Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail

I'm Dana Law. I've been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for the last 12 years in sections. I've hiked a total of 2476 miles and I'm 193 miles from the terminus at the Canadian Border. Please enjoy this journal, pictures and video from the last twelve years adventures. If you have any questions about hiking the trail please contact me at

Location: El Cajon, California, United States

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I have some talks coming up before the end of the year. Please join me for the latest pictures, videos and stories about the trail. Please recommend my talks to a friend. 

Ramona Branch Library October 1, 2:30pm – 4:00pm

Santee Public Library October 8th 1:00pm - 2:30pm

Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association November 25, 7:30 PM 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We made it! We've finished the Pacific Crest Trail to the Northern Terminus at the Canadian Border.

On August 14th I began my last leg of the Pacific Crest Trail.  I joined Bill Redman, the man I started the trail with on May 27th, 2003 for the final 120 miles to the Northern Terminus at the Canadian border.  We flew together to Seattle to meet Luke Reinsma whom we'd both met in hikes along the way.  He drove us nearly three hours to the remote trail-head where we left the trail a year ago because of fires.  Luke hoped to join us for a day on the trail but was under the weather.  We missed our good friend's conversation and knowledge of flora and fauna.  We remembered the 7 or so miles to the PCT as mostly flat or rolling trail, but we were wrong.  There was a lot of gain in altitude. Glad it was a short day.

I've been asked many times before this trip, "What's next?"  Frankly, I don't know.  I do have a feeling of inertia.  I've been moving north in this fabulous adventure for so long I know I'll do another long trail; when and where, not sure.  I do know for me it's not about being in nature, which is fine and astoundingly beautiful. I don't hike to find peace in the wilderness.  The only Zen you’ll find at the top of the mountain is the Zen you bring up with you.  It's the adventure and the challenge that drives me, a feeling of accomplishment, learning you have the grit, drive, discipline and dream to pull off something this big. 

Before we hit the trail Luke said, "I've never filtered water up here and never had a problem, but don't take my advice." We did take his advice with the exception of a few streams that horses and llamas had visited and have had no problems.

The next day, August 15, included a big climb, about 3600 feet in 11 miles, the biggest gain in altitude for the whole section.  We were exhausted by the end of the day.  We crossed our first log bridge at Miner's Creek.  We didn't expect to meet any through-hikers on this trip, but much to our amazement we were passed by Sweet Virginia and Grey Squirrel.  These were among the fastest through-hikers on the trail. Sweet Virginia was a young lady but Grey Squirrel must have been 65. My motto is, "Exercise is the closest thing to the Fountain of Youth."  It has proved true for me and many others.  Bill and I were exhausted after the first full day on the trail.  It had the biggest continuous climb of the whole trip. The trail started to open up and we got some grand and lovely views

The next day was 14 miles downhill to Stehekin, but it didn't feel much easier.  We ran into trail legend Billy Goat who was doing a  "Three Legged Hike". Imagine if your will hiking for a little while, putting down your pack, hiking back in the direction from which you just came for a little while, hiking back to your pack, picking up your pack and repeat.  What a unique fellow.  He's 77 and has logged roughly 35,000 miles.  I've seen him 3 times on the trail and Bill has seen him twice.  He loves to be recognized. He is famous for saying, "The Pacific Crest Trail is 2650 miles long but only this wide," holding his hands out about 2 feet apart.  We're big fans. As we left he put his hand on Bill's shoulder and said, "Walking is life."  A moment of of Zen with Billy Goat.

Near the end of that day we ran into a Grandpa hiking with two teenage grandkids. They were out of water and wanted to know if they'd be fine without it to their campsite 5 miles futher.  I said, "Go back to the river behind you and fill up now."  They only had one Nalgene bottle each.  I carry enough bottles for 5 liters, and Bill 3.  Water is life on the trail.

We were pretty beat up when we got to the High Bridge Ranger station and the road to Stehekin.  
We took the 10-mile bus ride to Stehekin and got our first dose of the Stehekin Pastry Company along the way - delicious.  The claim is that Stehekin is the most remote town in the United States.  It might be a Chamber of Commerce brag but it must be close to the truth.  No roads lead there.  A 4 hour ride on the "Lady of the Lake" brings you there from Chelan. You can fly in on a seaplane, take a fast boat, hike or ride a horse in.  That's it.  It is beautiful.  Situated on the north end of Lake Chelan and walled by steep mountains, it's a stunning location.  As soon as we got off the bus we picked up our resupply boxes, the only ones of the trip, from the cutest post office manned by a gray-haired senior postmaster wearing an eye patch.  A long term resident retired from contracting, he quipped, "This is my old man job."  He couldn't have been more helpful.  He directed me to a secret power plug to recharge my devices.  We showered, replenished our food and supplies and got a permit for camping the next day at what has to be the most beautiful Ranger station, old, huge, originally a hotel now restored.  We lounged and ate slowly on the patio of the North Cascades Lodge at Stehekin that night. While the society was very good and the service was delightful, the food was terrible.  Any real hotel or food chain in this great country would be a vast improvement.  I've had a feeling for a long time that the concessions in National Parks have gone to the wrong companies.  They get the contract on the lowest bid then do as little as possible to squeeze out the biggest profit.  They have good people, but they are poorly led and poorly supported.   Although there was a lot of good talk with hikers on the porch, the privately owned "Ranch at Stehekin" would have been a better choice.  Two people in town, a bus driver and bakery worker, were former PCT through-hikers.

