Sunday, March 2, 2014

PCT Hike Plan V2

I have finally finished updating my planning spreadsheet, and it's ready to be released upon the world. I know most thru-hikers already have their plan laid out for them (the ones that plan ahead, anyway), but I still think this is a nice and flexible tool to use before and during your hike, to try and estimate how many days of food are needed between resupplies, and difficulties along the trail.

For starters, I updated all the distances and elevation gains to use Halfmile's 2014 data. I would like to thank both Lon Cooper and David Lippke for sharing their data with me so generously, and answering my constant nagging regarding the best way to calculate different values for my tables. I also blatantly copied some data from their trail notes, with their permission.

Basically, I took my original plan spreadsheet, and normalized the table into three different ones. What it means is that the first sheet of the new spreadsheet (called "Mile Points") now contains exit points along the trail, where you can walk or hitch a ride to a resupply store or post office. Each such mile point has its distance from the Mexican border (I guess southbounders should subtract that number from 2669 to get their mileage), and cumulative elevation gain from there as well (ignoring elevation loss).

The second sheet of the spreadsheet (called "Resupply Points") lists all the different stores, towns and resorts hikers usually go to, along the trail. Each such place also contains the description copied from Halfmile's trail notes, 2014 edition.

These two sheets are mostly "static" - they shouldn't change much when planning your hike, unless some info needs updating, or mileage is changed. But they contain the basic data that the entire plan is based upon.

The third sheet (called "Stops") is where most of the action is. Over here, each "mile point" is paired with a "resupply point", which means that on a specific location (Interstate Highway 5, for example), you can exit to several different supply points (Castella, Dunsmuir or Mt. Shasta City), and vice versa. In each such section, there might be some extra walking to be done, and/or some hitch hiking needed as well, before you reach the actual resupply point. On that sheet's final column, you can mark "true" in every place you want to resupply. Leave that column empty to skip that resupply point completely.

Now you can move over to the final sheet ("Final Plan"), which will show you all the info for your planned hike, including start and stop locations for each section, resupply locations at section's end, total distance (including extra walking off trail) and total elevation gain.

In this sheet you should put in your expected hiking pace (mph), how many hours of hiking you intend to do each day, and the penalty of elevation gain on your speed (extra minutes for each 1000'). By default, each section uses the same values as the previous section. But if along the trail you start hiking faster, or longer, any change made on a specific section would immediately reflect on all following sections as well.

Another thing to update would be your start date, or the date when you intend to start hiking form the Mexican border. Again - all subsequent sections' start dates depend on the previous section's end date. But if you add a day to some start date up the trail, for taking a zero, it will also update all the next sections by the same amount. Easy. The dates will also be painted in red if they fall on a Sunday or Saturday, so you can know in advance when your plan puts you in a town while the PO is closed.

The final plan also shows the resupply point's description, for easily see what options it contain.

So - here is the link. Just follow it, and then click on File->Make a copy... to create an editable copy of that spreadsheet in your own Google Drive. Currently, the spreadsheet will not export well to Excel, but it can be easily fixed, if there is a demand for it.

Share and enjoy, and feel free to comment, ask questions, and drop a line.