The PCT is not a small undertaking and is difficult to do without the support of others; friends, family and often the generosity of complete strangers. The assistance comes in the form of physical support but I can’t overstate the importance of mental/emotional support and in particular the encouragement that comes from those close to you. If my wife and son hadn’t offered their full-throated statement of “we’re with you, all the way”, it would have been way more difficult if not impossible.
It is critical to be emotionally “clear” before you leave and unresolved issues will grow in the quite solitude of the trail. Anything emotionally tugging at you from off trail will feel like a Klingon tractor beam trying to drag you out of the moment and that is a huge waste of an amazing experience. With that in mind I want to give Robin, my wife, a heart felt offer of gratitude that cannot be easily stated or measured. Before you leave, have someone on standby to organize and make adjustments to your resupply boxes and send them when the time comes. Robin was that support for me.
Other support came in the form of “trail angels” bringing “trail magic” all along the way. One day, walking through the blazing hot desert in the middle of nowhere, a guy (“DNA”) appeared out of nowhere, as if a mirage, and said “hey dude, want a cold beer”? This kind of magic happened again and again in the most incredible ways. Among thru hikers there is a saying, “the trail will provide” and although you never take this for granted, it always did and generally when you most needed it. This magic doesn’t just materialize out of thin air. It comes from the amazing generosity and incredible selflessness of all the trail angles along the way. Thank you!!!
And finally, I want to pass on a special thanks to all my sponsors: I changed and replaced gear all along the way and in the most out of the way places. Whether it was Sea to Summit getting me warm weather gear in the middle of the desert or Osprey replacing a broken pack, sending the replacement out in just two days to Whites Pass Washington, they were all amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them. Thanks!
Adventures Within Reach –
Your ongoing financial and emotional support made this adventure possible.
Osprey provided a new backpack customized to my needs amazingly fast and included some great swag just when I needed it.
Sea to Summit –
Provided cutting-edge gear before it was even available to the public — and on the trail when I most needed it.
Ultimate Direction –
Thanks to Buzz Burrell for the invaluable expertise on gear and strategy.
I started the hike with a light weight quilt and tarp (each weighed 9 ounces) I thought this would work fine for my travel through the desert, little did I know how cold it would get at night. The wind blowing through the tarp (you can’t stop some wind from blowing through the ends) would suck the warmth right out of the quilt. I was really cold every night. The quilt with a tent may work or a bag with a tarp may be OK but not the tarp, quilt combo.
I found this tent to be lightweight, (2 lbs.) easy to set up and take down, spacious, durable (held up in snow, rain, and high winds), didn’t leak, and kept the wind out. It has a great mosquito net top which disappeared at night which made for great bug free star gazing.
Backpack – Osprey EOS 48
I can’t say enough good things about this pack or the folks at Osprey. This pack was the perfect size, the mesh suspension system that holds the back of the pack away from your back was great for cooling, and very comfortable. It is simple, lightweight and durable, but unlike many Ultra lite packs it had a very strong suspension system and enough storage areas to keep your smaller gear organized. 1/2 way through the hike I manage to damage some straps and mesh pockets. They replaced the pack no problem and even sent the brand new pack to my next resupply stop on the trail. The Osprey guys rock. Just for the record I had intended to do the hike with a Ultimate Directions Fast Pack 30. When I loaded all of my gear in the 30 I found I could get everything to fit but not a bit of extra room. I was concerned that when I needed to carry 8 liters of water or more food, I would exceed the reasonable capacity of the pack. But thanks to Buzz Burell for letting me give it a try.
Sleeping Bag – Sea to Summit Talis 2
As I said above, the tarp just didn’t work. This bag was warm, lightweight, with waterproof down. I feel, for several reasons this is the best bag I could have used on this hike. It was light (right at 2 lbs.) super durable, never got wet (very water resistant) and in the northwest this was critical and rated to 17 degrees. It stuffed really small in its compression sack and would loft up nice and fluffy every night no matter what the conditions.
Sleeping Pad – Sea 2 Summit
After sleeping on the ground for 5 months straight, sometimes on rocks, snow or rain soaked vegetation, I found that I preferred sleeping on an air mat rather than foam. The problem with an air mat, like the Neo Air that I started with, is the constant concern for getting a puncture. Sea to Summit has addressed this concern with their new dual inflation system. It is built with a two layered construction and each sides inflates independently which means if you get a puncture on one side you still sleep on what feels like a fully inflated mat. I found this mat to be lightweight, quick to inflate with a simple to use inflation bag that doubles as a pack liner. It deflates instantly through the over sized valves. It was quiet and very comfortable to sleep on it.
