Looking Back: struck down by sickness (pt. 1)

I was walking along thinking about how close we were to finishing the Pacific Crest Trail (we were at mile 2330 at the time). I reflected on my transformation into a long distance hiker, how little I needed to get by, how strong I felt, how hungry I was. Through it all my body was still doing all the crazy things I was asking of it. Then I got a little stomach ache.

Pedi, Frizzle, Smokes, Butters and myself had hiked to Urich Cabin - we had hoped for trail magic and we weren't disappointed. The cabin was occupied, but there were coolers of soda and snacks and beer! And the cabin had privies (that's right, more than one!). I knew something was wrong when the idea of a beer made me cringe. My stomach was starting to hurt and I had a Gatorade (you know, to be safe). That's right, folks. I turned down a free beer in the middle of the wilderness - a clear sign something was terribly amiss.  As we sat at the cabin clouds rolled in. It seemed like it was going to rain so we decided to hike on to a campsite for the evening - I just hoped I would make it without blowing chunks.

Side note, the Urich cabin would be an awesome place to stay, not far from road access, fireplace, privy, and plenty of room for friends to hole up from bad weather. 

Anyway, onwards we walked. As we hiked out from the cabin I was wearing rain pants, rain jacket and my regular hiking clothes and was still having trouble staying warm. It had begun raining and it was definitely getting chilly - the others were starting to put on jackets. As my gear got wet I got colder. 5 miles I told myself, no big deal. Frizzle stopped and hiked with me for a minute. Then I told her to keep going and I'd catch up at water, I was having a hard time not puking while I walked. 

Finally, we made it to a spring. I was done. I felt exhausted. I still had made it 26 miles for the day and it was only 5:30pm. I was wet and cold. I barely said anything to the group and they decided they would hike on to get closer to Snoqualmie. I stayed not far from the spring and put my tent up and jammed myself in. Somehow I got the damp clothes off and into a sleeping bag and passed out in a feverish sleep until 11 pm. I woke up and the fever had broken - but I had a crazy dream where Pedi and Frizzle and the gang brought me pizza in the night. This normally would have been a great dream except that even in the dream I had a terrible stomach ache. Before I could get to sleep again after a generous late night dinner of four single teddy Graham's I had to literally run out of my tent shedding my clothes in the process and evacuate all the things I had eaten or drank that day. Let's just say I was still not feeling well. I passed out again and kind of slept until morning.

This was just the beginning of a saga of sickness. The next day I felt off, but much better. I even ate an entire puch of Poptarts without feeling sick. Frizzle had left a bunch of Imodium with me before the gang took hiked on - she probably knew if I wanted to hike to the next town or keep up with them I would need the medicine. I just needed something to keep my body from becoming some kind of uncontrollable fountain... you get the point. I popped a few in the morning and hoofed it. 

I hiked 30 miles that day. I stopped a lot to go to the bathroom, sometimes running off-trail or diving for bushes to hide myself. I was definitely not 100%, but I hoped I would be fine if I kept taking in liquids and eating properly (and taking Imodium). By the evening I caught Butters and Smokes and all three of us caught Trail Dancer at a campsite. We shared the site and talked about life and the world and about how much I hoped I wouldn't be shitting everywhere all the next day - we would make it to Snoqualmie Pass in Washington and I was desperately craving a burger and beer and as many other forms of calories as possible. Frizzle and Pedi were just a mile or two ahead and everyone was glad to see me and that I hadn't perished the night before. I was in good spirits and was hoping everything would be okay.

Little did I know what trials both Pedi and myself had in store. Stay tuned for disaster.

Sincerely,

Dan (aka Soapbox)

As a post script I'd like to include some cool pictures from two days BEFORE I got sick. The trail is like life in society, good days and bad. Incredible views and great hiking, trials and hard times. I didn't take many pictures while I was sick nor did I write or draw (i was lucky to be able to eat a few Triscuits.

Nature takes it's toll on an old PCT sign. Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Nature takes it's toll on an old PCT sign. Mt. Rainier in the distance.

the gang hiking down from the Knife's Edge

the gang hiking down from the Knife's Edge

 

PCT selfie

PCT selfie

 

naaaaaature. It's a good thing. Rainier is impressive.

naaaaaature. It's a good thing. Rainier is impressive.

Mt. Adams in the back. Butttttttters on the way up! YOTOOOOoOooooooh

Mt. Adams in the back. Butttttttters on the way up! YOTOOOOoOooooooh

The Knife's Edge is the trail running from the foreground along the right of the photo. Rainier in the topleft.

The Knife's Edge is the trail running from the foreground along the right of the photo. Rainier in the topleft.

Good dudes. Butters on the right, Smokes on the left.

Good dudes. Butters on the right, Smokes on the left.

 


I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Navigation and Water

I guess you could also call this post "PCT gear review."

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 

Navigation

Yogi's Guide

As someone who had never really hiked before, it's a nice primer for the PCT and lightweight hiking. The 'book' section of the guide helps you figure out if this trail is really for you. The 'trail guide' section is a nice supplement to Halfmile while you're actually hiking. It's by no means necessary, but I don't regret buying it. Remember to hike your own hike (HYOH) and not simply follow Yogi though.

