They say all good things must come to an end, and so it is
with Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off. This year, as
we have for the past 17 years, the ADZPCTKO organizers will
gather at Lake Morena County Park to greet hikers passing
through, offer them a cold (or hot, depending on the weather)
beverage, and some advice from those who have been there before.
But we won't have the trappings that have come to define kick
off in recent years: hot meals served to hundreds, a vendor fair
of items uniquely suited to long-distance hiking, a full
schedule of informative seminars, nightly film presentations,
and reunions of previous PCT thru-hiker classes. Also missing:
overcrowded campsites, overflowing septic tanks, long lines for
registration and meals, and loud late-night parties.
So why end this tradition that is loved by many and reviled
by a few?
From the beginning, our sole purpose has been to help
current-year aspiring thru hikers. Calming the butterflies.
Educating about effective equipment, techniques, leave no trace
ethics, and how to be an ambassador for the Pacific Crest Trail.
Providing information about current trail, snow, and water
conditions. Showing the geology, flora, and fauna to be
encountered along the way. Even supporting and maintaining water
caches. We've never wavered from that core mission; as the event
grew larger and new features were added, we tried to ensure that
they served that core mission.
But a lot has changed since the first ADZPCTKO in 1999.
Information resources for PCT hikers were sparse then. PCTA
had only a basic (and mostly static) website hosted on gorp.com.
PCT-L was in its infancy. Facebook didn't even exist until five
years later. There were no Halfmile maps and no Yogi's PCT
Handbook. No map apps existed, which isn't surprising because no
smartphones existed. Hikers who wanted ultralight gear had to
make their own; a few became so good at it that they turned
their efforts into small businesses that later displayed their
wares at ADZPCTKO. With only analog film equipment and limited
web tools, it was much easier to share your experience with
other hikers by gathering in small groups.
Small groups? When ADZPCTKO began, a few hundred hikers would
attempt a thru hike each year, and a sizable portion of them
started in the several days before or after KO, as that was
generally considered to be the optimal start date. The number
grew slowly but steadily, and KO grew with it. And then there
was Wild. Trail popularity skyrocketed, so that now PCTA issues
several thousand permits for hikers starting throughout the
spring. We have always been cognizant of the bump in daily trail
use coinciding with KO, but the biggest herd ever out of KO's
early days was no match for the size of current daily quotas. We
don't want to create a bigger wave than the one that already
exists. An event held on a single weekend can do one of two
things: reach only a small fraction of this year's hikers, or
skew the starting dates in a way that creates a huge herd
(assuming we had the ability to accommodate an ever larger
crowd, which we don't).
The explosion of alternative information resources and the
explosion in the number of hikers have simultaneously reduced
the need for an event like ours and made it less effective --
leaving us to wonder how ADZPCTKO 2017 can fulfill that core
mission of assisting current-year thru hikers.
So that's where we are. Lots of good memories, lots of
enduring friendships. And the realization that an event that was
an essential trail stop a few years ago is not right for the PCT
As our founder and dear friend Greg "Strider" Hummel said: "No regrets! No fears! No worries! No tears!" We hope to see you all out on the trail. Have a great hike!
Check out the ADZPCTKO online store
Did you pick up a T-shirt at KO? No? Well it's not too late...because we just opened our online store! You'll not only find our latest T-shirt, featuring words of wisdom from PCT legend Billy Goat, but also T-shirts from previous years, in men's and women's styles. Oh yeah: insulated travel mugs and travel wallets too. Remember our motto: All shirts guaranteed to be as wrinkled as shown in the photos.
For great gear, check out our vendor supporters