Monday, April 2, 2012

2 April ~ ADZPCTKO planning

Charles here. For those of you who are new to the PCT subculture, I guess you should know about the ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) and some relevant terminology that will show up in trail journals.

Every year, this weekend event is organized for late April -- its timing intended to more or less mark when most PCT thru-hikers would need to start in order to have a reasonably good chance of getting through the Sierras (contingent upon snow conditions and personal hiker stamina/speed) and then on through the heat of northern California, the rolling Cascades, the autumn weather of Washington to the end of the trail in British Columbia. Many hikers start sooner, others later. (We're starting a week before, then catching a ride back from about the 100-mile mark to attend -- and then catching the same ride back north to where we left off). The "kick off" (or KO) event is held at Lake Morena campground about 21 miles north of the Southern Terminus of the trail.

ADZPCTKO is a celebration of the Pacific Crest Trail itself, and it's a combination of hiker family reunion, new friends meet & greet, seminars, water reports, updates, silly fun, helpful hints, and exploration of gear choices. There will be food and drink, stories and tall tales, lots of names/phone numbers/addresses/e-mail swapping -- and all the campsites will be overfull. This year's online registrations maxed out in 4 1/2 hours after going live online, and had to be shut down. Here is what we can expect at ADZPCTKO 2012:
  • 751 registered (Last year: 743 advance registrations)
  • 269 2012 thru hikers (Last year: 255)
  • 150 2012 section hikers (Last year: 130)
  • 170 previous PCT hikers (Last year: 182)
  • 163 wannabe PCT hikers (Last year: 185)
  • 104 PCT groupies (Last year: 101)
  • 93 trail angels (Last year: 71)
  • 17 staff members from PCTA, USFS, BLM, and NPS (Last year: 20)
  • 21 vendor representatives (Last year: 29)
  • 25 ADZPCTKO organizers (Last year: 26)
So the campground will have about 650 campers each night ~ in a campground with 86 campsites -- that's about 7 campers per campsite. Looks like we'll all be bedded down cheek-by-jowl in a sea of sleeping bags & tents. Lights out (all quiet) at 10 pm. (But I'm doubtful: this seems like the most humungous slumber party in the world -- how do 650 people revved up for the trail or about the trail keep quiet? I'm bringing silicone earplugs. Some valium might not be a bad idea, too.)

Not all 2012 hikers attend this event, but most thru hikers do ~ and since those hikers whose trail journals we have followed over the past year all highly recommended attendance, we will be there with bells on (not bear bells, though).

Let's see, what are terms used here you might not know?
1. "Thru hiker": Maybe you've already figured out that a "thru-hiker" is someone whose goal it is to hike from one end of the PCT to the other all in one go.
2. "Section hiker" : Hikers who are planning on hiking a portion of the PCT -- anywhere from 10 miles to 1000 miles or more. Some section hikers have as their goal completing the PCT in sections over time -- and many do.
3. "Trail Names" : It's part of the long distance hiking culture (I hear this tradition started on the Appalachian Trail, where it has been going strong for years) that hikers tend to acquire trail names -- names the people on the trail somehow magically agree on for you, or at least a name that "sticks." When you see a date after a trail name, it signifies the year that person thru-hiked or completed the PCT.
3. "Trail Angels" : These are people whose specialty is generosity and "logistical support" (as my USAF father would have termed it). These gracious people tend to live along the trail or at least in California/Oregon/Washington (though some come and do trail angel duty from other states), and make themselves available to help out hikers. They may offer rides to and from resupply towns. They may offer their homes for weary hikers to stay the night in. They may offer meals -- either along the trail or at their homes. They may stock water caches along dry stretches of trail -- or even put out coolers in remote areas that have iced soft drinks in them. Some make their home addresses available as places hikers can send UPS/FedEx/USPS packages to for resupplying themselves. The list goes on and on. 

Examples of trail angels we have already connected with (not counting the ones who have contacted us from up and down the PCT offering lodging, meals, and/or rides): 

1. Frodo & Scout (2007). They live in San Diego, and they will be picking us up at the airport on April 20, and taking us to their home where we will get to stay the night among about 9 other hikers arriving that day by bus, train and plane. They have waves of hikers coming through their home for weeks (more than 100 stay each year) as the hiking season begins, and they have been doing this since they themselves thru-hiked the PCT. They will be driving us all the way to the Mexican border at the trailhead in the early morning of the 21st. Amazing

2. Symbiosis lives in the Bay Area and will be driving all the way down to attend ADZPCTKO. He made himself available to haul stinky hikers (e.g., the three of us, among others) from Warner Springs down to Lake Morena on the morning of April 27. And then, two days later, he'll be taking us back to where we left off after the KO so we can continue north. Awesome!

We're reeeeeeally looking forward to meeting the people who create and sustain this unbelievable PCT culture -- and from all accounts, the people we meet will be an aspect of the PCT that'll really knock our socks off. As though the PCT itself isn't sock-knocking-off enough!? Wowie. What a year ahead of us. We are beyond grateful.

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