Pacific Crest or Pacific Coast

When I first blogged about going on an epic adventure, I mentioned the Pacific Crest Trail, but I have since discounted the PCT for two reasons. The first reason is silly, but still real. Whenever I’ve mentioned the PCT, people invariable tell me about Cheryl Strayed, and I want my own adventure, not a poor imitation of someone else’s. If I really wanted to hike the PCT, being forever overshadowed might not be a consideration, but the truth is, the PCT isn’t a walk in the park, and I like walks in the park. Or any sort of walk. What I’ve recently discovered is that I’m not fond of hiking.

WheLow tiden you walk, you are light and free, just swinging along, your body in perfect rhythm with its surroundings.

When you hike, you have to pick your way along often uneven terrain, sometimes on narrow trails that are eroded in spots, sometimes on logs that pass for bridges over shallow ravines or waterways. That would be bad enough, but generally you are also carrying a heavy pack (even a light pack — under twenty pounds — is heavy for one who is used to walking unencumbered). When you thru-hike the PCT, you have weather considerations and seasonal changes, such as winter, so you are on a stringent schedule. An ice axe is recommended and in many areas a bear canister is required. (An ice axe is to help you self-arrest if you start sliding down a snow-packed slope, which presupposes you have the strength to hang on, which I don’t. A bear canister is for protecting your food in bear country.) And this year, so I have heard, PCT hikers have been chased by killer bees and are having to deal with detours due to certain parts of the trail being burned out. Eek. So not my idea of a fun outing!

What I’m considering instead is walking along the coastline. Although there is no Pacific coast trail, all three Pacific states are in the process of creating one, mostly by connecting existing multiuse trails, bike paths, and boardwalks. Although the coast walk is partly urban, it also incorporates wilderness and desolate areas. And one 50-mile stretch goes along the shoulder of a highway. I suppose in a way a coastal walk would be even worse than hiking the PCT because not only would you have the possibility of meeting untamed creatures of the wild, you’d also risk meeting untamed creatures of the city, such as feral dogs and brutal humans. (Sounds to me as if I need to add pepper spray to my list of necessities.)

Walking such a variety of terrains is different from hiking in the wilderness. In the wilderness, making a pitstop is as easy as stepping behind the nearest bush, but such freedom does not exist on public beaches. In the wilderness, you can pitch a tent almost anywhere there is room, but on the coast you’re more apt to find yourself stealth camping — camping in undeveloped areas — if there’s no official campsite. However, there is a lot more activity along the coast than the crest, especially in beach areas, so food and water might be more accessible.

By definition, a coast walk includes water. Not potable water, but salt water, and a salt water soak is good for aching feet.

So when/if it comes to a choice between coast or crest, I’ll opt for coast.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

What Do You Absolutely Need?

I’ve been searching the internet for information about ultralight backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags in case I ever decide to walk up the Pacific Coast. Apparently, the lightest weight for all those things combined is about five pounds. Which, since I am interested in walking rather than struggling along with heavy pack, is still too much weight considering everything else I would need to bring. I suppose it would be possible to forget the tent and just sleep under the stars, or rely on relatives of friends and online acquaintances for a place to California sunrisestay, but emergency shelter is still a good idea.

But let’s forget that for now. It seems to take way more planning than the spontaneous adventure I dream of. Let’s also forget food and water, and assume that whatever I need will appear when I need it. As ridiculous as that might sound, it’s quite logical, since the first month or so of walking up the coast would be rather urban — San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara.

And let’s not talk about clothes. That too seems to take more planning and research than I want to do, at least for now, though I am thinking something gaudy. Sometimes camouflage is good, but human hunters so often choose their prey from among those who won’t be missed, and I want to make sure I would be noticed and would be missed.

So, what besides sleeping accommodations, food, and water, and clothes do I really need? Emergency supplies, I suppose, such as bandaids and water purifying tablets. A phone. Maybe extra batteries for the phone. Camera. A sun hat. Bug repellent, though supposedly there are few mosquitoes near the ocean. Toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss. Lip balm. A bit of cream or lotion to keep my skin from chapping. Handkerchief. Toilet paper. Pee rag. Flashlight. A few pieces of duct tape. Treking poles. Pen. A small notebook. A flower or something frivolous for my hat or backpack to remind me that the trip is supposed to be fun.

Sheesh. That’s a whole backpack full of stuff right there!

If you were going off on some sort of adventure, what would you absolutely need to take along?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.