PCT Permit: Check (Fingers crossed)

On February first the PCTA finally launched their PCT permit system.  For months now the PCT Permit page has simply outlined information regarding the different permits needed and promised that the permit application would open sometime in early February.  Last Friday I got a facebook message from Kyle: “Have you seen this yet?” with a link to a blog post by Jack “Found” Haskel about when the permit system would open and how to apply.  I obsessively read the “how to apply” directions over and over again and set my alarm for 12:00am, February 1st.  Turns out they didn’t actually launch the system until ten o’clock that morning but being an eager beaver never hurt anyone, unless you count my sleep deprivation from refreshing the website every could of hours.

So what is the PCT permit and why get one?  Since the explosion of thru hikers on the PCT after Wild hit the big screen the PCTA put a permit process in place as an attempt to spread out when thru hikers start from the southern terminus.  They have limited the number of people that can start each day to fifty people.  The way the permit application works is 35 permits were made available February 1st and the next 15 will become available on the 16th.  They are going to begin emailing out permits on the 17th.  Anyone who is hiking more than 500 contiguous miles on the PCT is required to get a permit, and it suffices for all the interagency permits you would have to get separately.  There are two additional permits you have to apply for: the Canada Border Services Agency permit, which allows you to hike over the boarder into Canada and the California Campfire permit, which allows you to use a stove (or build a fire if that is your cup of tea).  The PCTA suggests applying for the Canada Border Services Agency permit two weeks before you start your hike, so we have a while before we have to worry about that one.

That is the what, now for the why.  I think you should get a PCT permit because the PCTA wants you to.  No if, and, or, buts about it.  This is an organization who is trying to do everything they can to protect the PCT and the corridor it runs through.  They want to maintain it and the trail’s relationship with land agencies.  The massive number of people hiking the PCT now has a huge impact on the landscape that surrounds it and as hikers we need to respect their wishes to spread people out.  I know many people feel entitled to nature.  People believe that this is something that they get to choose and who is the PCTA to tell them when they can and cannot start?  We can’t have our cake and eat it too, we can’t want the PCT to remain a beautiful scenic trail, surrounded by wilderness, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the world, and then reject the PCTA’s methods for trying to preserve it.  So please, if you are thru hiking, get a permit AND actually start when you say you will.

This last part is important to me.  When I was looking for trail angels to take us to the trail head I found a couple of different options in San Diego and decided to read some reviews on their services.  I’m not going to use their names, but upon reading reviews I discovered one that said they preferred a particular trail angel because they didn’t care if you started on the day your permit was for, in fact they had taken this hiker to the trail on a day they knew the hiker wasn’t permitted for.  Trail angels aren’t hikers and they aren’t the PCTA and they can do whatever they like, I’m not upset with them.  But I am frustrated that when this hiker, and probably many others, didn’t get their preferred start date they just started when they wanted to anyway.  Kyle and I won’t have to worry about this as much because we are picking a less popular time to start, but as someone who hates crowds, especially in my theoretically quiet nature space, I would be just a little bit peeved if I was supposed to be one of fifty people starting the PCT mid-April but, thanks to rule breakers, I ended up being one of one hundred and fifty.  I know there are often extenuating circumstances, but just consider everyone else involved and do the right thing!

Kyle and I applied for a permit for May 10th.  On the website there is a link to a calendar that shows you how many permits are still available for any given day.  There are 22 people starting the day we start… who are those people?  What will they be like?  Will we get to know them or will we never see them again?  It is amazing to see that number and know that there are actual people behind it, with goals and aspirations just like ours.  It makes me extremely excited, and it makes everything that much more real.  Fingers crossed we get our permit.  Bellow are some links to different pages on the PCTA website.

Bottom line is go visit the PCTA’s website, it is awesome and they are doing a great job.   And you can join the PCTA for a 35$ minimum donation and receive their magazine and much more.  I swear I wasn’t paid to say any of this.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

14 thoughts on “PCT Permit: Check (Fingers crossed)

  1. I love readings by your blog!! And thank you for saying what you did – I absolutely agree!!
    I was an eager beaver too, setting my alarm early for Feb 1st. The permits went fast!! I’ll be starting on May 3rd so I’m sure we will eventually run into each other! Good luck and see you out there 🙂

  2. I like your point about the other unknown people starting the PCT on the same day as you. It’s moving to think of all the individual life journeys that will lead each person to that day and place. There will be incredible energy there!
    We love reading about your preparations as we prepare ourselves for our thru-hike in the Spanish sierras this spring, which we’ll recording on our blog also. Good luck!

  3. Thanks for your informative blogs, and writing about the red tape that most people wouldn’t go into, it’s helpful. We’re new bloggers and have just started recording our hikes & adventures of this year, thanks for your likes! Shelley

  4. THANK YOU for this post. Seriously, I feel like I was one of the very few who actually think you should get a permit and start on your permit date. Every time I respond with that, I get backlash about how the PCTA has no authority to kick you off the trail, fine you, etc, which is then followed up with loopholes (ie, say you’re starting in Mt. Laguna).

    When people ask about repercussions to not starting on your date or getting a permit, instead of taking the “protect the trail” stance, I try to make it more towards their happiness and phrase it more along the lines of, “Do you really want to fight for a campsite with hundreds of other people who want to start on 4/20?” People seem to respond much better to that, which is good, but also frustrating.

    On another note, I am currently 1 of 2 people who applied for 3/22!

    1. How exciting!!! Can I ask what you plan is starting that early? Are you going to take it real slow in the desert? I certainly envy you that, we have a very tight schedule which worries me… But I have my fingers crossed that we can get it done!

      1. I’ll be taking it fairly slow in the beginning; aiming for 10-15 mile days. I haven’t been working out much so a slow start will be better for me. I need to hop off the trail for a week in the beginning of April and then I’ll come back to wherever I left off. At that point, I’ll pick up the pace a bit to make it to Kennedy Meadows by mid-May for a crash course in snow travel. Figured I’d rather try to brave the snow than sit around waiting for it to melt! Hah, you’ll probably pass me on the trail somewhere!

      2. We will see, we aren’t planning on getting to Kennedy meadows until middle of June. Good luck with the snow! It’s gonna be a pretty crazy year for snow, I’m curious to see how it goes.

  5. Great post! I’ve been seeing a lot of people brushing off the importance of starting on your “start date” and it’s been bothering me a bit, so I appreciate the great example you’re setting for the hiking community 🙂

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