The Attempt Episode 7: Peter’s Attempt
Benjamin is hiking at his top gear when his friend Peter hops in for a week on the trail
The Attempt is sponsored by Gossamer Gear, manufacturers of functional ultralight backpacking gear, designed by hikers.
Julia: Hey guys, so I want to start this episode a little different than usual.
Paula: What do you think of his gear?
Julia: You may recognize this voice – this is my mom.
Peter: He is by no means an ultra light hard-o but even he is lighter than I’ve ever camped.
Julia: And this is Benjamin’s friend Peter Scott.
Peter: You know, when there’s plenty of water, I don’t think he’s above 20lb. He might be closer to 15. And that’s so light. I mean I’ve never done a backpacking trip under 40.
Julia: So, why is my mom asking Peter about Benjamin’s trip? Well, this conversation was just after Peter got back from 6 days on the trail with Benjamin in Northern California. My parents of course wanted the full debrief, so they had Peter and his dad over for breakfast . And, just as a heads up – my parents lovingly recorded this audio for me over brunch, with a dog in the kitchen. So you may hear some other sounds in the background.
Peter: He made me keep – or not made me – he rightfully told me to keep a lot of the stuff that I brought in the car.
Paula: And you didn’t need it.
Peter: I didn’t need it.
Peter’s Dad: Peter was ready for gourmet meals. You know, big saucepan.
Peter: I was.
Paula: Yeah, this is not a culinary experience. Just a lot of powdered stuff that you add water to.
Peter: Yeah. Just fuel.
Julia: We’re gonna get back to Peter and all the things he learned on the trail. But first, let’s back up a bit to where we last left Benjamin on his way south toward Ashland.
Julia: You’re listening to
Benjamin: A podcast my sister makes
Julia: It’s called the attempt
Benjamin: I see what you’re trying to do!
Julia: (Laughing) Alright…
Benjamin: Alright, I don’t know what day it is but I am heading toward Ashland Oregon, the last town before California. I’m hiking with a group of younger guys – Sauce Boy, Peak Freak, Psycho Killer and Foots, they’re all between 19-21. They’re all really nice guys, I enjoy spending time with them. They’re all fucking faster than me though. So I need to get up early and hike late to keep up with them. They’re walking like 16-minute miles. How the fuck do I keep up with that? But they walk short days so it all works out. Yeah, just some thoughts.
Benjamin: Hey. It is… shit… what day is it? Friday September 6. I had a great time in Ashland, stayed at the condo owned by Julian’s aunt and uncle who are just lovely people and their two really cute daughters. I am – oops – I am tripping. I am apparently 0.1 miles from the California border, which I’m pretty stoked about. It’ll feel definitely like an accomplishment to have made it to my third state.
Benjamin: California baby. Woo! Fuck yeah! I am proud of myself. No more borders to cross. Now I just gotta scamper down 1700 miles to Mexico. I’m really excited to see my friend Peter tomorrow. Right now it’s about 8:15 pm and it’s getting dark, which means that I can look across the valley and see the wildfire. Which is pretty crazy. It’s all along one hillside and probably 12 or so different spots of flame. It’s hard to photograph but it’s pretty crazy to look at. Yeah. I’m gonna be hungry when I get to camp, and ready to fall asleep.
Benjamin: It’s almost 11 pm and I’m really tired, I did another 35 today. Like yes, I walked late, but I felt good. Like strong and healthy and stuff. I dunno. For dinner tonight I had Annie’s mac ‘n cheese with some salmon mixed in, some olive oil. I put an oatmeal packet into a protein powder with powdered milk, and poured some water in. Too much water, but I made kind of a soup and that was good. A bunch of Doritos, bunch of chocolate chip cookies. Goodnight.
Well, with that latest culinary adventure, we are pretty much up to date. The next evening, after another long day of hiking, Benjamin met up with Peter.
The two of them drove the car down to the southern end of their 150-mile section, and then they camped for the night. They left the car there so it would be there when they finished, and then caught a ride back up to the starting point. And that was where Peter Scott officially became a Pacific Crest Trail hiker. Although, I guess it depends how you define that.
Paula: Hey did you get a trail name?
Peter: I had a couple working ones no I ended up….
Paula: (Laughing) You never settled on one.
Peter: I never settled on one. I was just section hiking, so I never got past that.
Jonathan: What does he go by now?
Paula: Everyone calls him Brass?
Paula: Like Antoine calls him Brass? He’s known him since the beginning.