The next morning, August 17, camping permit in hand - the only one needed for this section - we took the bus to High Bridge Ranger station and walked north.  With a stop at the Pastry Company we were ready.  You always hope for a gentle climb on a hike, and this one was that.
We passed Howard Lake, formerly known as  Coon Lake.   We'd heard that Washington State commission had investigated the names history and changed it.  My knee jerk reaction was political correctness overreach.  I was wrong. "Coon Lake" was a pejorative for an African American miner who'd lived there in the late 1800's.  It was a good idea to change the name.  We ran into a lady on the trail who swam in it. "Once you got out beyond the lily pads it was great," she said.

It's always nice to see signs so you know you're headed in the right direction.  Homestretch passed us that day.  Gotta love trail names.  There were few huckleberries this year, even though there are usually more at higher altitudes.  I like snacking on them but only found a few worth eating.  Two hiking groups we passed saw bears today.  I've only seen one in 2650 miles but I'm sure many have seen me.  We saw several groups and families that were unfit, unprepared, overweight and overloaded.  Several looked like the peddler in the movie Labyrinth.  I salute them for being on the trail, but I hope their experience doesn't put them off hiking.

We camped at Six Mile Camp, off trail a bit.  It's dispiriting to have to climb up to a campsite after a long, hard day. As I started to set up my tent, I heard a nearby tree with a split on the trunk making cracking noises.  I moved my tent to another part of camp and hoped it wouldn't fall in the night.  Luckily, it didn't. I tied my permit to a tree nearby and forgot to take it with us the next morning.  Hope I don't get fined for littering!  Overnight a full moon made me think I'd overslept again.  A weird experience: So bright outside you're sure it's past sunrise.  Late that night while we were snug in our tents, Scout Troop 120 walked into camp.  The next morning before dawn, the Scout leader, an experienced hiker, questioned me extensively about my gear, experiences, and opinions about hiking as we packed up in the dark.  I rarely meet people who ask more questions than I do and are good listeners. This guy, a grandfather, some of his Scout grand kids in tow, was the apotheosis.

Leaving camp that morning, we met Brave Hamster, a through-hiker going south at Rainy Pass who had cut her foot.  She said, "I was hoping for a 30- mile day with my friends but decided to go to Mazama to have it looked at."  A pack train of Llamas passed us; we found out later that they were support for a PCT trail crew.  Quite a sight.  We ran into Peanut and her dog at Cutthroat Pass.  We'd heard of her. She had ridden her bicycle from Portland to San Diego to start the trail, but stopped in the Sierra for some reason.  She fell in love with a Pit Bull pup in Portland, and was walking south with it.  Sweet young lady.

Dramatic views, twists, climbs and switchbacks today.  We found a good stream to fill up our bottles before continuing to the PCT Trail camp at mile 2598.  The trail volunteers had done yeoman work on a gravelly, rock-slide-prone and shifting portion of the trail.  We found their large camp and camped with these civic minded people, most of whom are age 50 and above.  After some talk at dinner I did a magic show for them.  It was the best room I've ever worked, and it was at 6200 feet! Bill had some of their spaghetti and pronounced it the best he'd ever had.  When I asked the trail chef how many children he had, he said, "I don't know."  Hilarious! 

The next day brought us trail art that lifted our spirits. Over the years hikers have marked the important mileages as 1000, 1500 and 2000 on the trail with sticks and rocks.  Seeing "2600" meant a lot.  Thinking of the old Western movies and TV show I thought that hikers are some of the only people today who can say, "I'll meet you at the Pass," and mean it. 

I found myself working on my Northern Terminus speech out loud, musing that long distance hiking can be boring at times.  Bill disagreed.  At one point he said, "Have your ever seen a person who wasn't happy on the trail?"  I'm always happy, but long hours of trudging can be tedious. Sassafras and Rock Peddler passed us going south.  Walking north we ran into 7 ladies heading south from Hart's Pass.  When they asked me where the next water was, I said, "You just passed it."  One of them said, "I told you so."  They turned 180° and followed us to a camp with a spring.  After setting up camp they invited us to enjoy appetizers with them.  They were all athletic. After raising families and husbands they had continued a yearly tradition of a good multi-day hike together.  What a lovely and interesting group of professional women.

Wind in the trees can sound just like a running creek. We needed water at one point and thought we heard it.  When we looked up to see still trees we knew we had found water.

Hart's pass has a guard cabin. Patti (in uniform) and her husband (a retired ranger) staff it.  He warned us about filtering our water for at least ten more miles.  A herd of horses had been ahead of us and "spoiled" the creeks.  We didn't filter any water on the trip except that section.  Hart's pass, though it's a dirt road, is the very last road in the United States before the Canadian border.  I don't know exactly why it felt monumental to me, but it did. 