Pillow – Sea 2 Summit
A pillow may sound a little superfluous when you are counting every ounce but it turned out to be a critical piece of equipment. A good nights sleep is so very important. The inflatable Sea to Summit pillow was super compact, lightweight and comfortable (had to repair a couple of times).
Stove – Jetboil Mini Mo
Although it was a little heavier than the alcohol stove I started with, the few extra ounces were so worth it. It heats quickly, super-efficient (uses very little fuel), adjustable flame that will simmer as well as blaze, and is a good size with an integrated lightweight pot. If you plan on carrying a stove (many did not, we called them soakers) this was the most popular option out there.
Tyvek house wrap. I noticed some people carrying a sheet of super light-weight plastic, (it looked like saran-wrap) This option offers no protection from sharp stones or sticks, tears easy and did not last. I finished with the same sheet of tyvek that I started with and even gave it to a South Bounder on my last night. Lightweight, durable and cheap, enough said.
Headlamp – Black Diamond
I was up every morning at 4:45am and on those new moon dark nights a headlamp was pretty handy. If you find yourself camped around others having a red light option is nice so you don’t wake your fellow hikers. The Black Diamond was super light, easy “swipe on swipe off” controls and had great battery life.
Water Filtration – Sawyer Squeeze Filter
With some equipment I was lucky and chose the right gear before I left, others I learned by observing what worked well for others. in the case of the Sawyer Filter, this is the water filtration I used from the start and the only one I saw others using as well. The water in the desert was pretty sketch and really needed to be filtered. Once I hit the Sierra I was able to use springs for most of my drinking water and didn’t filter much.
2 one-liter bottles + a 2-liter “Camel back” bladder in backpack
On day one you have a 20 mile dry section. Most people carried 8 liters of water (16 lbs.) that first day. I think that was the last time I carried that much water for the rest of the trip. Even for the longest dry sections of the desert I never carried more than 4 liters, 2 in my pack bladder and 2 one liter smart water bottles, one with the Sawyer filter attached.
Rain Gear – Marmot jacket and rain pants. It is tough to hump rain gear through the desert when your sweating your ass off, but I got more snow, rain and freezing winds in the desert than anywhere on the trail. The gear I took was very waterproof, lightweight and durable. Pants are important to offer protection form wet foliage or poison oak etc..
T-shirt – Ice breaker Morino Wool . Yes, even in the desert wool is great.
Columbia Insect Blocker lightweight hoody – worked like a charm against mosquitoes
Exofficio and North Face zip-off pants (or running shorts and tights)
Silk long underwear tops and bottoms – mostly for sleeping only
Puffy Down jacket – lightweight (whole trip)
Puffy Down vest – lightweight (whole trip)
Wool hat (great for sleeping)
Gloves – waterproof, and light weight
Sun hat – full brim or Saraha-style breathable hat for sun protection, a ball cap is ok but you’ll burn your ears.
Socks – 6 pairs of lightweight wool socks. It is important to change your socks constantly! (sometimes twice a day) Foot problems will end your trip faster than any other physical issue. I found Darn Tough Socks ($20 each, but carry a lifetime guarantee) to be the most common and in my opinion the best.
Shoes – 1 pair for hiking, Crocs for camp shoe. I went through 6 pairs, most of them were Altra, Lone Peak 2.0. I also used 2 pair of Hokas – Uppers were not durable and offered very little lateral stability. Brookes Cascadia’s were also very popular on the trail. I also used a Hans Wag Hiking Shoe for snowy parts of the Sierras with micro-spikes.
Hiking Poles – Cooperdale is what I used , any will do but you will want to bring them for sure. It is best to have poles with adjustable with clips (not twist). You will need new pole tips, just buy they en route. 90% of PCT hikers had poles.
Swiss Army knife – very small, lightweight with tweezers, toothpick, scissors, knife
Tenacious Tape – repairs down
Superglue –Good to use for small cuts as well.
Needle/thread – Best treatment for blisters, leave the thread in to drain the blister.
Tape wrapped on a ski pole – duct tape or athletic tape
Backpacker umbrella (silver) Great for sun or rain.
Phone, charging system – 1 battery pack with charger (no solar) I did almost all of my navigation with apps on my phone
Apps – PCT, Guthook, North American peak finder
Paper half-mile maps – area map
Benedryl – bee stings
Ibuprofin – calms leg jerks when your trying to sleep
Baby wipes, doesn’t weigh that much but cleans better than TP.
Small amount of toilet paper
Bug repellent small amount
Foot care – mole skin, bandaids, neosporin
This was required on the JMT and through Yousmite. I ditch the canister after I left the park . Bought the larger one and stored more than just my food in it.
