Jul 04
Monte Cristo Trailhead, Sam, Ethan, Patrick

Monte Cristo was a booming silver mining town at the end of the 19th century, thriving in a basin of surrounding majestic peaks. The town died early in the twentieth century, but some activity had persisted in the town, finally terminating completely as a town when superfund cleanup of the town and mining sites occurred in 2015. Between fires and cleanup, the town is now left to a few remaining wooden structures. It is distinguished in that it was the location for the very first Trump hotel, a massive structure of two stories tall.

The three oldest Flanagan kids (our grandchildren) were eager for a hike. Since I was with Ethan for a hike last week in the neighborhood of this hike, I knew that he was capable of doing this hike. I didn’t tell the kids that Jon had planned to meet us later int he evening after he got off work. The walk to Monte Cristo started at Barlow Pass and was along the bed of the old railroad tracks providing the only access to the town at one time. About 1/2 way to town, the train crossed the river which it was following, continuing along the east side of the stream. This bridge and the west side banks of the tracks had been washed out, forcing a crossing of the river on a large log. The designated campsite was just before town. The town itself is a national historic site, but also private property, meaning that the campsite had to happen outside on national forest land. Patrick, Sam, and Ethan slept in a 4 man tent, and I slept in my Zpacks Duplex tent. We explored the town, had dinner, and then Uncle Jonathan showed up about 8 pm, just before dusk.

Three Hobbits heading down the trail
The townsite is returning to the wild
Preserved signage from the town
The lodge, which some people believe was the old Trump hotel

With Jonathan, we decided to first explore a trail that heads west from town on the next day, taking us up to Silver Lake and Twin Lakes. Jon was up this way from last year. The trail was a persistent vigorous climb, but when we had reached about 4400 feet elevation, in the vicinity of Poodle Dog Pass, we hit continuous snow. Our hope of making it to Silver Lake or Twin Lakes was pretty much dashed. We could have plunged through the snow for a distance, but really wasn’t prepared for this. So, we returned down to town, did short excursions, cooked up dinner, and went to bed early.

A view of the surrounding mountains from near the top of Poodle Dog Pass
Poodle Dog Pass
Three fearless adventurers with Jon
Looking down on Silver Lake. In a month, it will be a perfect camping spot. The trail to Twin Lakes goes persistently upwards off to the left.

We woke up early on the 4th of July, and had most of our belongings packed, leaving up only our tents. We decided to quickly run up to Glacier Basin, south of town, before hiking out. The views were even more spectacular than yesterday. Snow-capped mountains completely surrounded us as we wended our way up the path. At about 4400 ft again snow was encountered. Just before that, the trail became very steep, with one section having a fixed rope to facilitate ascent and descent. Because there was a fantastic waterfall right there, I let Jon take the boys up a bit further before we all turned back to town. We were able to quickly pack up, and the hike out was less than two hours. After wishing Jon goodbye, the drive home was quite easy. It was amazing to see huge attendances to the trails coming off of the Mountain Loop road, with miles of cars lining the road from folk spending their 4th in the mountains.

Mountains completely surrounded us
A large waterfall on nearing Glacier Basin
Very happy hikers
Very worn out hiking shoes. They went into the garbage when I arrived home.
The trail to Glacier Basin was lined with Columbines.
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Jun 29

Goat Lake, Washington, 6/27-6/29/2020, with Jon and Ethan

I am in the process of taking each of the grandchildren on a backpack or adventure trip with me. That trip would be with the grandchild alone (as a kid). On this trip, our son Jonathan accompanied and was able to keep Ethan more entertained than I could have done. We planned on spending two nights, but decided that one night would be better, if we could start very early in the morning, since this is a popular camping locale. Ethan and I drove up to Arlington to meet Jon on Friday afternoon. We crashed in his living room, but was off to the trailhead by 7 am. I took a little more than an hour, and 4 miles of gravel road to achieve the trailhead. We started hiking just a little past 9 am, and was at the lake by 11 am. The campground was quite large, which took us some time to decide on a preferred camping location. Jon had his tent, and I brought a 3 man Big Agnes Copper Spur tent.

The remainder of the day was spent exploring the area. Jon and Ethan did a little bit of adventuresome hiking, while I mostly kept the camp under close watch.

Jon’s tent
Hiking pals
Making use of camp chairs. The dirt was so soft, the legs of the chairs would sink completely and throw off the sitter. Ethan did not have that problem.
Another view of the lake

We had lots of freeze-dried food samples for dinner, none of which were palatable to me. I’ll stick in the future to the diet I ate while doing the PCT. Ethan had a great time, and always was very cheery, never complaining. I was able to talk a lot about the subtleties of fine backpacking, and we were able to develop the sport of tortilla frisbee. If fact, he was most eager to return another day for more backpacking. On the trail, Ethan always let the way and kept a 2.5 – 3.5 mph pace, which is unusual for a normal kid like him. He was an absolute delight to hike with. We are already planning another hike together!

Ethan and I at the completion of the hike.

The hike itself was not bad. At a little more than 5 miles each way, it was mostly uphill going in and downhill coming out. Going in, we did the Lower Elliott variation, which kept us quite close to the river. Coming out, we followed the Upper Elliott route. Both trails were moderately muddy, but we were able to keep reasonably clean. The upper route was more even, representing that it used to be an undeveloped road at one time. The weather was mostly cloudy, but it rained quite a bit during the night. The campgrounds had a privy, and we were very close to an easy source of water. In all, this hike was a great choice for a first hike with Ethan.

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Oct 02
Me on McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail

This was the year I was committed to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. So, what in tarnation am I doing on the other coast, hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT)? Well, in late August, I discovered that the Wilderness Medical Society was doing a 4-day trip on the AT with lectures in wilderness medicine. I figured that I could use an update on wilderness medicine, and so called up my best friend Dr. Peter Tate to see if he wished to also do it. For him, it meant CME credits, for me it meant having some time with an old friend and getting a sample of one best portion of the AT, a 30 mile segment around Roanoke, VA. Peter bit. So, we were both signed up. I was to fly into Lexington, KY, stay one night in Lexington, and then ride with Peter down to the farm in Stanford, KY, stay two nights there, and head out from there to the conference. I arrived safe and sound in Lexington on 19SEPT and reconnoitered with Peter. The next day, we were off to the farm. Peter was in the early stages of building a new house the last time I was at the farm a year and a half ago. It was now in the nearly complete stages. It truly was a masterpiece, especially considering that Peter did most of the construction himself. He even included a swimming pool which the house wraps around. On the interior, he made certain walls at an angle off of 90 degrees, creating a wonderful character to the house, with the swimming pool sitting at that oblique angle from the house.

The house that Peter built, nearing completion. It appeared to be complete inside.
The inside kitchen area
Hiking the farm

Our full day at the farm included an about 7 mile hike through the pastures and woods on Peter’s land. We carried our backpacks fully loaded just to condition our bodies to the upcoming adventure. The next day, we headed out to our group meeting point at a camp outside of Roanoke, VA, called Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing (WAEL). The first and last night of the adventure were spent at WAEL, with the first night in a cabin, and the last night in our tents. Peter drove the Tesla, which seemed to have some software problems on the trip. I also realized that long distances in remote territories are NOT Tesla’s forte. After an uneventful night, we headed out for the trail. We were going to hike the trail southbound, with a starting point at Daleville, and ending at Dragon’s Tooth, then hiking out the Dragon’s Tooth access trail. The first three days all entailed about 9.5 miles of hiking, and the last was much shorter.

WAEL main meeting hall

Our first night was at Lambert’s Meadow. It wasn’t really a meadow, and there was confusion as to where we were to camp, the instructions suggesting that it was at the cabin, rather than a ¼ mile before that, where most people stopped. I couldn’t help but think of Lander’s Meadow in the middle of section f (California) and a truly beautiful meadow lined by majestic Ponderosa pines. Peter and I and Jay camped in the correct spot, and met Smoking Joe, a NOBO, and in desperate need for food. I had way too much food, so Joe pumped me some water in exchange for a bunch of food. I missed the lecture that evening since it didn’t really start until about 8:30 or later, and I was sound asleep by then.

A view of Carvin Cove Reservoir below, which the trail wraps around.

The second hiking day, Peter and I took off at a leisurely pace, encountering two of the three sites of note in Virginia, the Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob, the third being the Dragon’s Tooth, which we would see our last day. McAfee Knob seems to be iconic of the AT, so both Peter and I were photographed on the knob. Our second night was at John’s Spring. Though named after a spring, this was a dry campsite, and the last real water was at Lambert’s Meadow. We had to watch our water consumption. The site was a little small for the group of 23 of us, there was a shelter there where a few of our group slept, and we all managed ok. The lecture was on bears.

Valleys were on both sides of us, and always civilized with farms filling the valley. The trail usually followed the ridge line.
Peter on Tinker Cliffs
Lots of nice sandstone rock in the area

The hike the third day proceeded to have an interest in reaching the next water source, which was about 6 miles out of camp. Since the weather in the mornings was cool, there was not too much water loss, though I was down to my last half liter. We were to camp at Lost Spectacles Gap, a more roomy spot, though also a dry camp. The trail went through some nice meadows, and crossed a road where a short walk led to a restaurant/grocery store/gas station, where Peter and I decided to diverge and seek libations not found on the trail. We brought some beer back to camp to enjoy, and had a great time. Unfortunately, I ordered a hamburger for lunch which was larger than I anticipated, and when Peter and I stopped at a particularly majestic lookout point, I proceeded to throw up half my meal. Oh well. We arrived at camp fairly early, enjoyed a couple cigars, and laid low. There were no lectures, but instead, there was a mock bear attack session, where we had to make decisions regarding the traumatic injuries and administer initial care to the victims. It was a fun venture.