Halfmile maps

I personally didn't use Halfmile maps, but they are great if you are a visual person who likes to see topo maps. The elevation profiles at the end of each section are the best. They're free to download, but you still have to print them.

Halfmile app

Indispensable. This was the No. 1 way for me to get trail data. You get distances and up/down to pretty much anything on trail, especially towns and water. It doesn't do everything, but the features it does have work very well. Free. Available for iPhone and Android.

Guthook app

At $6 per section ($30 total), I found the Guthook apps a useful and worthwhile companion to Halfmile's app. I did most of my navigation via iPhone, and Guthook was helpful as a map and for finding campsite locations. Available for iPhone and Android.

 

Water storage

Smart Water bottle and wide mouthed Gatorade bottle.

Smart Water bottles are great because they use space well on the side pockets of your pack since they are tall and slender. They are less fussy to get in and out while you're walking too. Having one wide-mouthed bottle was handy for putting in drink mixes like Crystal Light or Nuun tablets. Each of these are lighter than your heavy duty bottles like a Nalgene. You will get laughed at if you carry a Nalgene. They're so heavy.

Platypus / SoftBottle 1L (1.4 oz)

During the desert you may need to carry five liters of water at any given time. During certain sections, you may even need to cary six (coming out of Tehachapi, Hat Creek Rim and leaving Crater Lake). It's nice to have an extra liter or two of storage that is compressible when you're not using it. This is a great choice and pretty much everybody uses them.

Water purification

AquaMira

You mix seven drops from two different bottles, wait five minutes, put it in your water and then wait another 20 minutes. I loved these for the desert where we would get three to five liters at a time, but found them a bit more tedious for the rest of the trail where you only need to get between one and three liters at a time. I didn't notice much of a taste either.

Sawyer / Squeeze (3oz)

The plus side of the Sawyer is that it fits on a SmartWater bottle. You can fill up your bottle and drink straight from the bottle with the Sawyer on it, if that's your thing. Also, it filters out debris that you might have picked up your water. Otherwise, I found the Sawyer to be slow and inconvenient. I didn't use it much and we ended up sending it home. 

Bleach

Regular, unscented bleach. Two drops per liter. Wait half an hour and you're good to go. I switched to bleach somewhere in NorCal and never regretted it. Just don't add too many drops or it'll taste terrible and can destroy your stomach lining.

 

Cheers,

Jonathan

I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Clothing

PCT gear review part 2: CLOTHING

There are always more things you could bring on trail, but this should help you find best options to limit the number of items in your pack.

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 

 

Shirt REI / SaharaTechShirt

This shirt made the hike as awesome as it was. I bought it the day before we left and it's the best purchase possible. Breast pockets, a collar to look less trashy in town, durable fabric and sleeves that roll and button up make this shirt the ideal hiking top. The brand and model don't matter. You can find those features in a shirt from any brand, but dammit get a hiking shirt. 

Bottoms

I can't begin to care. If you must know, I did the desert in 3/4 capris, the Sierra through Oregon in running shorts and eventually ditched those to only wear compression shorts on bottom. 

Compression shorts - Under Armour

Yup. 

Underwear - Ex Officio / Give-n-go boxer brief

BEST. UNDERWEAR. EVER. I wore them the whole trail and they still look brand new. Hell, I even shit my pants once on trail and I'd wear the same pair for another thru-hike.

Sleep shirt - Under Armour / Cold Gear compression shirt

Nice and warm. Long sleeve sleep clothes are also good for keeping your disgusting skin from touching your sleeping bag. This helps keep your bag cleaner for longer. Mine might have been a bit heavy.

Also consider: Icebreaker long underwear. Like SmartWool's merino wool products, they are not cheap, but they are incredibly light and super comfy.

Sleep pants - SmartWool / Microweight long underwear

Merino wool is kind of expensive, but it's great quality. Lightweight, warm and very comfortable. Most any tights will do I guess.

Socks

Injinjis, Darn Toughs, Wigwams, Stoics and Balegas all worked well for me. Darn Toughs and Stoics were the best. I like the lighter weight running socks as opposed to the thicker, taller hiking socks.

Smartwool can suck it. Instant holes. 

Shoes

They can't make your hike, but they can break it. My feet swelled a size and a half almost instantly. I like my shoes light and with a wide toe box. Don't wear boots. Trail runners are the way to go. 

La Sportiva / Wildcat

Way too narrow for my feet and those of most hikers.

Brooks / Cascadia

The most popular shoe on trails. Solid shoe. Decently wide and wears well. A great go-to. Highly recommended.

Altra / Lone Peak 2.0

Wide toe box and great fit for my foot. Another bonus: they have Velcro for gaiters built in, in case gaiters are your thing. They are for me. Note: these shoes are zero drop and can require a little getting used to. Perhaps not as well suited for the Sierra Nevada or Washington sections. They wore out way faster over rough mountain terrain.

Gaiters - Dirty Girl

I really loved having gaiters. What kind you have doesn't matter, but the variety of designs Dirty Girl offers is cool. Not everyone likes them, but I found them great for keeping large amounts of sand and rocks out of my shoe. Yes, you're feet will still get filthy, and sand will still get in your shoes, though it won't be as bad as it would be otherwise. 