I got a big congratulatory hug from Bill before Rock Pass in the "Alpine Meadows".  He was bursting with happiness.  He has credited me for starting him on this addicting adventure, but I credit him for turning me into an experienced hiker.

A through-hiker at Rock Pass said to me, "Do you know the bus schedule at Manning Park?" Random trail talk.  We ran into some dead trees past Rock Pass and at the Northern Terminus.  It appears to be the Bark Beetle that has ravished our forests in the southwest.  A sad sight.  After Rock Pass you go way down and have a tough climb up to Woody Pass.  I mistakenly called it Windy Pass in this video.  You'll see why when you watch.  Those mountains are almost directly west from the trail and are stunning.  I met a guy from Switzerland, whose name I think was G, who appeared to be very clean.  He said, "That's because my pants are the color of dirt!"   Bill speculated, "These mountains must be like they are in Switzerland."  G replied, "Yes, you'll see them for a few days like this when walking in my country.  Here it goes on for weeks."  There were lot's of twists and turns on the trail today, big ups and downs, a steep and narrow corkscrew trail with plenty of big drops and slippery gravel.  We moved slowly and carefully.  Our last night on the trail we camped at Hopkins's Lake.  We filtered water from the lake with CC, 2% and Breeze. 

August 22.  We had about 6 miles to go that last day.  It rained lightly up to the terminus and then stopped.  I put on my rain jacket for only the second time in 2650 miles and used my umbrella for the first time.  Two Pack passed us, literally carrying two backpacks, front and back!  Very interesting guy.  We spent some time with him later in Manning Park over dinner.

It felt good to come into the Terminus. I was excited to be finishing.  A lady ran up to us, showing a picture on her phone and asked if we'd seen her husband on the trail.  We had, and 30 minutes later she surprised him when he arrived.  The same thing happened with the parents and sister of another hiker.  They'd all hiked in the previous day to meet their families.  That's a big commitment.  It's nine miles of trail from Manning Park.  We had been looking at pictures of the monument for years but nothing clears things up like being there. I've said for years, "You never know until you go." All the planning never completely prepares you for the ground truth.  The Terminus is in a valley completely in the wilderness.  There are no border stations, patrols or roads.  We had all our papers authorizing us to cross into Canada and no one to check them.  The monument matches the recently renovated one at the southern terminus which faces east. There's a narrow swath of ground cut from the trees going east and west from the Terminus up both mountain sides.  I found out later that the entire length of the US-Canada border is marked by a 20-foot-wide slash through the trees. 

I made a final video statement that I'd been working on for days.  Please watch it and turn up the volume.  I was able to sum up all of my feelings about finishing the trail.  We met Saint Harbor, a 24 year old, who said he'd completed the trail in 91 days.  He was concerned about funding the hike. I asked him how he saved money, and he said, "hike fast" which makes sense.  Bill broke out a  mini celebratory Tequila.  We shared it with Saint Harbor and he said, "Shall I waterfall it?"  He meant, "Shall I pour it into my mouth without touching my lips to the bottle so we won't share a cold."  Love a new amusing phrase. 

We hiked the last 9 miles into Manning Park and enjoyed some time with other hikers. My wife had planned to pick us up there the next morning (sensibly not being one to hike 9 miles from Manning Park to the Terminus) but her flight was delayed.   Bill and I wound up taking a 3AM Greyhound into Vancouver.

This was a fulfilling end to a grand adventure.  I had no bittersweet feelings about it ending, and have not yet thought about future hikes. My final video sums up my feelings.  Please watch it and thank you for following along.

See you on the trail,
Dana Law

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I now have a Facebook page for my "Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail" You can see new posts, watch recent talks and follow my next and final journey to the Canadian Border starting August 14th. I'll be updating my location during the trip via my InReach Satellite Communicator.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Upcoming "Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail" talks

June 11th North Park Library at 4pm
June 23rd Rancho San Diego Library at 6pm
June 28th Crest Library at 6pm
I now have a Facebook Page for the "Adventures on the Pacific Crest Trail" talk. It has a video of a talk at the Alpine Library I gave on May 26th.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Pacific Crest Trail Section 30 - Washington State was on fire.

Barb Reinsma dropped me off at Steven's Pass.
 I lifted my gear schooner to my shoulders and took off to a mostly level first day.  I walked into the "Walden Zone", the section that was to be my last on the PCT, and a lot of it was on fire.  I had already known about and planned for a detour, but it would be about 200 miles from Steven's Pass, Washington, to Manning Park, Canada. I saw a dozen day hikers. One pair questioned me intensely about the contents and weight of my pack.  My pack weighed 34 pounds including 4 liters of water. I always take more than I need as a safety blanket. It wasn't a burden and lightens quickly. The move towards lighter gear has helped us all greatly. Some people's weights have gone way down, farther than I could imagine myself doing.

The first camp was at Janus Lake, 9.6 miles in. I was all alone next to the Lake. There are privies
 in this area, and I had never seen them before on the trail. They sure came in handy; no catholes necessary. It's often difficult to filter water from a lake, always easier in a flowing stream. At a lake you struggle to find a perch above the muck over a deep enough place to dip your prefilter. I weigh mine down and drop it in belly side up so it doesn't filter silt. 