Meadow hiking
Peter relaxing at the viewpoint having a beer while I was throwing up
A very relaxed Peter contacts Karma his wife

The last day was short, which us waking up a bit later than usual, ascending a rather treacherous portion of the trail to arrive at the Dragon’s Tooth. Arriving back at camp, we picked up our backpacks, and hiked out. We again were able to easily reach the store that we were at a day ago, and picked up a case of beer for the other hikers. We had yet another lecture on orthopedic injuries. The shuttles picked us up, hauled us back to WAEL, and we settled in for the evening. At this time, Peter discovered that his car, which was plugged in to be charged while we were hiking, had now totally drained of charge. After a few desperate measures, he had a tow truck haul him and the car to Richmond, VA. It was decided that with the uncertainty of repair of the vehicle, I would ride back to Lexington with Jimmy, a medical student at U of Kentucky in Lexington. I stayed for dinner, and enjoyed two more lectures, one on water filtration, and the other on Jessie’s thru-hike of the AT. Eventually, Peter arrived back to Lexington (quite late at night), and took me to the airport then next morning, on 28SEPT. I made it home intact!

Some of the trail was a class 3 climb! The white markers indicate the trail.
Peter in front of Dragon’s Tooth
Riff riff back at camp, waiting to hike out.
Ending the last hike of the season


First, about the WMS adventure. It was enjoyable, and provided me a chance to appreciate the AT for the first time. the WMS always does a first class act in their meetings. The nature of this meeting in the form of a backpack trip was a touch more chaotic. My only wish was that it would have been a touch more organized, with a stronger communication channel from the leaders about what was up, what was going on, and deciding on giving the trail lectures before it got pitch dark. Perhaps a 6 pm lecture time would have been most appropriate. At the time of the evening lecture, “map” sessions reminding us of the plan for the subsequent day would have been in best order. In spite of the problems, the infectious enthusiasm of the leaders for wilderness medicine was most notable. In all, I would call it a most wonderful adventure.

What about the AT? Having just hiked a 1000 miles of the PCT, could I make comparisons? Actually, the two trails are totally different. The strategy for doing them are different, the environments that you go through are different, and the personality of the trail is different. Most of the time, it is easy to get 15-25 miles a day on the PCT. Because the AT is less manicured, you would be doing well to get in 12-18 miles a day. The AT keeps you for the ;most part much closer to civilization, and in the section of the trail that we did, you never seemed to have ever left civilization. The AT is described as a long green tunnel. It is mostly deciduous trees, as compared to conifers for the PCT. The AT has many shelters (about every 8-12 miles) where the PCT has practically none. It seems that one must have a much different mentality when approaching the AT as compared to the PCT. In all, I did not acquire a bubbling enthusiasm to return and do the entire AT. After all, I still have large incomplete segments of the PCT to get done, if I even decide to do them! I will sign up to hike the PCT next year, but may spend most of my time camping with Betsy, and giving Betsy a summer of my life. I may get some cycling in, but plan to not leave home for more than a few weeks at a time. Betsy and I have depleted our Wanderlust, and wish for slightly more simple adventures from here on out. But then, who knows what the future will bring?

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Sep 11
Looking east from our campsite at Hart’s Pass

Betsy and I had two main reasons to go to Hart’s Pass. First, we needed to pick up Intrepid. Secondly, we needed to bring Jacob back home. Betsy and I decided to add a third reason, and that was to play trail angel. Hart’s Pass is the last portion of the PCT to cross by a road, at the Hart’s Pass campground, 30 miles from the Canadian border. At this campground, thru-hikers were getting their last “hurrah” before pushing on into Canada. If they did not have a Canada entry permit, they would turn around at the border and hike back to Hart’s Pass where they would hope that they could find a ride to Mazama and thus hitch-hike home. The gravel road from Mazama to Hart’s Pass is the highest maintained road in Washington, and often designated the most dangerous road in Washington.

We had our truck totally loaded with hiker food and camping equipment. When we got to the Hart’s Pass campground, Intrepid was already there and able to find us a wonderful campsite with a great view. To our brief dismay, there was already a trail angel established there, a guy from Indiana named EZ, and was being helped by Tyler. After speaking with EZ, we quickly established how we would work together to maintain the trail angel spot. I brought my food up, as well as a 10 x 10 canopy. This came in very useful, as we arrived on a Tuesday, and it started to rain on Tuesday afternoon, the canopy providing much needed protection for our food and our hikers. Together, we actually had way too much food, so the next day, EZ went to town to get more ice and to drop off a large portion of our food at a trail angel in town, Ravensong. Several days later, EZ took off for three days to hike up to the border monument and back, leaving Betsy and I to take care of everything. We had a great time. At first, we felt that this was not an ideal site to be trail angel-ing, but quickly learned that hiker trash really appreciated our setup, and the non-hiker food, beer, and an encouraging word before their last push to Canada. What was most delightful was encountering hikers that I had met on the first few days of the trail out of Mexico finally arriving at the end. Some hikers had skipped the high Sierra, but all were eager to wrap up and move along, either returning home or returning to the high Sierra to complete that phase of their journey. Friday afternoon, a group from the Grand Coulee 7th Day Adventist Church showed up to trail angel. They apparently do this every year. They were a very kind group, and we were able to work out a transition for them to move in and us out. We had hoped that somebody would show up, since I knew that EZ would not be back from the trail until late Saturday or Sunday. Thus, the replacement group were most welcome to maintain continuity of the trail angel site at Hart’s Pass.

EZ and I have met afterwards in Tacoma to discuss the future. We think that we will again play trail angel next year for 4-5 days, a week or two after Labor Day. Perhaps next year we will improve on our mistakes and make it an even better experience for thru-hikers in the last phase of their hike.

Our tent, a six man REI Kingdom, on space #5
Our camp kitchen table
Betsy in a very relaxed mode
EZ on the left and Tyler on the right
Denise with Betsy
Umbrella Man on the left, who I met south of Snoqualmie Pass
The Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse, from Lynden, WA. They were quite familiar with the VanVoorst clan. They were doing the PCT by horseback, but made sure to come and enjoy a beer from us.
Betsy offering some slightly aged apples to the horses and mules, which were eagerly devoured.
The Mule. The Mule was from France, and most delightful and friendly character. I first met the Mule several days out from Mexico in the desert. I was in a long stretch of the desert trail when I saw a short happy person from France doing pushups just off the trail (as though the trail wasn’t exercise enough!). I saw the Mule a few more times in the next few days before losing him. I often wondered whatever happened to him. Apparently, his hike was totally successful!
A great Dane, I don’t remember his trail name. He got extremely excited when I informed him that I had some Carlsberg beer (from Denmark), which he was going to pack in and drink at the monument. This guy was really funny! Apparently, he was going to be on Good Morning Denmark when he got back home.
The replacement trail angels, with some hiker trash (Intrepid and Jacob) as well as Betsy.
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Aug 26

It is now 5 months later and 1002 miles of the trail completed. I certainly wished for more miles, but a combination of factors prevented that from happening. At this time, I have no intention of attempting to put on more miles this year. What I would like to do in this blog is to summarize matters, including a) what were the problems with the hike, b) what did I learn from it all, c) what equipment did I like and dislike, and d) what positive good came out of it all. This is a really long read, so I know that most of you will probably not read it all. That’s ok. It was written mostly to consolidate my own thoughts.


This was NOT a good year for thru-hiking the PCT. As a veritable matter, it was probably one of the worst possible years to do the PCT. I didn’t think that could happen. a) Record Snow Two years ago, the high Sierra (central California) had record snowfalls, and so I felt that we would not see a high snow year in a while. I was truly fooled there. Starting in central Oregon and south, the mountains recorded record years for the amount of snowfall, including the amount of snow water content. This extended all the way down to Mexico, so that in three areas, Mt. San Jacinto (around Palm Springs), Mt. Georgiono Wilderness, and around Mt. Baden Powell, were areas of the desert that had dangerous snow build-up, especially the first and last regions mentioned. I had to carry Kahtoola microspikes (crampon like spikes that you fit over your hiking shoes) through much of the desert from Idyllwild to just past Mt. Baden Powell, and even with the microspikes, the steepness of the snow led to some very challenging situations and extreme danger. Your speed of travel drops at least in half. Your ability to find the trail is dependent entirely on your cell phone and the Guthooks app on your cell phone. After dropping off Mt. Baden Powell, I determined that I would not subject myself to extreme snow situations again on the trail. Even still, in northern California, out of Burney Falls State Park, reports had it that the snow was gone, and yet I hit about 4-5 hours of hiking through very challenging snow situations. The prospects for much more snow further on in northern California and southern Oregon were daunting, and at least a few people soon around the time I was coming through were injured and helicoptered off of the trail in southern Oregon, Second Chance being an easy example of that. Not cool. b) Mosquitoes Who would ever think that such tiny little beasts could create such misery. When I consider the worldwide fatalities from mosquito-born illnesses it leaves me no wonder. Yet, even without the diseases, mosquitoes can be a source of intense misery. Truly, one must keep every possible skin surface covered because mosquito repellent has only limited efficacy. Mosquitoes will bore through your clothing, such as through my hiking gloves. At night, no matter how hard you try to keep the mosquitoes out of your tent, you will still spend an hour swatting the residual mosquitoes that snuck in while you were entering. You can’t cook a meal or relieve yourself without vicious attacks. Unfortunately, this year was reported to have record numbers of mosquitoes on the trail. I can believe it. c) Early onset of fall Somehow, it seems like the weather got chilly much sooner than normal. Having lived for most of my life in the northwest, I’m used to fairly dry Augusts and early September. Now, it just feels chilly whenever one goes outside, and the sense that fall is in the air. Leaves are already being to turn color and fall. It just doesn’t seem like we had as long of summer as usual. It must be global cooling? d) Major areas of burn from recent years I was surprised how often I would be hiking through major forest burns. They were very frequent in the desert, but also frequent as one moved north. Most of these burns happened within the last few years, and almost certainly related to bad forest management rather than “global warming”. There is a sense of eeriness or spookiness from walking through a burn area. I oftentimes think that I am seeing a person standing just off the trail when it is actually nothing but a tree stump. The more troubling aspect of walking through a burn area is that you are getting no shelter from the sky. Whether it be the sun or rain, trees are highly protective. When the trees are gone or burned, it is like walking through a desert. It’s just not fun. e) Record number of people injured or bailing from the trail. This issue probably relates to all the other issues above, especially with the snow situation. A number of my friends with whom I hiked were later removed from the trail because of injuries. I have heard of only several trail deaths yet, thankfully. The attrition rate secondary to so many factors was a little discouraging. It also created heightened worries from Betsy about me being injured. So, multiple factors led to a disappointing performance on my part.

