Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PCT Epilogue

No, I'm not quite done blogging about this adventure. There are a few loose ends that I felt needed to be tied up. Like... what happened to a lot of the characters in this story?!

Tomer finished the trail nearly a month after I did. Mad Hatter, last I heard, was seen taking a side trip to Disneyland after getting to Wrightwood. I'm not sure how much further he made it after that, though.

Charmin reached the Canadian border two days after I did, still hiking with Hasty. She's back in Switzerland, and last I heard, was already itching to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail.

Running Wolf twisted and injured his ankle near Sister, OR. It took him off of the trail for a week or two, and by the time he was ready to hike again, he was so far back that he felt it was unlikely he could catch up the miles and finish before the first winter storms hit the north part of the trail. So he decided to quit and try again, starting from Mexico, in April 2011. I'm rather impressed myself. If it was me, I'd be heartbroken about not being able to finish, but I would have gone back the next year and picked up from where I left off. I wouldn't have gone back and started at the Mexican border again!

Fidget finished the trail a couple of weeks behind me. I don't know her exact finish date, but she did slog it through all the way to the end. Cold and wet!

Tradja and Jess also finished the trail a week or two behind me, and I managed to catch up with them at the airport in Seattle as I was flying to California and they were flying to New Jersey. They practically look civilized in street clothes! =)

Motor finished the trail about a week before me. She's living in Guam for a year now, posting really cool images of the place on Facebook. I'm not sure why this photo is so distorted, but I grew tired of trying to fix it. =)
Morph and Moonshadow didn't manage to finish the trail. I'm a little fuzzy on the details since I haven't talked to either of them directly since I took this photo of them together, and I have no idea if they plan to come back and finish whatever section they didn't do.
Dinosaur and Swayze finished the trail a few weeks after I did. I hadn't heard about them since Southern California and was a little concerned that perhaps that was because they weren't on the trail anymore. Glad to have found them on Facebook after I finished the trail and learned that I was wrong! =)

Hiker 816 was hampered by an ankle injury and "real life" and never really caught up after that. He still spent the rest of the summer hiking and several times it looked like we might meet up somewhere up the trail including near Crater Lake and Stehekin, but it never worked out. But he says he's living in the Denver area now and I've always wanted to visit those Rocky Mountains. ;o)

Yellow Pants, a.k.a. Shang-hi, a.k.a. Brian, rushed ahead of me after we left Yosemite and I never saw him again. Based on the registry entries, he finished the trail at least a solid week before I did. Maybe it was closer to two? But he definitely finished!

Karma and Detective Bubbles only made it as far as Sierra City before foot problems on Detective Bubbles derailed their thru-hike. Go Go.... I'm not sure how far he made it, but I found him on Facebook about a week ago. I should ask. =) I assume he made it the whole distance, though!

Sticky Fingers only hiked as far as Yosemite, that was her plan, and she stuck with it. Nothing I haven't mentioned in my blog before. But after I finished the trail, I finally read her book about the sinking of the Titanic. Very interesting stuff! Who knew that rivets could be so riveting!
This seems to be the only photo I can find that has Little Engine and Plain Slice. I was sure I had a better photo of those two. *shrug* Plain Slice is the fellow standing on the trail looking right. Little Engine is the blonde in red sitting next to the trail. They reached the border the day after I did--no surprise there since I had seen them in Stehekin! The reason I mention them was that I found these videos of their hike. If you watch the one about the rain and finish, you'll see the scene where this photo was taken, except that I'm actually in the video. =) You can also see Little Engine crossing a creek without any pants on--always a plus in my book! =)
Mr. Mountain Goat only made it as far as Cascade Locks before he ran out of time to finish the trail. He says he plans to come back another year and finish the Washington part of the trail, and I hope to catch him crossing Snoqualmie Pass or something. I last saw him back in Yosemite, but I kept following his blog--probably the funniest blog I'd ever read. He's got a new blog now, The Goat That Wrote. I'll certainly keep reading it! =)

Fozzie, whose real name is Keith Foskett, which I mention only so you can buy his book (The Journey in Between) about his hike on El Camino de Santigo, finished his thru-hike in mid-November after stomping through hundreds of miles of snow. I read all about it on his blog. He detoured off the official PCT due to the accumulation of snow and navigation difficulties for the last three hundred miles, but he did succeed in walking the distance from Mexico to Canada. I never actually hiked with Fozzie, and only met him briefly in Warner Springs. I didn't even think to get any photos of him. He'd barely even be a footnote in my hike except for one thing.... After reading his book, I'm suddenly very interested in hiking El Camino myself. Hiking in France and Spain seems infinitely more interesting than another long walk in America!