I ran into blueberries. Wonderful! Washington State is awash with berries, mostly at altitude. You could spend a lot of time picking these sweet trail snacks. I limited myself to several handfuls because I had promises to keep. I walked over Grizzly Pass at 5500 feet
 with a gorgeous panorama of Alpine peaks.  Although there was smoke in air during most mornings from the fires, I had no problems with breathing. Growing up in Los Angeles in the late fifties and sixties I know the discomfort of polluted air.  Ran into Jabba near a river. He was back on the trail after a break and was flip flopping south. Sally Ann Lake is a beautiful spot, a rare grassy patch to sleep on next to the lake. Met Seven, a 67 year old retired Berkeley professor whose trail name comes from climbing all 7 highest peaks on each continent. Yes, that includes Everest. Pride is not a sin if you do it right. I love to tell people about my accomplishments, but I'd rather listen to others before allowing them to pry mine out of me.  Seven was a good listener. He was going to road walk around the Blankenship fire closure, 107 miles, just to be pure. That's more pure than I am. I don't know if he succeeded because Hwy 20 closed a few days later.

I got an early start the next morning but didn't beat Seven. Through hikers can pack up in minutes. Lots of continuous practice. I have to get back in the groove every year. I ran into a representative of the Washington Trail Association guiding a teen volunteer back to civilization. She said she'd seen Bill Redman at Reflection Pond. I guessed I was still about a day behind him. Crossed the White Chuck River, happy to see a good bridge. Can't remember which river I filtered water in that day but it was so silt-filled that it appeared to be chocolate milk running downstream from a glacier. I got about 4 liters before my filter was completely plugged up. I wasn't able to back-flush it till the next day. I won't do that again. Pick a clear stream! Saw a marmot, the first since the Sierra, and also a mountain goat.

Caught up with Trekker from Texas. I'd spoken to him by phone. He's done the CDT and AT and hoped to finish the PCT this year. I hope he did. Got to the most beautiful vista on the trip. I camped at mile 2508.3 before the descent into Kennedy Creek. I sent satellite messages to my wife and Facebook morning and night. These devices are miraculous but tricky.  At times I'd get a message out of the tent under the trees. Other times it would sit with clear sky view and take an hour to send. I'd bet it depends where the satellites are in the sky. Very handy though to comfort loved ones of your safety.

The next day I took the wrong trail, White Chuck Trail, descending into Kennedy Creek.
Missing all the signs, I wasted an hour and a half before arriving at an abrupt end to the trail at a landslide.
The trail had sheered off 100 feet over Kennedy Creek. I had to walk up out of the canyon to reconnect with the PCT. I was exhausted before I had started the day. I was up in my head about the Kennedy Creek crossing but it was an easy task over a busted bridge inches above the water.  The climb out of the creek was enormous.  Arrived at breathtaking Mica Lake. Aquamarine water in a nearly muck-less shore surrounded by a dramatic cirque. Got water and took a swim. Must go back.  On the trail, campsites are as rare as hen's teeth. The trail data showed no campsites for five miles past Mica Lake. I had to make up for my mistaken trail in the morning so I took a leap of faith and kept walking. I found the sweetest, snuggest campsite a half mile from Milk Creek. I lucked out. It wasn't on any list. I had a good rest. 

The next day was another big climb out of Milk Creek. Up and up but I felt strong. I stay in shape all year with a variety of exercise that always includes hiking with a backpack that weighs as much as the one I have on the trail. I also lift heavy things (weights, kettle bells), sprint, ride my bicycle and do calisthenics. Something to do nearly every day. In the interests of safety and comfort I'm in the middle ground. On top of this I'm always planning; learning something new about hiking, studying the trail, improving what I carry and understanding how to care for and use my equipment. I believe I'm obsessed. In a healthy way, I hope.

videoGlacier Peak came into view. With melting glaciers across the world it was uplifting to see it. I'm always hungry on a hiking trip. For the first three days I had a surprising lack of hunger. Shocking really. I forced myself to eat.  I've heard of others being affected this way but never experienced myself. Saw two fighter jets fly over fast and low with ear shattering sound. I'd do it if I could. A bit jealous. Spoke to my nephew Jack, an Apache pilot in the Army, after the hike and he said there are approved passes for them to hot dog. Nice. Slipped and fell 3 times on this trip. Once on mud. No injuries but hilarious and splayed out. Can't hike without falling.

videoI got to Vista Creek Campsite before lunch and a glorious reunion with Bill Redman. He'd been on the trail over 10 days since Snoqualmie Pass. We'd planned to meet up here and continue on around the current Blankenship closure to Canada.  We walked out that afternoon to the Sulphur Creek Trailhead, 22 miles from the nearest main road.  Walking along to the exit point, Suiattle River trail excitedly agreed to come back next year and do the closed area.  I've never had to stop, make a detour or miss a step in 12 years of hiking.  With a mental inertia that has kept us in good stead over the years, we knew that every step of the trail must be completed.  John from the Marblemount Chevron was there to pick us up, and we had already planned to accept his offer of a ride to Rainy Pass the next day to continue on to Canada. Thank goodness for satellite connections.