What did I learn?

a) trust in God You don’t have much to think about when spending all day walking. I’m used to reading books, listening to music or audio lectures, watching a movie, or something of that sort. The trail removes one from electronic media and leaves a person alone to their thoughts. My thoughts usually would go to God. It might be thoughts of contemplating the beauty of God’s world, or praying for friends or family, or singing to myself a favorite hymn. Always, I was seeking God for strength to continue on my journey, and I feel confident that I could not have walked a thousand miles without His divine intervention. It is a lesson to continue leaning on the Lord for strength in all of life’s ventures. b) friends abound Almost everybody on the trail were friendly and helpful. It was a touch amazing that there was a sense of family and helping each other out while on the journey up the trail. In fact, while you may not be hiking with any specific person, there is what is known as the trail family associated with those people moving about the same pace as you and encountered by you in camp or in resupply towns. Many of these people I have stayed in touch with. c) backpacking style Ones’ backpack style of necessity must change while on the trail. Early on, most people that I encountered were doing ultralight packing. Once into northern California, Oregon and Washington, it was not unusual to see many folk backpacking in an older traditional way, with 50-60 lb packs, loaded as fully as possible and as much strapped on the outside of the pack as possible. At the Mexican border, I had a base weight of about 19 lb. Base weight is not well defined, but usually means the weight of all that you are carrying excluding food and water. People usually do not include the weight of your clothes or shoes. Things shed as I moved northward. Stuff sacks were seen as useless added weight. I left my wonderful ultralight camera at home in preference for using my iPhone for photos. I used trail running shoes (Altra Lone Peaks) instead of my standard hiking boots (I never got a single blister while using the Altras). Every fraction of an ounce was carefully reviewed. A 2.25 inch mini-Swiss army knife was used instead of the standard size 3.5 inch knife. At every town, I’d ask myself what else I could ditch, and then mail it back home. Hydration was another issue. I was using a 3 liter hydration pack which fit into my backpack. The problem was that I could never tell how much water I had left. When refilling the bladder, it was a challenge to remove the bladder to fill it, and if I’d fill it in situ, would never know if it was really full or not. So, I went with an outside hydration unit with a bladder, and kept a 1 liter SmartWater bottle for when my pack was off of me. Distances became different. Typically, I’d hike a 15 – 20 mile day, but got up to 28 miles when I was coming to a destination town. On flat roads such mileage is easy, but on the trail it was a concerted effort with minimal dilly-dallying to achieve those distances. Not that I would not enjoy the scenery, and a beautiful scene was an excellent excuse to stop and take a photograph. d) knowing my own personal limits Before this adventure, I had no idea what I could handle for a thru-hike experience. My expectations were uncertain and I could only guess at what my actual performance on the trail would be. In the planning phases, I definitely over-estimated my hiking strength and thought that I could carry on easily hiking 20 miles a day for weeks on end. I anticipated that I would acquire my “trail feet” within the first two weeks, and then proceed with bold abandon. I learned very quickly the virtue of a day a week rest, which became my norm. The Creator’s instructions include a day in seven with minimal activity and clearly He knows best for us. Why we always question His wisdom and instructions for our lives speaks poorly of ourselves and not of the Almighty. Any question about the problem of evil (theodicy) is overwhelmed by the statements and experience of His love, goodness, kindness, wisdom and caring for us as pitiful, rebellious creatures. Trail feet are a real entity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will go faster on your feet over time. For me, it meant that I could push myself a bit harder as time went on without becoming a total cripple. e) psychological effects of the trail The psychological effects of the trail are quite extreme. Can I do it? Will I die or require rescue in a long waterless stretch? Will the snow kill me? What in the Sam Hill got into my brain to even think about hiking the PCT? How will I contend with the monotony of every day for 150+ days waking up every morning, finding it nearly impossible to get out of the sleeping bag into the cold air, pack up all of your belongings, and then start walking, walking, walking, walking, walking. Will I reach an instance where I won’t be able to find a suitable camp spot and require to spend a sleepless night curled up in my parka and hugging a tree. Hunger combined with revulsion for food hits every moment of the day. Every part of the body hurts. The feet hurt. The ankles hurt. The hips hurt. The back hurts. The shoulders hurt. The hands hurt. The neck hurts. Mass quantities of ibuprofen only slightly alleviate the discomfort. Coupled with mosquito attacks (up north), a tipping point toward total insanity was not in the far distance. Then there are worries about back home. Will Betsy be ok? Is she surviving? Are there problems on the homefront that require my presence? Am I shirking my duties as a husband by torturing myself on the trail, even though Betsy has encouraged me to do this adventure? Perhaps she was just humoring me? Too many questions… too many episodes of skirting on the edge of insanity… I spent most of my life at a desk studying, talking to patients, reading and writing reports, or standing still at the operating table, worrying more about someone else’s life than my own. Now, I have transitioned from an essentially sedentary lifestyle to one of extreme physical activity and thought processes that pertain solely to personal survival. The contrast could not be more extreme. There were other aspects to the psychological effects of the trail. At the Mexican border, there was only one thought on my mind, which was that of walking straight to the Canadian border and then celebrating. The snow situation in the High Sierras made that an impossibility for me. I would need to flip flop and leap around. The discontinuity had a significant effect on my psyche. Then, I opted (because of snow conditions) to do some north to south hiking. This did not fit, since my brain kept telling me that I should be hiking north to Canada. Then the realization that I would not complete the PCT in one season further demoralized my efforts to persist. (Actually, that was the best realization to ever happen to me as I saw the craziness of feeling that a thru-hike MUST be in one season in straight continuity. So many of the older folk on the trail were breaking up the PCT into manageable sections and actually finding their hike pleasurable!). It was comforting to know that people were praying for me as I walked, yet, those prayers were for God’s provision, which I experienced with profound portions. My appreciation for all the prayer warriors that stood before God on my behalf.

