Time to Make this Official.
Yes, the ride is on.
I am planning a thru-ride on the Pacific Crest Trail for 2021.
My name is Jess Goodlett. I am 25 years old, and I have been a part of Limitless since the beginning.
People seem to say that I am pretty outgoing and adventurous. When I set my mind on a goal, I definitely become very determined to make it happen. Most of my family and friends were not too surprised when I dropped the news that I was going to continue the plan to attempt a thru-ride on the Pacific Crest Trail. This trail has been on my mind for years, and it was actually how Limitless got its start.
My trail name is Raindance (this is how I got my trail name), and these are my BLM Mustangs, Makani (10-year-old bay roan mare) and Malana (7-year-old chestnut mare).
Also, here is little Zendaya. She is too young to join in on the fun next year, but maybe she will get the chance to tag along in the near future.
Here are some photos of me from a few years back, when I was able to set foot on a small section of the Pacific Crest Trail. This is the moment that sparked up the passion for the trail again after dealing with nostalgia from the group’s ride on the Colorado Trail in 2017.
I had convinced my dad and uncle to drive a rental car up some narrow mountain roads just to be able to set foot on part of the Pacific Crest Trail near Big Bear Lake. It felt magical getting the chance to hike a very small section of the trail. It was like getting a small taste of a big dream. My time on the trail may have only lasted 30 minutes, but it made me realize that I was still very passionate about this trail even after my experience on the Colorado Trail.
The plans have gone back and forth a few times, but the goal is to set out on trail in the Spring of 2021. For me, there are a lot of emotions tied in with this thu-ride. I am sure there will be a lot of time for reflection on the days leading up to the trail, including each and every day spent out there with my horses.
This is a big trek. Every time I look at the maps, I feel excited. Maybe a little nervous. But I am focused on what is ahead. The days are flying by fast, and I know the day that I head out to California will be here sooner than I can even imagine. A lot of my time right now is being spent with the horses, and any additional free time goes toward researching the trail.
Let’s talk about the trail.
What is the Pacific Crest Trail?
The Pacific Crest Trail is a border to border trail that starts at the Mexican border and travels through California, Oregon, and Washington to the Canadian border. The trail is 2,650 miles long, and it is open to both hikers and equestrians.
There are only a handful of completed equestrian thru-rides that are documented. I am sure there are a few more that have gone unmentioned online, but to be honest, it is much more likely for people to plan a thru-hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Us thru-riders are very few.
For those who may not know, a thru-hike or thru-ride is a long distance trail that is completed in one go (typically one season) – from one end of the trail to other end. This differs from section hiking where one may just complete small sections of the trail instead of the entire length. Though, what a thru-hike or thru-ride is for one person may differ slightly for another. Sometimes trail conditions during a certain year results in hikers or riders having to alter the original path on the trail to detour things like a fire or trail closure. But this does not take away from the fact that the trail was completed if they reach the end. As they say, hike your own hike, or in this situation – ride your own ride.
On the note of section hiking and riding, the Pacific Crest Trail is also a very popular option for those looking to just complete certain sections. According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), there are a total of 29 sections: 18 sections in California, 6 sections in Oregon, and 5 in Washington.
Elevation ranges greatly throughout the entire trail, along with a vast variety of terrain. The Pacific Crest Trail travels over many mountain passes and through many wilderness areas, national forests and parks.
More information can be found on the PCTA official website.
The Difficulties of Planning a Thru-Ride
Taking on a thru ride comes with a lot of its own types of challenges that hikers will not have to face. Adding in one or two horses on trail adds its own difficulty especially when it comes to the logistics.
As I am researching the trail, I am trying to answer questions such as: How are the water sources in this section? Where can I camp? Are there any grazing restrictions? Any trail concerns?
How will I resupply? Where are some places I may be able to pull the horses off trail to rest them? Who will be my emergency contacts? And the list goes on.
I cannot really plan too far ahead with any set plans, but one of my biggest obstacles will be the snow. Trail conditions can change daily, and I have no idea how the winter is going to look at this moment. Because of the length of the trail, some decisions will not be made until I am on trail. I expect many unplanned things to happen. That is just the way it is, and that is why the focus right now is to study and learn the trail as much as I can.
