[pct-l] GPS on the PCT

Austin Williams austinwilliams123 at gmail.com
Mon Dec 14 15:47:55 CST 2009

My experience southbounding in 2008 convinces me that GPS - though not
totally necessary - could add 5 - 10 miles a day to a southbounder's pace in
Washington.  I experienced times where the trail would disappear under snow
for more than a quarter mile.  I spent hours trying to find the trail.
Once, in Glacier Peak Wilderness, I searched for the trail for half a day.
Eventually I had to bail out - bushwhack 20+ miles to the nearest
(abandoned) road, then road walk about 3/4 of a day just to get to a road
with actual traffic.

And I'm not inexperienced with map reading.  Granted, I had only the
guidebook maps (which are worthless for finding the trail in such
situations, but were good enough to let me set a bearing in the right
direction).  That's how I got the trail name 'Bushwhack'  :)

It was also the summer following one of the heaviest winters on record (as
far as snow fall goes).  So that definitely played a roll.

On another occasion (same year, same state, same hike) I had to bail out
again.  Had to bushwhack 7 miles (almost broke my leg and jaw while climbing
down some boulders in the process), then road walk 10 more just to get to
White Pass.  I've got handfulls of these stories.

I eventually met up with 3 other southbounders while I was hiking.  They did
have a GPS.    I hiked with them for the remainder of Washington and we used
the GPS to regain the trail at least three times... each time we hiked
between an eighth of a mile to a quarter mile over snow pack before
regaining the trail.  Had it not been for them and their GPS I would have
had to skip the rest of the Washington sections.

If your aren't traveling 'with the pack' and you don't like playing
hide-and-go seek with the trail, I highly recommend a GPS.  I may only use
it 4 or five times over the whole trip, but those 4 or 5 times I will thank
the trail gods I brought it.  Also, going southbound, you may run into more
snow, and detours aren't marked as well for southbounders... and you won't
have footprints to follow through the snow.  Just my (hard earned) two

So I'll be bringing a GPS next time.  I'm just asking around for people's
opinions on which set of GPS waypoints they like best.  I imagine there are
several sets out there.  Anyone have any favorites?

Thanks again for the advice.


On Sun, Dec 13, 2009 at 9:24 PM, Postholer <public at postholer.com> wrote:

> I've gathered so far that there are two kinds of data that I can load into
>> my GPS: tracks and waypoints.
> Think of a track as a trail of bread crumbs or footsteps. Coordinates in a
> track are very close together, ie, 10, 20, 50 feet, etc.
> Waypoints are a collection of landmarks. These coordinates are typcially
> much farther apart than track coordinates, ie, a road crossing, creek
> crossing, ridgetop, trail junction, etc, might be way points, maybe a
> quarter mile or miles (or whatever) apart.
> Directionally it doesn't matter what end you start from, they are in
> consecutive order.
> If you look at the postholer PCT map (http://postholer.com/gmap/gmap.php),
> the PCT trail trace (track) is a collection of closely spaced coordinates,
> 257,000 of them! Where as waypoints you might have a few thousand for the
> whole trail.
> Unless you're going to hiking in extensive snow or just want to collect
> data from your trip, a GPS really is unnecessary for the PCT.
> -postholer
> ------------------------------------
> Trail Journals, Google Trail Maps, Forums: http://postholer.com
> Pacific Crest Trail Photo Atlas: http://postholer.com/photoAtlas.php

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