I am going through and updating any posts I might have made in favor of using Yogi’s guidebook. I had previously considered a lot of my issues with the books more of a HYOH issue, but now after personally witnessing some online interactions I have come to the conclusion that this person is more harmful and destructive to the culture around the trail than helpful and I cannot in good conscience continue to support that kind of person, especially as she is branching out her guidebook business to other trails like the CDT and the AT.
Then there is my personal experience with the guidebooks.
From what I saw, her guidebook was dead wrong about almost every town and steered a lot of hikers astray (some in rather funny ways, but thankfully not dangerous ones), additionally I heard numerous first-hand reports that she refuses to take updates from the field (I.e. you can be standing in front of something that is obviously wrong/incorrect and it will not be amended or corrected in the guidebook for future hikers) which is a pretty major problem if you want an up to date experience. The one thing I did end up carrying and not throwing away was the pink cards that come in the guidebook packet, however I even witnessed misinformation in those which I would not be surprised if it was still wrong.
If you need a guide, right now your best option is actually having a smartphone and then paper maps as a backup. I used the Guthook app and Google for everything I needed, and was fine, I only looked at the guidebook pages if I was really bored. Save yourself the weight, you will be carrying a phone and maps anyway. My idea was that I kept my phone in airplane mode most of the time and would flip it on a few times per day to check things and it worked great. This is what everyone pretty much ends up doing. My main reason for choosing the Guthook app was the campsite images, that way you could look at where you want to camp in the morning and then coordinate with your hiking partners.
The second note here is that you could probably skip the K.O. (Kick Off) as it is almost entirely a format to sell you things at this point, and/or party. It is really more of a reunion for the prior years hikers than new hiker information. The main reason for going as a new hiker would be to meet people, which is a positive, but you are going to meet people on the trail anyway so why stop for days right at the start to be crammed in with other hikers. Also another thing to keep in mind is that the K.O. creates “the” HUGE bottleneck and “herd” on the trail which means the entire section to, at least, Kennedy Meadows has huge packs of hikers that overwhelm the small towns near the trail, and deplete the water caches and trail magic left out for hikers. Perhaps the main focus of K.O. is the water report, and that is what nearly everyone was concerned with, this is entirely available online and the PCTHYOH app will keep a cached version. Also, you can find these printed out and up to date all along the trail. The main thing I got out of K.O. was new tent stakes for my tent, really.
For Lake Morena campground/K.O. You will be hiking through the park anyway, stop at the nice little store down the street and get a burger and some resupply and carry on. If you really want to experience K.O. then start earlier and hitch back to it and then forward again after it is done, though you would probably want to start a couple weeks early if you do this route.
The PCT is losing a lot of it’s trail angels this year, trail angels that I was planning to be volunteering and taking time off of for work and paying for car rentals to help. (I was just looking over dates and was deciding where to angel or help angel along the trail near where I live) It makes it a lot easier to help hikers if they are not all crammed together. Something that the trails angels in the southern section did was to kind of hold back the tide, so to speak, and evened out the herd created by K.O.. Now they are gone thanks to in-fighting in the PCT community on the online forums.