Opening Statement

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Friday, February 22, 2019

If you hike 22.5 miles per day, leave Kennedy Meadows by June 17

In 2017 many people told me on trail that they wouldn't finish because they spent too much time trying to get through the Sierras, or waiting out the snow between Kennedy Meadows and Bishop.  After hiking 2,000 miles in 2017 and thru-hiking the PCT in 2018, I've talked to a lot of people that missed a thru-hike by 150 to 500 miles, or 660 miles for me in 2017.  For many people, their miss was predictable and avoidable.

2019 looks like another high snow year, so if a thru-hike is important to you, the schedule math below should be important to you as well.  Everything is keyed to your average hiking pace.  For a NOBO hiker that's often what you find comfortable when you hike the Walker Pass to Kennedy Meadows section, or just a little above that pace. I've added a zero/resupply day every 8th day and set September 27th as your finish date in Manning Park, because weather usually gets dicey around then. 

There are speed adjustments for each section since the Sierras are a lot slower than Oregon.  More details on how I calculated trail days for each section, as well as a discussion of each trail section and flipping, are in this post: Calendar Math

Average Pace in miles per day by Kennedy Meadows
17.5 20.0 22.5 25.0 27.5
Campo (start)
22-Mar 15-Apr 3-May 18-May 30-May
Kennedy Meadows
18-May 4-Jun 17-Jun 27-Jun 5-Jul
Sierra City
28-Jun 9-Jul 18-Jul 25-Jul 31-Jul
31-Jul 7-Aug 13-Aug 17-Aug 21-Aug
Cascade Locks
24-Aug 28-Aug 31-Aug 3-Sep 5-Sep
Manning Park (finish)
27-Sep 27-Sep 27-Sep 27-Sep 27-Sep

Here's a simple way to read this chart:

  • Hiking pace of 20 miles per day or below:  In a high snow year, you have to increase your pace, or plan on a flip to finish.  It's unlikely that you will be able to go up into the Sierras safely and make good miles by early June.  In 2018, which was a low to moderate snow year, many people did successfully go up into the Sierras by early June.  Read this post for options:  Calendar Math  
  • Hiking pace of 22.5 miles per day:  if you can get up into the Sierras by mid-June, a straight-thru hike should be in the cards.  But ... if you find the snow too slow or get tempted to "wait it out" you risk running out of time for a finish at the Northern Terminus.  Key point:  get back on trail rather than cool your heels for an extra week or two, even if it means a skip or flip.
  • Hiking pace of 25 miles per day or longer:  you probably don't need this post to make the miles.  It might just be interesting context for you as you chat with slower hikers.

Putting all this math aside, just stay on trail and don't underestimate how long 2,661 miles takes to hike.  In 2018 I did not set out to do a thru-hike, but I did stay on trail and a thru-hike just sort of happened.  You can read about my 2018 hike here:  My Accidental Thru-Hike

Good luck, and enjoy your hike.  I'll be on the PCT in the Sierras in 2019.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Sweet and Spicy Ginger Cookies -- For Trail or Home

These cookies pack a sweet and spicy punch.  If bakery and commercial ginger snaps seem bland to you, then give this recipe a try.  This is a "double" recipe, but don't worry about overdoing it.  These cookies freeze well sealed in ziplock bags, and they also keep well backpacking due to a very low moisture content.


1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 cups dark coconut sugar or brown sugar
3 medium to large eggs
1/2 cup of blackstrap molasses
5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried lemon (or lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or ground cloves)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups unbleached white bread flour
2 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour

14 to 16 ounces of candied ginger chips
1 cup (approx.) white sugar for rolling the dough

  1. Melt the butter using a double boiler until just melted, but not hot.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar, using an electric mixer
  3. Add the eggs, and mix in
  4. Add the molasses and vanilla and mix in
  5. Add the spices and mix in
  6. Add flour and mix in one cup at a time
  7. Add the candied ginger and mix in
Let the dough cool in the refrigerator for 30+ minutes, as it will be easier to work with, and this will also help to bring out the spice flavors.  While the dough cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put silicone mats on your baking pans, or use a light coating of cooking oil.
  1. Make dough balls of about 2 tablespoons and roll them in the white sugar before putting on the baking pan.
  2. Bake until just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes (ovens vary significantly)
  3. Immediately transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling for a ginger snap, or cool five minutes on the pan and then transfer to a wire rack for a slightly chewier cookie.
Blackstrap molasses has a more bitter flavor than regular molasses.  If you have regular molasses on hand, you could adapt by slightly reducing the sugar.  King Arthur Flour works well for this recipe.  For an extra treat, press the dough into baking brittle chips before placing on the pan.

These cookies normally come out with a cracked top, but if you put two pans in at once, the lower pan may come out with a smooth top.  To correct this, put the lower pan in first, and follow with the top pan after 5 minutes.