2250 Miles In
It was recently brought to my attention by my most avid reader (my mom) that I hadn’t written anything in over a thousand miles of hiking, and that my lack of engagement with the fans was simply unacceptable. My bad. Either way, a lot has happened since my last post so this one might be a bit rambling.
Finishing Northern California
There is a common sentiment among PCT hikers that NorCal is one of the worst parts of the trail, and that many hikers experience the “NorCal Blues” and find themselves questioning why they’re still on trail. I’m here to tell you they’re just plain wrong. Is it the most beautiful place in the world? No, but it is full of charm. I loved the town of Etna, the Trinity Alps, and the proud residents of The State of Jefferson up in Seiad Valley.
During our time in NorCal we pushed aggressively through the large bubble of hikers that had flipped in front of us while we were in the Northern Sierra. It seemed like every day we saw someone we had met back in the desert, and the constant reunions added to the excitement of nearing Oregon. Hitting the border was a bittersweet experience, being both excited to enter a new state but knowing we still hadn’t finished our first.
Headed into Oregon I was feeling my strongest I’ve felt on trail, and Waffles and I planned to attempt the Two Week Oregon Challenge. We wanted to go fast, but also make sure to appreciate all the beauty the state had to offer.
On the Appalachian Trail I was a staunch purist, looking down on people who took alternate routes, but out here on the PCT that mindset seems absurd. There are so many beautiful areas to see so close to the trail, and I cannot imagine choosing to skip the Crater Lake National Park Rim Trail alternate route.
Crater Lake was filled with highs and lows. The park itself was incredible with constant breathtaking views, but had two of my personal lows on trail. Advisory to hikers, do not leave your pack outside the restaurant by the campground because some asshole WILL steal your cash and your AirPods. Although that was quite the emotional setback, the real blow was physical and came later in the day just after leaving the park.
I had pushed ahead of waffles a little earlier in the day and had fully set up camp to wait for her when a hiker came running into camp looking for me. Waffles had fallen while climbing over a blowdown and had “impaled” herself and needed to get off trail. I broke camp in record time and ran back on trail to find Mad Cow (a surgical nurse in the front country) and Wheelz preforming roadside first aid to remove a large stick from Waffles’ leg.
She was doing alright and in good spirits, but we still decided to abandon our plans of pushing through Oregon quickly and took a double zero at Diamond Lake Resort to allow her to heal.
Choosing to slow down proved to be a great decision, and allowed us to soak in some of the more beautiful parts of the state like the Three Sisters Wilderness and Mt. Hood. We still rolled into Cascade Locks with a reasonably quick time through the state, but with a new appreciation for taking it slower.
Washington may be the best kept secret of the west coast. My preconceived notions of the state led me to believe I would spend the entire time hiking through rainy pine forests, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I know I still have the High Sierra ahead of me, but Washington is certainly in contention for my favorite stretch of trail. Goat Rocks, Mt. Rainer, and the North Cascades all blew me away with their beauty, and have left me determined to spend more time in the Pacific Northwest.
A personal highlight of the state was completing the Bigfoot Eating Challenge at Charlie’s Cafe while getting to see my parents, and taking some time off trail to relax. This was followed by my personal low of the trail approximately a week later when I came down with a case of norovirus. Luckily it passed quickly and we were back to trail in no time.
The last stretch of Washington became crowded again as we began to meet 2022 hikers who were returning to finish their hikes that had been cut short by last year’s fires. Still, even with the crowds, it was hard to complain. The excitement of hitting Canada was intoxicating, and although we still have 400 miles to clean up felt like a real and tangible accomplishment.
Next Stop: Sierra
After popping out in Manning Park in Canada we met up with Waffles’ parents for the long drive back to Lone Pine. We have our permits and a plan to help reduce the impacts of altitude following Waffles’ previous difficulties, and are super excited for what lies ahead. If all goes well I’ll be back on trail in a few days, and finished a few weeks later.
On a personal note I recently passed the 2193.1 mile mark, the 2021 length of the Appalachian Trail making this the farthest I’ve ever walked (and I did it 48 days faster). I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time on the AT and reliving fond memories of finishing alongside my tramily of Spud, Showman, Lifeguard, and of course Waffles. Much love to y’all.
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