, the beautiful weather with bright sunshine and blue sky also inspired my steps. The wild garlic is getting ready in many places to overgrow the forest floor, which is not yet shaded by the deciduous trees, en masse. In the Margaret Gorge near Neckargerach, now at the beginning of spring, there is still plenty of water rushing down the rock steps - again and again this steep gorge is a place to marvel and admire.
February 21, 2022
In addition to physical preparation, detailed pre-planning is also part of such a multi-month undertaking. For weeks now, I have been studying the route, looking for support points where resupply with food is possible and where equipment can be purchased if necessary. It is also not easy to find suitable places to which small supply depots can be sent. Mostly these are small post offices along the way, which are not always open. This also needs to be taken into account.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) and the Halfwayanywhere website are a great help there, as you summarize experiences of many hundreds of thru-hikers and many years of PCT hiking season.
Anyway, you can spend many hours on it, because it's not the first 100 miles that are the big task, but the following 4000 kilometers. The further north you go, the more experienced you are, but the longer you are far from your original plan. The plan should therefore include at least a few fixed points that you want to reach at a certain time. This also helps the team that accompanies you from a distance. So they know how I'm doing and that I'm doing well.
February 12, 2022
My almost daily training rounds show success. The endurance leads to the fact that the pulse does not shoot up so much even on inclines and I become faster and faster. In addition, I was able to win some hikers to hike with, with which the training is even more fun.
Last weekend I did a 30 km training hike along the river Neckar. However, I had to learn that not every path on the map is a walkable path in reality. Unfortunately, my shoes already give up - that would be too early for such a long hike - usual are 3-4 pairs of shoes for the PCT.
A surprising realization by the way: In California the small gas cartridges for the stoves are rare. According to research by a fellow hiker, this is because the butane can be used to extract THC from hemp (dabbing) to produce BHO (Butane Hash Oil). In the process, the illegal drug cookers probably blow themselves up too often. For this reason, the distribution of butane in quantities greater than 150 ml has been regulated in California since 2019. Unbelieveable: there is nothing that does not exist....and we PCT hikers now suffer from cartridge shortages :-)
February 1, 2022
The preparations are going on. The days are getting longer again and in the meantime I am doing bigger and bigger laps as often as possible. So I start to prepare my body for the weeks of daily hiking. In addition, I can test the right shoes, because I still have not found the optimum. In addition, I have started stretching exercises to prepare my tendons and feet for the constant strain. A health check and a visit to the dentist are also behind me.
My fitness tracker reliably records training sessions, but also sleep. A deep and restful sleep is essential on the trail.
Also, in preparation, I have now watched countless videos and participated in the preparatory "trainings" offered by the PCT Association. I have to figure out how to plan supply points and what to send there. Fortunately, on one of my hikes I found good friends from the USA who will also help me with the organization from there. The first pieces of equipment from American manufacturers (Gossamer) are already with him.
As an additional safety backup I will take a Garmin InReach satellite tracker with me this time. This will allow live tracking of my daily progress. Most important to me is that I can use it to call for help if necessary. What is still to overcome: choosing the tariff for the six months, setting up the account at Garmin, all the small and big hurdles in the software...but all this is not insurmountable :-)
January 12, 2022
All starting places for this year are assigned. Just over 500 hikers are nobo (north bound), still 10 are hiking in the opposite direction (south bound, sobo). Beginning in early March until my start date, about 110 hikers will leave before me. Most of them start after me, only a few start at the end of May or at the beginning of June, because then the period until the onset of winter at the Canadian border is very short. My starting group on 5.4. consists of five men and two women (Texas 2x, England 2x, Canada, Wiesbaden - between 33 and 60 years). Before us 11 fellow hikers start the day before and 8 after us on the 1000 km through the desert of California.
06 January 2022
The New Year has begun and with it the excitement increases even more. After the two-week long-distance hike on the GR 249 in southern Spain, I walked as often as I could to my workplace (there and back a bit under 20 km). Currently, this means even more than usual a hike in the dark - it's just winter and the headlamp has passed its test perfectly so far.
