pct. Halfway on my way to Canada! Hitting this midpoint marker made Canada become a realistic goal. Up to know i hiked as an average a bit above 28 km per day. Most of the days were much longer since this is an average of the whole hike including stops for resupplying, cleanings and meanderings.
i calculated that reaching Canada on my wished date would need an average of 32 km per day. I was aware that the beginning in the desert and as well the section in the high Sierras will pull this average down. But now i have to lift this average at least up to 36 km per day for the second half. Again, including stops in the towns. The actual heatwave will make this very difficult for the moment. Night hiking might be an issue in some parts.
Northern California presents itself
so far a less spectacular scenery. Rolling mountains and lots of forests – giant forests. Wildfire damaged areas and volcanic ground. Mount Lassen is the first volcano i passed. North ahead of me i can already recognize Mt. Shasta, the next single standing beautiful cone!
PCT – 90 days/2680 km
northern california… some nice national forests: mount lassen, trinity alps, marble mountains… besides these long stretches with giant forests. burnt and healthy… right now i am in the last few miles in california and looking very much forward to finally leave this endless state and enter oregon in some hours!
remember me walking like i would have popped in my pants?
i promise you, the feeling when this becomes reality isn’t as fun 😜! the other day i took my duty to eat as much as possible while in civilization too serious. on top of being more than well-fed, i pushed still a huge dinner in my face. the 3 km hiking out of civilization was a hell… but the even greater feeling approached me in the morning: not finding time enough to leave the tent before getting rid of all this digested food 😩😂! the rest of the story is up to your fantasy… 😉this is how it started…
since this day i have constant stomach issues
heartburn still and again, fatigue, steady nausea and dizziness. nothing like noro or giardia, two common problems out there. meanwhile, i almost cant ”push” down any food anymore. i don’t want to see and smell it. the same with water or my electrolyte drink. after questioning myself why and what, i guess (or hope) that i am ”only” sick about my food. all days the same, oats, bars, candies, nuts, dried fruit, ramen noodles, tuna fish, rice, cornmeal, powder potatoes, couscous… all this in turns with different flavours. 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, 4 weeks a month. most of these products are processed, the choice extremely limited and the quality bad. i never would have imagined that i once in my life will have a hard time eating 😄😩! how i solve the problem i hope to tell you next time!
so far i didn’t experience any drop of rain on the trail
california, the sunshine state! how true! but wildfires are meanwhile common. i am walking through smoke all days now. not healthy or comfortable, but i got used to it. a smokey valley looks pretty much like morning mist in the mountains. but it smells and feels hot. when being in civilisation we get often news about new burning parts we hiked through more south. but so far i didn’t get stopped because of an ongoing fire on trail. but it is only a question of time.
PCT – 106 days/3455 km
my stomach issues: after changing food as much as possible (carried even fresh fruits and veggies the first days!!!!) i found some balance again. i mostly feel much better and continue now eating as pure as possible. no flavoured oats or pasta…
one more reason for it was the smoke. many people have issues with this smoke. we often had extreme smokey air. burning eyes, coughing at night and a constantly leaking nose is the daily life. many fellow hikers started to skip sections and hitch parts because. i cant. i walk.
i partly got told and for the rest imagined that the landscape in oregon isn’t exciting
mostly in the forest but easily hiked trails. big parts burnt forests by wildfires. so i decided to try myself on the oregon challenge: border to border, 732 km in 14 day, on average a bit more than 52 km and 1200 m elevation daily. right in the start i already messed it up with too many beers in ashland and ended with an average of 54,5 km daily for 12 days! my first doubts appeared.
i raised my hiking speed slightly
to reach these daily goals without night hiking (which i hate!!!). 2-3 days were fine, then my still harming broken toe told me that this is a no go! shut up down there!… but he didn’t listen, i was forced to slow down and retried night hiking: as well a no go! quite soon i reached the national park crater lake. a very famous impressive volcanic lake. the pct trail follows the western rim. most of the evening i hardly could see the lake, the smoke from all the fires around was too thick.
but the coming early morning was amazingly beautiful!
back to the boring and burnt forest and my challenge… after 2 more days, nature changed again and showed unexpected beautiful sceneries! mountains again! the dead forests offered great views to these volcanic mt. washington and mt. jefferson. and i am still averaging only 52 km/day… i have still time enough to think what i do with the messed-up ones. a 24-hour hike in the end?
