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Country: New Zealand
Begins: Apr 13, 2010
Date: Sat, Nov 6th, 2010
Trip Distance: 623.8
Entry Visits: 1,961
Journal Visits: 95,622
Guestbook Views: 8,410
Guestbook Entrys: 184
Pacific Crest Trail Map
It is common for all thru-hikers to give "pearls of wisdom" to others at the conclusion of their sojourn in the woods. So here goes.
I finished hiking on 8 October and still feel a bit betwixt and between the hiking world and the real world. The duvet on my bed at home feels too heavy after my light sleeping bag, my feet are still a bit numb and I am still tired. I lost over 10 kilos and look very skinny but I'm enjoying being able to eat anything I like! I still feel more hungry than usual. A thorough check-up with the doctor, including blood tests, showed no ill effects. On the contrary, most indicators of good health have improved. So I can only conclude that long distance hiking (and Snickers bars!) is good for one's health. What happens from now though? At the moment I have no desire to walk further than our usual 40 minutes around the block! Somewhere there is a happy medium that will be manageable and health giving.
I set out on the journey to see a new part of the world with awe-inspiring scenery; to have a new challenge: and to meet like-minded people; and all of those things were realised. It was just fantastic being outdoors most of the time and I felt constrained whenever I had to stay inside. The scenery was quite remarkable - soaring mountains, deserts, forests as far as you can see, lakes, fast flowing rivers (to be crossed by foot, bridges and logs), beautiful displays of flowers and autumn colours, small towns and little villages. It lived up to all my expectations. And the weather! Although we struck extremes in the High Sierras with unseasonal snow, it was mostly good. In California the sky was blue every morning with no wind and that is not something I'm used to! The wildlife too was different, although at times a bit scary. My meeting with a mountain lion, (about the same size as a lioness we see at the zoo) was the most frightening thing that happened to me. The bears, snakes, marmots, lizards and chipmunks all added interest. A disappointing feature was the lack of birds and bird song.
It was a real challenge. Hiking in the snow at high altitude was new to me and it was difficult. At times the trail was covered in snow, so finding our way was hard and then hiking through it was just as hard because of postholing (sinking into the snow sometimes up to your thighs). Then there was the challenge of finding water and a place to camp each night; of hitching rides into towns; of keeping up a daily mileage even when it felt hard; of carrying a heavy load with inadequate calories because of the difficulty in carrying enough food; of cooking at the end of an exhausting day; of writing for the blog when too tired to think straight etc etc. However with a positive attitude, a 'live for the day and don't worry about tomorrow' philosophy, the challenges were not insurmountable. I was disappointed to not quite make it to the top of Mt Whitney (not actually on the PCT) but apart from that I feel pleased that I succeeded in walking all the way.
The people I met along the way really made the difference. The thru hikers and the section hikers were all interesting people with their own reasons for being on the trail. The people who picked us up when we were hitching; the shopkeepers, motel owners were all fantastic and very very friendly. It was really inspirational to meet so many good people. It does restore your faith in human nature: In fact I didn't have negative dealings with people in the whole six months. The Trail Angels who would drive us around when contacted are truly angels. Others opened their homes to lots of hikers and were quite remarkable. You know who you are! Thank you all very much.
I should of course mention the other hikers who were also unfailingly helpful with advice on nearly everything!
On the trail it was important to me to have a good sleep each night so I used a Thermarest NeoAir blow-up mattress.I didn't have any problems with it and would certainly recommend it to future hikers in any area.
It only weighed 400g (14oz) so was great for ultra-light hiking. My sleeping bag was a Marmot Helium down bag rated to -9c (15F) and only weighed .88kg (31oz). It served me well and even when wet or damp on the outside, still kept me very warm during the coldest nights.
Initially I used a Nomad tent but soon found that it was too small for use every night. My head hit the roof when I sat up so was pretty useless when there was any condensation inside. So at the Kick-Off weekend I purchased a Rainbow tent from Henry Shires of Tarptent. This tent is much bigger inside and a little bit heavier but made a big difference to my sanity. It worked very well right up until the last 2 weeks when the bug-netting zipper failed. I tried to stop mice from entering by placing clothes over the opening but I did have 'visitors' on a couple of occasions which was a bit unsettling. Being a single skin meant that condensation was nearly always an issue.