The frequent rain and the resulting softened paths have made me a little doubt whether the currently favored shoe is really the most suitable. SPerhaps I will have to do a few test rounds more.
To determine whether my onion tactics applied to the clothing also works with the sleeping bag, I spent the past night outdoors. The combination of two ultralight sleeping bags (Radical ULX and ULZ) allows a flexible adaptation to the changing conditions on the PCT. There were cold feet, however, despite the comfortably warm down filling. But that's more likely due to the fact that the jump from sleeping in the always warm house out into a frosty night is just very stark.
In addition to the equipment in terms of clothing, tent and sleeping bag, I also try to find an optimum in the equipment that today must somehow also be considered necessary: Camera, tripod, power bank, cell phone, possibly a satellite emergency call device. Everything wants to be supplied with electricity - which can be challenging away from a socket in the nearest wall. In the next weeks I want to try out an ultra-light solar panel combination - as already used on the Te Araroa long-distance hiking trail in New Zealand.
My whole equipment should weigh only 4.5-5kg, because I want and need to have another 4-5kg space for food and water. And more than 10 kg with distances of up to 35-40 km in one day I do not want to trust and expect me. So it depends on every gram - you become a gram fox ;-)
November 19, 2021
The permit to hike on the PCT is now confirmed. From the side nothing stands in the way of the adventure!
December 15, 2021
The long-term residence permit by the embassy is also available :-)
09. November 2021
The Permit, the permission to hike the PCT, is won and the date is fixed:
>> Start is on 05 April 2022 <<
The flights were booked the same evening. What is still pending is the interview at the Permanent Mission of the USA in Frankfurt - they don't let everybody in ;-)
The time has come, the decision has been made. The next long-distance hiking project has been found.
An idea is born
The Corona Pandemic has determined my life for one and a half years. I was always on standby, did a lot of work and worked a lot of overtime. A few weeks ago, I thought hard about it, felt inside myself, tried to get an overview of my health. In the process, I discovered that I had fallen behind a great deal. I mean, my condition showed enormous deficits and also mentally a limit had been reached: the events of the past months had taken a lot out of me.
But now a dream moved into the focus of my thoughts.
Since long-distance hiking has taken a firm place in my leisure time activities, I dream of traveling to America once in my life and walking one of these three very big trails.
A crazy idea, a dream even.....but some dreams can come true! Even at the age of 60!
Now this nasty pandemic has fatefully brought this dream within reach. I can hardly believe it myself but it is so. My application for a 6-month sabbatical was approved. So I am allowed to use vacation and overtime in a combination of reduced working hours to realize my dream. So it's off to America for 6 months in April 2022. More precisely, because this decision has also been made: It will be the 4265 kilometer Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT for short. Officially Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
It crosses the states of California, Oregon and Washington along its length on the west coast of the USA. So from the Mexican border up to Canada. The PCT is considered the most dangerous of the three major long-distance trails in the U.S. and accordingly there are only about 3500 people per year who dare to try to walk it completely - only a few hundred arrive.
(The three king trails are also called "Triple Crown" trails: the Appalachian Trail with 3.500 km length, the Continental Divide Trail with 5000 km length and the Pacific Crest Trail with 4265 km)
I am very excited and now, as for all the best things in my life, once again I have 9 months to prepare :-).
Anticipation is an important part of any trip. I hope many of you will accompany me on this.
My equipment - lightness is the trump card
When you have to carry everything you need on your back every day, a top goal is to reduce the weight as much as possible. There are a few things that are impossible to do without. And a few things that are simply part of the package, even if they are not absolutely necessary.
Since the hike goes from the desert over the mountains into the (rain)forest, streams and rivers have to be crossed without bridges, the ground will be from sandy to rocky to boggy and the temperatures can range from + 45°C to -10°C, flexibility is the order of the day. This includes my onion principle, which I have been practicing for years - not one thick jacket, but several layers adaptable to the prevailing situation.
I also realize the onion principle with my sleeping bag, which consists of two parts. The high-quality down filling provides sufficient protection even at temperatures below freezing, but does not keep too warm when the nights are lukewarm.