FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It’s likely you have a lot of questions about our hikes. We tried to collect the most frequently asked questions and to provide concise answers. They fall into the following general topics (click on the “+” sign to expand description):

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 passtopass.org@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 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?

PtP Gear List – Please download the list of recommended gear for the hikes.

Other resources include: 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.

Video on eXped sleeping pad for PD hikers with info on pad and 4-legged stool loaned to you.

Most hikers use trekking poles. PtP has limited community gear to loan to hikers with Parkinson’s disease (PD hikers) (eXped deep sleep mattressesfour-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. Night-time temperatures can range from the high 30s to the 50s. Be prepared for rain. Rain gear is essential no matter what the weather forecast is for your time.

A couple resources: Hiking Clothing Layering SystemBeginner 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

Also, please download Pass to Pass Food Discussion (2021-05-11)

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 BackpackingHiking 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.

Additional Resources: Be Safe and Leave No Trace and video on “How to poop in the woods.“

SAFETY & 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.

Resources – Pass to Pass Training Activities Handout– April 2021 

Some other exercise resources:

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 hikes start 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. Most of our trailheads require a parking pass. If you have a national senior pass or disability forest pass, that will work.

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.

Resources: Llama Protocol

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. You can subscribe to our blog.

WHAT TO EXPECT FOR SUPPORT HIKERS

Who are support hikers?

A Pass to Pass (PtP) support hiker is a hiker who is familiar with backpacking and capable of carrying their own gear, food supplies, and extra, if necessary. They should be in good physical shape and be able to hike additional miles to help, if necessary.

A support hiker may be a family member or friend to a hiker with Parkinson’s disease (PD hiker) who has been accepted on a PtP hike. Being a support hiker may include the ability to check on the PD hiker throughout each day of the hike for fatigue, feelings, need for rest or food or water, and to make sure medications are taken on time.

A support hiker may be a strong hiker who is aware of Parkinson’s disease through family and friends who have it or had it or because they work with PD people.

A support hiker is willing to adjust their hiking speed to accommodate llamas (about 2 miles per hour) and PD hikers. They may be asked to hike extra miles or carry extra weight as needed by PD hikers.

What tasks do support hikers complete?

  • Help pack and weigh the llama panniers
  • Take turns leading the llamas along the trail
  • Water the llamas
  • Help someone set up a tent
  • Set up community water filter
  • Refill water to filter as needed
  • Pack garbage
  • Boil water for morning or evening meals
  • Dig a scat hole
  • Help a PD hiker maintain balance on rocky sections of trail or creek crossings
  • Tie or help with a PD hiker’s footwear

Although you may be linked to a certain PD hiker as their support hiker, you will be expected to help where needed.

How do I get selected as a support hiker?

Many PD hikers have a friend or family member who offers to be their support hiker and they are selected first, so if you know a PD person who wants to participate in a PtP hike, that is the best way to begin the process.

Some PD hikers are strong hikers, and they do not bring a support hiker they know. Since we try to have 4-5 PD hikers per hike and at least 3-4 support hikers, this allows other support hikers to join us. Many of our trip leaders are also support hikers and do not have PD.

If you are flexible about when you can hike, that makes it easier to slot you into open positions. It also helps because life and PD itself often require changes in hikers’ plans and we frequently have last-minute openings.

If you sign up early, you may be put on the alternate list for support hikers as we wait to fill the hike with as many PD hikers as possible. You will continue to receive updated information about our hikes, but you may not be confirmed for a particular hike at first.

WHAT TO EXPECT FOR TRIP LEADERS AND TRIP ASSISTANTS

Questions? Contact Derek Torry, Trip Leader Coordination

How do I know my trip route?

Often but not always the trip leader has been on that particular hike before. Derek or Brian will make sure you have a copy of the National Geographic section trail maps, perhaps the FaroutGuides.com (formerly GutHook app) or other specific maps marked of the planned trail and access to the trailheads. Trip leaders will discuss the daily camps, water locations, grazing areas, and possible exits from the trail, if needed.

How will I navigate on the trail?

