Monday, September 24, 2012

Resupply: The Appalachian Trail v. The Pacific Crest Trail

The Appalachian Trail Versus the Pacific Crest Trail: How to Pick Your Pleasure, Part Four

They weren’t designated the first National Scenic Trails for nothing. These two premier hiking trails are designed specifically to impart the beauty of their landscapes (seriously, trail builders think of these things).

Both are excellent choices, so whether you’ve finished hiking one of them and are ready to take on the next, or are simply deciding which one to hike for your first-ever thru-hike, here are some discernable differences that make each unique.

Town Stops & Resupply: While this won’t make or break a decision to hike one of these trails over the other, resupply is an important component of a long-distance hike, and these two trails are really different when it comes to resupply.  

A hitch in Maine
The A.T. has resupply points in high frequency, and they are generally only a short distance from the trail, which means hikers can carry less food and stop more regularly to resupply. Communities near the A.T. often have a pretty good awareness of hikers, and they’re fairly willing to pick up hitchhikers coming in to town, or returning to trail. Trail towns do a pretty good job of stocking what hikers need, and there are hostels and hotels that cater to hikers, offering discount rates for overnight stays.
The long wait. The hitch into Mojave finally ended with a ride in the police car. Thankfully the patrolman looks out for hikers in need of a ride so they don't become casualties of the intense roadside heat.
The PCT doesn’t have quite the same level of awareness among drivers, and the towns are further from the Trail, which means longer waits while hitchhiking and longer rides once someone picks you up. The bigger resupply stops do carry standard fare for hikers’ diets, but there are a lot of smaller stops where you may still need to rely on a mail drop.
I got a hitch with these nice fellas near Wrightwood, CA.

Even if hiking solo, hitchhiking to towns in pairs is the safest approach. I take this precaution seriously as a female hiker. While it’s not always possible to hitchhike with others, the fact that more people hike the A.T. means that there are generally other hikers around when you get ready to hitch to town, or back to the trail. In all cases, use your gut. If someone seems odd, by all means, find a reason to get out of taking them up on their offer for a ride ("Oh, I just remembered that I think I left my camera back at my last stop on the Trail...Gotta get it. Thanks anyway!")

Trail Guides: When planning and hiking, here are my recommendations on the best resources for each of these trails. I would use them in these combinations.

Pacific Crest Trail 
Water report (I'm not sure about the future of this site as the person who compiled the information passed away in August. Hopefully another PCT enthusiast will undertake the effort in his absence.)

Appalachian Trail

This is the final installment of a four part series on the differences between these 2 trails:
Part One: People
Part Two: Elements
Part Three: Trail terrain, views, snow
Part Four: Resupply

Do you have experience with both of these trails? What do you think are the biggest differences? 

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