Outdoor Research Gaiters

Pretty much the same as dirty girls, but plain looking.

Jacket Mountain Hardwear / Ghost Whisperer (7oz)

This is hands down my favorite piece of gear. It's so light, so comfy and so warm. Not cheap, but I love it. As always, respect down and keep it dry.

Rain Jacket - Outdor Research / Proverb (13oz)

A solid rain jacket that was neither too expensive nor heavy. Not exactly the most breathable, but what good rain jacket is? There are lighter option out there, but I can't speak for how water resistant they are.

Also consider: Outdoor Research / Helium 2. It's lighter than mine.

Rain pants - Mountain Hardwear / Alkane Pant (9oz)

Great pants. Only really needed them for the Sierra and Washington, but boy were they great in Washington. The zipper up the side makes them easy to get on and off even with shoes on, they're very water resistant and surprisingly breathable for rain pants. 

Warm hat Outdoor Research / WinterTrek Fleece Hat

It was a nice, warm hat. Plus it had a wind-stopper in it.

Gloves Seirus / Soundtouch hyperlite

Only really used them in the Sierra, but they work just fine. For the rest of the trail I used a pair of Injinji socks that I cut up into hobo gloves. Very hiker trashy, but they worked. I thought the ability to use my phone was going to be nice, which is why I got these gloves. Were I to do it again, I'd get some lightweight liner gloves that are easier to get on/off.

Sunglasses

Yup. Preferably polarized. You WILL lose or break at least one pair on the trail. 

 

Cheers,

Jonathan

I walked really far with a bunch of stuff and this is what I think about that stuff: Pt. 1

I guess you could also call this post "PCT gear review."

Note: UL means ultralight. There is a trend among backpackers to carry gear as light as possible. 

Note II: Always look for gear at a discount. Steep and Cheap is my favorite, but you get almost any piece of gear for a discount. Just because someone has a pack full of nice new gear doesn't mean they shelled out for it.

Note III: There is almost never an end all, be all for any single piece of gear. See what fits for your style and budget. These are simply my observations and opinions. 

Pack Granite Gear / VC Crown 60 (2lb 2oz)

Your pack needs to do two things. It should hold your stuff and ride comfortably. That's about it. That's exactly what the Crown 60 does, and it does it well. It does not have tons of bells and whistles, but it doesn't need to. It's comfy, light and reliable. One of my favorite pieces of gear. If it has a shortcoming, it's the lack of hip-belt pockets, but you can buy them and add them if you like. A very popular pack this year.

Also consider: ULA / Circuit (2lb 6oz), the most popular pack on trail. If you're really UL try out a Gossamer Gear or Z-packs pack.

Sleeping bag North Face / Blue Kazoo (2lb 6oz)

My sleeping bag is slightly heavier than average, but not by too much. It kept me warm almost every night but the most bitter cold and did so at a cost that was impossible to pass up. Not the fanciest piece of gear I own, but certainly one of the best values. 

Also consider: Mountain Hardwear / Phantom (2lb)or Western Mountaineering. Expensive, but incredible bags.

Sleeping pad - Thermarest / Prolite 4 (1lb 8oz)

My pad is an inflatable one, so you have to blow it up. Not a big deal, since it is one of the more comfortable options out there. It doesn't pack down as small as other pads, nor is it as light as most others, but it performs well and was cheap.

Also consider: Thermarest / Neo Air , the Cadillac of sleeping pads. Expensive, but the most comfortable and definitely UL. Requires lots of blowing up. Were I to do the trail again, I'd get this in a 3/4 length and use my pack for under my feet. (8oz for the shorty)

Also: Thermarest / Z-lite. Very popular, UL, durable and inexpensive. Doubles as a sit pad. Not exactly the cushiest pad though. (10oz for the shorty)

Groundsheet - 2' x 7' sheet of Tyvek (4oz?)

Totally necessary. I bought mine for $5, it weighs next to nothing, adds mild insulation and protects both your tent and sleeping pad from punctures and abrasions. 

Tent Easton / Kilo 1p (1lb 14oz)

I loved my tent. It's light, reliable, kept me warm and dry, has a decent size vestibule, and doesn't take too long to set up. Add the great price at which I purchased it, and it is a great buy. The big downside was that it is a monopole tent and, therefore, not freestanding, which means you have to be careful how you set it up in the wind, but that was never really a problem for me. Unfortunately nobody seems to have it in stock anymore. 

Also consider: Big Agnes / Flycreek UL 2, a very popular tent on trail and with good reason. (1lb 15oz)

Don't consider: Tarptent / Contrail. Everyone I knew who had one if these hated it. 

Headlamp - Petzl / Tikka XP 2 (3oz)

While the headlamp can be a pretty inconsequential piece of gear, I loved mine. Bright/dim, beam/diffused, white/red lights. It's got all the features and doesn't weigh much. 

Also consider: I can't be bothered to care. 

Knife/multitool Leatherman / Style CS Multitool (1.4oz)

Great little tool. Not too heavy and just the right tools, which include a knife, scissors, clip/bottle opener and a file.

Backup power

Goal Zero / Nomad 7 and Guide 10  (13oz) and (6.4oz) respectively

These worked well for the desert and Sierra, but their effectiveness dropped off rapidly by time we hit dense forest in NorCal and Oregon. Useless in Washington. Plus, they aren't exactly UL, especially not with the Guide 10 attached.