Peter: Yeah, Ben calls Antoine “Guy Fawkes” and Antoine calls Ben “Brass” most of the time.
Paula: That is so weird. (Laughing)
Benjamin: Alright putting it on your bivvy, Peter. You can just say what’s up, what you’re thinking about.
Peter: This is Day 1 for me, Peter Scott. Trail name to be determined.
Benjamin: Trail Name Alpha.
Peter: Trail Name Alpha. It’s my first day and first night on the PCT with “Brass” aka Ben Drachman. We got picked up this morning by Nightwing. Nightwing gave us a ride to the starting point of our trip, where Benjamin ended yesterday. Ben had hiked probably 31 miles that day?
Benjamin: No I only did 27.
Peter: 27? Well in comparison I drove 900. How does that make you feel?
Benjamin: (Laughing) Like a real chump.
Peter: We started this morning from Wildwood Tavern and Lodge. Just finished up a 23 mile hike.
Benjamin: 24 mile hike. You’re cutting off a mile, dude.
Peter: Which is by far the most amount of hiking I’ve ever done in a day. And probably the most amount of activity I’ve done in my lifetime in aggregate. It should also be said that I am an avid listener of the podcast, so as someone who has made the transition from listener to possible character in the podcast, I am thrilled.
Benjamin: Ok. That’s good.
Julia: I want to put this into context real quick. 24 miles is not easy. Benjamin can do it. But he’s been working up to his point for a while now. A few weeks ago I started to get curious about what that would feel like and I decided to attempt my own one-day-only urban hike where the goal was just to walk for over 20 miles. See what it feels like. And it felt pretty good the day of, but as soon as I stopped walking and let the day sink in, I was wrecked. That was a month ago and my blisters have only recently gone away. Now, that’s what Peter just did – except farther, faster, and with a heavy backpack, and tons of elevation. So as the week wore on, the mileage started to take a real toll.
Peter: So my progression of pain kind of began on day one it was like ok, this is a lot of walking. That’s fine, I’ll be ok. Day two’s like oh wow I have blisters, I’ve bever really had that many blisters backpacking. I’ve never really done more than 15 miles. Then by day three I’m like, “Ok Ben, I need to adopt your regimen of blister control. I have more blisters on my feet than I’ve had in my life.” But by day four the pain had transferred from feet to like muscular and skeletal type stuff. So my left ankle had started swelling up and I was like ok, I can deal with the feet but now I’m walking kinda – I’m adjusting my gait. And then once it goes to your ankle, by day five it was my knee, by Day six it was my hip. (Fade down)
Julia: Three days into the slog, the boys took a few well-deserved hours off the trail in a hiker town called Etna.
Peter: We just had this vision of this breakfast we would have in town. I wanted blueberry pancakes and Ben wanted hashbrowns and eggs and stuff.
Jonathan: So this was the morning of your third day?
Peter: Exactly. But we get to the road and we get a hitch from a guy named Ken. And Ken had hiked some of the PCT and he really loved that Etna was a trail town and took great pride in it. He gave us a tour as we were driving down. Keep in mind, it’s a town that’s like 2 blocks by 2 blocks. He gives us the long tour around so he can point out all the different areas.
Jonathan: And you’re thinking: we want to eat. (Laughing)
Julia: Etna provided a bit of a break for Benjamin and Peter. It also turned out that Antoine – aka Guy Fawkes – was in town too. So the three of them got breakfast together and caught up. Now at this point, if I were in Peter’s shoes, I think I would’ve been lobbying to stay the night in Etna. Maybe get a little more rest. Sleep in a bed. But no. A few hours after getting to town, the three guys set back out on the trail to get in another 9 hours of hiking before camp.
The next day, Benjamin found himself alone for a moment and took out his phone to record.
Benjamin: Yo. I have not made a recording in a very long time. Well I guess I made one a couple days ago with Peter, but I haven’t made one by myself in a while. It was really fun reuniting with him. He is the only headstrong jackass I know who is headstrong enough to just force himself to hop into what is essentially, basically my top gear. He’s been such a freaking trooper. I have some other stuff to share but I want to make up some miles because I just pooped and I am behind both Guy Fawkes and Peter. It would be cool if I could catch ’em so I’m gonna speed up.