Equipment Reviews

A) Backpack I used a ULA Circuit. It is a relatively light pack at 2 lb 9 oz, and I’ve appreciated how it was designed. My main complaint was the minimal padding of the shoulder straps. The straps tended to cut into my neck and after many months of use created fairly sharp shoulder pain. I tried to prevent this by keeping the pack weight down, yet even with a base weight of 16-18 lb, when one needs to carry 5-6 liters of water and 5 days of food, a heavy (up to 35 lb) pack is unavoidable. I will probably be switching to an REI Flash 55. It is a 2 lb 3 oz pack with nicer back and shoulder/hip belt strap padding, a nice design, and very comfortable on the back. B) Tent I started with a Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 Platinum tent. It was a fairly expensive tent and reasonably light at 2 lb 10 oz. I found that it is NOT a durable tent, and the fabric tended to easily tear. You needed a ground tarp. In foul weather, it was almost impossible to set up because a wet rain fly would not fold out easily and demanded exact orientation to place over the tent, which was challenging in high winds and heavy rains. The tent did not dry out quickly and tended to hold water. For some crazy reason, Big Agnes changed the size of the clips for attaching to the ground tarp and my tent clips did not match the ground cloth clips. So, the Copper Spur flunked, regardless of its cost and popularity. I went with a Z-Packs Duplex tent, weighing 1 lb 3 oz, very easy to set up, but needing two adjustable hiking poles. It is very spacious inside and the vestibules were spacious. Because it is NOT a free-standing tent, one could not use this tent on a concrete or rock slab. The only change that I would make would be to switch out the MSR mini Ground Hog stakes which were not substantial enough, and go with the regular MSR Ground Hog stakes. The guide lines holding the hiking poles especially need to be staked down very well, which the minis did not accomplish. C) Ground pad/pillow. I started with an Exped Synmat HL MW ground pad and Exped down pillow. The ground pad was VERY slippery and formed a rip in a seam the second night out on the trail. The third night out on the trail, the down pillow would not hold air any longer. I purchased an egg crate mattress (ThermaRest Z Lite Sol) and a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Regular pillow in Warner Springs, and they have held up well. Later, I switched back to an air mattress, this time using a ThermaRest NeoAir Uberlight mattress. It immediately developed a slow air leak, and needed to be reinflated several times a night. It was also slightly slippery, necessitating careful choice of a camping spot without a slope. There are reasons I liked the egg crate mattress in that it could also be used during the day as a pad to sit/lay down on, and was not very slippery. It was less comfortable than an air mattress. D) Sleeping bag I used a Feathered Friends Flicker UL Wide quilt, which worked wonderfully. It could be opened up in warm weather and closed down in cold weather. Only once did I need to also use my down coat with it to stay warm at night. It stuffed nicely into a sea to summit 13 liter dry sack. E) Down Coat I used the Feathered Friends EOS jacket. I did not wear this jacket while hiking, but it was wonderful for the evenings and morning. I did not use the stuff sac but simply packed it around items in my back pack. It is a perfect down parka for backpacking. F) Shoes My main shoes were the Altra Lone Peaks. They are NOT a durable shoe and wear out at 300-500 miles of use. In spite of that, I had not developed a blister while wearing these shoes, making it worth it. They are super-comfortable, to the point that I saw no use in having flip flops or slippers to wear while at camp. I used the Merrill Moab 2 shoes for a short bit, hoping that their rigidity would permit better handling in snow. Within 50 miles, I had blisters on both feet, so quickly returned to the Altras. G) Clothing Nothing special here. I used a synthetic REI long sleeve shirt that buttoned up, REI Sahara convertible pants, ExOfficio briefs, Darn Tough socks, and OR Helium rain jacket. The Helium rain jacket was wonderfully light and effective at keeping out the rain, but had no arm pit vents, and tended to create sauna like conditions when hiking. It still remained my preferred rain protection. H) Hat I used an REI Sahara hat in the desert, and had wonderful sun protection, so that I rarely ever needed to put on sun screen. Elsewhere, I used my OR Seattle Sombrero, a hat wonderful for rain, sun and the like. It is a somewhat warm hat, so that it was slightly uncomfortable in very hot weather. I) Hiking Poles/Gloves I started with Black Diamond 110 cm poles, and needed to switch to an adjustable pole when I went with the Duplex tent. For that, I utilized Z-Pack poles. I always wore OR sun gloves, and found that many other people also utilized OR gloves with their hiking poles. J) Stove I used the JetBoil Flash Lite stove, and was most happy with it. It was light, I didn’t need to worry about carrying a pot, it had a dependable ignitor, and it was extremely efficient on fuel, with a small canister easily lasting 2-3 weeks. K) Garmin InReach This is a personal locator beacon (plb) which allows for an SOS rescue signal if I ever got in trouble, and also allowed others to regularly see exactly where I was on the trail. I could also send and receive messages. It’s only problems were 1) it was heavy, and 2) though it was a Garmin product, was incompatible with all the other Garmin products, including their maps. Shame on them. If I were to do it over again, I would have used the InReach mini because it is significantly ligher. I won’t buy another plb until Garmin corrects the issues mentioned with the InReach. L) UrSack For the desert, I did not worry too much about the little critters, and simply used a dyneema food bag with an odor-proof liner. Outside of the desert, I used the regular size UrSack. The UrSack offered me protection from rats, squirrels and chipmucks eating my food (a real and serious problem), and allowed that I did not need to hang my food, but instead, I stored my food in the tent vestibule. I used an odor-proof liner also with the UrSack. M) Thru-Pack The Thru-pack is a fanny pack designed by some dude in a cottage industry. It was perfect for backpacking. I debated long and hard before the hike as to how I would carry my iPhone. The iPhone was used constantly since it was my main map system. The Thru-Pack had a pocket that very securily held my iPhone, yet the iPhone was extremely easy to quickly access. I also stored small items like lip gloss, sun glasses, mosquito repellent, and small candies in the bag. N) Pocket knife Believe it or not, some people do not carry a knife on their thru-hike. I needed the knife mostly for the scissors in order to cut things like the LeukoTape for my feet to prevent blisters. Swiss Army produces a very small 2-1/2 inch knife that has only a blade and a scissors, with a few other minor implements. This was more than adequate and worked out well for me. O) Safety equipment I carried a small amount of repair items, such as tenacious tape (which I used on the Copper Spur tent), duct tape (never used), and a small sewing kit, which was never used. For medical safety, I carried a roll of LeukoTape, which was nearly always being used on my feet to prevent blisters. I also carried superglue, blister pads, mild narcotic pain meds, antibiotics, and a sleeping pill. None of the medications were used. P) Toilet sack The toilet sac was a small stuff sac kept on the outside of my pack with a small trowel to dig holes, toilet paper, hand sterilization gel, and a small zip lock for packing out the toilet paper. The trowel was ineffective at digging a hole in northwest soil, but did allow scrapping for covering up the poo. Q) Electronics My electronics was limited to my iPhone and the Garmin inReach device. I carried a 10,000 mAh battery backup as well as the necessary cables. I carried earbuds but ended up never using them. R) Phone case I used the LifeProof Fre upon the recommendation of Halfway Anywhere, and didn’t like it. It was protective, but made the iPhone difficult to use. I just didn’t need that much protection of the phone so went back to a regular iPhone case. S) Headlamp I started with the lightest cheapest Black Diamond headlight, and noted that the case would frequently pop open. A switch to a more substantial Black Diamond light solved that problem, even though it was slightly heavier. T) Hydration system I started with an Osprey 3 liter hydration reservoir. I liked it better than the Platypus or Camelbak products, but disliked that the reservoir sat inside your pack, leaving you clueless about how much water you had left and making it very hard to refill the bladder without emptying out your pack. Outside of the desert, I rarely needed to carry more than 3 liters, so utilized the outside side pockets of the backpack, which were meant for liter water bottles. Because I like hydration systems, I found a tube system for this purpose, exchanged the mouthpiece with the Osprey mouthpiece, and utilized a Platypus 1 liter very lightweight collapsible bag for this purpose. I always carried in addition a liter SmartWater bottle but drinking when my pack was off of me. So far, this system has worked out wonderfully. U) Food choices Food is not really equipment, but it is a necessary item that weighs a lot, so it is worth discussing. I felt that it was important to eat well on the hike, and so did not consider cold-soaking food seriously. I liked a warm meal at least once a day, and was willing to carry a lightweight stove for that purpose. The popular foods that hikers used like Top Ramen were all doctored to taste better. I would add freeze-dried vegetables and beef as well as sriracha sauce to improve the nutrition and flavor. I chose foods that would require minimal cleaning of dishes, since I often dry camped, and even when camped by water, would not feel like doing dishes. I started using lots of prepared meals like the Campbells or Pace prepared foods. These were a bit more heavy but offered reasonable tasting food at the end of the day. They would come in bags that could be crunched up and inserted into my stove pot with boiling water, let it sit for five minutes, and I would have a warm meal with warm water for a cup of hot chocolate. It couldn’t get any better than that!

Positive Good of it all?

a) personal health/weight loss I was down up to 25 lb during the hike, though that weight loss was at a time when I was also markedly dehydrated. The health benefits for my heart and overall fitness were balanced by the severe strain and abuse afflicted on the musculoskeletal system. I general, I would surmise that I gained a grand total positive health effect by my activity, though it is something that only time would tell. b) spiritual growth Hiking offers the hiker must time to contemplate, reflect, meditate, ruminate, and think over one’s self, the world, and the grand scheme of things. It was a time to spend in prayer and worship. On the negative side, my brain was often in a fog, so that reading had to be forced to happen. When I was not walking, I was either eating, writing my blog, or sleeping/trying to sleep. c) Betsy My absence gave Betsy time to learn how to manage house and home. We learned more than ever that even though we often need our “space”, long periods apart become difficult. I don’t think that I’ll ever intentionally plan for more than 4-6 weeks apart. Some folk may consider that short and some long. I don’t think I could give definite times since much depends our ability to stay in touch with each other even when we are not immediately face to face. d) new friends It is fascinating how one quickly develops friends on the trail. I have yet to meet someone who is a “jerk”. Some hikers are more reclusive and wish to mostly be to themselves, some can’t tolerate loneliness, some are Macho man (or Macho woman), some are flaming drunks (just one that I met), some are quite old and putting in few miles a day, others are young jackrabbits flying down the trail, but they all are friendly folk. Perhaps because we are all striving for a common goal, we form a “fellowship” that binds us together on the trail. e) rethink of my personal Wanderlust A year ago, I attempted to bicycle the TransAm, a bicycle ride that goes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It was a true flaming failure, but it taught me much about tempering my expectations, and about planning for epic adventures. I would not call this year a failure at all, even though I was slightly disappointed about having to put the reality of the weather and trail conditions together with the ability of my body to endure hundreds upon hundreds of miles of sheer abuse. I believe that I got my Wanderlust out of my blood. No more attempts EVER for epic adventures. I wouldn’t mind filling in the gaps over the next few years in the PCT, like completing Washington and most of Oregon, doing the high Sierra, and other parts of northern California. I wouldn’t mind attempting the Colorado Trail. But, anything longer than 500-600 miles will not be performed. My body has spent most of its life behind a desk, reading or writing reports, or standing still in the operating room for hours, trying to avoid inflicting harm on oneself. Unlike most older hikers, I would do maybe 2 or 3 hikes a year in fair weather lasting only 2-4 days, and that was it. I’d come back as sore as imaginable and immediately return to a sedentary lifestyle. True, the last ten years of my life involved much long-distance bicycling, but that is using much different muscles, and MUCH less abusive on the body. As I write this, I’ve been off of the trail for 5 days, and yet I still ache seriously from head to toe. I’m not taking massive doses of ibuprofen any longer, and the body is really feeling it. I have competitive passions that cannot be partaken in while hiking. I love to read, I love to listen to classical music and watch opera, and I love to play my trumpet. Those activities take a true back seat on the trail. I love bicycling, but will probably never ride coast to coast or any really long distance. I’ve lost the desire to do that. With a friend, I wouldn’t mind hiking or bicycling in Europe (Betsy isn’t into that), but not for a long distance. I don’t even have the rage like I had in the past to travel to distant lands and far-away places. I think my Wanderlust has died. f) awareness of Huguenot Heritage Ministry Those who know me know that I tend toward strong passions. The work of Huguenot Heritage is one of those passions. When Betsy and I served in a hospital in extreme North Cameroon, we noted the desperate need for theological education in French-speaking Africa. Huguenot Heritage is filling that void, by providing Third Millenium materials in the French-speaking tongue. It is a vital ministry worthy of support. Several years ago, I mentioned to Francis Foucachon who runs the Huguenot Heritage of my plan to walk the PCT, and he seemed interested in seeing my walk function as a walk-a-thon. I was to do the hike last year, but then decided to attempt the TranAm bicycle ride and put off the PCT for a year. I didn’t realize that I was going from one horrible weather year on the east coast, to a horrible weather year on the west coast. It wasn’t until about February of this year that one realized the immensity of the snow situation on the west coast, yet I had already received my permit, and planned and packed 20 resupply boxes in order to attempt this adventure. While I realized soon enough that I (and almost everybody starting the hike) would not complete all 2652 miles, it was worth trying for as many as possible. I am a touch disappointed that I couldn’t get more miles in, but grateful that I was not brought home in a body bag, or needing rescue from the trail. I truly hope that the hike-a-thon spin on my trip helped bring enhanced awareness of Huguenot Heritage, and support for their work. It’s a strong conviction of mine than when I’m dead and six feet under, the church in Africa will be the center of Christianity. Christianity is dying in the west, but growing in Africa, and one of the main languages in the African church is French. Hopefully, we can see more seminaries and bible college in Africa, like the African Bible Colleges with distinguished theologians such as O. Palmer Robertson. Christianity and the Muslim religion clash in the north (Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, etc.) and so other means of accomplishing theological education for Christian pastors becomes necessary, and Huguenot Heritage fills that void. Please consider strongly support of this vital ministry.