EasyAcc / 5000mAh Ultra Slim Power Bank (5oz)

At only $20 and and 5 ounces, I think this is a much better option for recharging your phone. It'll give my iPhone two charges, which should be enough for pretty much any section of the trail. It's also much smaller and less cumbersome than dealing with a solar panel.

Trekking Poles Black Diamond / Ultra Distance Z-poles (10oz)

These are among the lightest poles available on the market and worked well for me. One broke, but Black Diamond had great customer service and immediately replaced it. Poles are actually one of the few pieces of gear where weight doesn't seem to matter so much. Even having poles is up for argument. The lighter your pack, the less necessary they are. Sometimes I wouldn't use them for most of a section and find them irritating, especially over rocky terrain. Other times I found them invaluable. Mostly, I recommend looking for a pair that are affordable.

Stove JetBoil / Flash (15oz)

The JetBoil is faster than anything else out there, but it's really only effective for boiling water. If you try to cook pasta and stuff in it you're going to burn stuff to the bottom, which is a major pain in the butt to clean. It's also slightly heavier than other options. If you cook a lot of Mountain House, Ramen or instant potatoes, though, it's awesome.

Also consider: MSR / Pocket Rocket with an Evernew / Titanium pot

Nothing is going to be perfect, but this setup allows for actual cooking if you have things like Knorr sides or Mac'n'cheese. Not as fast as a JetBoil, but it's a little more versatile and lighter. Remember, variety is key when it comes to eating on the PCT.

Stuff sacks

A small one for odds and ends like toothbrush, permits and Ibuprofen. Also for sleep clothes. You could honestly just use a gallon ziplock bag though. Why didn't I think of that while I was still on trail

 

Cheers,

Jonathan

Scenes of Washington

Washington, the final state on the PCT, was a doozy. After the easy cruising we did through Oregon, Washington was not about to let us reach the finish without working for it. And work for it we did. Despite the struggles, Washington presented us with truly mind-boggling scenery. Goat Rocks was probably the most magnificent section followed very closely by the north Cascades. Really though, most of the state was quite impressive.

Unfortunately, this post will give you a slightly smaller glimpse of the state than I would have liked. About a week's worth of time spent in the Evergreen State was spent in thick clouds and rain. By Washington my camera proved less than capable of performing in the rain and was relegated to staying dry(ish) in my pack for large chunks of the trail. Also, at least 1/3 of the trail through Washington was forested. Rather than give you a gallery of tree photos, I figured I would spare you the monotony, give you one solid forest photo and then move on to the grand scenes. 

Mile 2173

Mile 2173

Mile 2272. Mt. Adams

Mile 2272. Mt. Adams

Mile 2279. The beginning of Goat Rocks.

Mile 2279. The beginning of Goat Rocks.

Mile 2281. Goat Rocks

Mile 2281. Goat Rocks

Mile 2285. Knife's Edge with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Mile 2285. Knife's Edge with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Mile 2297. Mt. Rainier

Mile 2297. Mt. Rainier

Mile 2326

Mile 2326

Mile 2606

Mile 2606

Mile 2393

Mile 2393

Mile 2409. Kendall Katwalk

Mile 2409. Kendall Katwalk

Mile 2410

Mile 2410

Mile 2413

Mile 2413

Mile 2582. We took a slightly alternate route. 

Mile 2582. We took a slightly alternate route. 

Mile 2636

Mile 2636

Mile 2605

Mile 2605

Mile 2580. Lake Chelan

Mile 2580. Lake Chelan

Mile 2650. Technically this is a scene of Washington and Canada.

Mile 2650. Technically this is a scene of Washington and Canada.

Cheers,

Jonathan

The passes - Glen

 

Just a quick reminder - the passes were from the High Sierras, which we finished hiking in mid - summer.

We had just resupplied and camped on the trail past Kearsarge Pass, as our path began to climb to the next pass. We woke, ate and got a move on before 7 am. The ascent to Glen Pass was a moderate hike by High Sierra standards - steady climb, we had kept elevation by camping at higher altitude couple thousand feet and some icy steps and we'd be at the top. 

 We made the pass by late morning and ate second breakfast - oatmeal and granola (mmm). Happy Pants - whose pants were a bright, colorful print from Senegal - joined us. We watched as he descended ahead of us - he selected a route with a long glissade. It looked fun so we followed. 

Happy Pants made the glisade look easy. It was not. I slid down a long stretch and Pedi followed, landing hard and bruising his rump. Quinoas pack spewed water bottles as he descended, not gracefully (we recovered them). Half and Half made it look easy and have us his typical shrug followed by, "No problem." It felt like he was smiling at our difficulty.

The rest of the descent was harder - I split from the group by taking a different route through the melting snow pack. We had all lost the trail as we searched for a simple route down.  I had walked on what looked like great snow pack only to fall through into running water (yippee!) - what would become known as the double posthole. 

Finally I found the trail and everyone else caught up. It was nearly lunch time and we were at the edge of a majestic mountain lake. Soaked and tired, we ate. These passes were proving to be more difficult than we thought and we learned timing really was crucial to getting down quickly and safely.

