Matt Is Back On The Trail!


I'm currently attempting a thru hike from Key West to Canada along the Eastern Continental Trail. Along the way I'll be hiking the Keys Everglades Roadwalk, the Florida Trail, the Alabama Roadwalk, the Pinhoti Trail, and a small section of the Benton MacKaye Trail. And of course the Appalachian Trail!

For a summary of what my plans are see 
Matt's 2021 Hiking Plans

Ways to follow my adventure

I am primarily chronicling my hike via my YouTube Channel. I try to release a new vlog every few days (assuming I have reception)

In between I post daily -ish updates to my Instagram Live Story with occasional regular posts usually when I hit milestones 

If your interested in helping me out financially I’m always grateful to accept. Money goes towards replacing gear or on trail niceties like coffee, food, beer, or hotels.
PayPal
Patreon

If you’d like to send me a message I can be reached via Instagram

You can also email me directly at 
matthew.hengst@gmail.com

Matt's 2021 Hiking Plans - Florida Trail / Appalachian Trail / Eastern Continental Trail


Hey all! 

I spent last summer hiking the 2,653+ mile Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada. It was often difficult, sometimes miserable, and ever since finishing I've found myself really missing the constant feelings of progress and accomplishment.

So what's next?

Pacific Crest Trail 2020 Gear Deep Dive: Electronics


Being a geek I'm very passionate about the electronics that I carry on the trail. I enjoy fiddling with new devices and figuring out how they can make my hike more fun or effective. When I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2020 I had the goal of not using any disposable batteries and this is what I carried.

For an overall picture of my gear see lighterpack.

Washington: Thru Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of COVID-19

September 2nd to 29th, 2020
505.6 miles, 28 days
Cascade Locks to Canadian Border 

After 119 days on trail I'd reached the state of Washington and now I only had 500 miles to Canada!

After my relatively smooth experience through Oregon now I was now facing a more difficult trail and a smattering of new challenges like: historic wind events, seemingly the entire west coast catching fire, unhealthy levels of smoke lasting for days, and rainstorms. And then throw in a snowstorm at Rainy Pass and a still closed Canadian border just to round out the experience! 

And then 28 days later I was standing victorious at the northern terminus having to contemplate life after the trail.

Oregon: Thru Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of COVID-19

August 13th to August 31st
456 miles, 19 days
Ashland to Cascade Locks 

Oregon! The land of flat trail, green tunnel hiking, lava flows, and burn areas! And grand mysteries like who left a bunch of crabs laying out on those train tracks near Shelter Cove.

I crossed the California / Oregon border 97 days after leaving Campo and by the latter part of that adventure I was joking about being in full support of the State of Jefferson movement just so the PCT would get into a new state earlier! And then after all of that Oregon took just 19 spectacular days!

Northern California: Thru Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail In The Summer of COVID-19

July 13th to August 10th, 2020
601.7 miles, 29 days
Tahoe to Ashland
[Mileage Log]

I'd sweated my way through the desert, limped through the Sierra on crumbling shoes, and now...I was still in California for another 600 miles. Bloody hell this state is long!  

The Northern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail has a reputation for getting people down and I can understand why. After finishing the Sierra it feels imposing to still have over half the trail and 1,500 miles to go. Also having left the epic views of the Sierra behind and having to deal with the fact that ever town stop involves a big descent followed by a steep climb to get back out causes things to drag. Especially after a large town meal and a few beers.

I also really didn't expect the heat. Suddenly we were back in mid 90s and now there was high humidity to boot.

But there were also spectacular rivers, lush vegetation, and some of my favorite town stops of the entire trail.

Sierra Nevada: Thru Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of COVID-19

June 20th to July 11th, 2020
388 miles, 22 days
Kennedy Meadows South to South Lake Tahoe

Brace yourself because I'm about to utter high heresy. Are you ready?

The Sierra wasn't my favorite section of the Pacific Crest Trail. In fact it was the least memorable.

I know, I know. Pitchforks down please. Let me explain. 

I've done quite a bit of backpacking and climbing in the Sierra. I have countless remote little corners that I absolutely adore and I can jaw your ear off about all the underappreciated areas and how nothing can compete with the feeling of sitting on top of some remote peak looking out across the high sierra.

Me in my happy place

So why didn't I enjoy this section as much as the usual punching bag sections like SoCal or NorCal? 

First off I'd done most of the Sierra section just last year. In June 2019 I went from Kennedy Meadows to Horseshoe Meadows grabbing multiple peaks along the way and then I did Yosemite Valley to Whitney southbound on the John Muir Trail. in August That meant that I knew what to expect around every corner or on the far side of every climb which ended up taking me out of the moment a bit.

I was committed to the idea of a continuous footpath from Mexico to Canada so I wasn't about to skip anything but I did find myself constantly thinking of what was ahead vs just being in the moment.

Also after enjoying solitude for long sections of SoCal the Sierra was where things started to feel busy. There still weren't near as many thru hikers as the last few years but we did start to see a lot more section hikers jumping on and we hit a massive flood of JMT'ers fleeing the lockdowns.

Southern California Desert: Thru Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Summer of COVID-19

May 5th to June 19th
702 miles, 46 days
Campo to Kennedy Meadows 
[Mileage Log]

During the summer of 2020 while absolutely nothing was going on in the world I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. Since all I had with me was my phone I wasn't able to do my usual style of blog posts on this site and had to settle for posting pictures on my Instagram / Facebook story quasi daily (which you can still see archived by clicking on the little circles here.

That still left me wanting to better capture the experience especially since this year was so unique. I don't have the temperment for a typical vlog (which would have been a lot of "today my feet hurt and I'm tired") so I decided that I'd do a post for each major section relating some of the highlights of my adventure. This covers the first 700 miles of the trail from Campo up to Kennedy Meadows. Stay tuned for posts about the Sierra, Northern California, Oregon, and of course Washington.

The Southern California section of the Pacific Crest Trail tends to get a lot of flack from hikers due to the high temperatures and lack of water. In fact it seems like so many people are so focused on rushing through it in anticipation of the Sierra they don't properly appreciate all it has to offer.  

While it is labeled as desert the trail runs through a wide variety of terrain. Desert scrub gives way to local mountains, lakes, hot springs, big grassy plains, and so much more. Tired of what you're seeing? Wait a day and it'll probably change. (Well, except for around Tehachapi where if you're anything like me you're going to get really really sick of wind farms!)

Along the way I did encounter heat waves, earthquakes, water borne illness, an achilles injury that almost ended my hike, and the occasional curfew due to civil unrest. But looking back it's the section I look back at the most fondly since it was such an iconic start to the trail.

Planning & Preperation For Hiking The Pacific Crest Trail


Whenever I talk to people about my 2,653+ mile 149 day thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail they almost always comment on how it must have taken a massive amount of planning and want to know how you can do such a big trip and return to a normal life afterwards.

Well I'm here to share how it doesn't take near as much planning as you might think and how I decided normal life is overrated, threw caution to the wind, and had one of the most amazing experiences of my life thus far.