This ugly character got his beard shaved off, more-or-less in one piece. I didn't even know that was possible!

Since finishing the trail, I've flown down to California a couple of times--a route that crosses the PCT in several places. I couldn't help myself but to take a few aerial shots. This is Mount Adams, and the PCT is down at the base of that mountain somewhere. =)

The bustling trail town of Big Bear. You can even see the ski slopes in white. I'm assuming that must be man-made snow since I'm not seeing snow anywhere else around it!
I think this snow-covered mountain might be Baden-Powell. (The very mountaintop that Charmin is jumping on in the photo of her above.) It was the only snow-covered mountain I could see, and that mountain is higher than any others in the area, so I assume it must be Baden-Powell. But honestly, I can't find any obvious points of reference that makes me think, "Yes! That's it because...." So it's possible I could be wrong. =)

This would have been along the section Charmin and I walked around the Station Fire detour. I'm not especially familiar with the landmarks so I'm not sure exactly where along the hike this would have been, but the civilization might be Pearblossom, or somewhere pretty close to it, so I waved to Dezert Ratty and Lorraine who must be down there somewhere. =)

And one last photo... the PCT Completion Medal I got. =) It's remarkably heavy, made of solid brass. Those who thru-hike the trail can get this or a certificate when they finish, and I've gotten lots of certificates over the years, but I don't think I ever got an actual medal before! So I opted for the medal. Which, even more cool, I have Eric Ryback to thank for this. He's the first guy to have completed a PCT thru-hike, and he wanted to create an Olympic-quality medal for those who complete a thru-hike and donated the funds to design and create these things.

Cool! But I'll tell you this..... I'd never friggin carry something this heavy on a thru-hike. *shaking head* =)
Seems kind of ironic to win a medal for doing something that I'd absolutely never in a million years want to actually carry with me when I'm doing it.

Yep, I think that's it. I have no more to write. Thanks to everyone who left comments and encouragement. It's often times one of the things I most looked forward to catching up on when I got into trail towns. =) Until the next adventure, farewell!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reentry and the "Lost" Photos

Morph took this photo of me eating breakfast
the morning we hiked out to Walker Pass.
The first few days after a thru-hike is over, there's a "reentry" period. My first full day home, I walked around our neighborhood a bit. You'd think I'd be tired of walking, and I was, but I still wanted to look around and see the area, but I made it a short walk! I walked past an elementary school where kids were playing, and it seemed like a different world. I'd walk past them all the time before I started my hike and never really thought much of it, but then I walk past it just then and realized I hadn't seen that sight for five months. Some of them were playing tetherball, which I remembered playing in elementary school, and wondered if any of those kids would turn out to be thru-hikers in another 20 years.

I didn't linger, though. I figured someone might call the cops if I watched the kids for too long. I still had my gruffy beard and looked pretty homeless. Definitely a "shady" character. I don't think it would help if I explained that I had been hiking for the last five months, from Mexico to Canada. They might think I was insane too!

About a week after getting home, I dropped by the Baskin Robbins and had an ice cream in honor of the truck driver that picked me up. I've been back a couple of times since too, but admittedly, for my own guilty pleasures. ;o)

I flew down to California a couple of weeks after finishing the trail and finally shaved off that horrible beard.

As I write this now, nearly five months after having finished the trail, I've gained back pretty much all of the weight I lost on the hike. I also spent some time trying to find trail friends online, and they sent me some photos of myself that I didn't have while originally writing these blogs. Some of the photos I thought would be fun to share. Many of them I knew about and wished I had when I was writing the blog posts. Others I didn't even know about. Facebook is a great little tool for finding photos by other hikers when they start tagging me on them! =)

I took this photo of Charmin celebrating reaching the summit of
Baden Powell. I was using her camera, though, and didn't get a copy
of the photo until after our hikes were done. Even though I was there,
it still doesn't seem possible that she can jump that high!