The conflict was going to be balancing time with covering miles so we didn't run out of food in the future. Such was the reality of hiking in the High Sierras. 

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Cheers,

Dan

Visual update pt. 3

2500 miles down, 163 left to go. SO CLOSE. 

With less than 200 miles left until we reach the Canadian border, I can almost taste the finish. We have wandered so far in this journey, but never wavered. It's crazy to think that in two weeks I'll be back in the Midwest. The trail has become normal life at this point. The finish doesn't simply mean the end of this trail, though. It also means parting ways with some incredible friends and a way of life I have enjoyed to the fullest. I don't think I ever could have guessed how much of an impression this experience would have on me. 

I could ramble forever about what 2500 miles means. Instead, I'll leave you with a few photos of some beautiful hiker trash and the knowledge that we'll be done within a week. 

Butters

Butters

Ms. Frizzle

Ms. Frizzle

Soap Box

Soap Box

Pedi

Pedi

Cheers,

Jonathan

New states, new crews

Dan (Soap Box) and I have not only made it to the final state of our journey, we now find ourselves in a new crew. Smokes, Schmitty and Quinoa have all ebbed and flowed in and out, but Ms. Frizzle and Butters seem to be permanent members at this point. They're fantastic people and I couldn't be happier to have them around.

Our first crew lasted for a solid 900 miles, and it wasn't until afterward that I even realized what an anomaly that was. Most hikers start the trail solo and, while they often hike with others, most don't crew up for such long stretches. Usually people's schedules or hiking speeds are too different. Or somebody gets sick or injured. Regardless, I'm thankful to have made such great friends as I have on this adventure.  

Now then, let's get back to finishing up Washington.  

Soap Box, Butters and Ms. Frizzle. Oh yeah, and Mt. Adams. 

Soap Box, Butters and Ms. Frizzle. Oh yeah, and Mt. Adams. 

Soap Box and Frizzle deftly speed down a hill as we head for town. 

Soap Box and Frizzle deftly speed down a hill as we head for town. 

Ms. Frizzle and the most giant cairn ever. 

Ms. Frizzle and the most giant cairn ever. 

Beautiful hiker trash. 

Beautiful hiker trash. 

Slightly less beardy, but equally as beautiful hiker trash. 

Slightly less beardy, but equally as beautiful hiker trash. 

NINJA RUNNING!

NINJA RUNNING!

True hiker trash. Butters brushing his teeth while hiking. 

True hiker trash. Butters brushing his teeth while hiking. 

Haha, hiker crossing. Somebody added the poles and pack with tape. Oh, and the sign has hella bullet holes in it. 

Haha, hiker crossing. Somebody added the poles and pack with tape. Oh, and the sign has hella bullet holes in it. 

Butters and Frizzle stomping and clomping through a Washington meadow in the morning. 

Butters and Frizzle stomping and clomping through a Washington meadow in the morning. 

Sexy butters in morning light. 

Sexy butters in morning light. 

A troll, er, Frizzle under a bridge.  

A troll, er, Frizzle under a bridge.  

Cheers,

Jonathan

This thing we're doing

On this particular day, Dan and I happened to be hiking alone, finding ourselves - however briefly - without a crew. We came upon a saddle with one helluva view. As will sometimes happen on the PCT, we felt morally compelled to stop and observe the scene in front of us. It was too magnificent to pass up. 

As Dan and I sat on that saddle observing the wondrous nature that lay before us, I felt a great sense of calm and contentment come over me. 

"I'm not exactly sure what this thing is that we're doing, and I'm definitely not sure what will come next in life," I said, turning to Dan. "What I am sure of, though, is that this, this thing we're doing is the right thing to be doing."

He smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. 

"Yeah man, yeah," Dan responded, giving a bit of a chuckle.

Nowadays, I feel that same sense of calm and happiness pretty often. Whenever I do I turn to Dan with a big stupid grin on my face and say, "Man, this thing we're doing."

Hiking the PCT has been and will continue to be one of the greatest adventures of which I could possibly conceive. I am constantly in awe of how fun it has been to incorporate so many things I love into my everyday life for the last four months.

-Jonathan

Scenes of and thoughts on Oregon

Wow, just wow. Oregon blew me away. Getting through California was such a feat that I felt really fresh as we got going in Oregon. I have heard it referred to as Boregon in reference to a hiker's experience as one travels the PCT. Sure, we all have our own experiences, but for me Oregon was superb, maybe even my favorite section to date. 

There were certainly a considerable number of dense forests, but I never minded these. They helped shade you from the sun. The weather was impeccable anyways, save for one day of storms, and that was actually pretty fun. Sometimes when I would think about this blog post I would laugh because there are no scenes of Oregon. Only forests. I jest, but we really did spend a lot of time walking in the woods. The times we weren't in the woods we found ourselves in quite diverse landscapes. From Crater Lake to lava rock fields to the Sisters Wilderness, Oregon truly has much to offer. 

