Sunday, October 9, 2011

Life After the PCT

I apologize in advance for the length of this entry, but I have been reflecting on the hike a lot recently, and five months is a pretty long time over which to reflect!

Wow.  I can't believe it's over.  At the beginning I didn't really know what to expect since I had not  previously attempted a thru-hike.  I should have been expecting a lot of fun and great people! Now, five amazing months have passed and I wonder where the time has gone.  I'm glad I took so many pictures to help me remember all the good stuff that happened, and the people who made those times so great.

Now that I'm back in Portland, I can't decide which would be better: jumping straight back into work and my previous life, or having these two weeks to attempt to readjust before starting work again.  It's probably good to have this time to do nothing for a while, but sometimes I'm not very good at doing nothing and my mind has too much time to wander back to trail life.

Lifestyle is certainly going to be different, but I think the hardest part is going to be adjusting to life without the awesome people I met and spent a lot of time with on the trail, especially 12 Ounce.  Hiking partners are not friends that you see every now and then, or even a roommate that you see everyday.  It's like being roommates who carpool to work, work all day together, carpool home, and then sleep in the same tiny bedroom together.  Needless to say, it's not all that easy to find a person or group of people that you can live this lifestyle with everyday.  I was lucky to have met many people who fell into this category.  The first group, that I hiked with for 450 miles, included Wiz and Jimbrick, who I thoroughly enjoyed talking to, as well as hiking and camping with everyday.  As that group split and scattered, I began to hike with Gangsta Rap, Timex/Kick/Colin, and 12 Ounce.  For the next 500 miles the four of us hiked together through the Sierras to Yosemite, before splitting into twosomes.  The remaining 1700 miles from Yosemite to the Canadian border I hiked with 12 Ounce, with a few other people every now and then.  Best time of my life.  Thanks to all of you for being so much fun and sharing your time/hike with me!  I already miss you guys.

As far as my transition back to "real life", I'm taking my time with that one.  Today I ran the Portland Marathon, which I signed up for prior to starting the PCT, and otherwise wouldn't have run.  When I signed up for the marathon I thought I would finish the hike mid-September and have more time to prepare, but as it turned out, I was having too much fun hiking and didn't finish until September 30.  I got in one 6-mile run two days ago, and then just went for it today.  After getting through the first half in just under 90  minutes, the wheels came off and it was a painful run, but I still made it to the finish line with a smile and in a fairly respectable 3:23:30.  My body isn't all that happy with me at the moment.

Once my legs have had a chance to recover from the pavement pounding I put them through today, I will work on moving into my new home in Vancouver.  I am renting a room in my friends house and looking forward to having a roommate again after living alone the past few years. Once settled in there I will go back to work on October 24.  I guess it's back to reality...soon enough at least.

As for future adventures, I am working on putting together a list for 2012.  I plan to find something adventurous to do each month next year.  It could be as simple as running a marathon (check!), or something more intense like circumnavigating the 30+ miles around Crater Lake on skis and touring Mt Scott along the way.  I also plan to ski as much as possible this winter/spring at Mt Hood, and possibly elsewhere.  Now that I'm done hiking, bring on the snow!  Perhaps I will go on another grand adventure (CDT?) in a few years, only time will tell.

PCT Overview by the Numbers

Start: Campo, California on April 29, 2011 (elev. 2,925')
The Southern Terminus

Miles Walked (Including Mt Whitney and Half Dome)2700+
Mile 2000 marker just before Hwy 20 at Santiam Pass, OR

Lowest Point on Trail: Cascade Locks, OR [near OR/WA border]  (140')
Bridge of the Gods, Columbia River

Highest Point on Trail: Forrester Pass (13,153')
Forrester Pass

Highest Point Summitted: Mt Whitney (14,505') Also the highest point in the lower 48
12 Ounce at summit, looking East  into Owens Valley as the sun rises

Elevation Change: ~421,000 ft, or to put that in perspective ~80 miles.  That's just the vertical up and down!

Days of Real, Drenching Rain: One, hiking into Stehekin
Drowned Rat

Days of Sun: The entire hike minus about 8 cloudy days
12 Ounce following the trail through sun-cups in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA 

Other Awesome PCT Hikers: All of them
Kickoff at Lake Morena, CA. I'm on the top right of the rock

Amazing Views: Countless
Double rainbow at sunrise in the desert

Memories: The best.  They will last a lifetime
Dinner on a windmill farm just before dropping to the Hwy for Mojave/Tehachapi

Regrets: Only that it had to end

End: Canadian Border (elev. 4240'); Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada, on September 30, 2011 (elev. 3,900')
The Northern Terminus

Monday, October 3, 2011

September 30, 2011

Start: 2640
End: 2663 (Manning Provincial Park, BC, Canada!)

