Many people ask how we managed to hike 2,650 miles in under four months. I've always told them that the secret was carrying super light weight gear, eating good nutrition, taking only 10 zero days, and hiking from sunrise to sunset. Some don't buy the explanation and probe further. Once they sift through the 1,000 photos of the journey, they finally come across this incriminating one.
Once to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 2001. And again to spend five months visiting 25 countries in Eastern Europe in 2004. By 2006 I couldn't wait any longer, so I completed the dream and I have a few lousy photos to prove it.

I had never set foot on the PCT and I had seen few pictures of it before I started. In fact, I barely looked at the maps. I wanted every step to be unique and new. However, I got lost so many times in Washington that I started to doubt the benefits of this "go-into-it-blind" strategy.

But we eventually got out of the snow of Washington, enjoyed the friendly mosquitoes of Oregon, and the wacky folks in California.

Ultimately Maiu Reismann and I made it to the Mexican border. The 2,650 mile backpacking trip took under four months - June 23 to October 21. Glen Van Peski, the founder of Gossamer Gear, had hiked with us a week before and he generously met us at the border. He took more pictures of us than a photographer

Hey, I'm not the only guilty party in this crime...

When I arrived at the Mexican border I was overrun by emotion. It's really moving to see Mexicans hopping over the fence only to get gunned down by the overly zealous Minutemen.

We stood on the monument, doing silly acts that had the Border Patrol shaking their heads in dismay. I've uploaded a video of our silly behavior on the right.

The PCT was easier than AT for a few reasons:

  • Although the AT was 25% shorter than the PCT, the AT was steeper in many parts.
  • Although the PCT was higher and drier than the AT, the PCT's views and scenery surpassed the AT, offering more rewards per mile.
  • The PCT was drier than the AT (8 hours of rain vs. 300 hours of rain), allowing for more visibility and comfort.
  • Although the AT had generous people everywhere, I loved the isolation and solitude of the PCT, especially going south.
OK, yes I road it more than her. But my pack was heavier so I deserved it.

Nevertheless, she persevered with stoic bravery. Looking back, she admits that she had more fun than working in an office. I am so proud that she is the first Estonian, male or female, to thru-hike the PCT. Never mind that she's probably the first Estonian to ever hear about the PCT.

Going southbound on the PCT is unconventional, just like going south on the AT. I wrote an article for the PCT Communicator that explains why 95% of thru-hikers hike north on the PCT. It also uncovers the unknown benefits of going south. Read about why you should go southbound on the PCT.

Glen Van Peski, the founder of Gossamer Gear, met us at the border and took most of these shots. He also brought Belgian dark chocolate, sparkling apple/grape cider, and champagne glasses! Thank you Glen for the awesome trail magic!

We ultimately reintegrated into society after taking a shower. I returned to Estonia with Maiu, but my dad's death pulled me back to San Francisco, where I have been for the last few months. I've been writing my next book (on Eastern Europe) and preparing for my next adventure: to yo-yo Continental Divide Trail!

I hope you've enjoyed my PCT journal. If you enjoy the way I write, please buy one of my books! If you don't like the way I write, then why the hell did you read all the way to here?!

Happy trails,

Francis Tapon

Happy ending!
Glen at first was concerned that the plastic cups he brought had stains on them. Then he thought, wait, these are thru-hikers! They won't care!
I had the energy to keep going south, but this damn wall was in the way! I guess that means I just have to do the Continental Divide Trail next!
The Wall

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