PCT Thru-Hikers at Wapinitia Pass
PCT Thru-Hikers at Wapinitia Pass
We were just hauling our load of trail magic goodies and swag to the trailhead when the first thru-hiker came by. Andrew had to call out to him to tell him to stop. His name was Hike A While, from Spokane, WA, and he carried a ULA CDT pack, which weighed in a smidge under twenty pounds. (note: All weight estimates my own, made by lifting the packs.)
Hike A While was eager to chow down on hot dogs, donuts, watermelon, pineapple, chips, crackers and anything else edible we brought. Thru-hikers are notoriously ravenenously hungry - their bodies go through a metabolic shift after four months and two thousand miles on the trail. They can eat anything, and lots of it.
Hike A While told us of his evolution as a thru-hiker. He had started out with an Osprey Atmos 65 pack, jammed full of clothes and all sorts of "just-in-case" gear. When I asked if it weighed 50 to 60 pounds, he replied, "Oh, yeah. It was well over sixty pounds." He first ejected the extra extra extra layers of clothes. He traded in his Atmos for the lighter Osprey Volt, and then finally bought the ULA from another thru-hiker in Ashland. He had sold his house before he left for the trail, so he was a true homeless thru-hiker. His advice was to get rid of all the extra crap, and make peace with the mosquitos.
Next to come along was Rick, a south-bound section-hiker from Eugene, Oregon. He was carrying an Osprey Hornet 46 pack. Rick started at Cascade Locks, and had already covered over sixty miles by the second day of a six-day hike. His pack was a bit over 25 pounds. Rick is a former runner, and despite his pace, he sat down and enjoyed the fare we provided for several hours. He wore Injinji socks, the ones with toes, and said he liked that they eliminated friction and added more cushioning.
Next up were a couple from Silverton, Oregon. Chris, a retired science teacher, and John an engineer. They were celebrating 33 years of marriage by enjoying a twenty day section-hike, northbound from Crater Lake to Cascade Locks. Chris carried a REI UL45 pack, weighing about 22 pounds, but John was the pack mule, carrying over 30 pounds in his GoLite Trek pack. John rationalized the extra weight, saying that his sons carried the heavier load when he went backpacking with them. Chris and John enjoyed our hospitality, eating, drinking, and sharing experiences and learnings from the trail. They were wary of reaching their goal at the Columbia River, just a few days from completion. They weren't tired of it at all, they just wanted to keep on hiking.
Walking Home and Sasquatch rolled in next. They had a reunion with Hike A While, having encountered him a number of times since the Mexico border. Walking Home was from Washington state, and carried an Osprey Atmos 65 pack, which weighed forty pounds. Sasquatch was from Cologne, Germany, carrying a 28-pound Go Lite Jam 50 pack. Quick on their heels was Autobahn, another German, but from Berlin. Autobahn was most appreciative of the beer we had brought. The northwest craft brews quickly disappeared, and we were left drinking Coors. I stole a line from Monty Python and told the joke that American beer was like making love in a canoe ... f***ing close to water. But any beer was better than no beer.
Autobahn carried a Go Lite Jam, which I guess weighed 25 pounds.
Golden Child showed up next, northbound sectioning to complete a 2010 thru-hike. She was carrying a ULA Circuit, total weight about 28 pounds. Golden Child also wore Injinji toed-socks. She had problems with toe blisters in 2010, and the Injinji socks solved that problem for this hike.
Rick, Chris & John, and Walking Home had continued hiking by this point. Floater, from Richland, Washington, was the last to arrive. He carried an Osprey Atmos 65, with the lid removed. It was a five-year old model, with heavier fabric. Floater has been doing PCT sections hundreds of miles long for years. His Atmos had even been sent back to Osprey for patching repairs. He praised Osprey's customer service. His pack weighed but 25 pounds, but, true to his name, he still moved at a slower pace, and enjoyed long pauses.
Speaking of long pauses, Hike A While was still with us five hours after we arrived. He must have consumed at least 5 hot dogs, 5 donuts, and innumerable beers. But soon the last donut was eaten, the last beer drained, and the party was over.
It is interesting to note the popularity of Injinji socks. I tried out a pair recently and really appreciated how they allowed my foot to spread out naturally, instead of cramping up in a narrow foot box. Foot care is always important to thru-hikers. Next Adventure donated thin, lightweight socks, which are always popular restock items. We also had packets of oatmeal and water for them to take on the trail. Just what thru-hikers need to keep them going.
With nothing more to give, we dragged the cooler and grill back to the car, and Jo and Andrew left for Portland.
I remained behind and began my own PCT backpacking adventure. Hefting my GoLite Jam pack, weighing in at 26 pounds (with two quarts of water) to my shoulder, I started southbound from the Frog Lake Snow-Park, crossed Highway 26, and checked the PCT trail register at the Blue Box trail juncture.
We had hoped to catch Lint as he hiked through, but he had signed the log three days before, "Lint headed for lunch buffet. Started Mexico, May 19th NOBO," he wrote.
As I hiked south on the Pacific Crest Trail, I encountered one other northbound thru-hiker, Uphill, from Olympia, WA. He was sporting a Ray Jardine home-sewn kit pack, ultra-minimal, and ultra-light. Uphill had heard from southbound Rick about the Wapinitia Pass Trail Magic, and was disappointed to hear that he had missed it. I gave him some advice about camping spots before Timberline Lodge. The breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge is famous among thru-hikers, so they plan their hike to hit it. All-you-can-eat goes along way after you've hiked 2000 miles!
I only hiked four miles before it got dark, but enjoyed some marvelous alpenglow on Mt. Hood. I bivvied near the trail, and got an early start the next morning. I didn't see any more thru-hikers as I left the PCT and explored the Jackpot Meadows Trail and the upper portion of the Salmon River Trail. I ended up putting in a 20-mile day by the time I camped at lower Twin Lake that night. An easy day for an experienced thru-hiker that often does 30- and even 40-mile days, but quite a long day for me. But that adventure is fodder for a whole 'nother blog.
Meanwhile, the PCT Thru-Hikers are coming! The hikers mentioned here are just the front of the pack -- three hundred or more are yet to come. Watch for them making zero days in Portland, or go up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and hear their amazing stories first-hand.
Don't miss the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks, September 6-8, if you really want to get a grip on the the latest and greatest in ultra-light gear. Free admission, free camping, gear raffles, gear clinics, movies, photo slideshows, dance parties, a disc golf tournament, mountain biking, hiking and more await those who are thru-hiker-curious and head up the Columbia River Gorge for this incredible event.
Or, you could join Next Adventure Outdoor School for a five-day backpack along the Pacific Crest Trail, starting September 9th, and really get a feel for what it's all about. Find out more at NextAdventure.net/Community/Outdoor-School
And if you want to learn more without leaving town, then come by Next Adventure, 426 SE Grand Ave, Portland, Oregon, at 7 pm, on the evening of September 10, for a free informational clinic about what it takes to be a lightweight thru-hiker. Learn more at NextAdventure.net/Community/Outreach