I’ve been dreaming about this trip for nearly 50 years. Bill Aberle and I have been talking about this trip since we were in the Army together, over 40 years. I had previously ridden, a chunk here, a bit there, one vacation at a time most of the trail between Lake Tahoe and Hart’s Pass. A few years back I went down to Campo with the intention of riding north. That was the trip that showed me I wasn’t nearly prepared for a trip of this complexity. Although we did make it as far as Hwy 74 we spent nearly as much time in the cab of a pick-up as we did on the trail. In order to complete the trip some changes were going to have to be made.
In 2011 Janis and I rode the Pony Express Trail. That was a series of 50 mile endurance rides, covering 2040 miles in eight weeks. The XP demonstrated to us what was possible and when we got home we started the serious planning for the PCT trip. One thing we learned on the XP was a horse can go 25 miles every other day, at an easy traveling speed, virtually forever. Except in those few places where it is just not feasible our plan is to meet the truck and trailer each night.
To that end Janis and I have been successful finding spots approximately 25 miles apart, where we can get the truck and trailer to the trail. There are a few places where the horses will have to be ridden off the PCT to a trail head but not as many as one might think. Our shortest ride is 17 miles and the longest 39. Being flexible on rest days will mitigate undue hardship on the long days.
Basically we are going to treat this trip as if it were a conditioning ride for Endurance. Long, slow miles, I’m hoping to average five miles per hour, 25 miles more or less each day. Meeting the trailer each afternoon will allow the horses more rest, better feed and the best hydration. Those places where the use of a pack horse is necessary I hope to maintain a more moderate four miles per hour and 20+/- mile days. Using two horses per rider means the horses shouldn’t travel more than 75 miles per week. Traveling light, shouldn’t need more than a lunch, water, saw, and tarp as well as the normal items needed on a day ride should make this schedule very doable.
That figures out to about 108 riding days. Depending upon snow levels we intend to start around the 1st of April, reaching Kennedy Meadows the middle of May. Then we will come home until the snow melts down in the Sierras and if needed adjust our plans based on what we’ve learned up to that point.