Conquering the PCT

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Megan Apple while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Megan Apple spent five months and three days hiking from near the southern part of United States all the way to the Canada border.

Apple hiked 2,650 miles to complete the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. A 2010 graduate of Whitefish High School, she returned home to Whitefish to visit friends and family before heading back to her seasonal jobs this fall and winter.

She completed about 250 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017 and at the time knew she wanted to hike the entire length of the trail.

“I finally did it,” she said, simply.

The Pacific Crest Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that ranges in elevation from just above sea level at the Oregon and Washington border to 13,153 feet in the Sierra Nevada. It begins near a small town on the U.S.-Mexico border going through California, Oregon and Washington before reaching its northern end at the U.S.-Canada border.

Though this is the biggest hike she has completed, Apple has taken the congratulations that she’s received from the accomplishment in stride, noting she’s worked as a hiking guide in Glacier National Park and is an active outdoor person who grew up in the woods.

“Growing up in Montana I was familiar with much of it, but to some people it was foreign and exotic,” she said. “The people who came from the city and have never hiked or leave their desk job to hike those are the people’s stories that I like to hear.”

Apple began her journey in April though she encountered more snow at the beginning of the trip than is normal, she says the weather was great and no forest fires this year meant no trail closures, which hasn’t happened in more than a dozen years. She also experienced rain through the desert portions of the hike when typically it’s so warm hikers are forced to travel at night, but instead she hiked in the middle of the day.

Apple had a few friends join her along the way, but also made friends on the trail. She said hiking through the Sierra Nevada mountain range she had a friend join her for about 500 miles, which was important for safety also during one of the longest stretches without seeing civilization.

“For the most part you’re in small town about every four days, so you’re meeting other people who are also hiking the trail,” she said. “It’s also a chance to get a hot meal and a shower.”

Her parents back home in Whitefish sent her food care packages she had prepared ahead of time for delivery in the towns without services.

During the hike, she saw a gray fox, a lynx and three bears. She says the wildlife sightings came on rainy days when, though the weather never bothered her, it was good to have a bright spot in the day.

What surprised her was the people she met on the trail.

“There was all kinds of people from those who had been in jail to aerospace engineers,” she said. “I would have never met all those different people if I hadn’t been on the trail.”

At the end of the trip, hiking through Washington she encountered a lot of fog and clouds, so that is a portion of the trip she’d like to return to.

“Washington blew my mind with all the up and downs of its impressive mountains,” she said. “It really reminded me a lot of Glacier Park.”

Meals on the trail between towns consisted of a dried fruit, oatmeal and protein bars. Her trail nickname, Sprout, came because she grew sprouts in her backpack to eat along the way. What she missed most was hot food — namely eggs for breakfast.

“I lost 20 pounds,” she said. “I was really active before skiing and hiking and I really didn’t have 20 pounds to lose. But when you’re hiking 25 to 30 miles per day you’re in controlled starvation and it takes a lot out of you.”

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