The Future and Summary

So, what is my vision of the future for me and Betsy? a) playing trail angel Trail angels are those people who meet thru-hikers at various places where the trail crosses a road and is known to be in an area where outside contact from the trail is minimal. Typically, it’s a place where prior thru-hikers know that they would have gone a long distance without food or water resupply, and thus welcome ice-cold beverages or a snack to eat. Some trail angels tend to be more expansive when their house is close to the trail, such as at Hiker Heaven or Casa de Luna where the host family provides more extensive care and overnight capabilities for guests. Sadly, the two places just mentioned are closing this year, and we wait to see if there is any sort of replacement. Meanwhile, trail angels will provide sporadic “trail magic” which is unpredictable, but when present, is always welcomed by hikers. I don’t plan on doing this extensively. It’s a nice gesture, and in several areas of the desert, trail magic in the form of cold pop and other goodies saved the day and so were gratefully received by me. Trail angel-ing has become a preoccupation of many in towns, and there are separate Facebook pages for various trail angel groups. Much of their purpose has been to shuttle hikers from the trail to town and back. In fact, they really don’t serve totally as trail angels because they request (or should recieve!) payment for their services. As the PCT has become busier and busier, more people are getting on the trail less prepared for the task. Many do not adequately think out their resupply strategy and depend heavily on hiker boxes at the various places where resupply packages are mailed. Others hop around the trail quite casually, calling on the good nature of other folk to shuttle them around and about, to specifically allow their hike to be tailored to convenience. Many places on the trail demand hitchhiking to get to town and back, and that is awkward enough, but still different than asking people to go out of their way in order to service your whims and recreational pursuit. Betsy and I will be spending 03-08SEPT camped at Hart’s Pass and will have goodies for passing by hikers. We’re not sure how many hikers to plan for, but anticipate no more than 10 hikers/day coming through. I can envision occasionally going up to Chinook Pass with a cooler of soda pop, but other than that, I will focus on other activities to spend my time. b) Backpack conference I will be attending a Wilderness Medical Society Backpacking Medicine CME hike on 22-27SEPT. I’ll fly back to Lexington, KY where I will meet with Dr. Peter Tate, spend a few days with him, and then go together to attend this conference. I don’t need CME (continuing medical education) credit anymore since I am retired, but I still backpack and so would like to remain knowledgeable about what is the current standard for medicine in the wilds. c) volunteering for PCTA/WTA/MORA The initials are Pacific Crest Trail Association/Washington Trail Association/Mount Rainier (National Park). All three have volunteer slots for trail maintenance, which I enjoy doing. The PCTA does a phenomenally spectacular job with their volunteer vacations at making an enjoyable week of camping, doing trail work, and meeting other hikers. Because of the infirmities of my body, hard heavy lifting is no longer possible. I will probably shift toward volunteering mostly with MORA, doing things like trail walking, and giving advice to tourists lost or confused on the trails around the mountain. d) shorter adventures next year I would like to complete portions of the PCT, including the high Sierra and the northern aspect of the PCT from Snoqualmie to Canada. I’d also like to do the Timberline Trail again. The Olympics calls for me. I will probably do these trails solo but welcome others to come with if they are able to travel light. e) return to some bicycling I love cycling and would like to not only ride my bicycle on a regular basis, but also to do some touring. Maybe I’ll do something with Adventure Cycling next year, but will have to look at their tours and think about how I can mesh a cycle tour with my backpacking. I’d also like to consider how to lighten up my entire bicycle touring apparatus, similar to what’s happening with ultralight backpacking. f) car camping with Betsy Betsy and I will be car camping next week at Hart’s Pass, doubling up as trail angels. I hope that we could get away to the beach or elsewhere to spend some time just relaxing together in the woods. We have all that we need for that, save for the time and the initiative to get off our butts and out into the woods. I need to determine ways of making camping more comfortable and fun for her, but I’ll find out next week whether some of my ideas were successful. g) Overnighters with the grandkids I would like to eventually take each of the grandchildren individually out backpacking in the woods. Ethan happens to be next on the list, and hoped to do that this year, but it didn’t work out. Hopefully, next year? h) work with outdoor club at church Our church has a youth outdoor “club”, but I’ve not been involved with it. Perhaps in the future? i) more writings on conservation/the environment/wilderness ethic It is sad to say that writing related to the environment are generally poorly thought out, or solipsistic in their thinking. Now that the environment has become a political issue, it is guaranteed to be even less well thought out. Much of the writing on wilderness ethics is very self-centered—everybody should support wilderness, but please stay away and leave it for me alone to enjoy (i.e., since I am the only person that can truly “appreciate” wilderness)—sort of attitude. Leave no trace (LNT) thinking is great, but every human involvement in the wilderness leaves a trace. On my last venture, I was looked on very disapprovingly for leaving an apple core to rot in the woods. Soon, they will be telling us to pack out our feces! The Wilderness Act speaks of wilderness being an area untrammeled by man with no trace of man’s presence, yet man’s presence in the wilderness is “trammel-ment“, and trails are distinct traces of man’s presence, let alone structures built in the wilderness, a perfect example being the hut on top of Muir Pass! All of this is highly inconsistent. Perhaps the refusal to accept that this world is anthropocentric, that is, made (by a Creator) for man, with man’s responsibility to take care of his world. Wilderness ethic implies a sentient being which has the capability of appreciating beauty and acting on that appreciation, and so restricts the beings to man alone. j) home plans My favorite moments are the time I have with Betsy. We will soon be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary, and the memories are long and fond. Betsy tends to not be so adventure minded as myself, and is content to putzing around the house, working on various projects inside the house and outside in the garden. I have a mild love-hate relation to gardening; it’s fun once in a while, but not all the time. We’ve engaged in a number of projects, the latest being that of building a backyard small raised garden for vegetables. Betsy and I also enjoy watching movies together. We do not get any form of subscription tv services and do not get television in the home, but will watch movies. Currently, we are working through the Lost in Space series from the 1960’s. It is quite corny, but also very informative as to how greatly society has changed in 50 years. I love to watch operas on our big screen, and hope to soon work through Der Ring des Niebelungen again. I happen to be a Bach and Wagner addict. I love to read, and still have stacks of books waiting for my attention. I’ll be refreshing and advancing on my French instruction, and also trying to learn a little Spanish. I hope to return to regular practice on my trumpet. I am working on a 40th anniversary get-away with Betsy. She would like to visit Lost Vegas but still have our plans wide open. I have more stuff to do now that I’m retired than when I was working. C’est la vie!

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Aug 23
Looking down on Sheep Lake, Mount Adams is in the background

I tried to make this blog post up on WordPress on my iPhone, but somehow the program went bezirk. I was in Airplane mode since you don’t have cell phone service in the woods, but the program kept trying to upload my posts as well as past posts. It would stall for minutes, and then eat up 1% of my cell phone “juice” every 5 minutes. That is NOT a sustainable situation, so I deleted WordPress from the iPhone and wrote everything in Pages, converting it to a blog post when back at home.

19AUG Mile 2323-2337 (Martinson Gap) It’s now been a month off the trail, and I still feel beat up from the trail. Yet, the weather is beautiful, the mountains are calling, and I am missing the backpack life. I met a high school student on a volunteer trail maintenance project last year, Jacob Conner, and he wanted to do some of the trail with me, so we decided to do it together, with the fathers’ support. Ken Gill took me up to the trailhead, along with Sam, Ethan, and Liam. The kids walked in for about 3 miles before turning back and leaving Jacob and myself to our own devices. After ascending to Sheep Lake, the trail further ascended and coursed around the Crystal Mountain ski area, and then through a large burn area from several years ago. Because we were just starting out, we decided to take it easy today, and just walked 14 miles.

Betsy doing a conditioning walk with me on the Foothills Trail
The starting crew, including Ken, Ethan, Liam, Sam, me, Grandpa Bill, and Jacob

We had some interesting people pass us including Eleven, who I met in Hiker Town. We met a couple of hikers from Montreal who we stayed in contact with through to Snoqualmie Pass. We were able to have a very relaxed evening. 

Norse Peak Wilderness beauty
Mount Rainier partially hidden from the trail

20AUG Mile 2337-2352

I was in the trail at 6:40, a little later than usual, and Jacob followed a bit later. Eventually he passed me as he is a fairly strong and nimble hiker with a light pack weight. I met a few people of note including an elderly lady named Rhinestone, hiking alone, heading south and doing about 8-10 miles a day. She immediately volunteered that she was a Christian lady and spoke much to me about her faith and appreciation of God’s handiwork on the trail. She was working on short hikes supported by her husband until she could finish the entire Washington section of the PCT. Then there was Hotrod, another elderly geezer, who noted strongly that one should always hike their own hike and not be affected by the young ones sprinting at breakneck speed one the trail. Jacob and I met up at a water hole, then at Ulrich cabin where I was able to get more water, and stopped early at mile 2352 where there were nice campsites plus the last water for 12 miles. Since there were no good campsites for another 7 miles we decided to set up camp a little earlier than intended and had a relaxed evening, enjoying cigars together and celebrating my birthday. At Ulrich cabin there was a 25 yo hiker that had celebrated her 25th birthday just yesterday. It was birthday time on the trail.