We ended up spending 2 days in Marblemount, during which time Hwy 20 was closed to Rainy Pass because of new fires on both sides of the Highway.  On the second day it became apparent that the fires were too intense to continue.  Washington was ablaze, the worst in a long time. By the time I got off the trail, 3 firefighters had died in a fire near the PCT at Rainy Pass. A tragic loss. Circumstances were bigger than my adventure in the woods.  My thoughts and prayers are still with firefighters Tom Zbyszewski, 20, Andrew Zajac, 26, and Richard Wheeler, 31, who lost their lives battling the worst fires Washington State has ever experienced. 

 So Bill and I took a bus to Seattle, and then parted ways.  I was so fortunate to be taken in by Luke and Barb Reinsma for 4 days until I was to make my way up to Vancouver.  Luke and Barb were so wonderful to me, even lending me a car to drive for a day.  I filled the time visiting Seattle's great museums and historical sites.

Finally I took a train to Vancouver to meet my wife, daughter, and good friends Bobby and Mary Dean.  The five of us had planned a great trip in Canada to celebrate the completion of the trail, and although the milestone wasn't accomplished, we still celebrated the achievement to come.  

I did get in 4-1/2 days of hiking before it ended. They were good and challenging.  It would eventually be 10 days before Hwy 20 reopened from Marblemount to Rainy Pass.  We made the right decision to abandon the trail for the first time in 12 years.  Bill and I will return to where we left off next year. We'll be able to visit Stehekin, a big dream for all hikers because of its remote location. It's only accessible by boat or on foot. My only regret is the next adventure won't start till August 2016. See you then.

Many thanks to Luke and Barb Reinsma for the hospitality. Benjamin Franklin may have said "guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." I was there for 4.

Here's my super trail food. Thanks to Seabear for sponsoring my nutrition.

Monday, December 01, 2014

I'll arrive at the Canadian border next year!

Next August 17th I'll start my 30th and last section on the Pacific Crest Trail. I'll leave Stevens Pass where I stopped last August and walk 193 miles to the Terminus, about 10 days of hiking.  My family will meet me at Manning Park on the Canadian side. It's been a wonderful adventure. It's bittersweet to think it will end. I'll keep you posted in the run up to the last section and alert you to my upcoming talks about the trail.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pacific Crest Trail section 29 in Washington State! 288 miles from Wind River Road to Stevens Pass.

Day 1; August 13

I hit the trail at Wind River Road at about noon after being dropped off by Sheryl Ferris and her cousin Norma Fite.  It was deja vu to see where I left off last year; I remember looking wistfully across the road to the trail ahead and being glad I was done for the year.  I was light on water when I set out but benefited from a trail angel cache along the way.

I ran into PCT royalty Scott Williamson and took a selfie.  He couldn't have been nicer. "Some people call me Dink," he said.   

It was a dry camp on a "Volcano Cap" that night.  I was glad to finish for the day, since the pack is heavy.  

Day 2-5; August 14-17

There was a big rain in the morning before I hit the trail, so at least the trail dust was nil, a big difference from previous trips.  I met Sister Sue at the road to Trout Lake.  I'm at the front bubble of through-hikers for this year and women comprise about 20% overall.  Most are with boyfriends, about half of whom have successfully proposed marriage.  

When I got to Road 60 I received a banana and kindness from a Trail Angel.  Minutes before I arrived, a through hiker had been picked up by EMT's.  He threw up during the previous night, left his tent, got lost, and wandered about suffering from mild hypothermia before being found.  You have to be careful out there.  

When you start the trail and are asked where you started, most people will know where that's at.  When you get in 60 miles, though, most people don't recognize the name or the place where you started.  We all have a familiar geographical sphere we're familiar with.

I slept well for a few days but then it was hit and miss.  I always spent about 9 hours horizontal, but spent half of them awake and thinking about everything.  Why is it that after an exhausting day you don't just pass out?

I wear a meeting badge holder around my neck when I hike to carry my smartphone.  It's my GPS, memo recorder, camera and audiobook holder.  I listened to 5 audio books during the less interesting parts of the trail and while in camp.  I listened to Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes, a good whodunit in his inimitable voice.  Nothing supernatural. The ending put a lump in my throat, plus took a twist that raised the hair on my neck.  One of his characters calls Chiropractors "Back Breakers".

I carry my PCT business cards and gave out a dozen of them to hikers who might need my help when they do the southern section.  I'm also wearing a Fitbit - it works fitfully. One day that it did work it claimed I did 58,000 steps, but it was probably closer to 50,000.  A 10,000 step day is considered the basic minimum for some kind of fitness.  I lost almost 10 pounds on this trip even though I ate a lot of food.    

For the first three days on the trail, it was like walking through a green tunnel with an overcast sky, cool and viewless.  After four days in, the skies are clearing making for easier days with some views.

The Mount Adams Glacier has been described as a frozen waterfall.  It’s an apt description.  

