5 mistakes from the PCT

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I really wouldn’t change much about my PCT thru hike this year. But I did do a few stupid things involving becoming too friendly with the mosquitoes, trying to out smart bears, and (a lack of) resupply…

1. Putting coffee and electrolytes through my sawyer squeeze

Look it was early days in the desert. I was pre occupied with generally staying alive. The whole ‘dirty bottles-clean bottles’ thing confused me somehow. I would often just drink directly from the sawyer squeeze if I was feeling lazy- which by the way works wonderfully.

Somewhere along that dusty trail i found rare shade under a nice plant and sleepily poured an electrolyte packet into some unfiltered water. Without thinking too much about it, I just screwed the filter on and chugged away. This act got a few laughs at camp later on, especially the next morning when i almost put cold ‘dirty water’ coffee through it.

“Get your dirty bottle system down Clash or you’ll get SICK!” Tombraider jokingly warned me. I labelled my bottles and tried my best. Then forgot about it by the next town. Luckily I never got sick. Still don’t really know what I learnt from this. The sawyer squeeze survived though.

See that tiny shadow the plant is casting? That, is your next break spot.

Open to interpretation

2. Not fully reading my Garmin InReach plan.

And being very confused at the bills each month. $35? Huh? I thought I signed up for a £13 a month plan? £13 definitely isn’t $35, right?

Tracking. The plan didn’t include tracking. Damn. It was fun to share tracking points with family and friends back home. I was sharing it every 10 minutes, then quickly changed to every 4 hours when I realised the battery wouldn’t last longer than a day or so. I worked this out well over 1000 miles in, woops.

The next time I turned it on was for the final mile approaching the Canadian border. Of course I wanted to share that with them! In a land of no phone service, it was nice to know they could follow me in live time. Here’s how it looked when I eventually got into phone service:

Technology, hey?


3. Packing ‘a few snacks’ for the first section of the desert.

“You wont have an appetite for the first few days” “you’ll likely feel quite nauseous” “don’t over pack, the water carries can be long!” Was some advice I had overheard before heading out.

Taking it a bit too literally, my first resupply consists of an apple, an avocado, some trail mix, and some chips. I hungrily look around camp on the very first night. Everyone is cooking up fun looking dinners, and snacking away. Shit, I thought. I have NOT brought enough food.

It must be obvious, as hikers soon start passing me odd bits from their food bags. Queue a creative ‘first night on the trail’ dinner:

4. Thinking we could out-smart the desolation wilderness bears

FarOut comments read “bears taking down food hangs in this area!” “Bear ripped into my tent to get my food!” “‘Mad bear activity here!”. We flicked through them in South Lake Tahoe and scratched our heads. We can’t guarantee a hitch out of town early enough in the morning to then make good miles away from this ‘crazy bear’ section- Lake Aloha in the Desolation Wilderness.

In hindsight, the whole day was a bear shit show and we should have known better. But it does make for a funny story.

We were cheerily marching along the trail- finally free from the heavy bear cannisters, which you send back at Kennedy Meadows North. Bruja suddenly stops and makes a weird noise. “Dogs?!” “What’s that?!” It all happened pretty fast.

2 bear cubs ran across the trail RIGHT IN FRONT of us. Momma bear followed. One of the three growled in our faces. I absolutely freaked out and jumped behind everyone in my trail family- to this day i’m still apologising that my impulse was to sacrifice them all. Round one of hikers vs bears was pretty even- luckily we all got a fright and everyone ran away.

We talked about it for the next few miles, woaw, crazy bear encounter, they’re here! Then we stop for an ice cream at some random store along the lake, and make sure to tell at least 5 other hikers about our bear encounter.

Now it’s getting late and we’re ready to find somewhere to camp. Activate master (stupid) plan. We’ll hike a little off trail, meaning we’re kinda away from the ‘bear zone’.

There’s no chance i’m sleeping with my food if the bears around here have been bold enough to break into tents. Daisy offers to sacrifice himself this time and asks if we want him to sleep with all of our food. We politely decline.