i noticed that i have less and less PCT northbound hikers around me
where are they all? but instead, i met more and more PCT southbounders, they started somewhen in the first have of july in canada and will end in october in mexico. later i realized that i must have left the big field of northbound hikers behind me. all these waves and bubbles of hikers were gone. i liked this very much. even i enjoyed the company of all my new friends always, i simply loved being by myself again! which became an additional motivation to keep going with my challenge.
the pct is mentally hard
to hike so many days in a row these distances on the pct is hard. the last 2 hours of each day are painful. hunger and burning feet…45 – 48 km/day is within my comfort zone, whatever is above i force. big lake, a youth camp in the middle of the wilderness came up. a quick shower, get the new shoes i ordered, sort the food package i sent and enjoying a real meal for free sponsored by the church 👍😜, then out hiking again! soon i am forced to lift the day distances if i want to succeed.
but am i able?
yes i am, get up even earlier and walk even later… for the last 3 days of the 2 weeks the schedule was 59/67/63 km… 59 km went well, 67 i failed with 2 since i had to wait for another resupply package in the fancy mt. hood skiing resort. while sitting and waiting for my package i drank a beer and mentally started to give up. the package arrived, i pushed the food in the pack and hiked out… i can’t give up! i have been fighting already 12 days! don’t give up in that last moment!!!
on km 65 i simply rolled out my mat
jumped into my sleeping bag and decided that this is the end… i stop rushing! i can’t anymore!!! but the alarm went off like usual at 3 am. time to leave: last day with 63 km and i am there! i couldn’t eat my porridge, felt sick of the smoke again… the legs were heavy but i need to go! i didn’t, i turned myself around in my sleeping bag and just lay there. giving up??? no, i will catch the missing early morning miles in the evening, before midnight.
i started hiking
but no speed came out of my tired legs. i will just do what i can, no more! even i fail with 5-10 miles, i fail… 1 hour after this decision i met a very good friend i got to know in the desert. he was taking his breakfast on a beautiful spot! both surprised that i caught up with him we chatted a good while about how our trail went so far. this was the final mental end of my competition.
we enjoyed this day
walking together, picking blueberries and having nice chats with other hikers. i loved that day. in the end we camped on a gorgeous lake, which offered a great swim before bedtime. 41 of 63 km hiked today 😜. the last 22 to the bridge of the gods on the northern oregon border to washington left for tomorrow… i think i reached that night before my mental limit and was very close even to the physical one! nice feeling!
today i will give myself a resting day.
the big hiker event „pct days“ is taking place this weekend right where i am. many hikers which are still further back hitch by car up for this. a great opportunity to meet old friends again! and outfitters present all their new stuff and spoil us with giveaways during these days! i will enjoy one of these days/evenings and start tomorrow for the last part of my journey: cross the columbia river by the bridge of the gods and enter washington! this section will present itself with the mountain range cascades, a highlight i am waiting for since i left the high sierras! i will do much shorter days again and enjoy camping life and the last part of the pct!
119 days/3862 km
exited to enter finally the last state i packed all my gear together and was about ready to head out of cascade locks. at this moment i heard others speaking about all these upcoming fire closures we will have to cope with. i know there are a few, we will have to hike detours around these areas. and probably have still often smoke and bad visibility.
but these guys had some breaking news
the last 50 miles of the pct, to the usa/canada border and the northern terminus monument are closed as well due to several fires in the area. what a bummer! i will not reach my goal! will they get the fires under control and reopen until in being there?
anyway, nothing to do about this right now.
i head out, cross the famous landmark bridge of the gods on columbia river and continue my hike on the other side. big expectations… washington and the cascades were together with the sierras my highlights. leave all this forest behind! no surprise that i was very disappointed to continue some full days in the forest. of course the landscape can’t change within a few miles, i know!
but i couldn’t help my feelings.
at least the forest in washington is greener and even have some huge leave trees. it is less dry, lush and beautiful. a lot of berries like blueberries, huckleberries, blackberries, thimbleberries and more are ripe and a nice addition to the daily diet! but – still no views and a lot of smoke… all of a sudden, a burnt forest area opens views to mt. adam, another impressive volcan.
for half a day i enjoy great views
and an alpine feeling while hiking along the slopes of this cone. then i am dropped back down into the forest for the rest of the day. i started to be fed up by all these trees! enough of it, i want to see something! if there appears a hole in the forest i see through smokey air across to the neighbour ridge, grown over by forest. when is this expected beauty starting?
very nice is that autumn comes! the first leaves turn slightly yellow or red. i love it! the sun gets softer, its light as well as its intensity. it will be great temperatures in the next few weeks!