Today we woke up in the dark again, and again we had a clear sky with stars shining brightly. As we got moving around 6:30, the sky was just getting light as we climbed out of our meadowy campsite to a gap in the ridge. The colors that the sun created with the wispy cirrus clouds above the surrounding mountains was amazing! Possibly the best sunrise of the trip. Mother nature saving the best for last I suppose.

We continued climbing over Woody Pass and up towards the WA high point at just over 7000'. The 360 degree panoramic view of the mountains was incredible! After a nice break there, we headed down the last 7 miles to the Canadian border.

We took the obligatory pictures at the Northern Terminus, in the sun no less, and then set up our stoves for the final trail-cooked meal of the hike. As we were sitting there cooking, the clouds rolled through the sky from South to North, urging us to continue moving into Canada and put an end to this five month long adventure.

As we approached and arrived at the terminus, just like Billy Goat told us, the US Marine Band wasn't playing for us, in fact, no one else was there. It was nice to see the terminus, monument 78, and the clearcut line along the border, but other than that it seemed like just another day on the trail. We still had 8 more mules to go, after all.

Looking back on the entirety of all the miles hiked I can safely say that I have no regrets. I can only hope that the same thought hits me as I look back on my life many years from now.

Sent from the PCT

September 29, 2011

Start: 2614
End: 2640

After a climb from Glacier Pass in the morning to another pass, we crossed to the other side of the ridge and into a fierce, cold wind. The trail had some snow patches here and there, and also had some surface hoar, the first we had seen on the hike. It was strange to walk on it, crunching through the tiny icy pillars.

After a few more miles we came to Harts Pass, the last road we will cross before reaching Manning Park, 8 miles past the US/Canadian border. We stopped briefly to sign the register, then continued on to find a place for lunch.

Our lunch stop ended up being ?Buffalo? Pass. Just as we were packing up after lunch, Goodness and Zm stopped by on their way South. They reached the border the day before and instead of going into Canada were hiking back to Rainey Pass for a ride. It was good to see the two of them once more before finishing the hike.

During the afternoon hiking my mind was wandering, and a feeling came over me a bit like a child gets on Christmas Eve. The anticipation of completing the hike and accomplishing a goal 5 months in the making is like that of opening presents Christmas Day. The only question left in my mind is: will I have gotten what I want out of the hike, or will i be left with an empty feeling after the anticipation of the moment has passed? Only time will tell.

Sent from the PCT

September 28, 2011

Start: 2589
End: 2614

I love the North Cascades! I believe today confirms the fact that Washington had been my favorite part of the trail.

We made our way up the trail from where we camped, across Hwy 20 at Rainy Pass, and up towards Cutthroat Pass. As we made our way up through the trees we caught glimpses of a clear blue sky, and the mountains freshly frosted with a light dusting of snow. The crispness of the morning air, as well as the snow, were truly signs that the seasons are changing, winter is on it's way, and it's about time to be finishing this hike.

Over the course of the day we also ran into a few other hikers. Two of them are Mowgli and Shaker, other thru-hikers, and the third is a section hiker from Portland named Bobby.

Tonight 12 Ounce and I are camped up near Glacier Pass and I expect the tent will be frozen in the morning. Should be interesting! We also cross into the Pasayten Wilderness tomorrow which is supposed to be spectacular!

Sent from the PCT

September 27, 2011

Start: 2574
End: 2589

This morning we did some laundry, ate some delicious baked goods, and picked up our food boxes from the Post Office.

We took the 11:15am shuttle back up to the trailhead at High Bridge, ate a little snack, and started hiking again just after 1pm. The hiking was pretty easy today, with few views. It also rained a little on us, but not nearly like it did yesterday. (thank goodness!)

Tonight we are camped at Fireweed Camp within North Cascades National Park. Getting in 15 mikes today allows us to have a relatively (hopefully) easy schedule of 25 miles per day to get us to the border and then to Manning Park in the next three days. It was really good to get everything dried out after the rain yesterday and my mood is much better because of the improved weather and plentiful snack foods I brought for the final leg.

Sent from the PCT

September 26, 2011

Start: 2555
End: 2574

Today we woke early with the intention of getting to Stehekin around noon, getting our resupply boxes from the Post Office, drying some clothing, and then catching the next shuttle back to the trailhead to get in a few miles. Instead, we awoke to find our shoes had frozen solid like they had done a few times in the Sierras. We donned our warm clothes and rain shells and headed down the trail in the dark.

