I (Una) met Peteris and Rita when I was in Latvia, in December 2015. There was a travelers’s meeting and we with Kaspars attended it to tell about our adventures. Peteris and Rita came to that meeting and this was the day I met them for the first time. But then I didn’t know, that they have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
After one week there was another travelers’ meeting and the story of the night was from a couple who have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, long distance trail running from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington! Only then I realized that the couple who is standing in front of me and telling about their hike in America’s wilderness is the one we met previous time.
I guess they are the only Latvians who have thru-hiked this trail.
Later that night, after hearing their amazing story and seeing all the breathtaking photos of the trail, I decided to interview them.
Continue reading to find out, how was it and why would anyone go on such a long walk!
Please, tell us a little bit about yourselves!
We are dreamers. We love to daydream and we try to make those dreams come true. So we can live the life of our dreams.
Rita is pretty experienced hiker, doing this simply for a joy. Hiking is her passion. She has been on the West Highland Way in Scotland, has hiked Camino de Santiago and GR20. Those were her longest hikes until we started to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
After 10 years of working as interior designer Rita quit her job to start dreaming bigger and to make those dreams come true.
And I am just an adventure junkie who loves all kinds of adventures, including mountaineering and some other extreme sports. Also I am in love with traveling. Before starting to hike the PCT I had almost no prior experience in long distance hiking. The longest hike I had accomplished before leaving for America to hike the Pacific Crest Trail , was a part of GR20 in Corsica. That took me only about a week.
How and when did you decide that you want to hike The Pacific Crest Trail?
I remember that day when I received a message from Rita. She had just returned from hiking GR20 where she met one man, a very passionate hiker. Rita told him about her dream to hike the Appalachian Trail, about which she had learned not long ago, while reading the book “A Walk in the woods” by Bill Bryson.
He agreed that it indeed is a great idea, but still he suggested to think about hiking the Pacific Crest trail instead. When Rita came home she googled it and fell in love with what she saw. She sent the information about this trail to me straight away and I liked it as well.
While talking about this trail, we promised each other that when we will be old, then we definitively will hike the PCT.
One year after the idea about the PCT was born we started to think about changing our lives. And that’s when we decided, that maybe we shouldn’t wait till we get old and hike the PCT now? Yes! And so another year later we were on the trail.
Walking more than 4000 kilometers across America… How it’s possible?
Everything is possible if you are determined! Don’t be afraid – just grab your backpack and put in the stuff you will need, and start to hike. All the other things you will learn later, during the hike!
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of America’s scenic trails and currently it is the longest trail in the world that is fully completed. Since the book “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, which was followed by the movie, trail has become incredibly popular and in 2015 in total 1500 hikers set off to walk the PCT. 2 years ago there were only 300 of them.
As the PCT is really long – across whole America – , you will need quite a lot of time to finish it. And that means that you will hike during the change of the seasons. So, the best time to start to hike is when the snow in High Sierra has already melted and finish it before it starts snowing in Washington state.
We started to hike on May 8 from the Mexican border and finished on November 8. It took us 154 days.
To accomplish this trail, in average we had to hike 30 km per day. Of course, there were also days, when we hiked less, as we needed to go to some towns off the trail to resupply or just to take a day off so we could get our strength back.
For a trail that long, 30 km is a very short distance, so the landscape didn’t change too often. But when it happened, it was incredible! We really enjoyed and appreciated those changes.
We probably have seen and experienced everything! There was desert, there were forests, mountains and valleys. We have experienced extreme heat and drought, walked in rain and snow, we saw the change of the seasons – spring, summer and autumn and witnessed how the nature changes during this time.
Hike was not easy – we carried backpacks with average weight of 15 kg (for Rita) and 25 kg (for Peteris). When we hiked in the desert we had additional load to carry – 12 liters of water. There we had to fight with the heat and hide in the shadows.
One day we set our record – 54 km! Sometimes we even hiked during the night to make it as far as we can to avoid hiking in the scorching sun the next day and thus overheating.
How one can prepare for such a long hike? What are the MOST IMPORTANT things to think about?