Pass to Pass (PtP) has a Garmin inReach navigator for each hike. The inReach GPS is activated at the trailhead and it provides waypoints every 10 minutes to the Pass to Pass Track the Hikers page. The device also allows both two-way text messaging to people and texting between inReach devices on the same trail together. It has an emergency SOS button that notifies emergency personnel if a medical emergency occurs.

Trip leaders will have trail maps and a compass and know how to read both in the wilderness. Trip assistants will also be knowledgeable of trail navigation.

GPS information:

  • Assign someone to run the GPS device.
  • GPS device must be synced to Earthmate app on a smartphone.
  • Start tracking each day when the group begins hiking, and end tracking when finished hiking for the day.
  • Use text message function to provide brief daily updates to blogger and emergency trip contact (usually Bill or Brian).
  • Know how to use the device for emergencies.

Do I need first-aid training?

All trip leaders will take a Wilderness First Aid course. Many of our trip leaders are lifelong backpackers. Some have led many different groups into the wilderness and all of them are knowledgeable of PtP’s goals to assist PD hikers in their travels in the wilderness.

Trip leaders will be knowledgeable of the items in the group first-aid kit for people and llamas including the SAM splint. Manufacturer’s video EMS video on splinting

How will I learn about handling the pack llamas?

Trip leaders have been on a previous PtP hike and therefore know the basics about loading panniers, grazing, keeping the llamas away from Hellebore plants, and common strategies for leading llamas and staking them out overnight. Some trips have their own llama wrangler (especially in Oregon). Check with the previous trip leader about grazing and staking the llamas. Your maps should show possible locations.

Resource: Llama Protocol

What tasks should I assign to hikers?

  • Taking hikers’ temperatures.
  • Weighing llama panniers.
  • Leading the loading of llamas.
  • Keeping account of radios and GPS devices. Be sure they are turned off at night.
  • Running the GPS device. Also be sure this is turned off at night. Turn device on each day so group’s location is tracked on the PtP Track the Hikers page. In addition, send out short status messages via text each day (2-3/day). The designated PtP blogger will post short updates for hikers’ friends and family on the PtP blog each day–it’s important the blogger has access to updates from your group. The trip leader will be informed of who to send status messages to.
  • Combine GPS, radios, and thermometer–gather these up each evening and be sure the units are turned off.
  • Set up and tear down of water filter station in camp.

How do I get to know my hikers?

When a hiker (PD or support) is accepted after they have filled out the application, been evaluated as needed, signed the waiver form, and discussed the possible trips, the hiker is assigned to a trip. The trip leader is notified at that time. Trip leaders will have their hikers’ contact information and can communicate with them. After PtP conference calls start (usually monthly calls starting in April), some trip leaders hold follow-up calls with just their hikers, especially as the hike time nears.

Often a trip leader checks in with a particular hiker if they need encouragement to continue a regime of physical preparedness or if they are experiencing some physical difficulty, especially with feet, back, or legs.

  • Email your team of hikers to introduce yourself. Provide them with your contact information should they want to contact you for any reason.
  • Call each team member to get to know them, their relationship to Parkinson’s, and their experience and skill level with backpacking.
    For those who have not backpacked or have limited experience, review in detail the gear and food they plan to bring, and make sure their total gear and food weight with water is under 40 pounds. Granted much of it will go on the llama, but space is limited.

How do I coordinate shuttles and transportation to and from the trailheads?

  • Verify hikers’ hotel and airline transportation reservations, if applicable. We may have some trail angels who can help shuttle hikers to and from airports and trailheads. Regardless, coordinate these logistics amongst your team.
  • Call the trip leader on the next trip after yours to discuss how to get vehicles to the appropriate trailheads. For each trip, it is important to plan for at least one vehicle to remain at the starting trailhead and the others to be taken to the ending trailhead. Many teams find they need at least three cars to transport all the group’s hikers and gear to and from trailheads. An ideal sample scenario: Trip 1 coordinates carpools amongst their team and takes three vehicles to the starting trailhead. The Trip 1 and Trip 2 hike leaders coordinate prior to the Trip 1 hike. The Trip 2 hike leader is informed of where the Trip 1 team’s vehicles will be parked, how to obtain keys, etc. The Trip 2 team moves relevant Trip 1 team vehicles from the Trip 1 starting trailhead to the Trip 1 ending trailhead, which is also the Trip 2 starting trailhead. At the end of Trip 1, all the Trip 1 and Trip 2 hikers and the relevant Trip 1 and Trip 2 vehicles are at the Trip 1 ending/Trip 2 starting trailhead. The Trip 2 and Trip 3 hike leaders repeat this process.
  • If someone at the trailhead is returning to where cell phone service is available, take photos of vehicles to be moved and key locations and send them to the next trip leader.
  • Be sure to discuss where you will hide vehicle keys.
    Discuss which car will contain the resupply for the team starting a hike. This includes things like llama feed and batteries for electronic devices.
  • Reminder that for all vehicles, we need two sets of keys (this may not be possible with rentals).
  • The team starting a hike may bring the team ending a hike sandwich supplies, chips and water. Often we have a team vehicle ready to do this task.