Why the Pacific Crest Trail?
It was 2013 when I first heard about the Pacific Crest Trail. I was actually scrolling through Facebook when I came across a post in an equestrian Facebook group where a few people were talking about long distance trails. The main topic was riding horses from coast to coast ,but then the Pacific Crest Trail was brought up in the discussion. It was the first time I had heard of an established border to border trail. I was very interested and after a few quick searches online, I quickly became obsessed with this trail and the idea of completing a border to border trail horseback.
Though, I knew I was not ready at that time to take on such a big adventure. I kept the idea stored away in my mind. It would sneak back into my thoughts every so often. When it did, I would spend hours researching this trail and looking for any information I could find for equestrians. I told myself that one day… one day, I would ride the Pacific Crest Trail.
It wasn’t until 2015, when I decided to reach out to some people about the trail. I talked with Gillian Larson, who had completed the trail horseback in 2014. She has been a big inspiration to me and to many others. Over the years, she has now completed the Pacific Crest Trail two times horseback. She has also completed the 800 mile Arizona Trail, the 500 mile Colorado Trail, and the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail, which is another border to border trail. (Seriously, check out her Instagram. Her photos and videos of the trails are absolutely breathtaking!)
I also spoke with Ben Masters of Unbranded who encouraged me to get out and “just do it.”
This is when I started to think about friends who may be interested in riding with me. Initially, I reached out to Devan Horn about riding a border to border trail. Devan was the first person I ever thought of to even contact about a thru-ride. She is adventurous and possibly the only person I knew at the time who would have been up for such a challenge. I mentioned to her that I was interested specifically in riding the Pacific Crest Trail. We talked briefly about a long distance trek, and we told each other that we would keep in touch.
A few months passed, when Ragan Kelly reached out to me about a long distance trail. She had spoken with Devan who had mentioned my name to her. Ragan knew a few more people interested in a thru-ride, and that is how Limitless began.
Now, the Pacific Crest Trail is a much longer trail than what my friends and I rode in 2017 with the Colorado Trail. But as I mentioned, the Limitless team originally started with the goal of riding a border to border trail together.
Our exact plans were to ride a shorter trail, the Colorado Trail, in 2017. Then, we wanted to ride a border to border trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, in 2020. But since the start of Limitless in 2015, a lot of things have changed.
When we completed the Colorado Trail, we could all agree it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Out of the group, I was honestly one who did not see myself fully committing to another thru-ride anytime soon. My end of the ride on the Colorado Trail was not what I wanted. Also, what they do not warn you much about long distance trails is that life continues on in the “real world.”
Life. Work. School. Other hobbies and interests. New goals and new opportunities.
There was nothing negative that happened within the team. We are all really good friends and forever will be. I love each and every one of them wholeheartedly. Though, we do not get the chance to see each other often, we will forever hold onto the memories that we created together on the Colorado Trail.
So wait… you are doing this trek solo?
Yes, that is correct. Solo. I am riding the trail alone with my two horses.
I will be honest. This was never my plan. Originally, I was unsure of a solo trek. I did not want to ride this trail alone.
When plans for a 2021 trek started, this thru-ride was going to be made for two riders. But plans changed yet again, and I had to make a decision to either hold off riding the trail or to just go after my dreams.
I know the pros and cons of going by myself, and I know the pros and cons with riding with others. I have heard the recommendations. I have heard the concerns. And with that said, I will continue on with planning this trek solo. This will allow me to put all of my focus on my horses’ needs to get them safely through the trail.
Though, I do hope to have a few friends join in here and there for sections.
How long will this trail take?
This trail will approximately take five to six months to complete. The horses and I will average 20-25 miles per day. I am also factoring in plenty of rest days for the horses. We are starting early enough to get through the hotter, dryer Southern California sections, but we will very likely have to skip around and circle back to some parts of the trail because of snow. In order to complete the full trail in one season, we need to be done sometime in September before the snow starts back up in Washington.
So What is Next?
I have a little over half a year left to get ready for this trek. I am looking forward to sharing our progress leading up to the trail and sharing the adventures that are to come.