Even beyond the actual wilderness, the Beaver State's culture sets it apart. While the whole west coast is seen as liberal, Oregon and California do not seem to be the same type of liberal. For starters, there are tons more hippies here. More than any of that though, California seems to talk a good talk, but Oregon really lives it. California likes to seem environmentally friendly, but Oregon truly is. There's no front to it. I have seen solar panels everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Environmental consciousness in Oregon feels natural and engrained into everyday life more than any other place I've experienced in the States. I understand that I have limited experiences in both states and I am no expert. Equally, I'm not trying to trash California nor make Oregon out to be the Holy Land, but Oregon was magical.

But I digress; on to the landscape photos.

Thunderstorm at sunset. 

Thunderstorm at sunset. 

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Crater Lake

Crater Lake

More Crater Lake

More Crater Lake

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South Sister

South Sister

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Jeff Creek

Jeff Creek

Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood

Mt. Jefferson from the North

Mt. Jefferson from the North

Oregon fog

Oregon fog

Tunnel Falls

Tunnel Falls

Burn section over a ridge. 

Burn section over a ridge. 

Mt. Jefferson

Mt. Jefferson

Cheers,

Jonathan

The first one didn't count

I guess one double-marathon simply was not enough.

Fence and I had been waiting around for two days. We mostly slept and ate. That is, until we realized how much food we were plowing through.

Fence lounging while we wait for Dan. 

Fence lounging while we wait for Dan. 

Then, finally, Dan showed up with Cheese, Baggins and Choop in tow. I had only hiked 37 miles in three days, which made me itch to do something stupid, something big. Now that I knew Dan was safe and caught up, I somehow had the desire to go and just keep going. We were at mile 1453.

Sunset with the bros before heading off into the night. 

Sunset with the bros before heading off into the night. 

I left camp at 7 p.m. and walked all through the night, which can be a tricky thing when there is no moon and you are in dense forest. Still, I found a rhythm and was able to get by without kicking too many rocks and roots. By 4 A.M. I had reached McCloud River, mile 1476. After putting my pack down I cleaned my feet off, ate a snack and got a bit of rest. By rest I mean I leaned against my pack in the dirt at the end of the bridge for an hour.

Having rested a single hour, I got back up and kept hiking, but this time in a state of delirium. I met a new hiker, Free Refill, shortly after getting back on my feet. What a cool guy. He's a middle aged German engineer with one helluva sense of humor. This fact, however, I would not learn until a bit later. Free Refill was just warming up for the morning, and I needed to get my blood flowing so I didn't pass out on the trail. I pressed on at an unusually quick pace for that time of the morning.

Completely random note I saw that afternoon.

Completely random note I saw that afternoon.

At certain points I could feel the proverbial wheels start to come off, but I hung in there. With enough caffeine, food, Ibuprofen and water you can do just about anything. Willpower doesn't hurt either. The miles kept rolling by. I saw a few other hiker friends, but mostly I kept my pace steady and powered on. The goal was Interstate-5 where I could hitch into town. By 2 P.M. or so I had reached mile 1500. WOOHOO! I still like the feeling of passing each hundred mile mark written in stones in the dirt.

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By 4 P.M. I had finally reached my mark, mile 1507. After 21 hours my 54 miles were complete. 54 miles! That included 12,000 feet of climbing and and 18,000 feet of down. I felt accomplished. Also, I felt wrecked. My body had nothing left. Trail magic always makes everything better though.  A couple and their daughter showed up with fresh watermelon, giant muffins and freshly baked cookies that were still warm. It felt like a pretty good reward for my day's trek.

About an hour and a half later Free Refill showed up. I had not yet moved from the spot where I stopped walking. He asked about my day and so I told him of my my distance record.

"Yeah, but you didn't do it in one day," he said.

"Maybe not in one calendar day, but I did it in 24 hours," I retorted.

"So, it still wasn't in one day."

God dammit.

This day was not Free Refill-approved.

----

Two weeks later, having passed Ashland, OR (and all of its magic), I was hiking with Ms. Frizzle, a bad-ass with an equally insatiable desire for doing stupid stuff as I do. Now that we were in the flattest section of the trail, we felt like we could do anything. Having told the tale of my first 50+ day, Ms. Frizzle wanted get on the bandwagon. Let's be real here, it's not like I was ever going to turn down another opportunity to do a crazy big day with another cool hiker.

And so on the 107th day of our journey on this Pacific Crest Trail, Frizzle and I awoke at 4:30 to embark on a double marathon. Mostly, the day went off without much incident. Frizzle likes to hike hard, which means that if you manage to hike in step with her the miles start to fly by. By mid-afternoon we hit some pretty crazy lava fields, but the actual trail through said lava rock was like a magic carpet, smooth as can be.

Frizzle and lava rock fields. 

Frizzle and lava rock fields. 

Sometime between 4 and 5 P.M. we heard cars. A road! We were 32 miles deep and while I didn't feel bad, it had already been a sizable day.
"Pray for magic, pray for magic, pray for magic," I muttered to Frizzle.

Awaiting us at the other side of the road were a couple of tail angels doling out tons of food to a group of hiker trash. There were grilled cheese sandwiches, beers, orange juice, coffee, ibuprofen, fruit snacks and more. I can scarcely think of anything that would have made that moment better than the grilled cheese sandwich brought to me upon reaching the other side of that highway. Oh, did I mention chairs? It turns out that chairs are, in fact, a pretty sweet invention.