I had a tough ford at the roaring Adams creek.  It was really three separate running creeks side by side, with tricky rock-hopping and log-balancing to get across.  Of course my feet got wet.  I got expert assistance on both sides through semaphore signals on where to cross, the roar from the creek making conversation nearly impossible.  

Later I passed several horseman with very skittish animals.  I leaned against the slope of a narrow and steep traverse to allow them to pass.  I worried for the riders.  The perfectly named Muddy River appeared to be flowing with milk chocolate.  I arrived at Lava Springs for "the purest water on the PCT" according to the handbook.  I didn't filter.  It was delicious.

I passed two of three Sheep Lakes on the trail.  All along the trail you find duplicate and triplicate names.  There are three Rattlesnake Mountains in Southern California.  I camped near a mother, son and daughter having a wonderful time.  They say you should always eat as a family, but taking a trip outdoors together is even better.  I set up my tent in a slight depression which could have turned into a tub in a downpour.  It’s always hard to find a flat spot to camp.  I ran across a huge exhausted man that day, with a giant overstuffed pack, big tummy overlapping his waist belt, florid of face.  He was "slowly" hiking to Goat Rocks with the bracelet of his son who loved to hike but who had tragically died two years earlier.  "I'm going to toss his bracelet as far as I can at the Goat Rocks as a testament to his memory," he said.  It was very moving.

I caught my first glimpse of Mount Saint Helens. They should call this the Volcano Section!  

There was a water gap of 15 miles today.  Nothing is more important than having enough water, and I knew I would have a 23 mile gap further ahead.  

The Goat Rocks (video) is one of the most beautiful and dramatic parts of the PCT, but the trail is steep, rugged, perilous, and exhausting.  I met a German hiker up there on his second through hike.  He’s called "Refill" because he always loves a refill, I suppose of soda at a break from the trail when you can't get enough to eat or drink.  He asked if I wanted a photo up there and it was an important reminder to help fellow hikers get a memory of the trail with your camera.  I've learned that taking time to visually concentrate on important or dramatic parts of the trail is a practical memory device.  I'm able call up visual memories of the trail if I've seriously focused on them.  I have many photos but I feel my visual memories are just as clear.

I passed through 300 yards of snow on the way up, carefully putting my feet into previous hikers’ impressions and firmly placing my hiking sticks in the snow.  I have no desire to glissade down to the rocks below.  

Later on I ran into Mr. President, who said, "Later I want to take my time through the Goat Rocks to experience it better."  I don't agree.  

Day 6; August 18

Reaching White Pass was a relief.  A half mile west off the trail are the Kracker Barrel and the White Pass Village Inn.  I ate a big lunch, washed my clothes, got my resupply, and communed with through-hikers.  The inn and the store are part of the same outfit that has ski slopes across the highway.  If you blink you'll miss the whole thing.  For dinner I ordered a salad "as big as my head", a Salmagundi of everything fresh and edible in the store, which is not on the menu.  It fed three hikers; including myself, Mr. President, and Arctic Fox.  

Day 7; August 19

Last night I slept in a perfectly decent Murphy bed, but slept poorly and felt enervated in the morning.  I felt like giving up.  Character is trudging on when you don't feel like it.  I was truly exhausted all day.  

Today I met Timberline and Knockout.  There are so many interesting trail names.  I'm Magician only because I've never been named on the trail so I’m going with the eponymous moniker.  I think I met or passed 75 or 80 people during my 15 days on the trail, less than half of them through-hikers.  Most are people on a day-hike or a several day journey between mountain passes.  I also saw a dozen or so equestrians.  If you want to be mostly alone, go for a hike.  

I've read John Muir and Henry David Thoreau.  Nature's OK but I don't have a strong connection with the plants and the trees like they did.  I don't go into reveries in the wilderness.  True, there are high points along the way.  A dramatic view (video), a high mountain pass, a tough river crossing, an azure lake and a beautiful stand of trees.  But I'm drawn to the trail for the challenge and adventure.  I've realized that I have enough discipline, concentration, and drive to accomplish this very difficult task.  That is very rewarding.  The effort necessary to keep walking uphill with your house on your back is astounding; strenuous does not come close to describing it.  Meeting the challenge is incredibly satisfying.  

Today I met "Grandfather", age 56, with his twin granddaughters, maybe 8 years old.  "We walked 7 miles today!", one of them said.  I met Clarence and Sterling at camp that night.  We broke bread together.  Clarence is a self-described "Cradle Catholic", and Sterling is a retired Marine Sergeant from South El Monte, my home town!  They were just two older guys out for a few days on the trail.  Clarence said, "I don't like sports and gave up pork like the Orthodox and it cleared up my health problems.  It's Biblical."  Yet they were eating MRE's and bacon wrapped hot dogs.  Great characters.

Day 8; August 20

Fording Bumping river was a bit tricky, but luckily I only got a wet toe.  A later hiker sunk to his knees.  River crossings are spooky.  I crossed Chinook Pass.  It’s a big pass, but there is no town, only a large turnoff with a toilet and parking.  I finally saw a big group of mountain goats and wondered out loud if they're native to Washington. (They are.) A through hiker I was walking with said, "Hell, we're not even native!"    