Charmin snapped this photo of my mom buzzing my head in Wrightwood.

Charmin took this photo of me maneuvering under this tree. In this
particular case, I just used my arms to "walk" me through, which
felt as ridiculous as it looks, but it worked! =)

I don't think I have any photos of me actually cooking with my stove. =)
Charmin took this photo that first day we started hiking together. I usually don't cook lunch,
but I took a long lunch break this day and had the time (and plenty of water!)

I'm explaining to Running Wolf where we are, after he followed
the detour for seven miles and didn't realize it! I didn't know about this photo's existance. =)

Bigfoot took this photo while I was soaking naked in the hot springs
along the trail. Yes, another naked photo of me! Fortunately, still PG stuff.... ;o)

Fidget took this photo of me taking a break at the top of Pinchot Pass.

I took my share of photos where Fidget was postholing badly. She did the same to me, though! =)
You can see the hut at the top of Muir Pass in the background. ALMOST THERE!!!!

I did say that I hated snow, right? This is why!

Fidget took this photo of me taking a break. I had thrown my fleece jacket over
my head so the sun didn't blind me. =)

One of the less treacherous creek crossings....

Fidget took this photo when we went off trail to essentially skip two
dangerous river crossings. It was a bit of a rock scramble to get up the hillside!

Fidget took this photo. I have one just like it, but it amused me to see that
she took a photo of it weeks after Amanda had written it. Being on the
vertical surface like that, it hadn't washed away in the rain like the
notes Amanda wrote on the ground. I'm sure it'll wear off over time, though!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

There's No Place Like Home....

The Canadians continued to call the trail the PCT,
but the Canadian portion isn't officially recognized
as official PCT by any organization except the
Canadians, so far as I can tell! =)
September 21: By morning, the rain had stopped. Tree snot was still falling, but even that would taper off eventually. The brush along the trail was thoroughly wet, however, so my legs wouldn't dry out along the hike out to civilization, eight miles away.

All of the literature about the PCT has the trail ending right at the Canadian border. Even Erik the Black's maps aren't very useful beyond that point, which seems criminal since almost everyone continues on to Manning Park--the closest trailhead to the end of the trail. Those Canadians were kind enough to post a map of their side of the border at the border, however, and I took a photo of it as I passed. I also made sure it wasn't so blurry that I couldn't read it! These last eight miles or so, I was better prepared than I had been since almost the entire distance since I left Stehekin.

The rest of the miles flew by quickly. I took no breaks, except to check the map on my digital camera to track my progress and direction. For the most part, even that wasn't necessary. The trail junctions had good signage, and the distance flew by now that I was working in kilometers rather than miles. =) There's something nice about kilometers that I just really liked. I noticed little red tags attached to the trees marking each kilometer as they counted down to zero.

Near the end of the trail, the sun started peaking out. A beautiful day! But I didn't care about that anymore. I just wanted to finish. Get off the trail.

The trail finally dumped me out at a road near a bridge with a single car in the parking lot. It wasn't Amanda. Hmm.... I wasn't sure what to do at this point. I thought the trail was going to dump me out at the Manning Park Lodge, but I didn't see any buildings at all nearby. I wondered if I took a wrong turn somewhere. Which direction along the road is the lodge? That's where Amanda and I had planned to meet.

Trail junctions were well marked in Canada.
Thanks, Canada! =)
I looked around the trailhead for signage and found a temporary sign warning hikers that the trail to the US border I just took was closed due to some sort of trail damage. "That's strange," I thought. "I got through well enough and didn't notice any damage to speak of."

After examining all of the facts I had available--including the map I took a picture of--I made an educated guess and started walking along the road to the right. Eastward. It didn't take more than a few minutes before I saw a building and I was certain I had chosen wisely.

A few cars drove by, and the sun was shining bright. I wondered if the people in the cars had any idea that this homeless-looking fellow walking along the side of the road had walked in all the way from Mexico. What an adventure! I hoped Amanda would drive by looking for me and end my hike right then and there, but it was never Amanda driving. Drats.

