Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Glossary
- Through Hiker
- Someone who is in the process of hiking the entire length of a trail that is 1000 miles or longer in length. The actual use of the term is problematic, because one cannot know whether one will complete the hike until one actually completes it. At the moment a hiker earns the title "through hiker" by completing the trail, he is no longer a through hiker. If a through hiker is injured and must leave the trail, he suddenly stops being a through hiker, and becomes a section hiker. So while you may call yourself a through hiker, you cannot really know if you are a through hiker until you are no longer a through hiker.
- Through Hike
- Hiking the entire length of a trail 1000 miles or longer in length. Traditionally a contiguous hike from one end of the trail to the other. Recently the term through hike has been used to describe any method of hiking the entire trail, including section hiking, flip flopping or skipping.
- Section Hike
- Hiking a significant section of the trail. Often people who desire to through hike, but can't, will hike the entire trail in sections over several summers.
- Multi-Year Through Hike. A hike of the entire trail in sections over several summers.
- Long-Ass Section Hike.
- PCT Planner
Craig’s PCT Planner is a website that can be used to create an itinerary for hiking the PCT, including estimated dates of arrival at various resupply points.
Craig’s PCT Planner
Leaving the trail, and reentering the trail at another location, to bypass a section of trail. Skipping is done for several reasons such as forest fires,
heavy snow pack, fatigue, lack of motivation, a need to make up for lost time or to meet up with friends who are hiking ahead of you.
Often people who skip a section of trail, but complete the rest of it, still consider themselves through hikers, especially if the reason for skipping was to bypass a trail closure due to forest fires.
People who skip sections of trail will sometimes turn around and hike the skipped section in the opposite direction. This is known as flip flopping.
- Yellow Blazing
Another term for skipping. The term yellow blazing is used more often on the Appalachian trail where white blazes mark the official route and blue blazes mark alternate routes. Yellow blazes are the lines down the center of the road that one follows when one leaves the trail and travels by car or bus.
An interesting irony about the term "yellow blazing" is that blazes along the Pacific Crest Trail are yellow.
- Pink Blazing
- A guy following a cute girl up the trail hoping to catch up to her and meet her is said to be pink blazing.
- Slack Pack
- Hiking with minimal gear, usually little more than food and water, while someone else transports the bulk of your gear ahead by car. Sometimes a slack pack will involve getting a ride up the trail and hiking back to where your gear is stored.
- Zero Day
- A day in which you do no hiking. So named because you do zero PCT miles. A zero day is almost always taken at a town stop. Often the distance from the trail to town will make taking a zero day more practical than trying to get to and from town in one day. Zero days are often used to do preparations such as laundry, shower, resupply, repair or replace gear, etc. They are also times to get caught up on calorie loading, and rest. Also called a Zero.
- Nearly a zero. A day in which one hikes few miles. A portion of a nero day is usually spent in town.
- Calorie Loading
- Exactly what it implies: eating as much high fat food as you can during a town stop.
- Camel Up
Drink as much water as you can possibly hold in your stomach. A technique used to help you get from one water source to the next when water sources are far apart.
Sometimes used to describe carrying more water than usual during a long dry stretch of trail.
- Trail Angel
- A non-hiker who helps a hiker in some way.
- Trail Magic
- Unexpected generosity from a non-hiker. One unfortunate trend in recent years is that trail magic is becoming so common that some hikers now expect it, and become rude when it isn't offered.
A means of obtaining help or supplies from a non-hiker, often without directly asking. From Yogi the Bear, who managed to obtain picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers,
though yogiing does not involve the same techniques that Yogi the Bear used. Yogiing is often done "Columbo style" by striking up a conversation with a non-hiker, asking leading questions,
(How far is it into town from here? Is there a bus that could take me there? Are there any restaurants open this late?) and allowing the person to decide whether he wants to offer help.
Also the trail name of a well known double triple crowner and repeat offender. Yogi is the author of Yogi's PCT Handbook, a compilation of trail information and advice used as a resource by many PCT hikers.
Yogi's PCT Handbook
- Hiker Heaven
The former home of Jeff and Donna Saufley in Agua Dulce, California. Jeff and Donna went out of their way every year to act as trail angels.