I met Ali and Greg at camp with their dog BB on a five-day hike.  He'd proposed a few days before.  I gave them my PCT business card and asked for a "save the date" card.  The dog carried his own food in a backpack.  

Took a spill today.  My right pole slipped off the trail with such force it spun around 180 degrees and bopped me in the head as I fell to the ground. I'm fine but it was hilarious.  

Arctic Fox and The Duchess, a guy, are walking together. We refilled our water at a spring before a long dry section.  

I had a very uncomfortable night.  I wound up in a poor campsite and slept only about 3 hours of 9 in the tent, rolling around in a depression with my head below my feet. Mr. President and Just Bill slept near me.

Met Pooh Bear, a hiker in her 50's who had her act together.  She had already finished the AT and was now doing the PCT in sections like me.

I finally found some huge sweet huckleberries at a high knife ridge. I’d been told that this was a late season but these were very tasty and giant-sized.

Wonderful trail magic was provided by “Tent Monster" at Tacoma Pass.   He'd set up a large camp grill and was serving french toast, bacon, and plenty of orange juice. What a wonderful young man.  Turns out he'd hiked the first 1000 miles of the trail this year, with Mr. President, who was there, too, but suffered an ankle injury and had to stop  He returned to the trail to do a solid for the hikers.  He kept pushing bacon on me and it was wonderful.  

A runners group showed up for a hundred mile Cascade Crest endurance run.  Over the next 40 miles of the PCT they treated hikers like royalty at several aid stations with food, drinks, snacks, and beer!  I love beer but it turns my legs into rubber on the trail, so I stayed "dry” in Washington.  I got to one large station ahead of the runners and they made a big fuss with applause and attention as if I were the leader of the pack!  It was very sweet.  They told a story (which was verified later) that last year some through-hikers stopped, took off their packs, joined the race, and were in the record books for 2013.  Then they put their packs back on and continued down the trail.

I Met Dang It and Ferdinand lunching at a minor pass.  Dang It said, "We've made a big mess here. Sorry about that."  Whenever we unload our packs it looks like a trash can has exploded on the ground.  I'm a little sheepish about that, too.  No reason to apologize but we're keeping up appearances. They are flip-flopping all over the trail because of snow and other weather.  I gave them my card and let them know I could help them here in San Diego.

Day 9-10; August 21-22

I slept great last night!  I heard the remnants of the 100 mile endurance race go by in the dark.  There must have been a clean-up crew behind them, since there were no marker ribbons or trash left on the trail when I woke up.  They are good stewards of the outdoors.  One more big climb today before Snoqualmie.

I checked into the Snoqualmie Inn after a descent over vast open ski area.  I washed my clothes, cleaned up, and ate a terrific meal at the Aardvark Food Truck.  There were lots of through-hikers around, many taking the Goldberg Hot Springs alternate for a complete soak, some being picked up.  I’ve been listening to the Maltese Falcon audio book, and when I got into the hotel room it was on TCM at about the same place as I left it.  Great movie.   

Day 11-12; August 23-24

Had a pancake breakfast with Just Daniel at the Pancake house.  I needed those carbs because walking out of Snoqualmie was hard. Lots of up and then an endless traverse of a talus-covered trail up to a major ridge.  I don't know where I got the energy to trudge on.  This last section is beautiful but has the most gain and loss of altitude of any part of this trip; one up and down after another, thousands of feet daily, with over 16,000 feet of gain and loss in elevation to Stevens Pass. There are lots of section-hikers here, all of them apparently enjoying themselves more than I am today.  I’m ready to be done.

I'm not afraid of heights, but I do have a profound respect for them.  I'm very careful on narrow, steep traverses, sharp drops and ridges.  I know if you trip or fall on a hike, and you will, you could tumble down to injury or death.  I fell or tripped 5 times on this trip, but luckily I wasn't hurt.  I skinned a shin but otherwise was fine.  You have to be vigilant.  

I've said if you want to feel good about humanity go for a hike.  Some of the best people are in the wilderness.  The worst I can say is that there a few people who are weird; not dangerous, but odd.  (Of course this means I'm sane.)  I met a guy at a stream I wanted to filter at.  Dressed like a garden gnome with a backpack wearing bicycle shorts, he said, "I never filter more than a liter of water."  Well, I'd used nearly 3 liters getting to that point and the day wasn't over!  He didn't know what he was talking about.  He was probably single.  A man needs a good woman to remind him when he's gone off the rails.  What a character.  I had met Old Timer earlier on the trail  He just wanted to talk and talk and talk.  He shared his life story without being asked.  He said "I'll pay for some oatmeal,"  so I just gave him some tortellini. Always carry an extra day of food in your pack.  I wonder if his family knows where he is on the trail.

I forded a couple of creeks today, one with an intact bridge, the other washed out with a log crossing.  I felt like a tightrope walker without a net. There were two flyovers today by fighter jets, one loud and close, only a couple of hundred feet above me.  I imagine this must be one of the perks of being a hotshot pilot, zooming through mountain passes at top speed.  It happened once before to Bill Redman and me in the Sierras.  