Ulrich Cabin

21AUG Mile 2352-2371

Jacob wished to have coffee before starting the trail so we didn’t get hiking until 7 am. The day started beautiful and cloudless, but soon clouds and drizzle moved in. There were some beautiful scenes when the clouds broke but it was mostly hiking in cool, cloudy and occasionally rainy weather. We were able to hike quite quickly and made it through the 12 mile “dry” section without a problem. Soon, the rain became more persistent and the hills more demanding. I realized that though I wished to put in more miles I also wanted to have my tent up before I became completely soaked. So, we stopped at 19 miles where I had originally planned.  It felt like fall was truly in the air.

Misty day
Mountain beauty
A clue as to where you could find water
Jacob as spry as ever

22AUG Mile 2371-2393

It rained all through the night. I had my tent closed up and noted some condensation inside the tent. I also realized that my “mini” tent stakes were quite adequate for the desert but completely inadequate for the Northwest soil, so will swap out and use regular MSR stakes. I got up a little earlier and headed out with a very wet tent rolled up. I fortunately was dry as well as my sleeping bag. For the third night now, my sleeping pad, a ThermaRest Uberlight was half deflated and needed re-inflation at least once in the night. I think that I’m going to take it back and get a slightly smaller but more substantial sleeping pad. But, in my summary to follow, I’ll do a more complete summary of my equipment. We wished to reach Snoqualmie Pass by 4 pm and had 22 miles to hike. At first I led the way until Jacob caught up and dashed ahead at Mirror Lake. The trail from Mirror Lake was very rocky and not easy to hike through, so I dropped from a 2.5 – 3 mph rate to about 2 mph and ended up with considerable pain in the ankles. But, it was good to see Jacob, his mom, and his little brother. 

Stampede Pass in the mist
Beautiful Mirror Lake
Looking down on I-90

At this point, I had to make a major decision. First, I realized that I could not keep up with Jacob and that he had a time constraint in that he wished to get to Stehekin by 01SEPT, which I could not do. Secondly, with the body aches, especially in the neck, I wasn’t finding the hiking enjoyable, in fact, it was more a matter of constantly suppressing the pain, which usually started about 10 miles in for each day. If I was averaging about 15 mile days like most of the older geezers I passed, then all would be ok. But, this rate of hiking did not fit into what I could handle. I knew that the trail had won and that I really needed to fold in for the season. I had hiked a grand total of 1002 miles of the PCT this year. I am glad to have gotten the most challenging section over with (the desert), and would like to complete other sections of the trail in years to come, though at a slower pace than what I’ve been doing this year. Like Rhinestone, I would like to complete the Washington section of the PCT, do more of the Oregon and northern California PCT, and possibly even do the high Sierra. I will have the advantage of selecting optimal times to do each of these sections in the years to come. It just isn’t going to happen this year. My attitude toward epic adventures, whether on a bicycle or on foot, has come to an end. I will no longer seek for adventures that remove me from home for more than a month. ,,

There is a disappointment in this ending. I would have liked to have hiked more of the trail this year. As a fund-raiser hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage, I would have liked to complete a greater part of my commitment. If I physically could have, I would have. But, it just wasn’t possible. This was one of the worst years possible to commit to the PCT. First, there were record snowfalls from central Oregon south all the way to the Mexican border. Because of the late snow melts and massive water content, there were record hordes of mosquitoes. You already know how I felt about mosquitoes. Thirdly, the summer was unusually short, with fall settling in earlier than usual. The one aspect of the hike that was excellent was the desert, which was unusually green. The rivers and creeks that supply water for the hikers were flowing at a time when they are often dry, making water more available than other years. So, I am grateful for many aspects of this adventure. 

Jul 26
Tim in front of our Fish Lake Cabin

22JULY Mile 1773-1785

I was a little slow taking off from Fish Lake. A joined a bunch of other hikers for breakfast, which didn’t open until 9am. Fish tank, Tim and a few other hikers were there. Tim crashed the cabin with me. The attempt to hitch back to the trail was a little frustrating, and I had already walked a mile before somebody picked me up.

VERY touristy Fish Lake

I decided on a short day. The weather was cool with some clouds, but I was still sweating. I am drinking more water than I thought. Finally reaching Christi Spring about 4 pm, there were a lot of tent sites and I decided to crash here for the night. The other hikers from Fish Lake eventually caught up with me, and all but Tim decided to go on. After a quick dinner, I became invaded by vast swarms of mosquitoes, so it was a very quick retreat to the tent and mosquito protection. I also learned the near impossibility of taking a dump without being eaten by mosquitoes. I am now happy in bed, waiting for the sun to go down and everything to cool off. Tomorrow will need to be a big day.

Looking out toward Upper Klamath Lake
Looking down on Four Mile Lake

23JULY Mile 1785-1806I woke up this morning not feeling as well as I would have liked. The sun had not yet risen but one could see, and there was a drove of mosquitoes waiting for me just outside my tent. So, I packed everything in my backpack except the tent itself, quickly got everything together and ran. The mosquitoes remained in hot pursuit for about half the day. It got me thinking about mosquitoes. Have you ever thought about how large their brain is? For thinking, they probably have only 4 Betz cells. They don’t think! I suspect that they are direct operatives/automatons of Satan himself. Every bit of their behavior is Satanic. I can’t conceive of any good they fulfill for the kingdom of God. I certainly don’t mean to be selling bad theology since I believe that God is in total control of all things, yet comprehending the mosquito is like comprehending the whole problem of why there is evil in this world. But, back to the trail. The trail finally started climbing and offered spectacular views of Mt McLaughlin and Mt Shasta. I came to a saddle where looking north you could see Mt Thielsen, and the Crater Lake rim. This is also where I ran into some residual snow on very steep slopes. Several weeks before, this trail would have been close to impassable. I finally crossed several streams which were the last water for 20 miles until Crater Lake village. So, I am now carrying as much water as the desert. My poor back. An even longer stretch of 29 miles is coming up. You drink the water sparingly, but it is warm so your thirst never gets quenched. I stopped at a nice camp at mile 1806 with few mosquitoes, had dinner, and climbed in my tent. Just then, Fishtank comes by and chats. For reasons that will be discussed later, I decided to bail for now, maybe getting some hiking in after a longer recovery for my left shoulder/neck. I arranged that Fishtank could pick up the several resupply packages I’ve already sent in order for them to get used. My resupply packages have become known as having very enviable food items that most other people just did not think about using for a backpacking trip.

Mt McLaughlin in the distance

24JULY Mile 1806-1823 (Crater Lake)

It was quite cold this morning, cold enough to warrant my down jacket. The mosquitoes were already lurking outside of the tent, awaiting a feast of fresh human blood, which I would try to deny them. I knew that today would remain waterless until I reached my destination 16 miles way. The weather started as cool, but warmed up quickly, demanding increased water consumption. There was only about 2000 feet of climbing, so I was able to zip along quickly. Sadly, there was about 8 miles of forest fire to walk through, which extended well into Crater Lake National Park for about 4 miles. I took my mid-morning rest at the high point of the day, a saddle with spectacular views in both south and north directions. There was still snow about the trail on the north side slopes, which suggested prohibitive danger even just a few weeks before when hard pack snow would have completely invested the slope. Even on dropping down 1000 feet to the level of Mazama village, there were large patches of snow. At Mazama Village, the campsites were full and they had not opened up the hiker sites yet. It was like the hikers were their least concern, even though thru-hikers had few other options. I had lunch at the expensive village restaurant, which fortunately provided bottomless fountain drinks, allowing me to consume about 4 liters too partially assuage my thirst. A couple sitting next to me agreed to shuttle me up to the rim, where I could catch a shuttle into Klamath Falls. I quickly picked up my resupply package and doled it out to about 15 hiker trash people hanging out at the village store and got my ride up to the rim. Several hours later I was in Klamath Falls at a motel close to the train station, and consumed several more liters of fluid to aid my persistently raging thirst. I scheduled the Amtrak ride back to Tacoma on-line, called Betsy, and then felt relaxed.

Snow past the saddle
Few of Mt Shasta (far left horizon) and Mt McLaughlin from the saddle
Lengthy area of forest fire, particularly hot to walk through
Arrival at Crater Lake National Park
Yes! Crater Lake

So, I am going to terminate my journey. Toward the end of August, I might still spend several weeks going from Stevens Pass to Canada. This way, I could complete the two ends of the journey. I am sad that a complete thru-hike was not accomplished, but then I was realistic from the start at a 5-10% chance of total success, and on learning of the dismal snow year this year and expected heatwave in the mountains this summer, calculated only a fleeting chance of total success. So many of my fellow hikers (almost all of them) ended up bailing out, most of them far more capable than myself.

Why did I throw in the towel and give up? There was a combination of factors. I will quickly blame the weather and environmental factors as playing a huge role for not only me but for most of the hikers attempting the trail. Greatest in my mind was the physical aspect. I had the strength to make it, but the neck and back issues had become unbearable. Perhaps a different pack might make a difference and I’ll explore that, but it would have to be a pack weighing under 2.5 lb. I will probably still have some time this year to explore that option.

The second issue was psycho-social. First was the psychological issues of the trail. Flip-flopping is known to demoralize the thru-hiker, and now I can see why. I had no choice in this matter, not wanting to take the huge risks of going through the snow of the high Sierra. It is also demoralizing to be hiking south like so many flip-floppers were doing when the ultimate goal is Canada. The trail was becoming unbearably monotonous. For 99% of the time, you were in forests with trees and hills that mostly all looked the same. True, the high Sierra would have offered a different venue but that wasn’t to be this year. I truly enjoyed the solitude of the woods, but then too much of a good thing can become a very bad thing. The hike really is a concatenation series of 3-6 day section hikes, starting and ending at resupply points. With each section, one needed to estimate the difficulty, available water sources, possible snow conditions, and any other possible problems.

