Frequently Asked Questions

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General information

What does it cost to participate in a Pass to Pass hike?

Pass to Pass (PtP) does not charge a registration fee. Hikers cover the expenses of traveling to and from the trailhead, their gear, food, and any lodging necessary to be at the trailhead on time ready to begin the hike. PtP has limited community gear to loan to hikers with Parkinson’s disease (PD hikers) (eXped deep sleep mattresses, four-legged with a back Roll-a-chair, 1- or 2-person tents). Support hikers are expected to cover the same expenses including their own gear. Some years the PtP board has issued travel vouchers to cover partial travel expenses. Hikers are asked to assist with fundraising.

What are the fundraising expectations for hikers?

PtP is an all-volunteer, non-profit charity registered in Washington state. To cover group expenses, hikers are encouraged, to the extent of their comfort level, to inform family and friends about their plans and ask for donations. Some hikers have asked their neurologists, others have used connections to employers, and others have used Facebook or other social media platforms. PtP provides template fundraising messages hikers may personalize. There is no minimum fundraising requirement.

How do I sign up for a hike?

Please express your interest through our Contact page. You will receive information about our application and screening process.

What if I sign up for a hike and need to cancel?

Things happen, in life and with Parkinson’s disease, and sometimes you must change plans. Please contact Bill (509-991-1212 or spokanebill@gmail.com) as soon as you know your plans must change. If you can participate in a different hike, that may be possible. We try to keep alternate hiker lists since we want to make the best use of our llamas and number of permitted hikers. It is advisable to have trip insurance, if you plan to arrive by air or have hotel reservations.

What are the physical expectations of PD hikers?

PD hikers need to be able to hike 5-7 miles per day, up to 1,500 feet of elevation, carrying a 15-18 pound backpack. Some days will be shorter and flatter. Some days may be slightly longer. PD hikers should also be able to navigate rocky terrain, steep sections of trail, and to step over tree roots. You should be able to squat down and get back up to relieve yourself in the woods. We try to get to camp early in the afternoon but the first day is often later because of the time getting ready at the trailhead. PD hikers may put up to 25 pounds of gear on a pack llama.

PD hikers who have the most difficulty in our years of experiences are often overweight, have not been backpacking in recent years or ever, or do not have a daily exercise program to maintain and develop stamina. For safety’s sake, if you are in one of these categories, you may be asked to go on an assessment hike with a PtP hiker, get your Doctor’s permission, or take a virtual assessment of your abilities.

What are the physical expectations of support hikers?

Support hikers carry all their own gear. On average, groups hike 5-7 miles per day, up to 1,500 feet of elevation. Some days will be shorter and flatter. Some days may be slightly longer. Support hikers may cover extra distance and/or carry extra weight if needed to help PD hikers to be successful. Further information about support hikers is on the FAQ-Support Hikers page.

Planning for a multi-day backpacking trip

Where can I learn about planning for a multi-day backpacking trip?

Several resources are available. A few are National Park Foundation’s A Beginner’s Guide To Wilderness and Backcountry Hiking Prep, REI’s Intro to Backpacking series, Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Backcountry Basics, and the Hiking for Her blog.

How do I know how difficult a Pass to Pass hike route will be?

PtP uses a rating system similar to that used in snow skiing. Green dot = less difficult. Blue square = moderately difficult. Black diamond = difficult. Double black diamond = most difficult. We provide maps and trail elevation profiles, and you can talk to hikers who have been on many of the hikes.

How can I learn about reading trail maps (elevations, etc.)

The backcountry and high elevations mean sporadic or no cell phone service. It is important to understand how to read a trail map. Your trip leader and assistant trip leader will have this experience, but it is incumbent on all hikers to have basic navigation skills. Resources: REI YouTube on using a compass, REI how to read a topo map, Washington Trails Association (WTA) reading hiking maps

Gear

What gear do I need?

Other resources: REI’s backpacking checklist, and Outdoor Gear Lab provides reliable gear reviews.

PD hikers’ backpacks may be checked by trip leaders at the trailhead. Surplus supplies will be left in the shuttle vehicles for pickup at trail’s end. The pack will be weighed to be no more than 15-18 lbs for less experienced hikers.

Most hikers use trekking poles. PtP has limited community gear to loan to hikers with Parkinson’s disease (PD hikers) (eXped deep sleep mattresses, four-legged with a back Roll-a-chair, 1- or 2-person tents).

Your gear should not exceed 40 pounds total, including water. Efficient hikers can bring everything they need in a pack that weighs 25 pounds.

