One of Guy Christen's favourite pieces of hiking gear is the Australian hat, which he is wearing above. When he saw it, "I just knew it was for me."
Photo: Mike Zenari
Luxembourger Guy Christen will set out on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) on 23 March to challenge himself on an 8-month journey to walk over 4,270 km.
Delano asked him 10 questions about hiking before he headed on his American adventure.
Natalie Gerhardstein: What’s your over goal for hiking the PCT?
Guy Christen: I’ve been asked a lot if I’m looking for myself or my place in life, but certainly not. I am 41 years old and I think that I know where I am in my life and if at 41 years you haven’t found yourself, maybe it’s too late to search for it!
NG: What are the three most important items you’ll have in your backpack for the PCT?
GC: The backpack itself, my tent and my pocket shower/hygiene stuff. I have a pocket shower with me on the trail because I hate after a long day, after you sweat…even if it is a cold shower, I just like the sensation of being clean. The pocket shower is a bag with a tiny shower head. You put in a litre of cold water, a litre of boiling water, then you have a shower. But I’ve heard in California it’s hard sometimes to find a tree to attach it to…
NG: What’s your best hiking story to date?
GC: Years ago we were in Sweden at a forest in a national park, really in the middle of nowhere. It was on the Draisin railway track between Ärjäng and Bengtsfors, some kilometres before Gustavsfors. We came to a clearing, and there was a huge moose standing there. It wasn’t a normal moose, it was albino. I thought it had to be a tourist attraction, I had never seen one before and they are huge. I shouted, and the animal turned its head, and there was this moment, just wow.
One of the photos Guy captured of the elusive white moose. Photo: Guy Christen
The same day we were in town, telling a woman of the [Alcatraz hostel] house we saw this albino moose, and she at first did not believe our story, but then called her whole family over to see the photo. They had heard about an albino moose in the region, but no one had actually seen it.
NG: So…no bear encounters yet?
GC: I did see one in Algonquin Park in Canada. I was taking photos and in a little bush, just about 5m away, I saw the head of a black bear. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore. My wife told me to come over to the car, but I felt paralysed. The bear was actually a cub, so I know there had to be a mother somewhere nearby too. Black bears generally don’t harm people, but I managed to get away.
I’ll spend a week in San Diego before I go on the PCT, and there’s a shop there that has everything. There I’ll buy bear spray which is much more effective than police pepper spray, really made for large predators.
NG: How about another nuisance, blisters? Any tips for dealing with those on long hikes?
GC: I had my last blisters years ago. I think it’s just about good socks and shoes. I have blister patches with me, but it has been a while since I’ve had blisters, so I don’t think it will be a problem.
NG: Do you have any favourite hiking gear?
GC: My radio! I also always wear an Australian hat. I saw it in a shop in Belgium and just knew it was for me. I wear that hat for nearly all my tracks.
NG: Any favourite hiking song?
GC: I don’t have a special hiking song, and I won’t listen to music when I’m hiking the PCT. It’s too dangerous in California, for example, because when you get to rattlesnakes they make noise I wouldn’t hear with the headphones on.
Although I don’t have a special hiking song, I do have some songs that I really appreciate, like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way” or Linkin Park’s “In the End”. There are too many to mention…
NG: How do you plan on keeping your energy levels up on the trail?
GC: I met up with a Luxembourger who did the PCT, who told me it’s a long distance to go every day, but already after some weeks, you’ll be in the best shape of your life on the trail. But the thing is, you get days when you’ve just had enough of it. You get bored, your back hurts, you just want to move on. I believe it’s 99% mental.
NG: Do you have any tips for dealing with loneliness on a trail?
I’ve never had negative experiences when I’ve been alone on a trail, but I have to say I’ve never been alone for a long time, so this will be a new experience, and I can’t wait to start it.
But I have a tiny GPS device with me which not only receives GPS coordinates, but I can also send messages over satellite, as many as I like. When I’m offline, I will post coordinates to my FB page and Google maps opens, so people can track where I am.
NG: Do you have a favourite hiking trail in Luxembourg?
GC: In the last years there have been a lot of improvements with Luxembourg’s pathways, and there’s good signage. My favourite hike is section two of the Mullerthal trail. I’ve done it many times and have good memories of it.
Follow Guy Christen’s PCT journey and read more about the charity he is supporting, Fondatioun Kriibskrank Kanner, on his Facebook page, A journey on the Pacific Crest Trail’. You can also read more in-depth about his adventure in the April/May 2019 issue of Delano, on newsstands 3 April.