Jessica Pekari Sets Female FKT for PCT SOBO 

On September 18th, 2023, Jessica Pekari set the Female Fastest Known Time for the Pacific Crest Trail Southbound. Below is her trip report of her historic journey from Canada to Mexico.

63 days on the Pacific Crest Trail

by Jessica Pekari

As a mother of three married to an active-duty soldier, timing is everything. With the amazing support of my husband and family, I was given the opportunity to make another attempt at hiking the Pacific Crest Trail this summer. My main goal would be to finish something I had failed at once before. This would mean going against the grain and heading Southbound (SOBO) in the not so popular direction. Normally, hikers start at the Southern border near Mexico in the early months to build their hiking legs and to avoid harsh weather and tougher trail conditions. Starting from the Northern terminus also adds 30 miles to the entire trip since it would take those extra miles just to get to the Canadian border. My second goal would be to finish in under 64 days. Since 2011, there had only been one name on the Fastest Known Time website for a hiker heading in a SOBO direction. Now there are three; Scott Williamson, Nick Fowler, and me.


Zpacks Gear

Over the years and several backpacking trips, I have had time to refine my pack and gear list. I had zero sponsors for this endeavor so everything I carried were items I genuinely liked. In 2020, I had gone with the Nero Ultra 38L backpack. I had planned to utilize the same hiking pack but after a few test rounds, I decided I would go with a smaller and lighter alternative: the Sub-Nero Ultra 30L Backpack. I added a few accessories from the Zpacks website for added gear placement options. This included a water bottle sleeve, shoulder pouch, two belt pouches, and a pair of top side pockets. My tent was the Zpacks Plex Solo. Through rain, hail, wind and even a hurricane, I am happy to report that all items held up and still have a lot of life left in them. 



Although my trail name is Flies High (Isht’Putaki in Blackfeet), it may as well had been Lose Everything. Within the first week of hiking, I lost my kula cloth, water filter, headlamp, mosquito net, and two carabiners. I also broke my trekking pole and the zipper on my rain jacket fell off. Considering how little I was carrying; I was not off to a great start. In addition to these mishaps, due to multiple bad landings from my airborne days in the army, vision loss from migraines and dealing with degenerative disc disease did not make things any easier. However, I was extremely happy that Washington had a relatively low snow fall this year. This made the 505 miles more enjoyable without the need for micro spikes, crampons, or an ice axe.



Oregon accounts for 492 miles of the PCT. Out of all three states, Oregon had the most obstacles and burn areas. Climbing around, over and under trees became so tedious, I began to fake parkour over everything. I also decided to send my down puff jacket home, something I would regret later. In addition to this, the zipper on my new rain jacket broke once again. This time, I would not be afforded the opportunity to replace it so just kept what I had for the duration of my hike (I really wish I had gone with the zpacks vertice rain jacket). On a positive note, Oregon offered a variety of berries. I found myself spending way too much time collecting them, especially huckleberries. I couldn’t resist.



One thousand, seven-hundred and nineteen miles of the PCT are hiked in California. From fording water, lightning storms, hail and even a hurricane, California challenged me the most with its unpredictability. Since 2023 had one of the biggest snowfalls in California history, several bridges were destroyed due to the harsh winter. Having missing or damaged bridges made for difficult water crossings. This especially reigned true for the San Joaquin Bridge (mile 1800.6 SOBO). Once I reached that bridge, there was a sign stating that it was no longer useable and to find a safe water crossing downstream. After searching for almost an hour and talking with others who would be crossing in the morning at its lowest, I could not afford the loss of hiking time. Luckily, I was able to find a safe route 0.4 miles northbound of the bridge. It was knee deep at most and involved some scrambling once I reached the other side. 
As for Hurricane Hilary, it was by far one of the harshest days I had on trail. I would spend nine hours getting pounded on by rain and wind. By the end of the day, all my gear was soaked, and I was frozen. It also destroyed several parts of the trail creating more obstacles. This includes what I found to be the toughest section of the entire Pacific Crest Trail; Mission Creek between mile 2416 and 2428 southbound. Once I reached that area, I soon learned all the damage the hurricane had caused. Several sections of the trail were completely obliterated due to erosion, mud slides and rockslides. I spent several hours trying to find my way through missing trail or trail that would end with 30 to 50 feet drop offs. I also found California to be so tough and rugged I lost count of how many times I had fallen.


Last Words 

I may have written a lot about my trials and tribulations throughout my adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail, but I would never consider them misfortunes. Nor would I change any part of the narrative. They strengthened me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I found that with every negative there were a million more positives, and it was up to me to choose which part of my journey I would focus on most. I chose the good. I am extremely grateful to my family and friends for their prayers, love, and support. I am also thankful to all the amazing trail angels and the brief encounters I had with the hikers I met along the way.