I started off wearing Montrail Continental Divide trail shoes and they were fine until they wore out by Independence at mile 790. I then used Merrell Moab Ventilators and these were wonderful. I used the first pair for over 900 miles before they needed replacing and the second pair still has some life left in them also after 900 miles. These trail shoes are a little heavier than those others used but were great in the tough conditions that the trail covers.
My pack was a ULA Circuit lightweight pack and stood up well to the pressures placed on it. I managed to keep it full all the time and it was extremely comfortable. The base weight (no food or water) was about 20lbs but went up to between 30-40lbs when food and water were added. I found this very comfortable to manage.
My socks were Trail socks from Farmers shop. They were 80% merino wool and were fantastic. I used about 6 pairs over the whole trail.
The rest of my gear was reasonably standard- Marmot Precip jacket, Kathmandu shirt and shorts (turned into trousers with zip-off legs) and Icebreaker merino wool underwear. None of this gear caused any problems in normal conditions.
I luckily did not have any injuries and only had a couple of Ibuprofen (Vitamin I) when I had a sore tooth one night.
I hiked with a good number of other hikers- some for a few days and others for many many weeks. A big thank-you to Baglady, Skyward, Yellowstone, Curley, Magellan, Boat, Slim Jim (who is steaming down the Appalachian Trail right now), Mango, Uncle Tom, JJ, Elderly Ellen and her husband, Swiss Miss, Whipple Chicken, Amoeba, Brazil Nut, Thatch, Eidleweiss, Tarzan and Zelda and Yeti and the others from Israel. There were a number from my home-town, Susan and David (Weka and Kea), Hurricane and Tim from Auckland. A special mention must go to Moa. We spent months planning the trip together and it was most unfortunate that an injury prevented him from carrying on after Kennedy Meadows -700 miles. Also to Doug who hiked with me from Kennedy Meadows to Sonora Pass. Doug wondered what he had struck walking through the High Sierras after one of the heaviest snowfalls in years. Thank you for your help and companionship, Moa and Doug.
Also thanks must go to specific Trail Angels for their unfailing willingness to help meet the needs of many hikers each year. They are Peanut Eater, Scout & Frodo, Jan & Jim, Donna Saufley, Joe & Terrie Amnderson, Georgi & Dennis Heitman, Lloyd Gust, Andrea & Jerry Dinsmore and many others. You were just marvellous with your unconditional support of the hiking community.
My greatest thanks must however go to Bacon and Meander for their wonderful support over many many weeks and miles. They were unfailingly generous with their concern and help especially when I was possibly pre-hypothermic when going over Goat Rocks in atrocious weather.
Of course, my wife Alison shouldered the biggest burden with a full-time job, running the house and all that entails and living alone for 6 months while I was out in the woods fulfilling a dream. I am most grateful to her for her unselfish support of my adventure. I am not contemplating another 6 month long hike!
A large number of you placed an entry on the guest book but many more of you must have been watching my/our progress as we had the largest number of "hits" on postholer for a thruhiker in the current season. Please feel free to "drop a line" if you feel the urge. A big thank-you to my family and friends around the world for following my travails and supporting me unconditionally.
Finally I must give sincere thanks to Michael, "the ghost who edits." He has a very busy job and I am sure the last thing he wanted to do each day was to edit my ramblings and post them on the blog. Thank you Michael for a job well done. It was very much appreciated by me and the many thousands of readers.
So, that is it for the present. I will put a lot more photos on the blog and may also pen some more words. Time will tell. My favourite expression when doing long-distance hikes is "whatever the situation, it always works out."
Best wishes and good luck
ps I think I was the oldest thru-hiker this year at age 68. It just shows we old codgers can keep up with some of the younger ones when attempting some of these extreme adventures!!!!
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org