[pct-l] Post to PCT-L : "Starting earlier than permit date"

Barry Teschlog tokencivilian at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 22 14:15:39 CDT 2016

While Brick is technically correct that

Start Quote
"You don't need a thru hiker permit to hike the PCT.....Soooo, you can be completely legal starting early, as long as you get your Descanso "visitors permit"End Quote
I would suggest that it is incumbent upon ALL trail users to abide their start date.  The limiting to 50 per day is part of the attempt to spread out the herd and limit impacts of increasing numbers on the trail.

Clearly the Government land managers (as well as the PCTA) are worried about over use, especially on the southern part of the trail.  If the hikers don't abide the modest, voluntary limits this entails, they can only look forward to more draconian restrictions out of the Government in the future.

As I wrote on NWHikers.net about this subject just yesterday:
Start Quote from NWHikers post:
Unless there is some serious self imposed (by the hikers & IMO the angels / those providing magic) behavior mods to mitigate adverse impacts, it's only a matter of time until there is an Enchantments type regulation scheme imposed on the PCT to keep it from being loved to death.  When there are 50 people in one camp spot, often times near one of the scarce water spots, in places in So Cal, it's a sh*t fest of human waste and a huge impact.  When the trail looks like a flipping ultra-marathon, with "aid stations" [of trail magic] every few miles, how can some hikers NOT feel like the trail is there to serve them...and treat it correspondingly badly?

The Government Land Managers have a responsibility to insure the impacts don't get out of control....better to self mitigate via self imposed LNT principles, for example, than have draconian restrictions, like the Enchantments or Wonderland***, imposed from on high.

*** - "Submit your desired camp sites / itinerary for the first 700 miles with your permit application and $200 non-refundable processing fee, due October 31 of the year prior to your proposed northbound thru hike.  You will be notified if you get your desired plan by March 31.  Note that no deviation will be permitted without prior written adjustments to your permit from an authorized USFS office. [Your permit fee helps pay for the Rangers to enforce the permit system.]"  (Only slightly TIC what it might end up being......)
End Quote from NWHikers post.
For context, the Enchantements are a highly regulated area here in Washington.  Permits are strictly limited and available ahead of time only by lotto.  A fraction of daily permits are held for walk up - not sure if those are first come first serve or a daily lotto of those who show up in person at the Ranger District Office.  The Wonderland is also highly regulated, where you must stick to your itinerary no matter what, or get off the trail, if the Rangers can't make an adjustment if you need to switch camp sites, or can't make your miles, or want to do more miles, than planned and permitted.  Do we really want a Lotto for enforced start dates?

I was recently hiking in New Zealand.  Some of their great walks are so sought after that they're incredibly regulated.  In chatting with a NZ Dept of Conservation Ranger, she related that on one of the Great Walks, everyone has an identical itinerary imposed on them.  If your start on a given day, you're only permitted to hike to a particular hut / campground.  The next day, you must depart and can only go one way, on to the next hut / campground, and so on, and so on - you're stuck with who ever you happen to have the fortune, or mis-fortune of starting on the same day as.  That way the maximum number of available slots can be made for users.  Does that sound like a fun way to start a thru hike of the PCT?

If a person is only doing the trail once, I can see where they may not give a damn about what happens in the future or their part in a current problem  - a tragedy of the commons type problem that will guarantee mandatory restrictions in the future.  However, for those of us invested in the long term health of the trail, I would suggest that it's critical we strongly advocate for such voluntary hiker and angel behavior as will keep the trail from degrading under the increasing use.  If we don't voluntarily act ourselves, adopting and encouraging through social norms and peer pressure LNT type principals and other behavior that protects the trail, the Government Land Managers charged with protecting the public property will eventually act and impose what they think is necessary to protect the resource via the full power of the law.....and we might not like what happens at that point.

Bottom line to the OP:  

It depends on who you are and how fast of a hiker you are.  If you "must" do a continuous north bound hike, know that there are a lot of hikers that start mid May and fly up the trail to finish in September.  Train heavily between now and your start date so you can hit the ground doing 20's to 25's right out of the gate.  If you finish in 4 months, you'll be crossing into Canada about Sept 15th - plenty early in practically any year.  From a May 14 start to Sept 15, that's 124 days.  Take 15 zero's and you'll need to average 24.3 miles per day on the days you hike.  Same number of zero's and start slightly pushing the weather window with an October 1 finish (140 total days) and you'll need to do 21.2 miles a day on the days you hike.  Avoid nero's like the plague since those are average killers -  if you nero into a town, get back out the same day and make some more miles.  This will save you a bunch of money as well.

Respectfully submitted.

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