At some point I realized I had over packed. So what would I do differently?
Too many clothes (1 of each only)
Too much extra fuel. One canister at a time and burn it down.
Extra food too often. If it’s 100 miles to the next resupply, than carry 5 days of food and arrive empty, don’t carry 6 or 7 days if it isn’t necessary.
Too much extra water. Check to determine where the next water source is and carry the amount necessary to get there. Water is heavy so carry what you need but no more. I would often arrive at the next water source with more than a liter of water in my pack.
Solar panel. If you manage your phone use you don’t really need to carry a panel. Take a spare battery and fully charge your phone and battery at the resupply. If you manage your phone use it will last for more than a week. Leave the panel at home.
It’s not a race! It is easy to get caught up in others energy of “how many miles did you do today”? Where and when is my next resupply? I need to rush, rush, rush. If rushing through this experience is all you are thinking about than you have missed the whole point of being there. Don’t compare your progress to others, hike your own hike. Your in the most beautiful place in the world, fully embrace it.
Back in the rush of life here in Idaho, trying to steal a few minutes to reflect on the world that has made up my last 5 months. I was such a different person pushing off from Campo Ca, at the Mexican border.
I have changed physically, (lost 30 lbs) mentally and emotionally. I have a far more deep and abiding appreciation for food, friends, family and the natural world. I feel any expectations I may have had for this experience were either met or exceeded.
The final day, pushing through the steep terrain, which is all of Northern Washington, I hiked 32 to miles to reach Manning Park BC and the end. One may ask if there is some overwhelming epiphany I carried off the trail and into my life; I’ll get back to you on that. I can tell you that for me, the true value is not what found on the trail but rather what I left. More about that later although I think most of you already know. Thanks to all of you for your awesome support and comments along the way, in no small way it helped to lighten the load in the most difficult of times,
As I sat in the parking lot with my friends Hump It and CC, waiting for our ride from the trail Angel/Triple Crowner, Beacon, confirmation came in that, in fact the fire closure had been lifted. The near continuous rain which had been falling since the moment we set foot in Washington, had done its job, helping out with the firefighting efforts to gain control of the numerous wildfires in this area. There was general rejoicing by everyone on the PCT because this meant that, for the first time in a long time, continuous steps were possible all the way to the border of Canada. Everyone seemed happy and ready to go except for my poor, extremely inflamed Achilles, which I’m not sure will even allow me to complete the final hundred miles that I have left to the border.
So here we sit on the ferry that will take us the length of Lake Chelan up to the small village of Stehekin , and the final push to the border of Canada.
I’m not particularly troubled that we are going around what was previously the closed area because I know I will come back and hike the Washington section. I want to do this mostly because it seems intensely beautiful and i really haven’t seen any of it. As I said above Washington has been rainy and completely hidden in a vale of mist since we set foot across the Oregon border. I have seldom been able to see more than 100 yards in any direction virtually all the time. Mount Rainier, the most prominent feature long this section has only shown scant glimpse of her majestic flanks the entire time.
There has been a continuous drip, drip, drip of condensed mist off the trees above and a constant shower of water off the vegetation that lines the trail keeping your feet and steady state of wet. I have been walking in either rain, sleet or snow and always camping with damp tents and sleeping bags.
The weather is predicted to improve over the next week and hopefully this final hundred miles will be a perfect finish to an amazing journey.
One more week to go and hopefully my next communication will be from Canada.
It is an interesting paradox, walking across a feature called the bridge of the gods, with the sense that you’re walking into the gates of hell. It seems that all of northern Washington is on fire. The first fire closure of the PCT is just 80 miles north of the Oregon border. At this point we are forced to leave the trail and either hitchhike or road walk 50 miles to get around the mount Adams fire closure. Further north there is a massive complex of fires that requires you to go from Stevens Pass and take a ferry across Lake Chlan and finally into Stehekin. Not the way I wanted to finish this trail necessarily, but what we are forced to do because of an act of God. The fire in northern Washington is the largest in the states history. It feels good to be 100 miles into Washington knowing that only about 380 miles remain for me to finish this walk. Oregon and Washington have been stunningly beautiful and we’re finally getting a little rain to replenish water supplies and clean the air.
Onward to Canada.
Oregon is basically complete, it’s just a short, 50 mile hike down to cascade locks and across the bridge of the gods. This leaves the 500 miles of Washington, which is supposed to be the most beautiful section of the trail.
