Running the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Mexico to Canada is probably about as difficult in the end as it sounds. At least if you think it's not easy, but also not impossible.
Interestingly, the hardest part is not what you might think at first. It's not walking, not navigating, it's not the 4,200 km, not the 136,000 meters of altitude, and it's not even camping on snow. The most difficult thing is to convey these experiences in an even remotely understandable way. But I will do my best to leave a touch of impression and concentrate mostly on what is of most interest here:
Walking barefoot from Mexico to CanadaThe first days were hellI started on April 7th, 2019, we drove early in the morning with several cars from San Diego into the desert countless auxiliary acts also drove to the starting point of the PCT on the American-Mexican border. After some photos and the last advice (e.g. opening the rucksack chest and hip straps when crossing a river!) One after the other marched off. The first steps on an incredibly long journey.
I had teamed up with five others and we had agreed to stay together for the first time. But already after half a day the first misjudgment became clear, our tempos did not match at all. You have to go that way alone. By the way, I was the slowest. In several test hikes I had found that if I was walking too fast, I got blisters under my feet very quickly, no matter which shoes / socks / plasters or whatever I tested - but more on that later. As a North German flatland child, I also found that the first section of the PCT is something withheld in many experience reports or was probably lost in the overwhelming later experiences.
Honest said the first few days were more like hell for me. The combination of sand, heat, constant up and down hills and a backpack that was way too heavy pushed me to the absolute limit. On the first day I dragged myself to the agreed sleeping point at Hauser Creek, had hardly any energy left to cook anything and slept badly. The next morning it went steeply uphill and after a few minutes the blisters burst under my feet. I was very happy to have started much later than the others, because to be honest, I was completely exhausted. How should I manage that for half a year? When I got to the top I was desperate. I didn't know which hurt more, my back or my feet. I had been planning over a year and hadn't gotten far a day.
After the first day, we continued barefootI took off my shoes and socks and walked barefoot to the next place. I don't really know why I did that, because with the open blisters it was certainly not a good idea from a medical point of view. But it gave me a feeling of strength and freedom and like I said - I had to do something. Lake Morena is about mile 20. I didn't get to the place that many arrive on the first evening until around noon, spent the midday heat with a shower and lots of food and a little nap. Canceling wasn't an option, not this early. I had resolved to stick it out for the first two weeks, no matter what. So I did the only thing possible, I tried to adapt. I ran even slower, wallpapered my feet as best I could and got rid of as much stuff as possible at the next opportunity. After 100 miles the feet were bloody, after 300 healed. After 500 I was given trail running shoes and a success story began.
Walking barefoot on the PTCAnyone who expects to hear a story of salvation about barefoot shoes should be warned. I love walking barefoot and I love my leguanos. But to claim that something in this world is the right thing to do is unreasonable extremism. I wore my leguanos for about half of the 4,200km of the PCT and I think that was perfect. After I got new shoes, as I said, I mostly wore the leguanos for the first 10 to 15 miles a day, i.e. 16 to 24 km. Depending on the terrain and how tired my feet are. The rest of the day, when my feet felt as if they had insulted Klitschko's mother, I slipped into the heavily dampened trail runners and practically restarted the day.
I I am a physiotherapist and I think I know something about our musculoskeletal system. Running with strong cushioning and guidance does the work for our muscles. In the long run, our musculoskeletal system loses the ability to provide this cushioning and securing of the joints itself. We get problems with the leg axis, which leads to imbalances and uneven wear. Walking barefoot is therefore a workout and, as with any workout, there is one too many. Running tens of kilometers every day with a backpack weighing several kilograms without being used to it was too much. I am sure that training with barefoot shoes saved me from all possible injuries. I didn't have shin splints, knee or hip problems. My leg axis was guided by a sufficiently competent musculature, but the soles of my feet took a lot. I would therefore do the combination of shoes again at any time.
The sole of the leguano shoes actually turned out to be extremely helpful for many of the smaller climbing activities due to their high grip. Even with tricky river crossings or rain-soaked stones, I felt very comfortable in the quick-drying shoes. Even on snow, the eguanos made a surprisingly good impression.
Via the Pacific Crest TrailSpeaking of different terrain, maybe I should briefly provide some information about the PCT in general. As I said, it stretches over a total of about 4,200 km between Mexico and Canada, passes through the US states of California, Oregon and Washington and has pretty much everything to offer in terms of nature impressions. The first 700 miles are desert. Then it goes for about a month in the high mountains in the Sierra Nevada. If you want, you can make a short detour to the highest mountain in the USA, Mt. Whitney (4,420m). In any case, it goes over the Forrester Pass, which is quite high at about 4,000m. After the Sierra it goes through beautiful Oregon and Washington. These two states are a bit behind the Sierra with their big highlights,
My trail name: PolkadotsOn a long distance trail like the PCT, you are almost always given a trail name. I got mine in the desert. You often get this nickname because of some unusual character or appearance. Everyone always recognized me by my shoe prints in the sand and my fellow hiker, Diva, the footprint reminded me of the fashion design of a dotted pattern and so I was baptized polkadots.
I am infinitely grateful to have experienced this adventure and my plan is clear, I will run this trail again - if at all possible. I can't think of anyone more beautiful. I have already set a point in time. In 2058 - or whenever my generation retires - I want to distribute my polkadots between Mexico and Canada again.
Tom Clemens started the longest hike of his life in April 2019: He ran from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest T rail.