Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off

Since 1999

How Campsites Are Assigned

In its early days, the ADZPCTKO organizers reserved a couple of campsites for themselves, announced that they'd be at Lake Morena on a particular weekend, and then other interested folks would make their own reservations through the county parks system--or just show up without a reservation, because the campground was never full in April.

Those days are long past. As the popularity of the event has grown, we've tried to accommodate all those who want to attend.

Capacity Is Limited

We reserve the entire campground, all the cabins, the youth camp area, and the Pavilion--in other words the entire park. Even though we have the entire park, one park rule is inviolate: maximum of 8 campers per campsite. The reasons are many, but it's mainly to avoid turning the place into a third-world refugee camp. Think overflowing septic tanks. Overflowing trash dumpsters. Shower and toilet lines out the door. Etc. All of those things have happened at past Kick Off gatherings. Although any one site could handle more people, the campground as a whole is not designed with the idea that every campsite is filled to capacity. By employing several mitigation measures (e.g., renting a fleet of portable toilets and handwashing stations, reducing the amount of trash we produce, etc.), we're able to just barely avoid most of the aforementioned calamities while still filling every single site to capacity.

Every Campsite Is Shared

Every campsite is shared. Every campsite is filled to capacity with people who registered in advance. That's why there is absolutely no room to bring in any additional campers. Doesn't matter if you're sharing a tent, sleeping inside a truck, or lying awake all night. It's all about the number of bodies impacting the shaky campground infrastructure.

How Individual Assignments Are Made

We collect registration forms in March. After staring dumbly at a stack of 600+ forms for a few days, we (the large staff of one volunteer) then juggle a variety of often-conflicting factors to try to get everyone in, and everyone in the place they want to be.

  • Group by class year or other affiliation (current thru hikers, previous hikers by year, vendors, organizers, all others)
  • Within each class, group couples together, hiking groups together, single women together, single men together
  • Include companions (e.g., family member of a thru hiker) with the primary registrant
  • Honor special requests (e.g., for a particular site, to be with certain other people, to be far from certain other people)
  • Fill each site to capacity (exactly 8 people) on each night (This is why it's important to let us know which nights you'll be there. If someone is in a site Thursday and Friday, we'll fill their space with someone else who's staying only Saturday)
  • Put trailers and RVs in pull-through or larger sites

This goes through several iterations. For example, we also try to ensure that no site has more than four vehicles on any night. When we get all the people in place and then discover a site overloaded with vehicles, we swap people among sites while still trying to meet all the original criteria.

After all this is done, campsite information is posted on this website and sent out in email messages to each registrant. That triggers a flurry of changes ("Oh, I forgot to tell you I have a car" "I'm not going to be there Thursday" "Please, please, please let me camp near the bathroom") and we do some more shuffling. Meanwhile we get a handful of cancellations, which allows us to try to squeeze in folks from the wait list--hopefully while still meeting the various criteria (although, by this time in the process, we're a lot more willing to stick someone in any ol' place).

For me--the aforementioned large staff of one volunteer--it's a fun and challenging puzzle. But it's very time consuming and requires some compromise of the idyllic camping experience you might envision, so I appreciate your patience and understanding.

But What About Those Who Didn't Get In?

A grammatically challenged fellow recently asked on Facebook, "so if all the campspots are full then what's the overflow plan or is it just to bad so sad screw off?"

Well, those aren't the words we would've chosen, but like any event with a limited number of places--concert, sporting event, airline flight, kick off--when it's full, it's full. We don't sell "tickets" beyond our capacity to honor them. Instead, we offer these suggestions:

  • Come out for the day.
  • If you don't live close enough to easily drive out for the day, try one of these alternative campgrounds and lodging facilities.
  • Skip KO. Look, we think it's a fun, informative event. But missing it is not the end of the world. It should be a nice weekend for a hike in most places; go out and enjoy yourself!