One of the most common questions any PCT Thru-Hiker hears is “Why?”.  Hiking the whole 2,650 mile trail again after making it 80% of the way only to be stopped by fires last year, certainly doesn’t assuage those concerns for most people. It’s difficult to explain to those who have never experienced this sort of trip, but there is a quote I like from an Old Greek Dude that explains part of it very well and we all know OGD’s know what they are talking about:

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
-Heraclitus (Old Greek Dude, Pre-Socrates)

This year was almost startlingly different from multiple perspectives.  We knew the route, the resupply options, many of the hardships and common pitfalls on the PCT.  Oddly enough, one of the strangest aspects was the fact that now that we knew these things, almost no one else did around us, making the social situation far different as well.  You simply weren’t on the same page as 90% of others out there, but at the same time, you viscerally understood exactly what they were going through. Not only did this greatly simplify the experience on some levels, it also opened up the enjoyment.  Gone were the overriding logistical concerns or constant physical issues.  We have prepared on both fronts and were ready to roll. However, there are many other differences beyond your preparation and mental state.  More precipitation this year meant more water and far more greenery. Time of day and weather conditions can take the same landscape and drastically transform it.  Trials and hardships, seemingly random, will pop up indiscriminately and always change your experience. From the jump we knew this year would be altogether unique experience, even if the physical path was the same.

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Despite our experience, still working on our Monument picture posing skills at the start.

Despite the training, we knew we needed to pace ourselves to prevent early injury.  At the back of our minds, we also knew that rushing would simply get us to The Sierra faster, where much larger amounts of snow awaited us than last year, so we took it easy and set 25 miles as a standard goal every day to start.

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T-Rex and her Senior Photo at Lake Morena after finishing the first 20 miles by 11:45AM.

After meeting some friends and helping do some gear shakedowns for newcomers at the Mount Laguna Outfitter 45 miles in (as well as replacing our packs and shoes), we met a great friend, with whom we would hike the next 700 miles from Scissor’s Crossing…..a man who would come to be known as The Prodigy.

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The Prodigy lamenting his lack of climbing gear while gazing at Taquitz Peak above Idyllwild.

We completed a 33 mile hike up to the top of San Jacinto and down to the desert floor below only a week in and were feeling pretty good about ourselves.  Early rain and adjustments were behind us and it was all really just about enjoying ourselves and preparing for the difficulties ahead. While others wondered what they would do as their feet blew up two shoe sizes, their straps chafed and legs ached, we generally felt like we were on cruise control….this is an exaggeration after the fact without a doubt, but comparatively to the previous year, it’s hard to overstate.

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Trees are fairly lonely near Agua Dulce/Vasquez rocks.

After missing 50 miles due to fire closure before Big Bear and having to bus around (another huge thanks to Ziggy & The Bear as well as Devilfish for organizing rides to the bus) we kept it steady for the next 200 miles. 450 miles in we were able to visit The Saufley’s @ Hiker Heaven (closed last year) and spend a couple days relaxing/biding our time to not get north too fast.  Huge thanks to them and The Anderson’s @ Casa De Luna for their generosity to all the hiker’s, perfect spot in the desert to rest before the difficult stretch to come.

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Additional town time allowed us to observe more of the local Wildlife.

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Walking on top of the LA Aqueduct. If you ever want to read a depressing, but classic tale of natural resource theft for the sake of development…check out the history of Owen’s Valley.

After spending an additional couple days with our good friend Dan in Tehachapi, CA and celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary (I typed maybe the greatest anniversary blog post to honor my awesome wife that has ever been written, only to watch my phone delete it.  Trust me, it was respectful, but tear-jerking – Insightful, funny and thoughtful, but will never be viewed again…) we trekked on through arguably the most difficult stretch of The Desert – Tehachapi to Walker Pass, miles 558-651.  Multiple 20+ mile dry stretches, significant exposure to the sun and heat and deep sand make this a favorite for masochists everywhere.  However, once again, perspective is an amazing thing.  Temps were cooler this year, clouds occasionally present and trail angel’s had left significant water caches cutting down on the water carries.  Overall, it was far more pleasant than in 2015.

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The Prodigy and his lunch vs. The Snake

After crossing Walker Pass, we actually had a harder time as temps rose to 100 and we rushed to get to Kennedy Meadows, mile 700 and the true start of the Sierra.  Upon arrival we felt good about ourselves, ready for the mountains and snow ahead of us and lucky things had worked out so well, so far.  The day after we arrived at Kennedy Meadows, those right behind us had significantly less luck than our team:

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This fire started .25 mile from the trail. We would watch The Forest Service fire trucks and planes work tirelessly to put it out, but many hikers were stranded on trail or nearby, including friends of ours. Luckily it was out within a few days and normal hiking resumed with no one hurt.

 

It felt great coming this far and dodging this bullet, but still felt like unfinished business. Like we had trained/prepared and this was how it was supposed to go. I felt as if I knew the logistical struggles we would face.  I knew we could physically handle, if not manhandle what was before us.  I knew the snow would be dealt with and many adventures had, but our confidence levels were perhaps approaching cart before the horse proportions and nature has a way of bringing those things back into alignment.  That said, two years in a row we had hiked 700 miles to Kennedy Meadows and there was no forgetting that….it felt accomplished and it felt free.

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We’re coming for you, John Muir.

Desert Stats

  • Average Daily Mileage (Counting Zeroes)
    • 23.4
  • Average Daily Mileage (Hiking Days Only)
    • 30.5
  • Number of Zeroes
    • 7
  • Total Days
    • 30
  • Resupply Stops
    • 8
      • Mt. Laguna, Warner Springs, Idyllwild, Big Bear, Wrightwood, Agua Dulce, Tehachapi, Kennedy Meadows
  • Major Injuries
    • 0
  • Days With Significant Preciptation
    • 5
  • Hiking Partners
    • 1
      • The Prodigy