A stop at Hiker Heaven was almost a must during a through hike. The Saufleys did laundry, handled resupply packages,
and provided trail information to hikers.
In 2015 the Saufleys, amid controversy stirred up by another leader in the PCT community, decided to shut down Hiker Heaven, but they reopened for the 2016 hiking season. However, after the 2019 season, the Saufleys decided to move Washington state. The property in Agua Dulce will transition to an AirBnB.
Backpacker Magazine article on Hiker Heaven
- Casa de Luna
The former home of Joe and Terrie Anderson, about one day's hike north of Hiker Heaven.
The Andersons were well known trail angels who allowed hikers to stay at their home.
Terrie Anderson has described the atmosphere in their home as hippy day care. While not as popular as Hiker Heaven,
many hikers did choose to stay at Casa De Luna.
Afer the 2019 hiking season, Casa De Luna closed while the Andersons made plans to move to Washington state. The Andersons hosted hikers for 21 years.
The Trek article on the closing of Casa De Luna
- Triple Crown
A triple crown is accomplished when one has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail.
A handful of hikers have done a double triple crown, which involves accomplishing this feat twice.
At least two hikers have done a triple triple crown.
A calendar triple crown involves hiking all three trails in one calendar year. As of this writing only five people have completed a calendar triple crown.
Flyin' Brian on Wikipedia
Squeaky's Calendar Triple Crown
Legend's Calendar Triple Crown
Cam “Swami” Honan's 12 Long Hikes, which included a Calendar Triple Crown.
Heather 'Anish' Anderson's blog
- Flip Flop
- Skipping a section of trail, and hiking in the opposite direction to return to the place where you left the trail. Often done to avoid difficult trail conditions, such as heavy snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. A flip flop is often an attempt to postpone difficult trail sections until conditions improve. A common flip flop used to involve hiking north to Kennedy Meadows, taking a ride to Manning Park, then hiking south to finish the trail at Kennedy Meadows. (This is now discouraged, since there is no legal way to enter the United States from Canada along the PCT.) A flip flop causes the hiker to switch from being a northbound hiker to being a southbound hiker. Also known as flipping.
- Yo Yo
- Hiking the entire length of the trail, then turning around and hiking the entire trail in the opposite direction in one season. At the time of this writing only two people have successfully yo yoed the Pacific Crest Trail. Yo yoing on the Appalachian Trail is more common. The Continental Divide Trail has been yo yoed twice.
- Repeat Offender
- Someone who through hikes or attempts to through hike the Pacific Crest Trail more than once. The Pacific Crest Trail has been through hiked as many as 12 times by one individual.
- Hiker Midnight
- 9:00 PM. The time by which through hikers are usually asleep.
- The Pack
The bulk of through hikers who are hiking within a few hundred miles of each other. As interest in the trail grows every year,
the size of the pack increases, causing problems for trail angels, businesses and resources in southern California.
By the time the pack has reached northern California, many hikers have dropped out, and those who remain
are more spread out and have less impact on local resources. Also known as the herd.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association issues permits for people attempting to hike 500 miles or more in one season. The have limited the number of permits available for starting near the Mexico border to 50 per day in an attempt to spread the pack out in southern California.
Adding to the pack effect is the fact that hikers like to congregate at trail towns and trail angel's homes, and tend to leave these places in groups. So, rather than spreading out on the trail, hikers tend to hike in clumps.
- The Kick Off
The Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off Party. An annual event organized by former through hikers for the benefit of current through hikers.
The Kick Off was held at Lake Morena, 20 miles from the southern terminus of the trail, during the last weekend of April.
The purpose of the Kick Off was to offer information, encouragement and camaraderie to the current year's through and section hikers. Also known as the ADZ.
In 2017 the organizers decided that due to the growing number of prospective thru hikers, and the growing number of resources available to prospective thru hikers, the The Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off Party was no longer serving its intended purpose. The growing number of people attending the event was putting a strain on Lake Morena County Park resources and making logistics hard to manage. As of the 2017 hiking season there is no longer an Annual Day Zero Kick Off event.
- The PCT-L
The Pacific Crest Trail e-mail List. A source of communication about the Pacific Crest Trail on the internet.
- The PCTA
- The Pacific Crest Trail Association. The PCTA is dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the trail.