The group has a larger water filter to use at camp, but it is recommended that each hiker have a small individual water filter.

What clothes should I bring?

Plan two or three complete changes of clothes for your entire hike. Plan to dress in layers. PtP gives each hiker the year’s T-shirt at the starting trailhead (wicking synthetic material in a medium size ziplock that can be re-purposed for your waste TP).

No cotton! Hiking clothing should be functional and dry fast to help maintain your body temperature. Cotton absorbs too much moisture and therefore can be dangerous.

Daytime temperatures in the Pacific Northwest in July and August can range from the 60s to the 90s. Nightime temperatures can range from the high 30s to the 50s. Be prepared for rain. Raingear is essential no matter what the weather forecast is for your time.

A couple resources: Hiking Clothing Layering System, Beginner Gear Guide

What about insect repellant?

Do bring insect repellant. Some of our 2020 and 2021 teams encountered terrible insects for two or three days of their trip at the lakes near White Pass. A mosquito net for your face is recommended. Also consider an after-bite product.

Food

Do I need to bring my own food?

Yes, hikers are responsible for bringing their own food. Often a PD hiker and their support hiker share food.

What kind of food should I bring?

Most PtP hikers bring freeze dried backpacking meals for dinner. Breakfast can be things like oatmeal, granola, or freeze dried food. Lunch can be things like jerkey or protein bars. These are just a few ideas.

It is important that you: meet your nutritional needs, bring food you will eat, and bring food that will not upset your digestive system.

A few resources: Best Lightweight Backpacking Food, Easy Backpacking Food Ideas, Best Hiking Food

What kind of mess kit should I have?

What you need depends on the food you bring. Pack minimally. Many PtP hikers bring a mug that may double as a bowl, and a long utensil that works well with freeze dried backpacking meals–a spork or long plastic milkshake spoon works. Coordinate with your trip leader regarding whether you need a stove and a pot. About three stoves and pots per group is typically adequate.

Jetboil is a commonly used solution, and the GSI Outdoors Ketalist Cookset is a nice option (you’ll want a different utensil though and it doesn’t include a stove). Each hiker should have an 8 oz. canister of stove fuel. PtP provides a canister for hikers flying in (to avoid issues with airline regulations).

Hygiene

How do I keep my body clean in the woods?

Most hikers use baby wipes and hand sanitizer. Lake swimming may be possible depending on your hike route. Bring minimal toiletries in very small containers.

A couple resources: How to Stay Clean While Backpacking, Hiking Hygiene Tips for Women

What happens when I need to use the bathroom?

The great outdoors will be your bathroom for the duration of your hiking trip. You will need a trowel and TP (there are backcountry TP brands that pack well; Coghlans is one). Best practice is dig a six-inch cat hole at least 100 feet from the trail and water sources. Your group may have a group latrine at each evening’s campsite–check with your trip leader. Other best practices are use the buddy system (make sure someone knows where you are at all times) and when you go off trail, use your trekking poles to indicate your location. It is important that you are capable of squatting down and getting back up.

Safety and first aid

What are the 10 essentials and do I need them?

All hikers should carry the 10 essentials on their person throughout their hiking trip. This is considered a best practice for outdoor activities and will help keep you safe, especially in an emergency.

Do I need a first-aid kit?

You need a mini first-aid kit as part of your 10 essentials. A large first aid kit is included in the community gear for your hiking group. Your mini first-aid kit should include things like band-aids, blister treatment, ibuprofen, Benadryl, antacids, and anything you expect to need.

What if there’s a medical emergency?

Trip leaders have wilderness first-aid training. They plan potential evacuation routes before each hike, are familiar with the group first-aid kit, and have emergency contact information and emergency communication equipment. In the event of an emergency, the trip leader will stabilize the affected hiker with available supplies and, if needed, summon assistance from the National Park or National Forest Service or local sheriff’s department. Each group has an inReach navigation device with an SOS button.

How can I learn more about backpacking safety and first aid?

One resource: Hiking Safety Tips

Wilderness first-aid courses are available. Red Cross Sports and Wilderness First Aid offers an online 8-hour certificate.

What to expect for PD hikers

What physical conditioning should I do?

You should be prepared to hike 5-7 miles per day, up 1,500 feet of elevation, carrying a 15-18 pound backpack. Some days will be shorter and flatter. Some days may be slightly longer. You should also be prepared for rocky terrain, steep sections of trail, and to step over lots of tree roots. You should consider your balance, gait, and stride. Often Parkinson’s affects the ability to navigate uneven surfaces.