Glorious trail magic

Glorious trail magic

We spent 45 minutes hanging with our fellow hiker trash and the generous angels who were passing out magic galore before Frizzle and I nodded to one another that we needed to get back out on the trail.  We still had 20 miles to go, after all.

Things really started getting rough as the sun went down. The batteries in my headlamp had worn down to the point of making the light barely useful. My body was already fairly depleted of all resources and the almost-constant tripping did not help the situation. I doubled-up on lights, adding my iPhone's LED as a secondary. We pushed on into the night. And pushed. And pushed.

The last few of those 52.4 miles felt eerily similar to the last few of the first time I ran 26.2 miles. Everything hurt. The voice in my head kept saying "Please, just let this be over with." I conjured what willpower I had and forced myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other until, at 11:10 P.M. Frizzle and I had reached our double-marathon mark.

A few days later Frizzle and I met back up with Free Refill and told him our tale.

"This time I did it in one day," I exclaimed.

"OK, now you can tell people it was approved by a German engineer."

Frizzle waking up the next morning to an early sun. 

Frizzle waking up the next morning to an early sun. 

Cheers, 

Jonathan

What fuels a hiker

We eat a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Like 5000 calories per day, a lot. This means as much of as many different kinds of food as possible. 

For dinner, though, we usually eat hiker slop. It was great in the beginning. Now I can hardly stand the stuff. 

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Hiker slop

1 package Idahoans (doesn't matter what flavor)

1 or 2 packages ramen (doesn't matter what flavor)

Big handful of cheese (generally shredded)

A few tablespoons of olive oil

Packet of tuna

Mix it all in a gallon ziplock bag, add three cups boiling and chow down. 

Hooray for calories!

Cheers, 

Jonathan

The Magic of Ashland

This is the kind of post that might start with something cliché like "Sometimes you find the adventure and sometimes the adventure finds you." Or maybe even "This is why you don't make plans."

The last day of California Jonathan gently convinced Dan to hike a 52 mile challenge into Ashland. While it might have been best to get up and going by 3:30am we got out of "camp" about two hours later than that. We were not exactly fresh - we literally slept on the trail, and we only slept there for about six hours after a night hike which included a 5000ft climb out of Seiad Valley. 

Once we got going we put big miles behind us. We still weren't making outstanding time, but it could be done. After a quick lunch at the Oregon border we trudged back out into what had become a sweltering hot day. By 8:30 p.m. we had hit the 40 mile mark. Jonathan wandered up a ridge to see the sunset. It looked as glorious as ever with {blah blah flowery language about pretty colors}. As Dan followed we heard some voices and saw a fire. "Do you guys want a beer?" they said to us. Of course we do! They were amazing people. There were six of them, a little boy and a dog. They gave us beer and smoked salmon. Dat smoked salmon doe.  On top of being generous, they were extraordinarily cool people to hang out with for an evening. At first we felt bad, since it was sort of a going away gathering for one of the guys, but they insisted that they had all secretly been wanting to magic stuff to PCT hikers but hadn't gotten a chance. Now they had one. At 10pm we were talking about hiking out and sleeping by the highway. A few hours past, and by midnight we knew we weren't hiking any farther. These gregarious people from Ashland truly gave us the best welcome into Oregon that we could have asked for. 

Good company and a campfire are a great start to an evening. Especially when they're unexpected. 

Good company and a campfire are a great start to an evening. Especially when they're unexpected. 

Things were off to a good start. We finished out the last 12 miles early the next morning to make it into Callahan's Lodge. 

While crossing an outer road to I-5 a big white van pulled over to the side of the road. After honking and rolling down the window the driver yelled over to us "Beerman!" Dan turned, his eyes lit up and he shouted "I'm getting in the car with those strangers!" as he raced off to the van. Jonathan could do nothing but sit and stare confused as his hiking partner rushed off to a car of strange people. These "strangers" turned out to be a mentor of Dan's from college and Alpha Phi Omega (community service org) and his wife. The amount of chance involved for this meeting is astounding - we're talking alignment of the planets. They had planned on meeting Dan, but had to return to Ashland, Missouri. They left a note at the trailhead and were on the on-ramp to drive when our paths crossed. The couple (Paul and Charlotte) drove us into Ashland and bought us beers. After Paul and Dan spent some time catching up and marveling at the serendipity of our encounter the couple bid us farewell. They headed back toward Missouri while Dan and Jonathan ventured out into the metropolis of Ashland (pop. 20,000).

One delicious Indian buffet later, we knew that finding lodging needed to be at the top of our priority list. We were in a gear shop checking out a trail register when we came across names and numbers of some trail angels. Dan made a call, while Jonathan looked on with puzzled eyes. It seemed like the call went well, but all Dan said was that the guy was going to call us back. A few minutes later Dan received a call. It drags on a while. Somewhere along the way he looked up, smiled and gave a thumbs up. Now we had a place to stay for the night. 

For the record, this formula is not a foreign experience for us. In college we moved after two years in a piece of shit house to an apartment. That apartment would have never happened without Dan's research and effort. Jonathan put forth enough effort to say thanks that Dan found us a place to live and to sign the lease. 