I didn’t experience the typical hiker hunger, but often had anorexia, just not wanting to eat much of anything. The thirst was relentless no matter much I would take in. Water tastes SOOOO good right out of a cold spring, but bland when it had been warming up all day in the heat of the sun in your backpack. After about one day, you become quite dirty. Even though I always wore long pants, the dirt on my legs would be challenging to remove once I was able to take a shower. Oral hygiene was close to impossible—just try brushing your teeth without wasting a drop of water! I don’t mind getting dirty, but staying persistently filthy when one has lived his professional life in sterile conditions becomes hard to handle.,

Early on in the hike, there was a sense that once you acquired your “hiker legs” you would be able to go much faster and farther in a day. That was only partially true for me, in that once I got started in the morning, my feet would just go and go, like the Energizer bunny. I found that my heart was a serious limiting factor, in that going uphill predictably would slow me down to a crawl. I found that once I hit a bit more than 20 miles in a day, my feet just didn’t want to go further, and pain in the feet and ankles prevented me from pushing on. This could be remedied by consuming mass quantities of ibuprofen, which I would do. I would have liked to have hit at least one 30 mile day, but 28 miles ended up being my longest day, hit several times on my journey. There are those who can accomplish greater than 40 mile days, but they begin the day at 2-3 am and hike great lengths in darkness—not my cup of tea—and usually are pushing 3 mph speeds. If I tried to do that, I would have guaranteed myself a serious injury.

There were social aspects to the decision to quit. First, the desert was far more heavily populated with thru-hikers, and they were an enjoyable lot. You might go much of a day without seeing anybody, but then you would run into a lot of people that you could identify with. Up north, there were far fewer people on the trail and many of them were section hikers. Most of them were not prepared for the task at hand, having packed WAY too much unnecessary items resulting in pack weights in excess of 50 lbs. Most of these people were very physically fit males who didn’t think that weight mattered. Those people should limit themselves to 10-12 miles per day and go for under a week with most of their hikes, or at least learn and quickly lighten their load. So it was a matter of progressive loneliness for me. I thought constantly about Betsy at home and felt that our time of separation was a bit too long. Then there was the issue of much going on at home and Betsy feeling increasingly desperate for me to be home. She agreed before the start of my journey that she would be totally supportive, and she has kept faithful to that agreement. Yet, I could tell how she really needed me at home. I thought about the other things I should be doing like short adventures with Betsy, and getting the grandchildren out into the woods, teaching them the new style of packing. All of these matters played a part in me finally breaking. The decision came quickly but resolutely, with me giving it several days before talking with Betsy about my intention.

Was the journey worth it? Did I learn anything? Did I accomplish any good through this venture? I believe that the answer is yes to all of these questions.

It would be impossible to estimate the worth of the journey. Healthwise, I lost 25 lb, and feel much better than before the journey. While hiking, I found it necessary to stop my anti-hypertension mediations, or I would get lightheaded every time I stopped hiking. I was way over-treating myself. I always felt as strong as usual while hiking. Spiritually, it was a wonderful time with God. As mentioned before, each day as soon as I was on the trail I would sing the Doxology and Gloria Patri, and then pray for my family including Betsy, the children, as well as my siblings. Often, a special hymn would stay with me much of the day. I had in iBooks a pdf file of the lyrics to my 100 favorite hymns that were always nice to sing in my head in the evening. I have almost completed John Frame’s History of Western Philosophy, though the appendices are almost as long as the book. I experience hiker-brain on the trail which limits the amount of critical thinking that I could do.

The learning experience was massive in terms of knowing how to do long distance hiking. At this time, even shorter hikes will be different, and a focus on lightness will be key. I met many new friends, some of whom I suspect will stay in touch. The trail gave me experience in knowing how to plan and tackle various challenging circumstances such as dealing with long waterless segments of the trail, and learning how to do without many of the comforts of life.

Did I accomplish any good outside of what I gained personally? Others would have to tell me that. Betsy would have been my greatest focus on how this experience might have affected her, and you can ask her that. Doing the hike as a Hike-a-thon for Huguenot Heritage Ministry was a deep concern of mine, and hopefully my journey generated a worthwhile return for the ministry. Thinking realistically 6 months ago, I knew that completion of the trail had most odds against me, and indeed, even completion of the desert section was greatly against me. I also pledged for the hike, but have determined that I would still donate an amount equivalent to as if I had done the entire trail. The dear reader should follow their own heart, but remember that this ministry merits the best we can do to support it, in spite of my personal failure to accomplish 100% of the trail.

So, I will do more of the trail, but will need to take care of home issues and organize my thoughts as well as heal before hitting the trail again. Stay in touch.

Jul 22
Sailor (Alicia) just before leaving back to the trail

Yesterday was busy. I took Alicia up to White Pass, a little more than two hours in each direction. It was still cloudy, though the weatherman promised than it would get sunny. After our goodbyes, I had to quickly get ready to leave. As mentioned before, the easiest way to get ack on the trail in southern Oregon was by Greyhound. Sadly, Greyhound is very poorly run, and the busses can be expected to be at least an hour late. We had to transfer in Portland. I fell asleep and woke up just as we arrived in Medford.

19JUL Mile 1719-1730. I again contacted trail Angel Mike, and after a bit, he decided to just get me and leave me at the trailhead. I was finally back on the trail, but understandably nervous about how my body would handle it. I also decided to not push it any in way. Thus, the first day was only 11 miles, though I did start a bit late, at 9am. Hiking went well, and I had some aches and pains, but minimal neck pain. I should get an earlier start tomorrow and probably start to push it more. One interesting event occurred today. As I was setting up camp, a guy comes by looking for the spring close to where I was camped. After a few interchanges, we introduced ourselves, and he was Fishbait. Alicia had mentioned that I might be seeing him.

Familiar sign
Pilot Rock

20JULY Mile 1730-1750

I woke up early as usual, and headed out, not sure how far I’d make it. The trail had ups and downs, but no extreme climbing. The weather was perfect. I passed several lakes, though the views were imperfect. Water was present but not abundant. Thankfully it wasn’t terribly hot. I decided to stop at 20 miles at Klum Landing Camp. The next day, I wish I would have gone a bit further. This camp was filled with RVs and riff raff, with no hiker trash. Oh well.

One of the many expansive meadows

21JULY Mile 1750-1773

This was a long day of 25 miles since I had to walk 2 extra miles to get to the Fish Lake resort where I had a resupply package. It was another beautiful day with very little climbing. About half way, I came to a road where there was trail magic…fruit and ice cold soda pop with a chair to sit in. The last 8 miles had expansive lava flows. The Oregon PCTA has done an awesome job of building and maintaining these trails, making it fairly easy to get through. Finally, I reached the side trail to Fish Lake. Half way, I encounter a fellow hiker who I met on 04APR and haven’t seen since then!

Trail angel on left with lots of cold soda pop
Lava flow
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Jul 17

It is now far too long to be off the trail. Oddly, several very unexpected events occurred out of my control. They are as follows…

First, I received a call from Sailor at White Pass, noting that she was having knee problems, and wondering if she could crash at our place for several days. Of course that was ok, and we had a great time having her in. It also gave me a little more time to rest my neck. I will be dropping her off close to the trailhead tomorrow am, and then will be hopping on a Greyhound bus in the evening to head off.

Secondly, I was given some terribly unfortunate news. Betsy and I had remained close friends with Phil Muller over the years, and had taken him out to lunch or had him over for dinner whenever I was home from the trail. Last Tuesday, Phil needed help weed-whacking the growth in his backyard, so I took my trust weed whacker over, and we finished clearing out his back yard in about 2 hours, with Phil raking up the loose weeds and I running the weed whacker. Because it was too early to do lunch and with Phil a little tired out, we decided to stop work and just call it a day. Phil also wanted some help taking care of some trees in the yard, and we agreed to meet later in the week to accomplish that. I called the next day to set up a work day, and never received an answer, so just assumed that Phil perhaps didn’t wish to talk at that time. I tried again on Thursday and Friday, and still no response. Betsy was worried, so we went over to his place on Friday about noon, and there was no answer to the doorbell. I thought I heard some noises from inside the house so decided that perhaps Phil really just needed time alone, which wasn’t uncommon for him. Saturday had the event below occur, and so I didn’t try to make contact again until Sunday. Still no answer, so I became very worried. I called Dr. King and Andrew, and neither was aware of what was going on with Phil. I didn’t have Phil’s contact to his sister from Silverdale, so there was nothing that I could do to sort things out. Sunday at 18:40 I received a call from Andrew who learned that Phil was found dead in his trailer. I must have been the last person to have made contact with Phil. It is a terrible blow to see Phil go. He had a tremendous amount of personal problems, but still had struggled to live a Christian life as well as possible. These events kept me in town, answering questions to family, and sorting out whether a memorial service or anything of that sort was going to happen.

Thirdly, I was in a car accident. On Saturday, I drove out to Pinnacle Peak and ran up the hill several times. Coming home, traffic was heavy and I slowed down and stopped for traffic stalled in front of me. Suddenly, I realized that the vehicle, a black sports car, was inattentive and rammed right into my truck, pushing me several meters into the vehicle, a red Silverado, in front of me. The car was drivable to get home, and it was clearly the fault of the driver that hit me (who had good insurance) and so that lessened the pain of it all. In the process of sorting things out, USAA sent out an adjuster, who determined that my vehicle was totaled and not worth repairing, and gave me a generous quote for the vehicle. Once I finish my backpacking, Betsy and I will need to purchase a new pickup, and we will probably go again for a Toyota Tacoma, or possibly a Chevy Colorado. Meanwhile, USAA is going to pick up our truck and dispose of it where cars usually get dumped. It will be sad to see our vehicle go.

Car front
Car rear

Meanwhile, Betsy has a moderate amount of work to accomplish around the house. We will be having the carpet removed from our stairs and upstairs landing, and get wood floors in these locations like we did to most of the downstairs. This is going to tie up her time for a few days and leave her without the ability to get upstairs easily while the workers reconstruct the stairway.