- The Water Report
The Water Report is an on-line resource where hikers can post the condition of various water sources along the trail.
Hikers farther back in the pack can use that information to determine which water sources are reliable, and which are dry.
- Stealth Camp
- Camping away from common camping spots such as lakes, stream crossings or meadows. Promoted by Ray Jardine, author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook, as a way to avoid bear encounters.
- Dry Camp
Camping in an area that has no nearby water source. Stealth camps are usually dry camps. A common technique on the trail is to eat dinner at a water source, continue hiking into the evening,
then set up camp wherever one finds oneself at the end of the day, even if it means camping on the trail itself. This method has three advantages.
- Decreased likelihood of bear encounters.
- More flexibility. One can hike any number of miles without the constraint of stopping at an established campsite or water source.
- A dry camp or stealth camp offers more solitude for those who desire it.
- Sun Cups
Uneven surface of snow resembling a giant egg carton. As the snow melts in the spring, pockets of water form on the surface of the snow.
This water warms up in the sun and causes the snow under it to melt faster than the surrounding snow. The resulting uneven surface is difficult to walk on.
- Post Hole
- Inadvertently breaking through the surface of the snow so that your leg resembles a fence post stuck in a post hole.
- Post Holer
A web site with resources for hikers. Also the trail name of the person who maintains the site. Post Holer has been vocal in the past about
vendors charging money for their resources or placing ads on their web pages. Post Holer has endeavored to provide his resources for free and without advertising.
However, he has recently found it necessary to recoup some of the expenses of creating the resources.
The Post Holer
The trail name of a PCT hiker who provides accurate trail data to the PCT community in electronic format at no cost.
In the past, Halfmile provided maps in digital format, but is now working with National Geographic and the
PCTA providing data for maps printed and sold by National Geographic.
Many hikers felt that halfmile's maps were the best maps available for the PCT. Before the beginning of the hiking season,
many hikers would pool their money and pay to have Halfmile's maps printed in bulk at a discount.
- Base Weight
- The weight of a loaded backpack, not including food, water and stove fuel. The base weight also does not include items that are only carried during short sections of the trail, such as ice ax or crampons. Since the amount of food, water and stove fuel vary throughout a hike, the base weight is considered a better indicator of how light or heavy a hiker's pack is than the total weight. (Depending on how much water one carries, pack weight can vary by 15 pounds or more in a single day.) Most through hikers try to carry a base weight of 15 pounds or less. Ultra-lighters carry a base weight of 12 pounds or less. Extreme ultra-lighters carry a base weight of under 10 pounds.
- Skin Out Weight
- Base weight plus the weight of clothing and gear worn. Only gram weenies really care about their skin out weight.
- Gram Weenie
- Someone who is obsessive about reducing their base weight as much as possible. A derogatory term that suggests that a person isn't willing to carry one more gram of weight than necessary.
- Hiker Trash
- A general description of a through or section hiker, or of through hikers collectively. It probably comes from the fact that through hikers often are confused for homeless people during town stops. It also comes from the fact that the usual ways of determining status in real life have little, if any, meaning on the trail.
- Hiker Funk
After a few hundred miles on the trail it becomes difficult to wash the sweat and dirt out of your clothes. The resulting smell is called hiker funk.
The reason the person giving you a ride into town has the windows down is not because the air conditioning isn't working.
If a hiker has been on the trail long enough, he can tell a short distance hiker by the smell of the perfumes in his soap and deodorant. To a through hiker, day hikers smell unnaturally clean.
- Nose Blind
- You get so used to your own smell, that you have no idea how bad it really is.
- Trail Name
A nickname used by a hiker. A trail name can be chosen by the hiker prior to the hike, but is considered more official if it is given to the hiker during the hike.
A trail name often derives from an unusual, humorous or significant characteristic or event associated with the hiker.
Sometimes it will derive from something the hiker says or something that is said to the hiker. A trail name is said to "stick" if the hiker accepts the trail name and other hikers begin to know him by that name.
The tradition of using trail names started on the Appalachian Trail, and has spread to the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide Trails.
Trail names tend to be unique to a particular hiker and are thought to be a better way of identifying a hiker than his given name (How many Johns are on the trail at any one time?) or a description (The tall skinny guy with the shaggy beard and muscular legs. He was wearing a polyester T-shirt, nylon shorts and a backpack. Last I saw him, he was walking north.).
