[pct-l] Thru-hiking with a dog

Eric Lee (GAMES) elee at microsoft.com
Tue Sep 12 17:17:19 CDT 2006

I wrote:
I'll dig around and try to find some resource links from previous
threads on the subject.

Based on many stories I've heard and journals I've read over the years,
I think the people who have the most success attempting a thru-hike with
a dog are either people who don't really care if they finish in one year
and thus can move more slowly, or people who have ready transportation
available for their dog so they can put their dog off the trail and
bring it back on again on an instant's notice.

The best way for you to be informed about the risks and opportunities is
to talk to people who have actually tried it.  I see that Lonetrail
already shared the email address for True and Timber (2004).  You might
also try corresponding with Darrell and Betsy who hiked with their dog
Sitka in 2004.  Their email address is (or was) DjgPct at aol.com.  Here's
how their attempt turned out:


Subject: [pct-l] Sitka's coming home 
From: DjgPct at aol.com (DjgPct at aol.com) 
Date: Mon Apr 5 08:03:29 2004

Hope all concerned got Darrell's posted water updates.  He's not able to
sign on often, but did get a chance last night because...

Sitka's comin' home.  Yogi said the people who pull their dogs from the
trail never post about it.  So I though I'd be sure to let you all know.
Darrell and Sitka have made it to Big Bear City.  Sitka's paws have been
showing soreness and Darrell fears they will not get better only worse.
Even with an extra zero day.  So he rented a car and drove Sitka to
family in Phoenix.  I'll drive to Phoenix and get him next weekend.
Sitka is already better, but Darrell doesn't want him to get sore again,
so this decision is final.

So now my husband is headed back to the trail without his dear
companion.  I 
feel very good that he made this decision for the dog.  It was the only
choice to make.  But I know he'll feel the loss of his presence.


Unfortunately one of the best online dog-related trail journals
(pctforpets.org) is off the net and I can't seem to find a copy
anywhere.  But below is something I wrote a couple of years ago when the
subject came up.  (I've tweaked it a bit from its original version.)  As
you can see, I'm not terribly excited about the idea of thru-hiking with
dogs.  There are definitely people with other opinions, of course.  You
can search the list archives to find a variety of takes on the subject.


Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 8:56 PM
From: Eric Lee (GAMES) (elee at microsoft.com)
Subject: RE: [pct-l] dog

Briefly, the problems with thru-hiking with a dog in one season (as
opposed to shorter section trips) are as follows:

1.  The desert heat is extremely hard on dogs.  Dogs generally can't
regulate their body temperature as well as humans can, and the heat is
hard enough on humans.  Imagine what it must be like as a dog.  It's not
uncommon to see temperatures well over 100 degrees in the shade, and
much higher in direct sunlight.  Is your dog prepared to deal with that
all day, day after day?

2.  The rocky terrain found in the desert and many other places farther
north is very hard on a dog's feet, even with booties.  Don't picture
soft, pine-needle-covered trails.  Picture sharp, abrasive rocks.  Most
thru-hikers wear out several pairs of shoes during their trip.  Imagine
what it must do to a dog's pads.  Booties will help but they usually
cause their own problems with chafing and blisters.

3.  Having a dog along greatly complicates logistics.  Hitchhiking is
much harder.  Resupply is harder.  If your dog needs to get off the
trail, you can't just put it on a bus and keep going.  The PCT crosses
several parks where dogs aren't allowed.  How are you going to get your
dog around those sections?  All of this seriously decreases your odds of
finishing in one season.

4.  Your dog can't talk.  Humans can say, "You know, I'm beat.  I need
to stay in town for an extra zero day."  Dogs can't tell you that.  Is
it fair to put your dog on a deathmarch where it has no choice but to
keep walking 20 mile days regardless of what it _wants_ to do?

I have no problem with people section-hiking with their dogs.  More
power to them.  However, I think a traditional one-season thru-hike with
a dog, where your overriding goal is to finish the trail, is a terrible
idea.  The vast majority of dogs that attempt it don't make it.  Even
the ones that do arrive in Canada usually have to skip huge sections.
(Timber, one of this year's thru-hiking dogs, would have been in major
trouble had he not been able to skip around desert sections in Meadow
Mary's RV.  Depending on who you ask, Timber wasn't having much fun
during last part of the trip, either.)

For two first-hand accounts of thru-hiking dogs on the PCT this summer,
check out these journals:
*  ERTMan and Red
*  Bradley and Banner (http://www.pctforpets.org/)  (Now off the net,

Both dogs were harshly punished by the desert sections, both dogs got
off the trail before reaching the Sierras.  Even if you think your dog
is different, at least read the journals (particularly the second one)
to understand what you'll be up against.


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