Probably the most important thing is to leave all spare things at home. Take all items you plan to carry piece by piece and think if you can live without it. If you can think of any way you can survive without the thing, then leave it home. If you will do this kind of revision, then you will make your backpack as light as possible.
Another thing to think about before the trip are vitamins and electrolytes. If you will drink water only, your body quickly may run out of all reserves and it will have a bad impact on your health.
How long did you prepare for the trip (like saving money, buying all the stuff, applying for visas)?
We started to hike the PCT two years after the idea was born.
I like to call the first year after the idea was born – an incubation period. During this time the idea grew into a dream, and the wish to hike the PCT grew bigger and bigger.
During all this came the decision that we need to change our lives. And we decided that we mustn’t wait for our retirement, we could to hike the PCT now!
The purchase of a guidebook and some research on Google made it real – we gonna hike the PCT!
After that came the process of applying for a Visa. That took a while as we needed to fill bunch of papers and go to the interview in the embassy of the USA. Even when we had all the paperwork done and knew the date and port of arrival, it still didn’t mean that we would be able to stay in the USA for 6 months. Visa is just a colourful piece of paper that allows you to come to the border of the USA and ask for permission to enter. At that point one needs to be careful and it’s always a good idea to have a return ticket with you as a proof of intention to leave the country when the Visa expires.
Were there any things in your backpacks you didn’t really need during the trip, maybe something you missed?
We had all the necessary items… And even more! Even after the careful planning, what to take and what to leave, and after weighting all the stuff before setting foot on the trail, we took too much with us anyway. Very soon Rita left all the books she took with her. We changed our sandals to lightweight flip-flops. We left extra kettle, extra pair of pants, extra gas burner (stove) and dozens of other small things like pegs, pins, a whistle…
What were the hardest moments of your journey?
I guess it was the moment when we both felt ill. It happened in Washington state. We were going through very long stretch of land with almost no civilization. That meant that we must move quickly to finish this extremely hard part of the trail. We just couldn’t stay in the middle of nowhere as there would be no resupplying options if we had run out of the food and gas. So we pushed ourselves to our limits and hiked. We had very little food left and it was so hard. Imagine hiking while having a fever, dizziness, headache and… heavy backpack on your shoulders.
Heavy pack and long term hiking in general exhausts you and spends all the reserves of your body. It is extremely hard to find the motivation to stay on the trail when you are so exhausted…
And the most beautiful moments…?
Probably the most beautiful moment was seeing how beautiful autumn is in Washington state. When it became a little bit cooler and leaves changed their color from green to many different others – all shades of yellow, red, orange and brown… I like to think that autumn wind has its very special smell.
It is funny, how all our best memories are from our time spent in Washington state. That’s where we experienced all the natural beauty during the change of seasons. There we saw colorful autumn followed by beautiful winter and first snow. And it all happened while we were walking through Washington state, which was most anticipated part of the PCT, as well.
What have you learned from this journey (about yourselves, life)? How did you feel when you returned back home to your busy lives?
I think I became stronger mentally and physically. Sleeping in the tent without any amenities changes you, really. Now I am less afraid of different forest creatures like snakes and other animals passing by the tent.
I feel like I can accept the conditions I have to deal with more easily. Like sleeping on the hard surfaces, limited cooking options, absence of shower – it’s not a big problem for me any more… Also I think I found some peace within myself.
I can’t tell about all the changes that happened to us. A lot of them probably may be noticed only by other persons.
You are planning your next adventure, right? Please, tell us about it!
We are heading to New Zealand. Before we went to hike the PCT we got our New Zealand Working holiday Visa applications approved and it means that we can go there for a year to travel around and work legally as well. We hope that it will be our next great adventure.
Follow adventures of Peteris and Rita on their blog!
Photos used in the article are taken by Peteris and Rita.
Author: Una Baufala
Una is a traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. Apart from traveling and exploring new places she loves to read books. And she adores cats. Together with Kaspars they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since October 2013. WeAreFromLatvia.com is where she shares her travel experiences.