My return to the trail has been under contemplation. I did not anticipate being at home this long. The weather has been very rainy in the Northwest, making it a bit miserable for hikers out there. Typical NW weather is a constant drizzle, and the trail tends to be muddy, no matter how well the trail was designed. At this time, my greatest desire is to simply a) get in as many miles as possible on trail free from snow and mud, and b) get to Canada, since I had to apply for a special permit for that to happen. Thus, I am shortening my original intentions by about 200 miles, and will be starting my hike from Ashland. I anticipate reaching Timberline Lodge in the 1st to second week of August, popping home briefly, and then doing Washington, starting at a point that seems most reasonable at the time to permit me to reach Canada before winter sets in.

Greyhound will take me to Medford, Oregon. It is an overnight trip and will arrive early on Friday. I’ve spoken with a trail angel (Mike) who will pick me up and drop me off at the trail where it crosses I-5 about 10 miles south of Ashland. This means that I will be missing about 20 miles of the PCT in Oregon, but, that’s life. I’m anxious to get back on the trail and am trying the easiest approach possible to get me there. Psychologically, it is much easier to be going north, since I am then headed toward Canada. The snow should be easily manageable. My greatest problem will probably be mosquitos. If it hasn’t occurred to the reader, mosquitos are the bane of the backpacker. I regret how seriously this hike has been chopped up. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but then, I didn’t anticipate a record snow year for the trail. This was NOT the year to be doing the PCT.

So, I ask you to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I know that Betsy will be ok, but I don’t like leaving her when so much is happening on the home front. The Lord has so far been abundantly good to me, keeping me safe and without any serious problems on the trail or at home.

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Jul 04

I am again at home when I should be on the trail. The neck issue has been quickly addressed. I called up by dear friend Fred Bomonti, a retired chiropractor, who came over and did a few things to my back, and I now feel better. I still have some pain, but not the searing pain that I was experiencing a few days ago. I’ll see him at his office on Friday for a follow-up adjustment. There are things that chiropractors really are superb at fixing, and back/neck pain is one of them. I fear that throwing the pack on my back too soon will re-start the pain, and so wish to give it a bit of rest, and will delay a bit before jumping back on the trail.

It takes a while to get hiker feet, and my strength in walking has never been a problem. Because of my heart issues, I feared that strength to do the trail would be my greatest problem, but it hasn’t been. True, I am tired when I go to bed at night, but when I wake in the morning, I feel as strong as ever. I never question the wisdom of God is designing us to spend a ⅓ of our time unconscious and horizontal. It is a marvelous way get daily “maintenance” on the body. I also lost 25 lb since starting the hike in April, and feel much better. This hiking trip has been awesome for my general health. Twenty-five pounds is a lot of extra weight to be carrying every day, and I’m most happy to be rid of it. Hopefully, I don’t put too much back on before I return to the trail.

I have said before that I have chosen absolutely the worst year to be hiking the PCT. I couldn’t help it. I had to sign up in October, long before anybody knew what trail conditions were going to be like. I figured that since snow conditions were so high two years ago, snow would not be a problem this year, but it was. These conditions have led to three actions among hikers. 1. Push on through. For a few, this isn’t a bad decision, as they have the strength to push on and the knowledge of how to handle severe conditions. I don’t, and the overwhelming majority of those hiking the trail don’t have the capability, and many are getting into trouble because of that. 2. Quit. Many of my friends on the trail were content to do nothing but the desert, or to flip-flop, realize that there were no good areas (this year) to flip-flop to, and then quit, hoping to come back some other time because the trail conditions were so ugly. 3. Flip-flop with time off to let conditions improve and make it a multi-year hike. This will be my ultimate strategy. There is no consensus among hikers on the trail as to the best option.

When I started at the Mexican border, you might hike alone for half a day or more, but you would then see many people when you arrived at camp or if you stopped to rest. It was easy to get to know fellow thru-hikers. In the flip-flop mode, there are so few hikers on the trail, that the acquaintance of one day is certainly gone the next day. You meet the riff-raff hoi polloi out for their day hikes. This last segment, I met a young couple hiking from Timberline Lodge to as far north as they could get in a month. It was their honeymoon. They were WAY overpacked, so I suspect that they might call it at Cascade Locks or not too long afterward. It is quite easy to tell the real thru-hikers from the riff-raff on the trail.

There are four main segments of the PCT. 1. The Desert, 2. The High Sierra, 3. Northern California, and 4. Oregon and Washington. This year was a perfect year to hike the desert. It was green and gorgeous. Water was plentiful. It wasn’t burning hot. It was a joy to hike through. The high Sierra had 220% of average snowfall, the highest recorded in many areas, and the snow is not melting quickly. The high Sierra is usually pictured as lovely green meadows and granite lined lakes with many surrounding peaks. Right now, it is a bland sheet of whiteness. No thanks! Northern California also had record snowfalls with the snow not melting quickly. Thus, many areas remain impassable (at least, as recommended by forest rangers) at this time. Many areas of the Sierra, Northern California, and Oregon/Washington demand lengthy (multiple miles) of hiking through snow, which might not be dangerous, but definitely slows you down to under half your normal hiking speed. The risk of injury, getting lost, and other problems go up astronomically when hiking through snow. Other areas, if the snow is gone, still have the problem of intense blow-downs (fallen trees across the trail) which makes hiking the trail MUCH more difficult. I did the only portion of northern California where snow was not a dominant factor at this time of the year but even then, it was 2-3 very challenging miles of snow. In Oregon and Washington, matters are a bit different. Having grown up the Northwest, generally serious hiking at higher altitudes does not begin until late July or August. The PCT generally stays at these higher altitudes. Besides contending with snow, rain is a constant issue until late July, and insects, especially the mosquito and biting flies) are worst before August. If one was doing a typical PCT thru-hike, you would not be hitting Oregon and Washington until August/September, when conditions in the mountains are ideal. The last few days showed me swarms of mosquitos in many spots which did not even permit me to sit down and rest, lots of rain, and very muddy trails which leaves on feeling uncomfortably dirty. So, there are no good options for where and when to jump back on the trail.

With all of this in mind, I am in deep contemplation as to what to do next. This is now my third time to retreat and come home. Besides running up the cost of this venture far beyond what I expected and planned for, it is psychologically demoralizing. It is especially psychologically challenging to be hiking south when your goal is to eventually reach Canada! Assuming that my neck problem can be resolved to comfortable levels, I still wish to get in as much of the trail as possible. Too much of a good thing becomes a very bad thing, and the doldrums of the daily routine is also somewhat psychologically challenging. The adventure of discovering the trail seems to resolve most of those doldrums, though I find it incomprehensible that many would wish to hike the PCT (or AT) through many times over. I wish to complete as much of the trail as possible this year for several reasons. 1) It was my original intention, and I don’t wish to go against that, and 2) I am walking the trail as part of a hike-a-thon for the Huguenot Heritage, for whom I wish to raise as many funds as possible, and 3) most of the trail that I missed has intense beauty, and worth hiking.

I am definitely going to give my neck a few weeks of rest from the backpack. I wouldn’t mind doing an over-nighter with family or friends (Russ?), but definitely not longer out than 2-3 days. I’d like to perhaps do a car-camping trip with Betsy. Once I return to the PCT, which would be later in July or early August, my thought is to start either at Snoqualmie or Chinook Pass and hike north from there, preferably into Canada. By that time, the swarm of PCT hikers will then be coming through and I will again have company in my endeavor. Most of the snow will be gone. The insects will have died down. I will have missed from Walker Pass to Old Station, from Bridge of the Gods to Chinook/Snoqualmie Pass, and from Castella to Timberline Lodge. These are all areas that might be best to wait until next year, when weather and snow conditions are more favorable. If I recover quickly, maybe I’ll return to Timberline Lodge and complete the Timberline to Castella segment, and then come back and do the above. Next year, since I don’t need to worry about an exact “start” time, getting a permit to finish everything will be much easier to accomplish. Perhaps I might also find the right person to accompany me?

Changes? 1) I’ll go back to Altra Lone Peak shoes. I’ve actually found two blisters on my feet, one on my left medial first toe, and one on my right medial heel. The Lone Peaks did not give me such blisters. 2) The Tyvek is too slippery and doesn’t work well if there is any slope to where one is sitting. I found another simple pad which could fill other uses. 3) I’ll leave the flip-flop sandals at home as I never used them. 4) I’ll carry less food but more dinners. 4) I like the new hydration set-up and will stick with that. 5) I gave my Ursack to Chuckles as I was leaving the trail and she was having a serious problem with rodents eating into her food bag, even while hanging. I’ll get a black Ursack for this next time out. 6) I’ll try to limit my miles a bit more. 7) I’ll probably carry a larger battery backup since I’ll be on longer stretches without the possibility of recharging my iPhone or inReach PLB. 8) I’ll need to be a little better prepared for cold wet weather. Perhaps a thermal top would be appropriate.

What can you do to help? 1) Pray for me, that I might have health to continue, and safety in my travels. 2) Pray for good weather, minimal rain, cool conditions, few mosquitoes, no forest fires and minimal snow. 3) Consider meeting me at one of the resupply points (Snoqualmie, Stevens, Stehekin, or Manning Park, Canada) for a trail angel moment, 4) Provide me a ride to Chinook Pass as Betsy absolutely hates to drive in the mountains, and 5) sign up and pledge to support the ministry of Huguenot Heritage. I most certainly will not make all 2650 miles of the trail this year, but your pledges will keep me going for as far as I humanly can endure. Even I have pledged money per mile for the trail, but value the ministry of Huguenot Heritage sufficiently that I intend to donate as though I had hiked the entire PCT. You might consider the same. 6) Pray for Huguenot Heritage and III Millenium Ministries. The focus of this backpack trip should not be me but the many people who have given their lives and fortunes to bring the gospel to foreign speaking people. Francis Foucachon and others are laboring tirelessly to provide the materials that front-line missionaries and pastors need to minister to their flocks in foreign countries. Have a heart and pray that the gospel triumph through their work.

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