Q&A with DoubleTap: PCT Trail Angel / Water Report Maintainer
I thought I’d do something a little different for this blog post and do a Q & A with Matt Parker, aka DoubleTap, one of the many PCT Trail Angels. For those that don’t know, a Trail Angel is a volunteer who supports hikers on their journey, whether by providing rides to and from the trailheads, setting out water caches in dry stretches of the trail, boarding hikers overnight in their homes, and many other ways. Double Tap’s role is a little different (and incredibly important) in that he, along with Halfmile, maintains the water report, but more on that later!
First off, can you give us a little bit of background on the water report?
Halfmile (Lon Cooper) also maintains the water report. We tag team it. Halfmile actually started doing the Water Report when Bill “AsABat” Jeffrey died unexpectedly in 2012 (he was on the PCT in Oregon when they found his body inside his tent). He was found peacefully and assumed to have passed away from natural causes. More info at http://www.pcta.org/about-us/history/in-memoriam/bill-asabat-jeffrey/ . I met Halfmile in 2014 on the PCT and offered my help with it and since 2015 we have been a team on it. AsABat is really the creator & architect of the Water Report. We follow his same general format to this day (with a few added things).
Now can you tell us a little about yourself. Who is DoubleTap?
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas but have lived in New Jersey, New York City (Manhattan), and San Jose, before settling down in Santa Cruz, CA for the last 10 years. I work in sales in the electronics industry which means I travel a lot for work (domestic and international) but I always come back to the Sierra as that is where I feel the most at home. I started long distance hiking in 2007 and was immediately hooked after hiking the JMT in 2007.
I understand that you completed a thru-hike of the PCT in 2014. What inspired you to set off on the trail in the first place?
I think where the idea got implanted was during the JMT in 2007. I had never heard of the PCT until my friend that I was hiking with told me we are on the PCT that goes all the way from Mexico to Canada. I could not even fathom the concept of hiking 2,600 miles but over the next few years I started to think … why not? For years I researched it waiting for the right time to attempt a thru hike. In 2012 I made my first attempt but I had to exit the trail at Mulkey Pass due to personal reasons right as I was getting into the High Sierra. For 2 years I obsessed about getting back on the trail and giving it another go so in late April 2014 I started at Campo and spent the next 5 months and 7 days hiking to Canada. It has been the most memorable experience of my life.
Now for the usual question, how did you get your trail name of DoubleTap?
Two reasons, first is that it is a reference to the movie Zombieland. Second, when I hike with my headphones listening (often listening to Pink Floyd or extremely loud and fast thrash metal) I often tap my headphones twice with my finger as they always feel like they are falling out. But they never do fall out. Still trying to figure that one out.
Now getting back to the water report, what exactly is it and what is it used for?
The water report is used to update hikers on the condition of water sources on the trail. The updates come directly from hikers on the trail via email, text, or phone. This is extremely helpful in the SoCal “High Desert” section where 20+ mile long waterless are common (the longest being 42 miles). However, due to the very high snow winter this year Halfmile and I decided to add a Snow/Ford Report section to the Water Report which will update hikers on conditions of the High Sierra Passes and also stream/creek/river crossings as fords this year are going to be challenging for hikers due to the high levels of snow.
How did you come to be responsible for maintaining of the water report?
See above. I met Halfmile and his girlfriend (Deb aka “Staying Afloat”) at Bird Spring Pass in California Section F in 2014. Halfmile also thru-hiked that year and we would leapfrog each other on trail all the way to Canada. We stayed in touch after the hike and he took me up on my offer to help with the water report. During peak hiking season in SoCal (April-May), we got a lot of updates per day so I figured he might want an extra set of hands to help keep the report as current as possible. It’s funny now that I think about where I met him (Bird Spring Pass) as this is smack-dab right in the middle of the longest waterless stretch on the entire PCT (42 miles stretch from Landers Spring to Walker Pass in California Section F).
Personally, the majority of my hiking experience has been in the Canadian Rockies where water is plentiful. Therefor, I’m hiking with some fear of the unknown when it comes to the dry sections PCT. Do you have any advice for hikers to help manage these dry stretches of the trail and avoid dehydration?
Fear of the SoCal water situation is the most common fear (along with hiking the Sierra when there is a lot of snow like this year). It’s all about getting to know your body and how much water it needs per mile. I err on the side of caution when it comes to water as I got dehydrated once on day hike in Yosemite and I NEVER want to feel that way again. So, I usually carry a bit more than I probably need but it gives me peace of mind which to me is more important than drinking my last drop of water right when I come up to the next water source. One very important thing I learned on my 2012 PCT trip was to “camel up” at water sources. I would force down 1-2 liters of water at each source. 1 Liter was not an issue but 2 Liters was sometimes difficult. However, I would hike for hours after that without being thirsty at all. I use this technique in all of my hikes now (my latest project is section hiking the Sierra High Route which I have done almost the entire section Kings Canyon NP so far).
I understand that the water report is moving into a whole new realm this year to include information on snow levels and creek fording. Can you tell us more about this?
That is correct. I think it’s important to have a “1-Stop Shop” for hikers when it comes to information. There is SO much info out there that sometimes it is overwhelming and it can take a long time to find what you are looking for. Halfmile and I figure why not add this to the report. In 2014, I took hundreds of photos of the High Sierra Passes and would post them on the PCT 2014 Facebook pages so people could see what they had in front of them. Actually, I am surprised we didn’t think of adding this sooner to the report. It took an extra high snow year to move it up in our minds.
We know that the report is only as useful as the information submitted. How often is the report updated with information submitted by hikers?
You are VERY correct with this statement, the report is only as good as the info that is submitted to it. During peak hiking season (April-November which covers NOBOs and SOBOs), Halfmile and I update the report multiple times a day (see the Last Updated Date & Time in the upper right hand corner of the reports PDF files).
Any other advice for this year’s class of PCT hikers?
Yogi gave me the best piece of advice in 2014. She told me to mentally break up the hike into smaller sections. In 2014 I got poked fun at a lot about how I always talked in Sections but I didn’t mind. CA-Section A, OR-Section E, WA-Section K, etc.). There is a reason why they break up into sections and I look at a thru hike as very long consecutive section hike. You can’t start thinking of Canada at Mile 243, you will drive yourself crazy. Also, slow down and enjoy it. We all get tunnel vision with the “must get to Canada” attitude that hikers (and I include myself here) don’t stop to enjoy and appreciate the true beauty of the trail. It’s an amazing trail and full of such wondrous beauty. Sometimes just thinking about how much beauty is on the PCT is mind blowing. And you get to immerse yourself in it for 5 months. I also recommend to hikers to have a plan but be flexible and adapt to situations that arise. The trail throws a lot of challenges at you (and that includes things that arise back at home while on the trail) and if you are not flexible, you will snap. You have to “Bend like a reed in the wind.” If you can figure out that movie quote then you will truly know how much of a nerd I am. ; )
Looking for more information? Follow the below link to download the most recent copy of the of the water and snow/ford reports and view recordings of Double Taps’ webinars for more information on this topic: https://pctwater.com/
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