the next morning on the pct starts as usual:
my nose figuring out the intensity of the smoke while opening the tent. kind of strong today. i drink my coffee, eat my pop tart and get going… thru the forest. kind of weird is, that my knee and toe hurt since washingtons border much more than usual. i have to concentrate on my walking style all the time, not just once a day like i use to.
do these stupid joints follow my mood?
or do they realize that this is going towards an end and they can do whatever they want again? or is it because i pushed a bit harder the last two weeks? i don’t know, who cares… all together wants me now to just push on, finish this and go home! my sister volunteers as a guardian in a mountain hut in switzerland in the weekend of middle september. can i be done with the pct and home by then? i start to count calendar days on my phone. of course without stopping walking thru the forest!
the trail starts to climb…
higher and higher…. views open to the west! rocky trails again! more views! i reach cispus pass – above treeline with almost 2000 m. what a feeling! it just gets better and better. good for me even the wind changed to the west and the smoke almost vanished. following the spectacular ridge of goat rocks, i can see mt. rainier, with about 4300m the highest top of washington and the second highest in the lower states.
what beauty! my knee and toe are less painful…
i don’t want to finish the pct quickly and go home soonest anymore! i just enjoy and feel good again! old snowy mountain comes up, technical hiking, my favourite! on this part, we have to make a detour because of some wildfires. while hiking this very small path i can see down on the other ridge the fire burning and loads of smoke. impressive, and no one seems to distinguish the fire…
in my fever, i hiked again almost 50 km with 2400 m elevation.
even i didn’t want to cross 40 km/ day anymore in washington, to give the canadian border reopened. i camped above 2000m and watched the season change coming in overnight. the next morning was foggy and cold. within 2 days from over 30 down to 4-5 degrees! my body was in shock! i dropped altitude, back to the warmer forest. how long will i be in the forest again? i reached whitepass and understood that they DO fight the fires! hundreds of firefighters were camping there.
3 hours stop for resupply, laundry and shower.
then i was out again, underdressed since i still didn’t understand HOW cold it was i started to move fast towards my planned nightspot. shit yes, my knee, speed and cold are not friends! i ended limping into the tent site. how will i fix warmth to my knee without having to wear my rainpants and sweat my a… off? while making my night pillow with the buff i saw the solution!
the next morning started with a steep long climb,
the weather was harsh and still cold. the rain seemed to be on the way in. my buff wrapped twice around my knee worked out perfectly, it made me happy like a baby! but the weather turned worse: rainpants on anyway. strong wind, very cold and rain! on my 115th day on trail the first rain! will all my ultralight raingear work out fine? what to do about the footprint of the tent i once forgot somewhere and never replaced? and my broken tentpoles? i might have some tuff time ahead 😜!
i reached my campsite
after hiking in heavy rain under the second half of the day. i took off all my soaking wet cloth and shoes and succeeded to end in my dry sleeping bag. the feet were frozen and the tent floor was already wet without that forgotten footprint. continuously heavy rain during the whole night. oh! what i missed my heavy boots, raingear, tent and down mat! fuc… ultralight gear!!! the daylight came in… all the wet cloth and the wet floor made it dump in the tent. quick breakfast, hot tea and coffee, back with the cold wet socks and shoes to the still cold feet, pack together all shit and out moving quick!
as long i will move i won’t get frozen 😜!
day two in the rain was about like day one… only one difference: besides myself the tent and sleeping bag were as well soaking wet when i fixed camp 😢. why can’t this country offer normal mixed weather and temperatures? everything has to be extreme! when i reach the next civilisation i have to get a hitch to the closest outfitter and gear up.
the coming morning was unbelievable beautiful!
first still wet, rainy and cold… until the sun started to push all fog away and crispy clear and clean air came in! cold but gorgeous! the rain additionally has been cleaning the smoke away! it was like nature just born again… unforgettable day on the pct!
two days hiking in perfect weather
and temperatures brought me to Snoqualmie pass. a side trip 70 km down to seattle seemed to be a good plan to gear up, book all my flights back home and eat some good food. not to avoid i felt weird entering this big city after 4 month “bush”. recovered from the first shock i enjoy now civilisation for 2 days before taking the last miles under my feet.
since the last 50 miles on the pct are still closed
and almost for sure will not open this year anymore i decided to make my way at least up to the canadian border along an alternate trail. i will have to backtrack the same trail for 2 days. but i feel that i cant call my pct journey mexico-canada finished without having had at least one of my hurting feet across the border!