I feel it necessary to provide a bit of a counter point to my last post about life on the trail. It is true that this is very hard at times, but more often, the beauty so intense that it is hard to contain. I love my early-morning walks, fresh out of the tent and walking through the silent forest, the extraordinary morning light filtering through the trees; I just can’t wipe the smile off my face.
There is a goal for many on the trail called “10 x 10” which means getting in 10 miles before 10 o’clock in the morning. This has become surprisingly easy and fun for me. In the morning the miles just seem to fly by.
Also, the community of hikers that reach this far north may be the most extraordinary group of people I’ve had the pleasure to spend time with. Their drive, perseverance and ambition is truly amazing. The shared experience of hiking over 2000 miles together builds a bond that surpasses words alone. It’s great catching up with everybody at resupply stops and sometimes camping spots along the trail and sharing our stories.
The most extraordinary occurrence in all of this is my perspectives regarding my place in nature which has completely shifted. I don’t feel apart from nature or a stranger to this place, But part of nature, as much a piece of this landscape as the trees, the river the rocks or the wildlife; I feel I belong. Everything just seems to make sense and is well ordered.
Lastly I want to thank everybody for your awesome comments and sincere sense of support. With all the solitude on The trail, it’s great to have the connection with all of you out there.
I have written a lot about my progress and the physical nature of the area through which I’m hiking, but I haven’t talked much about how I feel about this on a day to day basis.
First let me say that it’s hard, really hard. Hard on me, hard on Robin and unrelenting. The thought of getting up every morning at 4:45 in the dark and cold ( which I need to do because I walk much slower than most), cooking breakfast, packing away an often damp tent and sleeping bag, getting everything else packed up while taking care of life’s necessities (tooth brushing etc. ) then walking for at least 20 to 30 miles a day, everyday. My longest so far is 38.
My body always aches from carting around a 30+ lb pack, shoulders are sore, back hurts, legs want to quit and my feet are always screaming. I’m constantly eating energy bars and drinking on the go, so I can stayed fueled and hydrated without stopping. At the end of the day, after 13 or so hours of almost nonstop walking, up and down hills, climbing over logs and through streams, I finally stop, usually alone, and set up camp, cook some dinner and by 7:30pm I’m in bed (after setting up my tent, lofting the sleeping bag, inflating the pad, banging the dust out of shoes and socks, then washing (the best I can) disgusting feet and legs, brush teeth etc… Of course I always have to pee in the middle of the night so I drag myself out of the cozy bag into freezing darkness to answer natures call. Then at 4:45am, I start all over again.
I always reek, can’t help it since I only get to shower once a week at best. I do swim in lake when I can for a quick rinse.
I miss Robin and Landon more than I can express, everyday is a challenge to press on and because I’m here by choice, no one is forcing me to do this. It is difficult not to say “I don’t need to be here” and just quit and go home.
But all that said, this is also the most incredible experience of my life. I have changed in so many ways. Lost 30+ lbs, gained some strength, met some extraordinary people, learned a whole new level of humility and self, and I see the world in a completely new perspective. I wouldn’t change a thing. It has been beautiful, amazing and challenging and hard everyday. With just over 600 miles left (I just crossed the 2,000 mile mark) I can’t wait for the end and will desperately miss the daily struggle.
Mile 1959, I have now surpassed the year of my birth in miles. I’m currently fueling up at Elk Lake Resort near Sisters, Oregon, ready to head into the Sisters Wilderness. The weather continues to be quite nice, if not a little hot. The terrain has really flattened out, not so much up-and-down with a very accommodating trail tread. The only downside is Oregon has really become the green tunnel, hiking through tall dense forests that prevent the big vistas that we enjoyed in the Sierras. I’m looking forward to a night of pampering at timberline Lodge on the 18th and then on to cascade locks by the 22nd.
A large closure, because of the fire in northern Washington, is forcing everyone to take a large detour from Stevens pass all the way up to rainy pass, over 120 miles. I hope they have resolve this by the time I get that far north.
It’s great to be back on trail. Just finished the section from Ashland to Crater Lake, passing the 1800 mile mark in the process. The weather has been great, although very smoky from the various fires burning in the west. For the past several days, I have been hiking with a mask on, trying to save my lunges and throat. Yesterday, I felt I was finally back in the rhythm and did 38 miles into the Park. With just over 800 miles left to go I feel I can persevere to the end.
Another hot day in Seiad Valley — 101 today, and they’re calling for 108 tomorrow! I think I’m hiking out of here tonight. Getting out of Seiad Valley means climbing 5000 vertical feet in this heat. The saving grace is I’m just passed mile 1627 which means almost exactly 1000 miles left to go, well 999. I should hit the Oregon border in three days, can’t wait! I understand that the terrain is much more forgiving.