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PCT 2019: Waiting for the snow to melt

One of these days I'm gonna sit down and write a long letter

Hike with Gravity

Hiking with the Woohoo Crew was a great joy. I wish we could have kept hiking as a group.

It’s hard to hold together a group like that, though. By the time we reached Kennedy Meadows, only three of us had hiked every mile. Most of the rest had hiked most of the miles but needed to skip some for a variety of reasons.

One developed a nagging injury and another had a serious injury that required getting off the trail for more than a week. Two got sick and needed to skip some miles to stay with the group.

Others decided they needed to hike at their own pace. And Tengo Hambre had only intended from the start to go part of the way.

Here’s the thing, though. Every single one of the people I hiked with, whether it was for a day or it was for more than seven weeks, made a lasting impression on me and a big impact on my trail experience.

There’s a reason why groups like the Woohoo Crew are called “tramily.” You form bonds with these people and think of them as family. You care for them, look out for them, and they do the same for you.

The family bonds formed quickly among the Woohoo Crew, but that’s the way of the trail. We all experienced the same experiences, good and bad. Through those experiences we easily built camaraderie.

Among the concerns I had about my decision to flip to Washington after the snow melts, one stands out. Will I be able to duplicate the experience I had for the first part of my hike. I’ll be starting over and this time I’ll be alone.

Or at least that’s what I thought.

Shortly after I arrived home I talked to my friend Ralph. He joined me for a couple short sections during my Appalachian Trail thru-hike and had suggested he might want to hike with me again on the PCT. I was unsure he was serious, but now he made it clear he was.

Ralph intended to drive to Washington and meet me on the trail. He wasn’t planning to hike every mile, but would be able to hike a day or more with me before returning to his truck and then meeting me at another trailhead. He hoped to do this for a couple weeks or more.

I could not have been more pleased to have Ralph join me.

For the next few weeks, I re-evaluated my gear and made plans for resupply drops. All the while, I was checking the snow gauge at Hart’s Pass at least once a day.

The rule of thumb for southbound thru-hikers is to watch that gauge until it reaches zero, then wait two more weeks before starting a hike. The delay is because Hart’s Pass isn’t the highest or snowiest part of Washington. The extra time gives snow on other parts of the trail a chance to melt.

After following the trend for melting, I guessed that June 30 would be at least two weeks after snow left the pass and set that as my start date. I then secured a new permit from the Pacific Crest Trail Association for that date.

So I wouldn’t become too out of shape during my time off, I walked in my neighborhood nearly every day with my wife. I also did a few hikes with a full pack at Frozen Head State Park, the same park I had used for training before starting the AT and PCT. The trails there have a good amount of elevation change, allowing me to train in conditions similar to the trail.

Kim and I flew to Seattle on June 25 so that we could have a few days together doing tourist things before I returned to the trail. Other than a big screw-up by the airline with canceled flights and luggage routed to the wrong city, we had a wonderful time.

Having a 44-day break from the trail was not how I planned my PCT hike, but so far, it has worked out as well as I could hope. Besides the obvious benefits of time for rest, recovery, and planning, I had time to think about how fortunate I have been.

I made friends that I now consider lifelong friends. I hiked again with one of my good friends from the AT. A friend I’ve known for roughly 20 years has made plans to join me in Washington. I’m thankful for all of them.

Then there's my astonishing fortune to be married to someone who is not only supportive of my hikes, she is actively involved in helping me be successful.

I don’t know how I got so lucky and I don’t know how to adequately express those feelings. Maybe someday I can figure out how to do that.

In the meantime, there is one thing I know for sure. The people I mentioned have all given me a good chance to finish what I started. Now all I need to do is put one step in front of the other for another 1,950 miles or so.

I probably should also try to avoid getting eaten by a mountain lion.

One of these days
I'm gonna sit down
And write a long letter
To all the good friends I've known
And I'm gonna try
And thank them all
For the good times together
Though so apart we've grown

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