My favourite people of the PCT

It is often said of the Pacific Crest Trail that it is the people that make it worthwhile. I knew this would be the case before I started: the social aspect was one of the big reasons I wanted to do this thru-hike in particular, rather than one closer to home. When you start the PCT, you automatically become part of a huge community, heading northwards together.

However, it took me a while to get into my groove socially: for a long time I felt like I didn’t have the big, permanent trail family I’d imagined I would fall into. But as I neared the end, I realised I had found so much more. I never had one trail family, instead I had several and I met many people over the course of my hike who made it what it was. There really is something magical about the relationships you form in these challenging situations. Friendships can change and grow so much in such a short space of time and people you met days ago can feel like old friends.

There are seven people in particular who I grew to love a lot. I hiked with them all at different points of the trail, for different lengths of time. I think the world of every single one of them and my relationships with them tell the story of my hike better than any day to day account ever could, so I thought I would share a little about them with the world.

Buffalo ROI

~750 miles hiked together

I met Buffalo ROI on day 3 and we ended up hiking together from then on until Bishop. To be honest, it was a very unlikely pairing: we’re very different people and in our normal lives there’s no reason we would have ever crossed paths. We have different opinions on pretty much everything, which led to many friendly debates (and one heated one), but for some reason it worked. He made me laugh every day, he was patient and understanding with me when I was in pain or upset, and we really grew to care for each other like brother and sister.

One time when we were drunk I asked him if he ever wanted to have children and he replied, “Why would I have children when I don’t even like most adults?” It sounds harsh, but it sums him up quite well. He’s a solitary guy who is very happy spending time alone, so when he decides he enjoys your company it feels all the more special.

He ended up speeding off ahead of me in the Sierra and I was sad to see him go. I would spend the rest of my hike missing those moments when I would catch up to him at the top of a climb and he would turn around and say, “Boosta, how are you doing?” The grin he would give me every time he said that is one you can’t forget.

Feelz

~1,200 miles hiked together

I met Feelz just before the 100 mile marker. We started talking, then didn’t stop for 4 miles. She’s one of those people who is so open that you immediately connect with her. She loves fiercely and would do anything for her friends, and she was so good to me whilst we were hiking together. When my pack started giving me back pain in the Sierra, she loaned me one of hers, which I went on to use for almost 2,000 miles.

We loved to make stupid, spontaneous decisions together and not worry about the consequences: like drinking multiple margaritas right before tackling the infamous Devil’s Slide climb out of Idyllwild; or randomly deciding to do our first ever marathon day just so we could spend the evening sitting in a hot spring; or spontaneously changing all of our plans and climbing Muir Pass right at the end of the day, even though we’d been told it would be safer in the morning.

She was my person on trail up to the midway point, the one I could tell anything to and who understood me better than anyone else. She used to joke that I was the healthiest relationship she’d had in years, but it was true, we made a great team and our long chats processing our feelings and emotions really were an example of healthy communication. I thought I would do the entire trail with her, but we started to realise we hike at very different paces. It was clear that her trying to hike my hike wasn’t making her happy anymore, so we agreed to go our separate ways, but knew that our friendship would continue.

Captain Something

~800 miles hiked together

I met Captain the night before I went into Idyllwild. I was camping at the top of a mountain, already in my tent at 7pm after an exhausting day, when I heard her talking with another hiker. I couldn’t contain myself, I screamed out loud, “Is that a British woman?” and popped my head out. I hadn’t met any other female Brits yet and I was so excited.

I saw her frequently throughout the desert, but we didn’t hike together. Then in Yosemite, around mile 950, I joined her group and we hiked together through NorCal and again at the end of Washington.

She’s an ER doctor and she said to me once that she only cares because she’s paid to. I’ve reminded her frequently of this quote, because every single day after that she proved to me how untrue it was. She cares so much, about both those close to her and complete strangers. She’s always checking up on people and is the first to notice if you’re feeling down or tired.

She got her trail name because she really was our Captain. We often found ourselves turning to her when we couldn’t make a decision and she was the one we could always rely upon to have looked ahead at the day, to know where the next water is and where we might want to camp. As a group we definitely would have been lost without her.

Billie Goat

~700 miles hiked together

I met Billie the night before I went into Big Bear. We were at a busy campsite where there weren’t many spots left and I noticed her wandering around, unsure where to go, so I invited her to cowboy camp next to me. We stayed up chatting that night, giggling for hours before falling asleep. 

Again, I saw her a lot throughout the desert because she was hiking with Captain Something, but we didn’t start hiking together until Yosemite. Every time I saw her though, I was so happy. You can’t help but have fun and laugh when Billie is around. She’s in her thirties, but unashamedly a child at heart and spending time with her reminds you that we should all be a little sillier, have more fun day to day. 