- The Cotton World
- Life off of the trail. So called because wearing cotton will not put you in danger of hypothermia. Also known as real life.
- Your trail family. The people you meet and hike with along the way become a significant part of your life on the trail.
- The Look
- At some point in the trail, usually around Yosemite Park, a hiker will develop the look. It is a combination of a lean, muscular body and a look of confidence and determination in the eyes. Those who have the look will probably finish their hikes. Those who don't have the look, will probably leave the trail before they finish.
- Cowboy Camp
- Sleeping under the stars without a tent. Often done to save the time and effort of setting up a tent when the weather is expected to be good through the night.
Water left beside the trail by trail angels for use by through hikers. Most of the caches on the Pacific Crest Trail are in the southern California deserts where reliable water sources are far apart.
Caches are not to be considered reliable water sources. Through hikers are advised to carry enough water to get to the next reliable water source, and to take water from the caches
only if they find themselves running low. Cached water is not intended for bathing or cooking.
Caches are controversial. Many through hikers feel that the trail should be hiked on its own terms, and that water caches are an artificial crutch that can be used by hikers who are not otherwise adequately prepared. Other hikers feel that the caches are a helpful safety net available to them if things don't go as planned. Others use the caches as primary water sources and view the off-trail springs as alternate water sources to be used if the caches are dry.
- Mail Drop
- Supplies, mostly food, that a hiker arranges to have mailed to him along the trail. Mail drops can be sent to a post office near the trail via general delivery or to any of several hiker friendly businesses or trail angel homes.
- Send unneeded gear ahead by mail. Many through hikers will use a bounce box. This box has items that may be useful at various points along the trail, such as extra sunscreen, battery charger, warm clothing layers, etc. The Bounce box is mailed to various resupply points along the trail. The hiker can use the bounce box to mail gear that is not needed, but may be needed later, ahead to another resupply point along the trail.
- Hiker Hunger
- That empty feeling in your stomach that results from eating 4000 calories per day, but burning 6000 calories per day. After about a month on the trail, it becomes difficult to carry enough food.
- All You Can Eat, as in all you can eat buffet. For a through hiker burning as much as 6000 calories per day, all you can eat is a lot!
- Bonus Miles
- Miles walked that are not on the PCT, such as miles to and from resupply points or to and from off-trail water sources or non-PCT miles walked due to bad navigation.
- Vitamin I
- The Book of Lies
The Pacific Crest Trail Guidebooks. Even though the guidebooks contain essential information about the trail, sometimes it is inaccurate or less than helpful.
The information in the guidebooks is often collected at different times in the season than through hikers experience the same sections of the trail,
so conditions described in the guidebooks are often different than conditions encountered on the trail.
A number of other guides have been published specifically for through hikers, making the official guidebooks less important.
- Hiker Box
- Boxes at some resupply points that hikers use to exchange food or gear. If you are tired of eating the same old thing out of your resupplies, or are carrying too much food, you can leave your extra food in the hiker box for someone else to take. If you see something in the hiker box that looks interesting, you can take it. If you need a few ounces of stove fuel, and you can only buy it by the gallon, you can leave the unused portion in the hiker box for someone else.
- Alcohol Stove
Of the various fuels that can be used for cooking on the trail, denatured alcohol has become the fuel of choice for most through hikers. Alcohol stoves are usually hand made from pop,
cat food or tuna cans. Several patterns for homemade alcohol stoves can be found on the internet. Alcohol has less potential energy than white gas or butane/propane,
but the lighter weight of an alcohol stove more than makes up for the slightly larger quantity of fuel that must be carried. Denatured alcohol is easier to obtain at most town stops than other stove fuels.
Because of the way that homemade alcohol stoves operate, they are used primarily for boiling water to rehydrate dehydrated meals. They are generally not used for more sophisticated cooking.
In recent years some hikers have discouraged the use of alcohol stoves. Alcohol stoves are basically an open flame with no shutoff valve. They are considered to be unstable and prone to being blown around in high winds. They may not be legal in areas that are under fire restrictions. Consequently, some consider them to be a fire hazard and not worth the small amount of weight savings. Because of this, canister stoves and hiking without a stove have become more popular.