I finally reached the lodge, and rather than walking around to the driveway, I scaled directly up a steep hillside  instead, and saw Amanda's car in the parking lot. Yes! She was there already! When I got closer, I realized she was still in the car, sleeping in the driver's seat. I knocked on the window, startling her.

"Think you can give a ride to a poor, dirty hiker?" I asked. =) Of course she could!

I threw my pack in back, and Amanda whipped out her camera to get pictures of my big finish. It seemed rather anti-climatic at this point, though. I had already finished the trail the day before! I took off my shoes and settled into the front seat. Hui and Colter were out on the front porch of the lodge and yelled hello, and I yelled back, "Whoo-who!!!! We did it!" Yes, indeed, we had. Our hike was over.

I try to take a photo of myself hiking out. And to
think, I was bald and clean-shaven when I started
this hike!
Amanda asked me if either of them needed a ride back to Seattle since that's where we were headed anyhow, and I didn't know. Maybe. *shrug* So she swung back through the parking lot and I leaned out the window asking if either of them needed a ride to Seattle. They turned us down, though, planning to go to Vancouver, and we waved goodbye and started driving home.

Amanda made a couple of stops to find letterboxes along the way, and I stayed in the car not wanting to walk two feet for even a drive-by letterbox. At that moment, I felt like I didn't want to ever walk again. I knew that feeling would go away eventually, but I basked in the glory of sitting. =)

I did get out at the entrance for Manning Park--Amanda wanted to get a photo of me with the entrance sign.

At the US border (now that I was actually in Canada, I thought of the border as the US border rather than the Canadian border), we handed over the paperwork the Canadians had sent me approving my arrival into the country on foot via the PCT. I wondered if the fact that I walked into the country at an unmanned entry point would cause issues at the border, but it didn't. The border agent asked a few questions and waved us through.

We arrived back in Seattle during the evening rush hour. I took a photo of me stepping into our little apartment. The last step. I was finally home, and this time, I didn't have to leave. =)

In Canada, the trail is marked in kilometers.
I like kilometers--I can hike them faster than miles! =)
5,259,276 Steps (estimated)
750,336 Calories burned (estimated)
75,142 Hits on this blog
13,225 M&Ms consumed (estimated)
4,833 Photos taken (by me!)
4,274 Kilometers covered
2,656 Miles covered
1,322 Bad jokes (estimated)
1,321 Good jokes (estimated)
1,224 Hits on most popular blog entry
488 Pounds of food consumed (estimated)
300 Days of blog posts (every other day)
162 Gallons of water sweated (estimated)
152 Days on the trail
109 Days of camping
35 Days of hotel/motel/hostel camping
34 Snake sightings
29 Pounds lost
12 Days of hiking in rain
12 Days of Ibuprofen 
10 Blisters
10 Zero days
10 Apples ripped in half
8 Pairs of shoes
7 Days camping in homes
3 Bears sighted
1 Naked hiker


1 Pacific Crest Trail
Glad they didn't put this sign up at the border. Might have caused
me some concern if they had! =)

Searching for the lodge at Manning Park.

NOW they tell me! *rolling eyes*
Made it to the Manning Park Lodge and found Amanda.
Wow, I look skeletal!

I managed to get out of the car long enough to hobble over to this sign for
a goodbye photo.

Almost home!!!!!

Home, at last..... =)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh, Canada! Oh, Canada!

Woke up to rain... look at that water running down the trail!
September 20: I woke up to rain. Again. I was getting sick of Washington and the PCT. Stupid #$*@ rain. The trail went up, it went down, it went all around. I passed a few hunters in their camo outfits along the way. And they call this fun? *shaking head*

The trail climbed towards Woody Pass, and the rain turned to snow. SNOW!? I had a few choice words for the PCT, but I really shouldn't say them on this blog. =) I had to trudge through a lot of snow in the High Sierras, but it never dared to actively snow on me. I wasn't terribly concerned about the snow. Snow had not been in the forecast, and I doubted it would accumulate much. Route-finding without a map was not my idea of fun, but I didn't expect it to come to that. It's just the principle of the matter. I felt like the PCT was just trying to rub me out, adding insult to injury. The trail hated me. I just knew it. It wanted me to get off. I agreed--I wanted to get off the trail too.

