It seems everything has it’s own language, and the species ‘through-hiker’ has it’s very own linguistic additions to submit as well.

These are terms related to the Pacific Crest Trail and/or hiking/’through-hiking’ in general. Enjoy!

THROUGH HIKER: Someone who is attempting a particular trail 1,000 miles long or longer. Who came up with the distances? I researched a little, and as far as I my crack team of investigative investigators can tell…a short man near Tehachapi named Bob. OK. I lied. I have no clue, but for some reason, it’s not a “through-hike” unless it’s about 1,000 miles or more. But, for the sake of not alienating anyone, we can define a “through-hiker” as: Someone who attempts a continuous, non-interrupted (for the most part) hike that is very, very long.

THROUGH-HIKE:                                                                                                            Actually hiking said trail of at least 1,000 miles or longer. In the traditional old fashioned sense of the word, it meant starting at one end, then successfully hiking to the other end. More new-fangled descriptions are broader in scope: section hiking, flip flopping or skipping are also seen as acceptable methods of through-hiking. (See below for definitions. Wow..definitions are begetting definitions! This list may never end!)

SECTION HIKE:                                                                                                                      Hiking a section of the trail. For example: I ran across a gentleman who is hiking a different section of the Pacific Crest Trail every year with a select group of friends. They have their own website dedicated to it, and they plan on finishing the entire PCT in 20 years. Section hiking the PCT is fairly common, and some of you may have even done it without knowing! The PCT comes in close proximity to many places up and down California, Oregon and Washington (and in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, you are a short drive to a trailhead at Echo Lake or by the Tahoe Rim Trail).

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. There are those purists who claim that every single mile of the trail must be hiked, or it’s not a genuine through-hike.

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.

To have someone transport your heavy gear for you, while you carry only the most minimal amount, such as the food you need that day, plus water.

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 said 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, heal from injuries, etc. They are also times to get caught up on calorie loading, and rest. Also called a Zero.


*Thanks to Scotty Bryce for some of the terms!

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