The best way to prepare for a hike is to hike. If possible, load up your backpack with your actual gear and find a trail with terrain comparable to what you will encounter on your Pass to Pass hike. Make sure you are able to squat down and get back up since this is necessary to relieve yourself in the woods.

It is never to early to start your physical conditioning. Stamina, strength, and balance are all important components.

Some other exercise resources:

Core Strengthening 4 Part Series by Dr. Sarah King, PT, DPT

PD and Nordic Walking on YouTube

Chase Mountains- YouTube channel for hiking specific preparation (not specifically designed for PD)

Tone and Tighten – YouTube channel with short videos by a PT (not specifically designed for PD)

The Parkinson’s Fitness Project

PD Warrior

Brian Grant Foundation

REI How to Train for Backpacking (not specifically designed for PD)

How should I manage my medication on the trail?

You are responsible for managing your medication. Be sure you have your medication on your person. Some PD hikers find they need to increase medication dose and/or frequency to be successful hikers. Please make sure to consult your care team.

Fatigue may mean that your support hiker can be a help to remember to take your meds and talk with you about any changing conditions. It is important for you to be self-aware and to speak up to a support hiker and the trip leader about any problems.

You may wish to have extra medication with your support hiker or on a pack llama.

What if my PD symptoms escalate on the trail?

Balance, gait, and stride are important for backpacking on trail terrain. Some PD hikers have experienced falls or more falls than usual. Multi-tasking is also an important skill. Fatigue, stress, and anxiety are not uncommon on the trail, so you should be aware of your usual symptoms and symptoms you have experienced only occasionally. Many PD hikers experience more symptoms or increased symptom frequency during the hikes.

With more than 60 PD hikers on our hikes from 2016-2021, we have had two evacuations (one for hallucinations, one for freezing and lack of mobility), and three hikers had to be walked out the first day (one for plantar fasciitis, one for fatigue and overweight, and one for a rolled ankle).

Who should be my support hiker?

All of our trip leaders are familiar with a range of PD symptoms. Our goal is your safety and a joyful experience with other PD hikers. Many PD hikers bring someone who knows them and is also a backpacker. The comfort level of having someone who knows you allows the PD hiker to share concerns and ask for help and reminders more easily. Other PD hikers are fine with not bringing a known support hiker. We have many experienced backpacking support hiker volunteers. Further details about support hikers are available here.

What’s an example of what the trail looks like?

More trail difficulties photos

1:38 Video Highlighting some trail conditions on 2021 hike from Chinook to White Pass (Moderately Difficult hike)

Should I have trip insurance?

Yes. It has been our experience from 2016-2021 that life brings unexpected surprises, so we recommend that you purchase trip insurance if you are concerned about the expenses of traveling and participation.

Lifeflight offers helicopter insurance for medical emergencies in the Pacific Northwest.

How will I get to and from my starting and ending trailheads?

Trip leaders confirm with each hiker how and when they will arrive at the starting trailhead. If you are flying in from a distance, it is recommended that you arrive early to adjust to the time zone and recover from the time spent traveling. The first day of the hike is busy and often stressful as you meet the group and learn what is happening with community gear and llamas, and finally get started on your hike in mid-afternoon.

Often hikers share rides to the trailhead. Each hiker will have a paper map marking the trailhead. We try to have many starts on main roads for ease of navigation. You should not depend on online resources such as GPS or Google since most trailheads are in areas with usually no cell phone service and Internet coverage.

At the end of the hike, there is time spent unloading, moving gear, having a light lunch or treats and saying goodbye. It is important to schedule enough time before planning to be at an airport.

We also have some local trail angels who may assist some hikers with their transportation needs.

How will I learn about handling the pack llamas?

All trip leaders have experience with the llamas. Basic information about saddling llamas, loading panniers (pack saddles) to place on the llamas, where to stand when handling llamas, making sure you are not above their heads, and other basics are covered at the starting trailhead. Llamas seldom spit and usually it is at each other.

The lead hiker will notify the group when horses, dogs, or wildlife are on the trail, so the llamas can be moved away and above the trail.

Most hikers take turns caring for the llamas–leading llamas on a rope lead, giving water and food, grazing, tethering for overnight, and basic care so they do not eat poisonous plants.

How will I stay in touch with friends and family during my hike?

Do not expect to have cell phone service or Internet coverage for the duration of your hike. Friends and family may see your group’s progress on our Track the Hikers page, and see brief updates on our blog.