When we finished trail we ended up in Seattle at a bar where there was line dancing, and within a minute of entering the room she was out there on the dance floor, trying to figure out the routine even though she had no idea what she was doing. That moment encapsulated her energy perfectly: warm, vivacious and endlessly fun.

Poseidon

~800 miles hiked together

I met Poseidon through Captain Something around mile 300. I didn’t really get to know him that well until I started hiking with them later on, but once I did, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t talked to him more before. That first week we hiked together, I found everything he said hilarious, his quick quips and wit never fail to get a laugh out of me.

One of my favourite things about him is how affectionate he is: he will unashamedly ask for a cuddle when he wants one and it’s because of him that we all started cowboy camping next to each other every night, in what we called “the big bed”. He made me realise how much I was missing that closeness with people and that it was okay to ask my friends out here for a hug when I needed one.

Poseidon, Captain and Billie made up the Second Breakfast Club, the trail family that I rejoined for my last 200 miles of trail. I loved hiking with them, always feeling so loved and welcomed. As a group we looked out for each other more than I had with any other hikers and it really did feel like family.

Pippin

~750 miles hiked together

I met Pippin very early on in trail, she was around me for most of the desert, but to be honest I was pretty intimidated by her at first. Our groups were sort of tangentally involved, so she came over to our airbnb in Wrightwood and made us a pastalaya – which was the best meal I had all trail.

More than a thousand miles later, she started hiking with my group, then within a few hundred miles I had split off from them to hike in a different group with her. We got to know each other more and I realised you couldn’t have a better friend than Pippin. She comes across kind of direct at first because she’s not afraid of saying anything to anyone, but once you’ve gained her trust, she has your back until the end. I honestly believe that if I asked her to fight someone for me, she would do it without a moment’s hesitation.

On the last night of Trail Days there was a “rave” on a football field. I arrived and there she was: with a cowboy hat on her head and fairy lights around her neck, dancing like she didn’t have a care in the world. I saw her, and all I could think was how much I wanted to be like her. She told me that evening that I’d been rubbing off on her, that she was able to talk more openly about her feelings because of me. It made me so happy, because I felt that if even one ounce of her confidence had rubbed off on me, I would be proud as anything.

Veto

~1000 miles hiked together

I met Veto at Tuolumne Meadows, I was waiting there for Feelz to catch up to me and his group rolled in. We talked a bit, but then they left and I presumed I’d never see him again. Then just after the midway point we got back on trail at the same time as each other. He hiked around my group for a while, then gradually started camping with us. By Shasta, I had persuaded him to take a zero with us and that was it, me and him weren’t apart again for a month and a half.

From the moment we started hiking together he was so ambitious with his mileage goals, always willing to try for those bigger days even when it was unplanned or last minute. Soon this started to rub off on me, and I believed I could do anything too, if I really wanted to. Without him I would have never had the courage to challenge myself to do 240 miles of Oregon in a week. Without him by my side throughout that week, I probably would have given up halfway through. We tackled all the craziest bits of my hike together: running away from the McKinney Fire, skipping up to Washington, and finally returning to Oregon to complete it as fast as possible. 

As I got to know him, I was blown away at how a 20 year old could be so kind, empathetic and wise beyond his years. I felt like I could talk to him about anything and he would really listen, so I did, incessantly. If you had asked anyone in my life before trail what type of person might become my closest friend out here, they probably would never have said a 20 year old guy, who’s into skateboarding and drum and bass, but I guess the trail surprises you in all sorts of ways. I was really sad to say goodbye to him for the last bit of Washington, as he sped off to go catch his flight home, but I knew for sure that in Veto I had found a friend for life.

A bonus photo of me, Veto and Pippin at the top of Old Snowy, because it’s one of my favourite pictures ever.

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Comments 3

  • JhonYermo : Sep 21st

    The Buffallo guy really got to me.
    ” I asked him if he ever wanted to have children and he replied, “Why would I have children when I don’t even like most adults?” It sounds harsh, but it sums him up quite well. He’s a solitary guy who is very happy spending time alone.”
    In my long life, I wish I had seen and heeded that advice.
    I am very glad to have read your entire article.
    Surprising the the things you can learn
    Many thanks

    Reply
  • Michael Lewallen : Sep 23rd

    Sofia
    I love your posts, great writing. Your descriptions of your trial friends/family was endearing. The best to you in future adventures.
    Michael

    Reply
  • Sierra Whisky : Sep 24th

    Hello Sofia
    I too have enjoyed following your journey (from the UK) thanks for taking the time.
    What next? AT? CDT? If either I look forward to following along on The Trek and best of luck with whatever you do.

    Reply

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