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Elevation Gain: Cannabis and the Pacific Crest Trail

Welcome to Elevation Gain, where we’ll pair cannabis with hiking, backpacking, camping, and all the greatest aspects of the great outdoors … all summer long. Check out all Elevation Gain articles here.

According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association, 4,879 people in total have completed the mammoth 2,600-mile hike across the West Coast. Finishing the PCT is usually a feat that stays firmly unchecked on many people’s bucket lists, and for good reason. There are some sections that take months to surmount, and each and every day brings its own pains and obstacles. So while the PCT isn’t necessarily a pipe dream, it is quite a challenge.

However, it’s not completely impossible, and those who have finished it walk away with a new understanding of their own physical and mental strengths. Furthermore, cannabis can prove to be a welcome source of herbal companionship along the way, soothing sore muscles, sparking friendships, banishing boredom mile after mile, and elevating your mental state and overall experience throughout the trip.

In order to see what the Pacific Crest Trail is like for a dedicated cannabis consumer, Leafly got in touch with Hadley Krenkel, a bona-fide trail blazer with a deep love for the outdoors, and a flair for pairing nature with cannabis. He finished the trail in 2016 with plenty of stories to share and tips to pass along to other cannabis-consuming hikers. Here’s what Krenkel had to say.

(Courtesy of Hadley)

(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

How did you first get into hiking?

Krenkel: I don’t even remember how I got into hiking—probably through my dad, he worked for the forest services, so I kind of grew up in the woods and outdoors in Eastern Washington. I’m from Spokane and grew up about 15 minutes from Mt. Spokane on the east side there. My parents took me out when I was in diapers—out in the woods and stuff—and I really started getting into it about four or five years ago on my own. I stopped when I was a teenager and running amuck, but had to eventually start doing something productive so I started pushing to hike again. I just recently got into sport climbing, so I’m getting into that now.

How long did it take you to complete the Pacific Crest Trail?

It took me just under six months. I left April 25th and finished October 9th.

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

Were you able to stop at cannabis shops along the way?

The only shop I was able to stop at was in Oregon—kind of just outside of Hood River. Wait, I also made a stop on the Washington side. Outside of the Cascades around the dam. Unfortunately, I forget the names of them; but there are one or two around Washington and they’re the only ones for miles.**

**Update: Hadley stopped at The Cannabis Corner on his pass through Washington State. Check out their PCT Trail Mix when you stop by!

Since there wasn’t much in way of dispensaries while on the trail, how were you able to keep up your supply when it got low?

It was definitely a panic area in California. The good weed I got out of California was through the PCT Team Green, which is kind of like a secret handshake or club. They have people along the way in certain towns. I got some really good edibles off a guy and they’re just basically weed-friendly trail angels that sell weed or will help you out.

They were also a great help because everyone had heard that the water path was dry. Coming out of Cajon Pass, which is a decent climb after the desert, there was no water at the top. It was a 27 mile stretch of desert with no water. A guy heard us talking and we were smoking weed at a hot tub in a Best Western (I had hurt my ankle and we were staying the night so I could heal). The guy, who was also in the hot tub, just happened to be a trail angel for the PCT Team Green and he was like, “Oh man, I can go up there and make sure you guys have water!” So that was very cool of him—he got us water and edibles.

Everybody takes care of everybody out there, it’s almost like a different society that most people aren’t really used to—everyone has that “we’re all in this together” attitude. More of a hippie-commune attitude I guess. That was the most amazing part for me. You would be worried about running out of this or that, and the fears from it ended up being unfounded because it always worked itself out.


(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

What strains and products did you use?

I’m mostly an indica smoker because I’ve got ADHD so bad that when I smoke indicas it’s almost like the average person’s sativa. So I mostly smoked a lot of indicas. Not exactly sure what strains, but there was a mix.

How were you consuming your cannabis? Pipes? Vapes?

I mostly smoked regular flower out of a glass pipe and then I had some dabs too—I had a little mini dab rig. Through the Sierras dabs mostly helped with the altitude and nausea that comes with it. I was mostly smoking concentrates like wax and shatter then.

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

In your opinion, what was the best part of the trail?

Definitely the Sierras. The best part in Washington would have been the Goat Rock area—that was probably the most scenic.

There are some parts of the trail that usually include hitchhiking—is that something you did? If so, any memorable experiences?

Well I was traveling with a friend and most of the time we got a ride real quick because, you know—she’s a blonde with curls, so.

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

Were you ever wary of consuming cannabis on the trail?

No, I’m a pretty big risk taker when it comes to that. I did get a little worried around Yosemite just because of the feds [Yosemite is not state run since it is a national park]. So, that was a little questionable. In the start, nobody had weed and of course that makes you nervous and wondering what you got yourself into. I had to bring weed down with me to San Diego and I probably went through an eighth on that first day—on every corner I just stopped and smoked to enjoy the scenery. There were a lot of people that stopped and smoked with me.

It sounds like you ran into quite a few other cannabis consumers. How was that?

Yeah, I think my look and everything had people look at me and think, “This guy definitely smokes weed,” which could be a positive or negative depending on where you’re at. But people were pretty cool about it. It was a mix of short sessions and actually spending time smoking with people. There was one guy named Daniel—known as “Frogman” on the trail—he was about the only guy there that was as prepared as I was, cannabis-wise. So we smoked a lot and he was a cool guy and we kind of kept each other well-supplied. 

(Courtesy of Hadley Krenkel)

(Courtesy of Cheryl Perry)

What would have been different about doing the trail without cannabis?

Honestly, the trail is such a mental game that I think cannabis helps with the mental aspects and the pain. I’m not gonna lie—you’re in pain the whole way. It’s a battle of how much your body can really handle. Cannabis helped calm those nerves and the anxiety of being out there. It also had a great social aspect too. I mean, you’re out there and there’s people around, but sometimes you’re not really socializing in a personal way since everyone is focused on the end goal and end destination.

They’re really not ones to sit and socialize during the day, but I found that the weed really helped bring out the social aspect—I did meet a lot of great people along the way and created lifelong relationships all over the world. There was even a girl from Belgium that I hiked with for a while. It was really cool—she smoked weed too. I mean, most of the people you would never suspect of smoking weed finally felt that they were free enough and weren’t going to be judged about smoking cannabis.

No one is going to know what really happens so the whole stigma of “weed is bad” and “I’m going to get in trouble for smoking weed” and everything else kind of goes out the window when you get out there.

Any tips for others thinking about attempting the trail?

I think my biggest suggestion is to plan ahead. If you’re a weed smoker you should have a plan just like you would with your food. I wouldn’t guarantee you’re going to find anything while you’re out there along the way. I mean, there is stuff like PCT Team Green that will help you, but those towns are few and far between.

Personally, I probably went through about a pound and a half of flower and close to an ounce of dabs on the entire trail—there pretty much wasn’t a day that I went without weed so that’s something to think about.

Have you ever hiked the PCT? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

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Hannah Meadows

Hannah Meadows is an associate editor at Leafly, where she contributes to lifestyle content.

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