Here's a close-up of that trail. Wet and muddy!
I knew Hui wasn't far ahead because I started seeing his footprints in the snow. I assumed it was his footprints, at least. He was the only person who was hiking northbound who had passed me recently. The Graduate was up the trail somewhere, but I expected him to be much further ahead than I was. The Graduate planned to finish at Manning Park today. Hui had passed me  the day before. Yep, it had to be his footprints. Nobody else was around to have left them.

Most of the day, I was trying to decide if I would actually hike all the way to the Canadian border today or not. I could set up camp at the Canadian border if I had to. I'd seen photos of the border before, and I could camp there. The data points from the page Walrus gave me showed an official campsite less than a quarter mile away on the Canadian side of the border I could also use.

But I was also a little bothered at the thought of reaching the Canadian border, officially completing the trail, and still being stuck on the trail for another night! Damn it, when I reached the Canadian border, I was done! I should be off the trail and indoors where it was warm and dry that same night! But there weren't any campsites listed as being near the border on the US side.

Late in the afternoon, I finally decided to make a run for the border, and use the campsite on the Canadian side of the border. Once the trail descended in elevation again, the snow turned back to a cold, wet rain. It pretty much rained or snowed constantly the entire day.

Snow begins to accumulate near Woody Pass.
At a couple of trail junctions without markers, I wasn't 100% certain which direction to hike. I tried pulling up the photos of the maps I had taken on my camera, but when I zoomed in, I realized that they were too blurry to read. I studied the junctions, and tried to figure out how it matched up with my blurry photos, and chose a direction. It would take a couple of miles of hiking before I'd reach a landmark on my data sheet to confirm if I went the correct direction or not. If only the snow had fallen this low, I could have followed Hui's footsteps! Drats.

Late in the day, I reached another trail junction with a sign pointing towards the "U.S. Border."

"Crap!" I thought. "And all this time, I thought I was hiking to the Canadian border!"

It was rather a shock to see that sign. I had been so focused on Canada and the Canadian border, it completely slipped my mind that it could also be called the US border. I really wanted a sign that pointed the way to the Canadian border! But at least I knew I was walking in the correct direction still.....

I estimated how long it would take me to reach the Canadian border, and expected to reach it at around 5:00 in the afternoon. It was too cold and wet to stop for a break, so I pushed on.

Ahead, I looked for that line through the trees marking the Canadian border. A line of trees had been cut down along the border, marking the boundary of the United States and Canada. I'd seen it in photos and knew it was out there somewhere. I was sure some of the mountains I could occasionally see in the distance was Canada, but I looked for signs of Canada--I looked for that line cut through the mountains, but the fog and rain was so bad, I couldn't see much of anything. If Canada was out there, it was hiding from me.

The dusting of snow is rather scenic.....
At about 4:30 in the afternoon, I heard a "Whoop! Whoop!" ahead. It sounded like a hiker, whooping it up. Hui? I checked the time, and it was only 4:30. I wouldn't reach the Canadian border for another half hour or so. What's he so excited about? Did he see me through the trees and is trying to get my attention?

I whooped loudly in return, and he--or someone--whooped again in return. Hmm... Okay....

I picked up my pace a little, to catch up to whoever it was, and found Hui crouched on the ground with his camera, with his umbrella positioned over the camera to keep it from getting wet, pointing it at the monument marking the end of the trail. Whaaat? I was a little disoriented. Why was this monument here and not at the Canadian border? I blame the cold for my slow reaction.

I had reached Canada! I made it! Mexico to Canada! I dropped my pack and Hui and I threw an impromptu celebration. It didn't look like I remembered in photos I had seen. The swath cut through the trees was a lot narrower than I had expected. And the photos always seemed warmer and drier than the weather we had today.

Those footpints... they must be Hui's, I thought.
And he must not have been far ahead, because
those prints haven't been there long!
Hui had already been at the border for a short while when I arrived and had taken lots of photos of himself with a self-timer. Since Hui was there, though, I didn't bother with a self-timer. I handed over my camera and asked him to take photos of me at the monument. I'm done! I'm done! Well, I still had eight miles to hike out to the nearest trailhead, but the trail was done! We were thru-hikers! I left an uninterrupted trail of footprints from Mexico to Canada!