It turns out that this trail angel is a former thru-hiker and angels for current hikers. He said we could stay at his place. Awesome! But wait, he's not even in town. His son may be around he said. The front door is unlocked, though, because of course it is. He asks that we keep things LNT (leave no trace) and clean up after ourselves, maybe grab some laundry detergent. Not a problem. We wouldn't dream of being anything but the most respectful guests - laundry, air conditioning, a safe place to leave the packs while we walk around town, a base camp. Seriously, when people show you the sort of kindness we have been shown you do everything you can to pay it forward and not take it for granted. 

A good nights sleep, laundry and a shower later we felt like this adventure could not get any better. 

A little friend that came to hang out on the porch as we sipped on morning coffee. 

A little friend that came to hang out on the porch as we sipped on morning coffee. 

Not only are beds pretty cool every once in a while, but being in an actual home felt comforting, even if we didn't really know this home's owner. By day three of this story Jonathan found himself lounging on the couch and writing a blog much like this very one. All of a sudden, in walks this late 20 something man that is super fit. Jonathan looks up as the young man says "Um, hi. You must be a hiker from the trail." It's said more like a question than anything. 

"And you must be  the son of (trailname of dude whose house we're in)," Jonathan said, equally as unsure of his own statement. 

"Yeah," says the young man. "I run a fitness apparel company and I'm just here to grab this bag. You guys have a great hike and enjoy Ashland."

As fast as he was in the house he was once again out of it. Not only did he seem a nice fellow, but he seemed totally unphased by walking into his father's house to find hikers and all their gear sprawled across the living room. 

At this point it is unclear if the levels of awesome and strange will continue to escalate at consistent intervals, but it seems possible. As it stands they are at an all time high. We are loving Oregon. 

Needless to say, all you trail angels out there, everything you do for hikers and to maintain the ethos of trail culture is inspiring. Your actions demonstrate a humanity and consideration I want to carry into my own life.

Keep adventuring,

Dan and Jonathan

Scenes of Northern California pt. 2

If a PCT hiker were to say that NorCal is boring, I don't think they would be entirely wrong. Conversely, if they were to say there is nothing cool about NorCal, I would say they are grossly mistaken. This section of the trail introduces far more forests than any heretofore, and they are more dense. On one hand, it means shade from the harsh summer sun. On the other hand it means fewer grand, scenic views. Despite this, the past 600 miles has afforded us some sweet views. Chief among them might be Mt. Shasta, which, even at the Oregon border, is still visible and has been since somewhere around miles 1300. It sits so tall off in the distance, dwarfing absolute everything around it for hundreds of miles. 

This has certainly been the most odd section so far. There was never really a routine, and things were always getting shaken up. Our crew was in constant flux and even Dan and I ended up separated for chunks of the section. This post, however, is about the visuals through the State of Jefferson. The personal stories are yet to come. 

Mile 1425 - Burney Falls

Mile 1425 - Burney Falls

Mile 1361

Mile 1361

Mile 1371 - night hiking on Hat Creek Rim

Mile 1371 - night hiking on Hat Creek Rim

Mile 1496 -  Mt. Shasta

Mile 1496 -  Mt. Shasta

Mile 1580

Mile 1580

Mile 1541 - Mt. Shasta from the north

Mile 1541 - Mt. Shasta from the north

Mile 1635 - Paradise Lake

Mile 1635 - Paradise Lake

Mile 1547

Mile 1547

Mile 1574

Mile 1574

Mile 1523 - Castle Crags

Mile 1523 - Castle Crags

Cheers,

Jonathan

GUEST POST - Ms. Hoge

At a certain point, the thought of turning back becomes impossible, unsavory. As you amble along on feet that don’t exactly feel as if they can hold you, across shallow streams, through deep pine forests, and fields of unknown flowers, the choice that you make each moment becomes as simple as breathing: walk on. 

A newcomer to the world of long-distance hiking, I didn’t truly understand the meaning of sore feet until I chose to join Dan (Soap Box) for a stretch of the PCT, from South Lake Tahoe to Donner Pass. Four days translated into two blackened toenails and several bulbous blisters to be lanced, duct-taped, and patiently ignored. The Pacific Crest Trail is not for the faint of heart…or of foot, for that matter. As I became aware of how well (or not) my body dealt with the mileage, I endured a sample size of challenges posed by the trail: ravenous mosquitos, high winds at altitude, trudging along in the rain with all of your food in what you hope is a waterproofed bag. Alongside the difficulties, there were innumerable moments of absolute joy. Each climb promised the sort of picturesque view that left me stumbling for words and the breath to say them aloud. The fact that I got to share these ridiculous wonderful moments with Dan, well, that itself was pretty amazing.

In the face of such overwhelming beauty and uncertainty that define what it means to live in the woods, you can’t help but find yourself severely humbled. Indeed, the mantras I used in rough patches alternated between “holy fucking shit” and “so cool”. As unthinkingly as these thoughts sprung from my lips, they might still be the best to describe the experience.

Overlook of thick forests around Lake Tahoe

Overlook of thick forests around Lake Tahoe

Joanna being brave on volcanic rocks 

Joanna being brave on volcanic rocks 

Catching the light in a field of yellow flowers at sunset

Catching the light in a field of yellow flowers at sunset

Climbing down a snowy section, one false move could be dangerous!

Climbing down a snowy section, one false move could be dangerous!