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PCT #3: Not Feeling the Fear...

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

People's reactions are always interesting when I tell them what I'm embarking on a trip like this. First their face contorts, then their head cocks, and finally a thought is bellowed out - usually of the 'but you'll die' ripostes. I thought it would be interesting to collate all the possible common reactions...

"But what are you gong to do with your hair?" has been asked more than once. I hadn't realised quite how attached people are to it until they starting concerning themselves with it. But it did prompt me to wonder whether or not to pack some shampoo. Apparently this is not necessary - not only can you not use anything like that on the trail as it would contravene the Leave No Trace principle, but when I pop into towns usually it's freely available. I expect it will be long enough to strangle me by the time I get to Washington.

"You'll get eaten by coyotes!" so far said by six people. If, like me, you are surprised to learn that coyotes are more commonly known as wolves, you'll be even more shocked to learn that people clearly think I'm Little Red Riding Hood.

But in actual fact, coyotes are not known to be particularly life-threatening although attacks are on the increase, especially in California, according to Wikipedia. So far, no recorded fatalities on the PCT or surrounding areas.

Mountain Lions! Also known as cougars - so far no one has predicted my demise by large cat, which surprises me because my own cat has been trying to kill me for years. The reality is that two people, both women, were killed in the last two years in PCT regions. They are to be greatly feared greatly - not least because they are very difficult to spot and they are master stalkers. Apparently wearing a pair of sunglasses on the back of the head is a deterrent. So is singing loudly and out of tune - thankfully. If I had to sing in tune, I'd be screwed, or rather: mauled.

On the whole, people are more concerned with what I'm going to do with my cat: He's going to looked after by a friend who is into Yoga. I hope he returns as ZenCat. Unlikely though.

Bears. Not only do they shit in the woods, the filthy creatures, they are known to be rather hot-headed. I read recently that bears that have got more aggressive towards humans, and those that have lost their fear of people are being captured and relocated to the backcountry. 'Where exactly is the PCT?' you may ask...

Reality is that the current average of death by bear is one per year in the North Americas. Despite this, there's a plethora of advice on how to handle a bear attack: Firstly determine whether they are black or brown bears: they have different attack styles. Overlook the fact that black bears can be brown, cinnamon or black in colour, so don't make your assumptions on how they look! Assuming it is a black bear, stand your ground, and wave your arms in the air like you just don't care. Whatever you do, don't run - you're a mouse to a cat. If this doesn't work, roll up into a ball and play dead. No one knows whether this works though because, as I've said, there's an insufficient number of bear deaths per annum for this theory to be anything other than a hypothesis. Assuming it's a brown bear also known as a grizzly: shit yourself in the woods because they do attack people willingly. It is debated whether or not there are two grizzlies near the Canadian border.

No, I will not be taking a gun. I gather Heathrow airport wouldn't let me even if I had one.

Rattlesnakes. There are between sixty-five and seventy different species of rattlesnakes. Who knew? Clearly no-one knows exactly - but what is known is the vast majority live in the PCT regions, and they are not just desert-dwellers. Around 8,000 attacks per year leave five people dead, however figures are warped by the fact that two or three deaths per year are handling errors of 'pet' rattlers!

Am considering taking a Common Kingsnake with me - largely because rattlesnakes are scared of them but may increase my packweight too much.

Scorpions As a scorpio, I consider these practically family - it's the other star signs that need to watch out. That said, only Arizona has a Scorpion with a sting capable of killing someone and if I get to Arizona I am well lost.

Psychopaths. I've seen CSI, I know that the biggest threat to my well-being is a deranged axe-murdered. Or perhaps a hunter mistaking me for a bear pooping in the woods. But I've been living in the "Midsomer Murders" region for years and so far survived...

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