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[pct-l] Summer trip

Hello everyone!  My name is James, and I'm a college student in Texas.  I
was wondering if you folks could help my friend and I out with a
suggestion or two.  Admittedly, one reason I'm asking you is because I
probably haven't taken enough time going through all the resources on the
web and elsewhere, and in that sense, I apologize for taking your time,
but if you have any input to offer us, we'd both really appreciate it!

Here's the scoop:  Phil and I are college students wanting to "get away
from campus etc." for the summer for as little money as reasonably
possible.  We posted a "help us!" message on some newsgroups that stated
in more detail the kind of trip we wanted to take, and we were
(thankfully) given many replies, MOST ALL of which pointed us to the PCT!
We're both Eagle Scouts, been to Philmont several times, and reasably
good, experienced hikers/campers.  Not that we've ever done a 2-3 month
trip like this, but we've done fine for the 2 weeks at Philmont, and feel
confident about possibly taking on part of the TCP.  However, we're not
really familiar with the trail, being from Texas and having never been

So we set out to see what it's all about.  Here's where the part about
"not doing enough research" comes in:  Despite the many pages we found on
the web, we didn't really find certain answers we were looking for.
Below is a list of (probably dumb!) questions that we have, and if anyone
wouldn't mind taking the time to email us your thoughts on them, then we'd
be very grateful.  Bofore I get into the list, let me tell you our ideas
about the trip:  we're wanting to get out of Texas, for at least a couple
of weeks, and up to 3 months.  We know that planning a 3 month trip takes
an immense amount of planning, so please don't think we're biting off more
than we can chew-- the idea is to see, then, how big of a trip IS
possible.  We've got the whole summer, basically, so that could mean
spending a month planning, or whatever.  The plan would be to take a
Greyhound to XXXXX on the trail and leave after XXXX days from XXXX
destination to come home via Greyhound.  Obviously this isn't too etched
in stone.

So-- here's those silly questions:

1.  Cost-- DOES it cost to camp out, hike, etc.?  We've heard that
nat'l forests are free.  Since the trail wanders into them alot, is it
feasable, to cover, say, 500 miles and never spend a cent on sleeping?

2.  Permits:  We know that we need them.  That's about all we know.
Perhaps there's a good web site that goes into this?

3.  Food & Drink:  What's the story here?  We read something about having
supplies dropped at various places, but I think the main thing here is
that we don't have a good idea of the big picture on this.  I know that
it's a big trail, and we don't quite know if everything's run by a central
group, or run by all sorts of individual officials, or not really "run"
by anyone at all. Sorry 'bout the naivety here.

4.  Weather:  We're in Texas.  It's hot, and the weatherman is good if he
can predict rain 1 out of 5 times here.  We've read that there are hot
places and cold places.  Where would you recommend going?

5.  Preparation:  I know this will be a much bigger task than we think.
What are some good steps to take?  

6.  Volunteer programs?:  What's this all about?  Is it several different
groups, or one?  Are there programs that offer things like "work on the
trail for us for 2 weeks and we'll let you go for one week on your own,
with free food"?  I know we might be dreaming here.  (c:

7.  Contacts:  Is the next step here calling someone?  Do we have to "sign
up" somehow?  Are there various people "in charge" of various areas that
we should call? Again, apologies for the naivety.

8.  Suggestions for when/where:  Is there, for example, an all around
"good 500 mile trip," for example, that's popular?  We saw some info 
about a book that we could order that lists 25 popular short hikes.  
Should we buy something like this?  Should we go for a month, a week, 3

9.  Specifics:  Can we make fires?  Can we bring stoves?  Do you have to
"check in" to the various parks and forests as you enter them?  Is there
emergency assistance of any kind?  Are there actual campsites, or do you
just sleep anywhere, or does it vary?  

Well, this probably isn't all the questions we have, but it's a start.  I
know that it's a lot of questions, and that it would take a really long
time to answer each one.  If there is one or two in particular, though,
that you might have some info on, it would be great if you could drop us a

I guess we're hoping for suggestions on what kind of trip to take, like
"Well, you should go for a month, start here, end up there" etc.  

Thanks very much in advance to all for your time and help!  We really
appreciate it!

                                           With hopes to hike soon,

                                            James Dering 

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