[pct-l] ADZPCTKO: how it used to be
Eric Lee (GAMES)
elee at microsoft.com
Thu Feb 28 19:58:03 CST 2008
All this talk makes me wonder about a few things: did a "herd" exist before the ADZPCTKO, did ADZPCTKO change the nature of the herd, and if ADZPCTKO were to disappear, what would the herd end up looking like?
Since the ADZPCTKO has been around for almost 10 years now, it's hard to remember what life was like before it came along. I thought it might be interesting to go back and look at pct-l emails from around that time that described how things were then. I pulled several snippets from 1999 leading up to the first ADZPCTKO and planning for the second one. The first ADZPCTKO had about 20 thrus and section hikers in attendance, some of whom caught rides from other places on the trail to be there, so it wasn't skewing the herd's behavior much at the time.
Below are quotes I found interesting, with some brief commentary on my part marked with ***. It's kind of long, so feel free to skim it or delete it if you don't care. I'll summarize my conclusions (based on these quotes and much more reading which I didn't include) first before I get to the quotes.
The overall picture I get is that before ADZPCTKO, people generally started in the three weeks between the middle of April and early May. The peak tended to be around the end of April and dropped off pretty sharply after the first week in May.
The dates of the ADZPCTKO were chosen to match the already-existing peak thru-hiker flow, though part of the intent of ADZPCTKO was to create a bigger, more concentrated group than had previous existed in order to foster camaraderie and promote safety in numbers. There was certainly an expectation that many people would have been starting on ADZPCTKO weekend anyway but that others would move their start dates to that weekend in order to attend.
We know that ADZPCTKO attendance grew explosively in the first few years. Total thru-hiker numbers also grew significantly during that time but not as much, which indicates that ADZPCTKO succeeded in its mission to cause a bunching effect.
However, ADZPCTKO only shifted people within a narrow three week range. If ADZPCTKO suddenly disappeared, there would almost certainly be some natural spreading out of start dates but they wouldn't spread very far. The curve would still build gradually from mid-April to a peak at the end of April and then an abrupt drop-off in early May . . . in other words, the same curve we had before ADZPCTKO.
Reading the archives from the past couple of years, it's pretty clear that people are becoming aware of the herd problem and many people are opting to start early and shuttle back to ADZPCTKO to avoid being part of it. Not many people start after ADZPCTKO, partly because you can start early and still attend ADZPCTKO but it's harder to start late and be there, but also because May rapidly becomes undesirable for starting. So even with ADZPCTKO's influence, the start date curve is trending back toward how it looked before ADZPCTKO, though still with a sharper-than-natural spike on ADZPCTKO weekend, and still with far greater numbers at each point on the curve because there are many more thru-hikers attempting the trail.
Someone recently said that the PCTA has been issuing about 500 permits per year in recent years. Let's assume that even without ADZPCTKO, roughly 80% of those people start in the traditional three-week window (educated guess). Assuming they spread out totally evenly, that's about 20 people per day, every day, for 21 days. However, we know that there was a curve centering on the end of April even before ADZPCTKO. How much of a curve? No one knows, but to make another educated guess, let's say about double the average, so 40 people. People have reported seeing roughly 60 thrus arrive in Warner Springs on the busiest day in recent years, so we might expect 40 people but actually get 60. In other words, in my speculative model, ADZPCTKO accounts for roughly a third of the wave. The other two-thirds would have been there regardless. Obviously, with so many guesses going into this formula you could make the numbers say whatever you want them to say, but it seems likely that ADZPCTKO is a significant but minority contributor to the problem.
As with most arguments, there are the two extremes and then the truth is somewhere in the middle. Yes, ADZPCTKO has changed things. No, it didn't change them radically. Yes, if ADZPCTKO were to go away the herd would get somewhat more spread out. No, the herd would not disappear entirely.
*** Even before the very first ADZPCTKO, people were already arranging rides to the KO from wherever they happened to be on the trail.
On 2/25/1999 Joanne Lennox wrote:
I think that I should be in the Highway 10 area or Big Bear Lake region at that time. Is there anybody that is going to the party from that area and is willing to pick me up and return me? I realize that it is a long shot but thought that I would ask. I'd probably be badly in need of company by that time too.
*** Flyin' Brian on late start dates:
On 4/26/1999 Brian Robinson wrote:
For a first time thru-hiker expecting to complete the trail in one year, [your latest start should be] May 15th. [...] [I] started May 4th and wished I'd started earlier.