The first part of the day went well enough. There was a light rain off and on, but the wettest part was from walking through the wet brush lining the trail. After about 9 miles we had a snack break, after which the rain decided to really start. With 10 miles to go, we just put our heads down and went so as to get to Stehekin as soon as possible.

When we got to the trailhead, there was an historic guard station with a little covered porch where we hid from the rain brewing hot drinks and waiting 2 hours for the shuttle to arrive. Unfortunately we were out of water when we got there, and there was no place to get potable water nearby, so we were reduced to filtering water through a bandana, bleaching it, boiling it, and then adding coffee/tea to the already tinted water. Totally worth it at the time, but also possibly a new low.

Stehekin itself is a cool little hamlet nestled at the Northwest end of Lake Chelan. Not much to it, but looks like a fun place to go rafting, horseback riding, and hiking during the summer.

Sent from the PCT

September 25, 2011

Start: 2533
End: 2555 (plus 5 "new" PCT miles)

Sometimes when people ask about the PCT, I just say it has it's ups and downs. This section has certainly been no exception with all the valleys we have climbed into and out of. Miles have been a bit slower because of the elevation change, but the scenery has been incredible, particularly views of aptly named Glacier Peak and Mt Rainier in the distance.

Today we had the opportunity to walk on a new bridge crossing the Suiattle River. The previous bridge was washed out in 2003 and just opened for use a week or so ago. The only problem with this is that the new bridge is in a new location meaning an extra 5 miles that we had not counted on hiking.

After making it through the new trails and back to the old PCT, we made our way up Suiattle Pass, hiking until about 9:30pm, and setting up camp around 6000' just the other side of the pass. This leaves us with 19 miles to do to get to Stehekin tomorrow, something I am looking forward to so I can eat some delicious baked goods and real hot food!

Sent from the PCT

September 24, 2011

Start: 2509
End: 2533

Today was just another day with "you gotta see it for yourself" views. The first part of the day we climbed up to a couple passes and traversed along the south side of a ridge presenting us with amazing views to the south of Mt Rainier and other smaller peaks in the foreground.

After passing through Red Pass we dropped into a bowl with spectacular green grass contrasted with glacial snow patches, and further down the trail views of Glacier Peak.

Later in the day there was a wall of clouds to the West moving our direction. As we approached Fire Pass the clouds overtook us and we got a sprinkling of rain. At the top of the pass we donned our rain gear and prepared for the worst. The wind ended up being worse than the rain, but we didn't want to take chances so we camped earlier than planned because we didn't want to be caught on a ridge if a big storm rolled through.

Sent from the PCT

September 23, 2011

Start: 2482
End: 2509

The hiking lately has been spectacular. Today included some amazing views of Glacier Peak as well as towering Mt Rainier.

The only problem is that the daylight hours are getting quite a bit shorter. Today is the autumnal equinox so from now on we will have more time without the sun than with it, but that likely would be the case since it is getting to be late September, and we are getting into northern Washington. Hopefully the rain holds off a little longer!

Sent from the PCT

September 22, 2011

Start: 2468
End: 2482

It's amazing what a difference your attitude can do for influencing your outlook on life. Like Einstein said, "There are two ways to look at life: one as if nothing is a miracle, the other as if everything is." I know the way I like to look at the world, which way appeals to you?

Sent from the PCT

September 21, 2011

Start: 2445
End: 2468

What is the point of all this, I mean, why hike all the way from Mexico to Canada? This is not an uncommon question. To begin with, it's not really about beginning at the Mexican border or ending at the Canadian border, they are just convenient places to start and end due to man's need to put boundaries on land. Certainly the places along the trail beckon hikers to come see the splendor of purple mountains majesty, but there are easier ways to get to these scenic places than walking to them consecutively from South to North. You could get between these two points much faster by many other means of transportation, but you don't use one of these quicker methods, you walk. So you set off with a backpack containing your home, kitchen, wardrobe, pantry, and all else you need to get by in the world for months. Sure seems like an awful lot of trouble to go for a walk.

So what's the point? Maybe the point is, there is no point. Perhaps the point is to gain a sense of independence, or confidence, or to see the sights. I'm sure everyone hiking has their own conclusion of what the point is, but I like to think the point is simply to have as much fun as possible with the time you have. This translates to life beyond the trail as well. If there is one thing I've learned, it's that life is meant to be enjoyed and you are in control of making sure that happens for you. Just like Mary told a group of us back at mile 110 at Warner Springs, "If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong." I see that much more clearly now.

Perhaps a better question would be: what is the point of working nine-to-five from age 22 to 62? Do you work to live, or live to work?