How will I provide updates during my trip?

The Garmin inReach navigator is linked to the PtP Track the Hikers page so family and friends can follow the hike as it progresses. It is important that the trip leader arrange for daily status reports to be sent via text to the designated blogger for the daily blog post sharing details of the hike with family and friends.

What if my group has a medical emergency on the trail? (policy being developed by board)

  • Know your evacuation routes before your hike begins.
  • Check the affected hiker’s condition and stabilize them with items from the first aid kit.
  • Carry emergency contact numbers for members of your team and PtP emergency contacts like Bill or Brian.
  • If you need assistance and the SOS is activated on the Garmin inReach, you will now be responsible to coordinate with the area emergency services (National Park or National Forest Service or local sheriff’s department).

What about wildfires?

In the event of trail closure due to wildfires, blowndowns, etc., PtP will try to locate an alternative trail, so the trip is not canceled. PCTA has a good review of how react to wildfires.

What is the trip cancellation policy?

The PtP board is clarifying the trip cancellation policy. Safety is the utmost concern and a trip will be rescheduled or rerouted if possible if there is a wildfire or other trail closure. If the trip leader has an emergency and cannot lead the trip, we will try to use a trip leader who is designated as roving to fill in. It may be that a trip has to be cancelled and then hikers will be offered any available space on later hikes.

What checklists do I need and where do I find them?

A trailhead checklist has been created for starting and ending a Pass to Pass hike so the necessary group items are not forgotten.

Resource: Trailhead Checklist 

What tasks need to be done during the transitions between hikes?

Start of the Trip

  • You may want to assign someone to be responsible for weighing each llama pannier and another to lead the saddling and loading of the llamas. Each pack should be color coded with a colored ribbon.
  • Line up llama bags with all contents outside each bag in which they will ride. The team leader going on trail will check off each item from the trailhead checklist provided to ensure items are accounted for and they know which bag it is in.
  • Start training hikers on loading llama panniers.
  • Have someone pass out labeled bags of shirt, hat, cards, and stickers.
  • Check the number of stoves and fuel canisters.
  • Trip leaders should scan the amount of clothing and food the hikers brought (excess can be left in shuttle vehicles).

End of the Trip 

  • Ask all hikers to post their pictures and video to a common location. A common location (usually a Google Drive folder) will be set up and everyone will be notified via email.
  • Verify all common gear to be passed on to the next team from the checklist.

What are the hiking/camping protocols?

  • No one ever hikes alone. Trip leaders should be prepared for different hiking speeds.
  • Check that backpacks fit properly so that the weight is on the hips.
  • Check with hikers about sore spots and blisters- the earlier the better to handle them
  • Take 10 minute rest breaks every hour of hiking.
  • Everyone should have a map, or at least a copy of a map. Each team should have two waterproof maps.
  • Everyone stops and regathers at every junction on the trail, no exceptions.
  • There should be a radio in the front and in the back of the group.
  • Camp should be 100 feet from water and from the trail, unless there is a clearly established campsite.
  • Restroom area should be 200 feet from camp, trail, and water if possible. TP should be put in ziplock (provided with common gear) to haul out with garbage.
  • Perform camp sweep before leaving campsite each day.
  • If possible, do not set up tents under trees (do not set up under dead trees), especially if wind or rain conditions are prevalent. Always check above your tent for anything that might potentially fall.

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