*** One of the original stated goals of the ADZPCTKO was to help thrus get together and have some perceived safety in numbers.
On 9/25/1999 Tom Reynolds wrote:
The 1999 goal of the event was to facilitate 99 hopefuls to start together from Mexico and hike together during the first few days of the trail where illegial activity might pose a danger. (I don't know of any thruhiker who has been harmed by illegial activity. This is just a precaution). In addition the support team spotted water at Chariot Canyon and Scissors Crossing and assisted the Sierra Club in spotting water midway through the San Felipe Hills.
*** The organizers surveyed as many prospective thrus as they could and picked the weekend with the largest number of starters (mid-April, though in hindsight the peak was actually the end of April). At that time, the herd was spread over about three weekends.
On 3/21/1999 Tom Reynolds wrote:
We picked 4/17 because it was when the largest number of 99 hopefuls were starting the hike. However, there is a good crop of hopefuls starting the following two (2) weekends.
*** In hindsight, the mid-April date was too early for Sierra snow. The decision was made to move the ADZPCTKO back a couple of weeks, though a range of dates were still being kicked around, with the last weekend in April and the first and second weekends in May being debated.
On 9/26/1999 Tom Reynolds wrote:
I was on the trail at Sally Keys Lakes and heard first hand the trials of many thruhikers who post holed through miles of snow in a "light" snow year in the Southern Sierra. A couple of weeks later and the snow would have been a challenge. but not a continuous ordeal [Three weeks later and the snow would have been mere patchs] I believed then, as you experienced, that the energy expended in this effort, would result in problems down the trail.
I personally believe that the problem is "arriving at KM" too early. Once you are at KM and are ready to go, waiting must be aweful. Your conditioning begins to deteriorate and the urge to get back on the trail must be overwhelming. I believe the solution is to skip the "party" at KM and leave Route 178 at the right time to walk right through KM at the right time, about two weeks later than the pack left.
The above logic was the reason the support team set back the [second] ADZPCTKO two weeks from last year.
On 10/27/1991 Rusty Johnston wrote:
Why were the dates for the [second] ADZPCTKOP chosen to be the first weekend in May (tradition?) and not the last weekend of April? You all probably know better, but my prediction puts a greater number of hikers starting the last few days of April/first few days of May.
On 10/27/1999 Greg Hummel wrote:
The date has been discussed around. This year we decided on 2nd or 3rd week in April as the most convenient for the most people. Next year we are guessing about when the largest amount of people will come through and currently that is early May, although this isn't set in stone. We can stay flexible for a long time yet and see when the majority of people are planning to start, however, there is a kind of "if you build it, they will come" effect also.
On 10/27/1999 Tom Reynolds wrote:
I am responsible for the ADZPCTKOP date. Last year it was set too early in mid-April. The thruhikers who left Campo that early would up in Kennedy meadows too early. They had the choice of waiting for the snow to clear (ruining their conditioning) or braving snowy passes (wearing themselves out postholing through soft snow) This year we are targeting two (2) weekends April 29,30, May 1 and May 5,6,7 [...] It is possible that we could move the date back to May 12,13,14. Water stashes will commence with whatever weekend we pick and last about a month.
*** Consensus started leaning toward the last weekend in April as both the best starting time and also the peak of the existing herd.
On 11/16/99 Bob Riess wrote:
My vote goes for Apr 28-30, which was about the center of mass for the Class of 99, and was also on the early side for 99 conditions. My gut feeling is, if you average the start dates of all the finishers, year over year, it would come out to about May 1.
*** The herd tended to thin out dramatically after the first week in May. This quote apparently describes conditions pre-ADZPCTKO since it was written before the second year which was the first to have any noticeable impact on start dates.
On 4/25/2000, Roger Carpenter wrote:
To all of you "late starters":
If you decided to pass on ADZPCTKO and start later than April 28, say between May 8 and May 12, you will enjoy more solitude and full hiker boxes in the resupply towns! Imagine all the discarded corn pasta and other treats that await you! You will have lots of register entries to read at the post offices and plenty of footsteps in the snow to follow on San Jacinto (if any snow is left!). Also, if you are hiking a fairly agressive itinerary, you will have the pleasure of passing numerous hikers on the way to Kennedy Meadows and beyond. On my thru-hike [in 1996] I found it more fun to meet people after I caught up with them, rather than visa-versa!
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