Julia: This is one of the things that has always confused me about the trail. Whenever I go hiking “with someone” I’m pretty much always next to them, like talking to them as we walk. But on the PCT, you can be a mile behind someone who you’re quote-on-quote “walking with” and still be “walking with them.” Maybe you’re a little behind because you need to stop to poop. Or maybe you’re a little ahead because you’re just faster. Or maybe you’re not even trying to walk with someone. You just end up at the same pace and so you see each other at camp every other night.
Peter: it’s hard to describe, like when you’re hiking with someone… or hiking along with a pack, what it actually means in practice is that at any one point in time you’re 4 miles of them or 4 miles behind them. The interconnectedness you can have with someone on the trail means you can be super close or super far at the same time. That’s how – when you get to a hostel, that’s where you hear the 10 different things about the next town and share the 10 things about the previous town.
Benjamin: Alright so it’s like 9:30 on Thursday morning and we are just climbing out of a valley where we crossed a highway and ran into Buff and Peter’s gonna tell you about it.
Peter: Cool, so coming out of camp this morning we went 5 miles, as Ben said, started at 6:30 when we ran into Buff. He had egg mcmuffins, warm coffee, bananas and fresh water ready to go. He was our trail angel for today up in the Trinity Alps wilderness area. This was my first trail magic. And it really made my morning. So we’re battling, still got 23 miles to go. It’s a battle, it’s a grind.
Benjamin: We’re hammering!
Peter: We’re hammering it. But man does that trail magic make this easier. Cool van, cool guy, really great set up.
Benjamin: Awesome. Thanks man.
Peter: So the trail magic that morning was amazing. We got to throw away our trash, get coffee, cookies, warm egg, which was really great. But what it actually led to is the next day, at noon, he was waiting at another trailhead stop with lunch. So he literally just packed up, went on a bike ride in the afternoon, and then went and camped the next day and made us lunch.
Paula: Oh my god! He knew the people who he had just served egg sandwiches to would be there the next day.
Peter: Exactly. He was just hoping to be someone’s trail angel. And he was.
Paula: Wow that’s really lovely.
Julia: So that double Trail Magic was on Thursday and then on Friday – days 5 and 6 for Peter. And this recording, from later that night on Thursday, this is the last one I got from Benjamin before the end of Peter’s Attempt.
Benjamin: Alright, not an easy day, really hot, really flat, which was nice, but the heat got to us for sure. And we pushed 28 miles which is not remotely something I could’ve remotely done in my first week so shouts to Peter. Also wildlife update, we saw a bear cub yesterday – Peter spotted that. I don’t want to forget about that. It was charging down the hill, probably to find its momma. That was pretty cute. And we heard a rattlesnake today. But Peter gets spotting credit for both of those. Who knows. Maybe if I had been alone I would not have seen those. We’re a day and a half out of Dunsmuir – town is starting to look mighty good. We are fucking excited to get to town. But tonight we’re happy, we’re camping by a lake, the full moon just rose over Dead fall lake. Ok that’s what I’m thinking about right now. Going to go to bed soon.
Jonathan: So here’s a question: when you finished were you like, “THANK GOD” or like, “I’m getting into a rhythm, I could keep doing this”?
Peter: I was limping to the finish line every single day from Wednesday onward. It took every – I told Benjamin twice a day, I’m giving you all I have. This is everything I am physically capable of. If we are going more than the allotted mileage today, you can go alone. But I will be going the 28 miles—or 22 miles – and going to bed 5 minutes afterward.
Paula: Here’s to you Peter! Congratulations!
Peter: Here’s to Ben who’s gonna do it all over tomorrow.
Paula: He’s gonna do another week. Then another week after that. And another.
Julia: So yes, cheers to Peter – another brave soul joining the ranks of Anand – a section hiker, just jumping right in with Benjamin to get him through another week of his attempt. But he’s totally right. After this, he’s gonna go back to his normal life – let the blisters heal. But for Benjamin, he’s still right in the middle.
You’ve been listening to The Attempt, produced by me, Julia Drachman, with editing help from Doug Beyers. We are a production of Bad Cat Media, created in partnership with The Trek – a media company dedicated to thru-hiking and long distance backpacking enthusiasts. Find all the episodes of The Attempt at thetrek.co/the-attempt. You can find more information about Bad Cat Media – learn about our board game – at badcat.media. Thanks to Peter for sharing his experiences with us. And thanks to my parents for recording their conversation. The music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions. Thank you so much for listening – next episode will be out in 2 weeks.
Peter: You’re listening to a podcast my friend’s sister makes.
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