We gather rocks to make a ‘foolproof rock pile!’ ontop of our food bags. At least we’ll hear the bear if it comes? Because the rocks will, like, make noise and stuff?

Queue next questionable move in the hikers vs bear sequel. We get Daisy to play a ‘Spanish for beginners’ podcast all night, hoping this elusive bear family will think we are just too loud and ready to fight to approach. Turns out bears really like Spanish podcasts, and the foodbags you have piled rocks on right outside your tent.

It’s only 11pm and Mr.Bear makes a quiet approach, and grabs Bruja’s foodbag. The rock pile falls, makes, noise, and Mr.Bear gets a bit of a fright and runs off into the woods. With the foodbag. We get a bit rediculously frantic and start yelling at the bear. There’s a full 5 day resupply in that bag. Well, bon apetite little guy.

To our surprise we see its beady eyes not so far away in the trees. It wants to come back for the rest of the bags! We’re yelling, flailing our arms, banging our trekking poles. It’s not budging. Or impressed. Fuck, we think. We have no way to safely store our remainders of food, and this bear is bold, and a little scary. We hike out. Until 4am. Finally above treeline ontop of Dick’s Pass, we’re exhausted and mentally ready for a bear to just eat us and our nutella jars at this point.

We sleep until around 10am. The whole next day is spent recalling our silly hikers vs bear episode and gratefully receiving extra food from the Tahoe Rim Trail hikers. People were grateful to get real-time intell about the bears and so kind for sharing their extra food!

Bear cannisters are now required through this section of the PCT. I wonder why?

Night hiking away from the bears. Taken at 2:33am.


5. Cowboy camping next to a mosquito swarmed stream, with no head net on.

Any story that creates a new trail name is worth telling. We haul up the infamous Kearsage Pass, packs heavy with a big resupply. It takes hours. And honestly, I have a cry- i’m still in shock and questioning everything about life and death after finding out in Bishop that we had lost Riddles. We stop for some water and I ask Daisy where he reckons we go after we die. Where is she? I can’t stop thinking about her and her family.

We don’t make it back onto the official trail. A beautiful spot is found and we all cowboy camp. Pretty grateful to just be here. Marvel and Stripes appear, who I haven’t seen in weeks. Soon enough we’re all snuggled up together and falling asleep under the stars.

Everytime I wondered where she had gone, nature would treat us. This was the sunset that night. She’s here, right here, I knew.

I wake a few times in the night to itch my forehead and think nothing of it. When we wake up, Bruja and Marvel, who are either side of me, get QUITE the fright:


Mosquitos feasted on my face all night it seems. I took a few allergy tablets and later fell asleep under a bush when the side effect of drowsiness hit me.

Big Mags suggested I take ‘about 4 Benadryl’ that night when the swelling gets worse and I now have a sliver of eyesight left. For some reason I take that advice and by the time my tent is up I’m delirious with drowsiness- I flop into my sleeping bag like a swollen puffer fish and have the weirdest dreams all night long.

This routine goes on for about 4 days. It makes for some very amusing pictures, jokes, and a new (temporary) trail name… ClashZilla:

A big lesson from this trail was simply just to laugh at myself more. For these trails will chew you up and spit you out. Nature is the boss, and life is short and unpredictable. Plan all you like, maybe even take something away from my mistakes. Just have some fun along the way and readjust your expectations at least 12 times.

Happy trails, Clash 🙂

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Comments 3

  • Jon Studtmann : Dec 29th

    Congratulations and thanks for the invaluable info. I need it and your wonderful inspiration; for I’m in class of 2023 starting at Campo on May 8th. So exited!!
    Wow, what an accomplishment!!

  • Rich Peterson : Dec 30th

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Bart : Jan 27th

    The bears in Desolation Wilderness are a real thing.
    It is now REQUIRED to carry a hard shell bear canister in Desolation Wilderness.
    I have also understood that soft shelled bear bags are not accepted.
    (Maybe spend as little time in Desolation as humanly possible).


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