I topped the highest pass since Snoqualmie and met Sarah and Nathan picking blueberries and huckleberries.  Blueberries are much rarer on the trail and Sarah sweetly gave me a dozen she'd picked.  I ran into them later in camp at Waptus River.  What a delightful couple.

Jay and Liz from Canada were there, too.  Jay was in a fright because he'd had an allergic reaction to a fly bite, broken out in hives all over, and was nervous as hell.  Liz, an RN, had given him Benedryl and it was starting to work. I donated some triple antibiotic for his rash and bite.  We talked him down and shared a meal. They ate a packet of my Seabear King Salmon and loved it. "It tastes like Lox," they agreed.  He'd proposed on the trail and she'd accepted.  Bruce, a hiker my age, talked my ear off.  "I have to hit the sack for an early start.  I'd love to talk, but....."

Day 13-14; August 25-26

I had a tough double river crossing (video) the next morning.  I walked like a Wallenda over logs several feet above the rushing water below, and then found that there was another tough one right around the corner.  It was the same creek with a deep dip into rocks and a near vertical climb out. The trail had been washed away for several yards.  It was more like rock climbing than hiking.  

I ran into 3 stylish middle-aged ladies hiking south called Sappy, Cedar and Owl and gave them a heads-up about the difficult river crossing ahead.  I worry about novice hikers.  I see them on a giant climb, over-packed, no water for miles and no camping nearby, occasionally part of a small group with the experienced hiker walking ahead, which is a crime.  Stay with your group, especially when there are new hikers, or don't go out there.

Day 15- August 27

My last camp tonight is at Deception Lake, a peaceful and pretty place belying its name.  

Joining me were Sean and Nikki, a delightful couple who were experienced climbers spending a few days hiking between Stevens and Snoqualmie Pass.  He'd started a new business after years with Microsoft.  We dined on a big rock overlooking the lake and I did some magic for them.  Storm clouds formed to the east and Sean said, "Probably rain."  "Being from Seattle you probably know," I said.  There was a 50% chance of rain in the forecast for the night, but none the next day.  

Day 16 - August 28

I suited up in the morning for the final miles thinking, “I don't care if I'm dry or wet, I'm finishing today!”

I fell in with Feast, a 27 year old bartender from San Francisco, with a degree in Civil Engineering.  He'd walked the last 80 miles with his golden retriever, Bailey.  I'd met him briefly a few times in past miles and at the last campsite, and although he was a faster walker than I, he was kind enough to wait for me to catch up when he took a break, lunched, or in one case took a bath in a lake.  Feast is a nice, intelligent and voluble young man.  We hiked over the last ups and downs of the trail.  I wondered out loud about getting a ride at Stevens Pass, and he offered a ride with his mom who was delivering a resupply box.  She never made it to the pass, but we hitched down to Skykomish for a night in the Cascade Inn.  Mom met us there and I bought us all lunch and his favorite trail treat - a chocolate shake.  Feast complained a bit to his mom that she'd forgotten his rolling papers for his trail Ganja.  I never had that conversation with my parents nor needed it, but that was a long time ago.

Day 17-18 - August 29-30

Luke Reinsma of Seattle picked me up at the Cascade Inn.  I'd met him and his son, Nathan, on the trail about 5 years ago.  He's finished the trail in sections, the last being the dreaded Southern California section.  He shuttled me back to his home, put me up, and showed me the town.  He is a deep reader and a semi-retired Professor Emeritus of English at Seattle Pacific University.  His home is lined with thousands of volumes of compelling literature.  We had wonderful conversations about our mutual vice: Books!  I felt like a  dilettante in a wonderful Salon.  He and his lovely wife, Barbara, took me out to dinner and then to Seattle's best ice cream parlor - Molly Moon’s.  The next morning he took me to Pike Place, which is a wonder, then later off to the airport for my trip home.


All told, I walked 288 miles in the PCT Washington State Wilderness in 15 days, from a low of 1072 feet to a high of 7600.  I passed in full view of Mount Saint. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier, with daily climbs of 2000 to 5000 feet.  I crossed dozens of creeks and forded several rivers, passed gorgeous lakes in pastoral settings, miles and miles of dense forest and the near equivalent of exposed rock faces with narrow trails and 1000 foot drops.  At the perilous and astounding Goat Rocks I crossed long snow fields to see unparalleled views of western Washington, unspoiled wilderness and logged private lands dotted with Christmas tree farms of replanted clear cuts.  I've never done anything more heart pounding and physically demanding.

I met dozens of hikers, some going all the way and some out for a few days, but all of them nice and interesting, most of them young, idealistic, and full of life.  Don't hang around anyone who doesn’t have a dream.

I encountered heartwarming trail magic:  French Toast and bacon at a forest road; Ginger ale and the applause of a running group as I exited the forest.  If you want to feel good about humanity go for a hike.

Next year I'll finish my grand adventure at the Canadian border.

  "To live only for some future goal is shallow.
   It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.
   Here's where things grow."
  • Robert M. Pirsig