Hui set to work to retrieve the register from Monument 78. The monument is hollow and the register is inside, so he tried to lift the top, and I started taking photos. He pulled up, hard, saying how heavy it was, and I couldn't help but laugh--it looked like he was trying to vandalize the monument. Like someone knocking over the gravestones in a cemetery.

"This is heavy!" he said, straining his voice. "I might need your help here!"

I didn't help, though. I was too busy laughing and taking photos. The monument started to tip over, a little at first, then finally fell over with a significant thud and broke into two pieces. Hui and I didn't realize that the monument came apart in two pieces. It would have been a lot easier to remove them one at a time than both at once like he did. =)

Hui took photos of each of the last dozen or two pages of the register--people sometimes write e-mail addresses or contact information, or notes to other hikers behind him. He didn't want to copy it all down, so he just took photos for later reference, then signed the register himself. I noticed that White Beard, Third Monty, and The Graduate had logged in earlier in the day. Danny--who I thought was behind me and I kept hoping would catch up with my maps!--had logged in the day before! Damn!

Then the snow turned back into rain as soon as the trail
started descending again. (There are actually flurries when
I took this photo, but it was turning back into rain by this point.)
Hui decided to hike out to Manning Park that evening. Eight miles away, he wouldn't get there until well after dark, and we parted ways. I picked up a pen to sign the register, and found my fingers were not working well. I couldn't grip the pen with my fingers--they were so cold and numb. I breathed on them trying to warm them up, but my fingers just weren't working, so I finally gripped the pen in the palm of my hand and wrote something like, "It's a long way to come just to quit, but I quit!"

The scrawl looked like something written by a first grader learning their letters. The letters were an inch tall--hesitant and crooked, not following the lines on the paper at all. But it was so darn cold, I just couldn't get my fingers to work. I put the register back in the hole in the ground, then picked up the base of the monument to replace it.

$@*%! That thing was heavy! I suddenly had a new appreciation for how difficult it was for Hui to knock the monument over in the first place. I was only trying to pick up half of it and was having trouble. My frozen hands weren't helping matters either, and I had to be careful not to pinch my fingers between the base and the monument. My fingers were so numb, I could probably have pinched one off completely and not even realized it. I finally maneuvered the first piece into place, then set to work on the second piece, getting it into place as well.

I needed to get into camp and warm up. I put my pack back on, picked up my umbrella, took one last look around, bade goodbye to the United States, and walked into Canada.

The US border?! And all this time I thought
I was hiking to the Canadian border!
I reached the campsite about five minutes later, and set up my tarp in a light drizzle. It was already getting quite dark, and I changed into dry clothes, slipped into my sleeping bag, and tried to warm up again. I had been relatively warm while hiking, but during the stop at the Canadian border the cold got into me deep. Tying the necessary knots for my tarp was a huge challenge with my useless fingers, but I finally got it up and slipped into my sleeping bag. I put my hands in my armpits to warm them up, and it must have looked like I was having a seizure because I deliberately shivered large, exaggerated shivers and tensed my muscles to generate more body heat and warm up again.

After a half hour or so, I was sufficiently warmed up enough to set about cooking dinner, or my "last supper" as I decided to call it. After dinner, I wrote in my journal for about five minutes--I didn't actually write very much since I was pretty certain this day would stand out in my mind for quite some time--then went to sleep. The trail might be done, but my hike was not.

The end of the trail!

Hui attempts to "vandalize" Monument 78. That first monument marks the end of the PCT. This monument marks the 78th mile/monument of the US/Canadian border, thus, the name of Monument 78. (I'm not sure if there's a monument at every mile, or if this just happens to the be 78th one. But this monument is to mark the US/Canadian border--not the end of the PCT. The wooden one marks the end of the PCT.)

Hui signs the register. Notice the line cut through the trees marking
the US/Canadian border. The US is on the left (in this photo) and Canada
on the right.
Gotta check the time that I finished the trail! =) About a half hour before I expected!
I did it! I did it! Even the cold can't wipe the smile off my face! =)