Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
We spent the night at the Heitman's in Old Station. They are the local trail angels there and have a big tree house in their back yard where hikers can stay. So that's where we spent the night...in a tree house. It has electricity and a TV, but no insulation so it was very cold. Firefly (Mrs. Heitman) made breakfast for us the following morning and I was on the trail by 9 am. A little later than I had hoped, but still okay. My goal was to get 30 miles under my belt that first day so that I would only have 16 to go on Friday so that we could get back at a decent hour that night. Turns out I spent about as much time hiking as we did driving too and from California!
The fire that had forced me off the trail earlier had clearly done quite a bit of damage to the surrounding area. The trail, however, was in fine shape and really hadn't been degraded at all. I was very happy that the terrain wasn't very rough, either! Except for the occasional lava field, it was generally easy with very few climbs or descents worth mentioning. The one thing I didn't like is that it was very dry, which I knew it would be. The skipped section included a notoriously long dry stretch along the Hat Creek Rim. If I remember correctly, it is about 30 miles long. It was a primary reason why having a support vehicle was so important to me. It allowed me to focus on hiking instead of conserving water.
Later on during my hike north, the shortening days really started to mess up my progress and this was no different. When I had left California, I still had about a 14 or 15-hour day to work with, but on my return it was more like 12. What that meant is that my progress wasn't nearly as good as what I was hoping it would be. To get my 30 miles in, I had to run a good chunk of the trail (that would allow for it) later in the day. I ran most of the last 9 miles and even then came up short and had to stop at 29 miles. Mercifully, my dad treated me to a hotel stay and a hot dinner instead of trail food and a tent! Even with a hot shower and hot food, however, my left knee was really sore the next day (Friday). It was probably the sorest it has been on the trail and it really slowed me down. Despite the slower pace, I was able to get to Burney Falls around 3:15 pm. Unfortunately, due to a lost map on my part and the resulting confusion on rendezvous points, I wasn't able to connect with my dad until about 5 pm, slowing down the return trip.
All in all, though, I felt good about the last 46 miles and was glad to get it done so soon after my original hike. I can now say that I have hiked from Mexico to Canada in one season, without having to explain the asterisk, which was important to me.
I'll continue to post relevant updates as often as is necessary. I'll be uploading some photos to my website and will definitely let you all know when I'm done with that.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
510 5th Ave SW
Albany, OR 97321
Sunday, Oct 11
2 pm - 5 pm
Hope to see you there!
Monday, October 5, 2009
My final day of hiking began at about 7:50 am. The terrible weather from the night before continued into the following morning. I awoke to ice and snow all over my tent and serious condensation issues inside my tent. Everything was damp. When I had everything to the point that I could get out of my tent, I put my shoes on and discovered that they were literally frozen solid. This came after I put my already wet socks on in order to keep my last pair of socks dry for emergency purposes. So you can imagine how great that felt!
Even though it turned out to be my last day on the trail, I didn't know it yet. I hadn't been able to make a decision yet because I really didn't want to put in a 34-mile day in less-than-ideal conditions. Regardless, I wanted to put myself in a position to be able to finish in case I needed to. So, because of the shorter days and the disappearing trail due to the increasing snow showers, I started before 8. Because my feet were so cold and completely soaked, I didn't stop hiking all day except for very brief 5-minute breaks occasionally. I didn't even stop for lunch.
About mid-morning, I still had 5 miles to go to get up and over the highest point left on the trail--which also happened to be the highest point in Washington on the PCT--when conditions significantly worsened. I could see very little because of all the snow coming down made it nearly a whiteout. Fortunately, two other hikers had gone before me about two hours prior so I could follow their tracks. The only problem was that they were filling up fast because it was snowing so hard. By the time 2 pm had come, I was hiking in 8-12 inches of fresh powder but had made it to the highest point. With about 15 miles to go to Manning Park, I kept moving as fast as I could in the conditions, but began to feel the fatigue of non-stop hiking catch up to me. Luckily, it was nearly all downhill to the border. At 4:45 pm, I arrived at the border and what a beautiful sight it was--not in terms of scenery, but just because it was such a huge milestone. (My previous post has a photo of me at the border monument.) After signing the register, I kept moving right away because my feet were so cold. Despite finally being in Canada, I still had 8 miles to go to arrive in Manning Park where my family was expecting me the following day. I wasn't expecting the trail to be as difficult as it was from that point forward, and my worsening fatigue only complicated matters. Nevertheless, I trudged on, hiked the last hour by headlamp, and arrived at my family's cabin at about 8:10 pm, thoroughly exhausted. Nobody was there when I arrived because they were all at the pool or still driving. Fortunately, my sister Kristin was just coming back to grab something from the cabin and so I was able to get in nearly right away. Over the course of the next hour, I got one excited and surprised reaction after another, which made my day. First Kristin, then Adrienne, then Andrea...Mom and Dad were in there somewhere. It was all a lot of fun. Then they all surprised me with matching orange shirts (true to my trail name: Orange-Shirted Guy, or OSG) which was a classy and fun touch to the whole evening.
There is so much more to share, and I will over the coming days. However, for now I'm content with being finished and allowing my legs and feet to enjoy their first time off in a month. It has been a long journey that I will never forget. Making it even more rewarding is the fact that more than $10,000 were raised for the benefit of the Lance Armstrong Foundation before I reached Canada. A total which I'm still trying to increase before this whole experience winds down. No matter how much ends up being raised, I'm so thankful to everyone for your support!
The question mark is there because, put simply, I may try to get all the way to Canada tomorrow. It is about 25 miles to the border and another 8 to Manning Park. I would prefer to stick with the original plan of 20 miles tomorrow and the rest the following day, but the weather just is not cooperating tonight. It didn't really start until the very end of the day, either. We even got just enough sun to dry out our gear around lunchtime. That was definitely a bonus because I don't think any of us was expecting to see the sun before we got to the end of the trail.
Anyway, now I'm faced with a decision. Do I pack up and hit the trail early and go hard all day and finish tomorrow? Or do I take it a bit slower and get in on Saturday? If I had any idea at all of what the weather was going to look like, then it would be an easier decision. As bad as the weather was today, it could have certainly been worse! In fact, we were very fortunate. Fortunate that we were above the snow level so we got snow instead of rain and could therefore stay dryer. And fortunate because the ground temperature wasn't so cold that the snow was sticking. Now that story has changed a bit tonight as I can hear little pieces of ice hit my tent. And when I peeked outside my tent a minute ago, the snow was definitely accumulating on the ground. Now is when I really wish I had some good winter boots. I expect this to be the coldest night on the trail.