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Back on the Pacific Crest Trail, but What's the Appeal?

Updated: May 7




What is the appeal in carrying survival necessities on your back, walking twenty miles or more a day, eating food from pouches, and sleeping on the ground for months on end? After spending a few hours hiking with Texas Time, I received a bit of insight. While reasons vary per hiker, a few include: an escape from deadlines, back-biting co-workers, impossible-to-please clients, and an escape from traffic congestion and drivers who cut you off and wave with only their middle finger. Longing to pit yourself against nature while surrounded by its breathtaking beauty and solitude provide strong lures to tackle a thru-hike.



The hiking community offers a beautiful comradery. The trail represents a challenge, not a competition. Hikers encourage each other to succeed. When they meet from opposite directions, they share situations to keep an eye out for, beautiful and dangerous. If something happens and one of the hikers loses a necessary item, other hikers share and help him out until he has a chance to replace it. I love the idea of thru-hiking, just not carrying all my belongings on my back or sleeping on the ground.


Courtney chose her return to the Pacific Crest Trail, based on an estimate to start at Seiad Valley three days ahead of her tramily—trail family—who tackled the Sierras. She needed to rebuild her endurance to hike with a thirty-pound backpack before reuniting. Unfortunately, estimating the number of miles a hiker will travel in a day is difficult due to unforeseen trail conditions, including weather.


On June 24, Texas Time arrived at a trailhead close to Ashland, Oregon—3 hours from my home. Due to thunderstorms, her friends had not caught up with her. She met new hikers and could have joined another tramily, but she chose to wait and reunite with her tribe.




I picked her up, at the trailhead near Mt. Ashland. With the windows down—due to the hiker funk aroma—we drove to Medford, Oregon, where she resupplied, showered, and washed all her clothes. After enjoying an Italian dinner, we spent the night in a hotel, a luxury for a thru-hiker. The next morning, we celebrated her birthday with breakfast in Ashland before returning to the trailhead where I hiked alongside her for a mile. Hoof prints and other evidence we carefully stepped around proved that horses frequent this portion of the trail. Per Courtney, the PCT is graded for horses, although she has never passed a horse and rider during her time on the PCT.



During my trek back to the car, I passed four individual hikers. They were all polite, moving to the side so I could easily pass. We exchanged a short conversation, and Courtney later reported they wished her a happy birthday and told her they had met her mother on the trail. A little lonely as she hiked solo on her birthday, she enjoyed the greetings from the passing hikers.



Until this experience, the danger from humans manifested my biggest fear for Courtney's safety on the PCT. While there could always be a one off, your typical thru-hiker is kind and grateful. And with the plethora of prospective victims in a bustling metropolis, why would an assailant make the effort to travel to a remote area to mess with a thru-hiker? The easiest time to attack a hiker would be when they hitch a ride between trail and town, but hikers carry very little money, and while everything they pack is valuable for their survival, it isn’t desirable to anyone else. Not to mention, muggers probably prefer robbing better smelling victims.



Horror of all parental horrors! After all the years of warning my children to never get in the car with a stranger, Texas Time admits her tramily regularly hitches to and from town from the trail. Once my heart beats returned to normal, I took solace in the fact she never hitched alone, always with a group. And yes, I know in this day and age we commonly pay a complete stranger to invite us into his car, but Uber or Lift provide a record of the transaction.


The fact the hikers easily find rides into town, amazes me. I feel bad passing a hitchhiker (not a thru-hiker) on the highway. But I’ve seen the movies, the hitchhiker is always a murderer. Always. Courtney says people who live around trail towns pick them up. The kind drivers are typically older—older to Courtney and friends, peers to Jay and I. Most hikers offer payment for the rides. Sometimes the driver accepts a small token to cover gas, and other times they decline, saying they enjoy the company. Maybe if I lived near a trail town, I would pick them up. But with an ice axe strapped to their packs, and all those movies …



If you enjoyed this blog, please give it a like. Please share it with someone else who might enjoy vicariously hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.


Blessings,

Angela


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