Sent from the PCT

September 20, 2011

Start: 2421
End: 2445

Woke up to stars and the moon shining, with just a hint of light on the horizon suggesting that morning was soon to come.

It was a beautiful morning with a bluebird sky as we made our way to Lemah Meadow before climbing up a ridge with amazing views, akin to yesterday, including glimpses of Mt Rainier and Mt Adams! I took so many pictures just trying to capture a little of the cool stuff that is everywhere!

We stopped for lunch at a nice spot in the sun overlooking Waptus Lake. After lunch we descended to the creek feeding the lake, crossed the creek, and then hiked Eastward above the North side of the lake until turning up a canyon containing Spinoli Creek, and hiked up-canyon a while until coming across a nice campsite.

The last week, and especially the last two days, I have been so stoked on the hike, and just generally happy with where I am in my life. I feel so alive and am truly enjoying being out here each day. Some of the other thru-hikers are in the same physical location as me (or within a day or two) and they just want to finish as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next chapter in their lives, whatever that might be. It seems that there is some never-ending race everyone is running, and most people (in life in general) are in such a rush to get to the finish, perhaps without knowing what is waiting for them when they get there. I think most people would benefit from slowing down their lives, taking better care of themselves, and enjoying the little things a lot more. The things that money can't buy.

Sent from the PCT

September 19, 2011

Start: 2402
End: 2421

What a great day! The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the elk were singing, the marmots were whistling, and the pika were squeaking. It's as if the animal kingdom, us humans included, were celebrating the beautiful weather, knowing that things are about to change for the wetter and colder.

We had a good climb out of Snoqualmie Pass followed by a ridge walk that had us meandering every direction, including South, before getting back on the northward track. There were amazing views for most of the day after we got to the Kendall Katwalk. We even caught a glimpse of Mt Rainier in the late afternoon. Hopefully the next couple of days will bring more of the same!

Sent from the PCT

September 18, 2011

Zero day at Snoqualmie Pass

Going against mother nature is like betting against the house in Vegas: you may get lucky once or twice, but in the long run you're going to lose. We decided to go with mother nature today, rather than take our chances with the rain.

Today the plan was to set off in the afternoon after eating lunch, but sometimes plans change. We sat inside eating lunch, watching the rain, and decided after deliberation that maybe a day off wouldn't be so bad, especially considering we heard the weather is supposed to improve tomorrow.

Lately on the trail I think about what's next. This encompasses a number of things including work, future adventures, and just life in general. Sometimes it makes me happy, but it also reminds me that this fun, amazing adventure will soon be over. At this point the only thing I can do is enjoy the here and now, and not worry about the rest of it until the time comes.

Sent from the PCT

September 17, 2011

Start: 2376
End: 2402

When it rains, it pours. I'm not talking about actual rain, of which we had a bit today, but rather trail magic and encounters with day hikers.

The trail is a magical place and trail magic can take many different forms. At the beginning of the hike I thought of trail magic as simply food or drinks that trail angels left along the trail, or cooked for hikers at a road crossing. Lately though, I've begun to see it more broadly than just those physical things. It could be a smile from another hiker, or a spectacular sunrise, or I could even be the source of the magic. I'd like to think that by talking to various people along the way I've helped to inspire them to dream a little bigger or see the world in a slightly different way, if only for a moment.

Today there were many sources of magic that included both physical gifts (Rainier Beer, root beer, plums, cinnamon rolls, and coffee) as well as other gifts. Hopefully some of the people we ran into today will be inspired to do something more than they thought they could.

The only thing bad about all the wonderful encounters today was the fact that we were trying to get to Snoqualmie Pass and it's warm, tasty treasures that were waiting. We eventually did make it and enjoyed hot food (spicy and temp), hot shower, hot tub, clean laundry, and a room with heating to dry out all of our gear. What a nice thing it is to look out at the cold rain from a climate controlled room!

Sent from the PCT

September 16, 2011

Start: 2347
End: 2376

Not much seemed to happen today, despite the fact that we walked 29 miles. About 8 miles into hiking today we came to a little cabin on the edge of a meadow that was built by the Snojammers snowmobilers club. We checked it out and then made our way back into the forest. Unfortunately there wasn't a fire going in the wood stove, but it was nice to sit down inside nonetheless.

It was cold pretty much all day, with a few times where the sun came out to give us a little of it's warmth before hiding away behind the clouds again. Other than that it was a pretty neutral day, nothing either good or bad.

Tomorrow we will reach Snoqualmie Pass where I am looking forward to hot food, a hot shower, laundering my clothes (warm from the dryer), and getting my final pair of shoes, as well as socks, waterproof shell gloves, and my food resupply box. It's going to be grrrrreat!

Sent from the PCT