Also called Pepsi can stoves or Pepsi stoves.
- Automotive gas line antifreeze. Actually, just methanol alcohol in a fancy package. At many town stops Heet is the most readily available form of stove fuel.
- Anything off trail that draws hikers into it, and hikers find difficult to leave. Usually a town stop, restaurant or trail angel's home. From time to time a vortex, such as a hot spring, will be found along the trail, rather than off the trail.
- Escape Velocity
- The will to walk away from a vortex.
- Debris floating in a water source that needs to be filtered out, even if the water quality is such that filtering the water is not otherwise necessary.
- Running out of energy to hike due to eating too few calories.
- Tourist/moron. Usually encountered in crowded front-country areas, Tourons demonstrate too little wisdom for the types of activities they are involved in.
- Sliding down a snow covered slope. Glissading is faster and more fun than hiking down a snow covered slope, but is not without its risks. An ice axe is often used to control the hiker's speed. Sometimes called bum sliding.
- Heel Stepping
- A method of hiking down a snow covered slope that involves digging the heels into the snow with each step to prevent slipping.
- Ride Bride
- A female hiker who accompanies a male hiker when he attempts to hitch a ride. It is thought that people are more likely to pick up a male hitchhiker if a female is with him, and that a female hitchhiker is safer if a male is with her.
- Cat Hole
- A hole dug in the ground for burying waste.
- Leave No Trace. An ethic with guidelines and practices used by hikers to create as little impact as possible on the trail and the surrounding environment. (Or should be used, but often aren't.)
- Fastest known time. Every few years someone will test themselves by attempting to hike from one end of the trail to the other faster than anyone else has ever hiked it. If they accomplish this goal, they have the fastest known time. Nobody keeps official records. Differing trail conditions, common alternate routes and different approaches to the trail make establishing an official record time problematic, so we settle for a fastest known time. At the time of this writing, the fastest known time for a supported through hike (gear slackpacked, and resupplies brought to the trail at road crossings) is 52 days, 8 hours and 25 minutes by Karel Sabbe, a Belgian marathon runner. The fastest known time for an unsupported through hike (gear carried and conventional resupplies) is 60 days, 17 hours by Heather “Anish” Anderson.
- Ray Day
June 15th. In an average snow year in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Ray Day is the best date to leave Kennedy Meadows on a northbound through hike. Named for Ray Jardine, the Author of the Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Handbook. This date is based on two factors. It is late enough to allow sufficient snowmelt in the Sierra for a safe hike. It is early enough to allow time to reach Canada.
A number of through hikers successfully hiked the Sierra in heavier than normal snowpack in 2006. This shows that Ray Day is a good guideline for most hikers, but is not as important as previously thought.
- Ray Jardine
Ray Jardine is an adventurer who was an early proponent of lightweight backpacking techniques. He authored The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook and Beyond Backpacking.
Ray's techniques were controversial when he first wrote about them. Many of his techniques, or similar techniques, are now standard practice. Ray has gone on to other pursuits and is no longer considered
a leader in the lightweight backpacking movement. New leaders have emerged, new lightweight materials have been developed, and a handful of small companies have been created that offer
lightweight gear that is sometimes lighter and performs better than Ray Jardine's homemade gear. The PCT-L, Yogi's handbook and other resources have replaced The Pacific Crest Trail Hiker's Handbook
as sources of information about the trail.
Ray Jardine's home page
- Monument 78
Monument 78 is one of many markers that indicate where the boundary is between the United States and Canada. The official northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail is within a few feet of this marker. The monument itself is hollow, and a trail register is kept inside.
- Class video
Starting in 2003, most years there has been a class video produced. One of that year’s through hikers, or a small team of them working together, will take it upon themselves to collect photos and short video segments from other through or section hikers and create a video montage with musical accompaniment lasting about an hour. DVDs of this video are then freely distributed by volunteers, or the video may be posted online.
PCT Class Videos
- Adjusting to real life after spending weeks or months on the trail. Some people find the adjustment very difficult.
- Hike Your Own Hike. An encouragement between hikers to hike according to your own dreams, goals, expectations, etc., and not have your hike determined by other hiker's expectations. This is your hike. Hike it your way.