Each year on the last weekend of April, a motley crew of hikers assemble in Lake Morena County Park, some 20 miles from the Mexican border in San Diego County. The event? ADZPCTKO. Some pronounce it “add-zi-pa-sit-ko.” Some just call it “The Kick Off” as if there were no other. Officially, it’s known as the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off, and for many PCT thru-hikers, it marks the start of their 2600 mile journey to Canada.
This past weekend we travelled down to Lake Morena to see what it was all about. And we had a blast!
First of all, the registrations for the event sold out in three days. No more camp sites available, so we stayed in Alpine, about 30 miles away. Thankfully, day visitors are welcome, so we drove down and spent all day Saturday at the event.
Over 686 people registered this year, including 256 thru-hikers for the PCT Class of 2013, 116 PCT section hikers, 161 previous PCT hikers, and an assortment of trail angels, staffers, and wannabe PCT hikers. The Kick Off actually starts on Thursday afternoon, and runs through Sunday, with speakers sharing their wisdom on trail conditions, gear advice, cooking, films and a whole lot more.
We started with a tour of the vendor area. Keen, A16, Go-Lite, One Pan Wonders, Stick Pic, Dirty Girl Gaiters and many others had booths, some offering advice and samples, others selling books, movies or equipment. I got a chance to meet Lawton “Disco” Grinter, author of I Hike (which I reviewed last week). He shared a bit about the fabulous beach he and P.O.D. camped at in Volcanoes National Park, and picked up a signed copy of his book to giveaway to one lucky SoCal Hiker reader. Stay tuned for more on that soon.
We finally got a chance to meet fellow SoCal hiking blogger Campfire Kam. She was helping out in the Keen footwear booth, and we scored some lip balm, Keen luggage tags, and best of all, a pair of the new Keen Olympus hiking socks. These bad boys are designed for hiking, with the seam under your toes, and the material guaranteed for life. I’m looking forward to putting them through their paces, so to speak, on Sandstone Peak this weekend.
Taking a snack break in the shade, we bumped into Scott “Squatch” Herriott. We had just watched his film about hiking the Appalachian Trail–Flip-Flop-Flippin– so it was great to get a chance to meet him in person and share our appreciation for his films. If you’re interested in getting a taste of life on a long trail, check out Squatch Films.
Also in the vendor area was a handy service called The Shakedown Shack. PCT thru-hikers would bring their fully-loaded pack to this area, where alumni would break it down and tell them exactly what they should leave behind. Some of the hikers shed 20 pounds of gear. Imagine how much more fun the hike will be when your pack is 20 pounds lighter!
The Gear Contest was a blast. Each year, hikers bring their hiking inventions or hacks and the audience votes on their favorite. Some were wacky (a wooden spoon?). Others were nostalgic (a crocheted hat from the ’70s that folds up for easy storage). Some were entertaining (the portable bidet). In the end, the practical won with a tie between the Tyvek bivy sack and a do-it-yourself inline adapter for a water filter, made from two plastic screw-top caps.
Met up with Shane “Jester” O’Donnell. Jester is a Triple Crown hiker — having completed the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide trails — and the filmmaker behind Wizards of the PCT. We talk to Jester at length, and were surprised to learn that although the AT is about 500 miles shorter than the PCT, it is probably the most physically demanding. Best of all, we learned the secret behind the name of the film: a 4 lb brass “wizard” that he (and others) carried all the way to Canada on their PCT thru-hike. Insane.
In between the conversations, we hit the Pavilion and heard some great presentations. Teresa “Dicentra” Black, author of One Pan Wonders shares some awesome tips for putting together tasty meals on the trail, without breaking the bank. One of my favorites? Bring along fresh pearl onions or shallots. You can use them in entirety for a meal, without having to save a stinky, half-used onion in your backpack.
I knew that Kolby “Condor” Kirk was going to be at the kick-off, but hadn’t seen him all day. Then as we were taking pictures of the PCT Class of 2013 at The Rock, I literally bumped right into him. Condor gave us a great tour, introducing us to some awesome people, including the legendary Billy Goat, who has logged over 25,000 miles on the PCT.
Saturday festivities closed with the PCT Class of 2012 video. It’s become a tradition that each year, one thru-hiker volunteers to assemble a video that shares the experience of the entire group. They send thousands of photographs and hours of video, which is painstakingly edited and assembled into a film of the journey. This was really one of the highlights of the weekend. The film provided a great feel for what life was like on the PCT for last year’s crop of thru-hikers. You can download a copy for free, and burn your own DVD. If you’ve ever thought of hiking the PCT, you should check it out.
UPDATE: The video has also been uploaded to Vimeo, so you can also see it right here! It’s over an hour long, but well worth it.
Our weekend at ADZPCTKO 2013 was a blast. It was great to be a part of the community, and swap stories with other hikers. If you’d like to hike the PCT as either a thru-hiker or a section hiker, make plans to attend ADZPCTKO next year.
More Photos from ADZPCTKO 2013
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