Many years ago, my X-ma-in-law had purchased a retired library book titled “The High Adventure of Eric Ryback, Canada to Mexico on Foot”. Eric had embarked at the age of 17, from Manning Park, British Columbia in June, 1970, with ambitions as the first hiker to make it to Mexico. Since then, much controversy has surrounded the legitimacy of this claim, but I don’t believe Ryback ever intended to get rich off this story. The story was written in a modest tone which depicted the many physical and mental challenges along the way, including navigation of non existent trail, extremely difficult terrain, weather, and starvation. His story was a stark contrast to the modern day PCT hiker with smart phone in hand, navigating by Guthook’s app! I read through this book in awe of his boldness to pursue a trail that barely existed at the time, in an era before high tech, light weight gear.
I don’t recall the specific moment that the idea of hiking the entire trail in a season entered my thoughts, but it may have been the moment I was given Ryback’s book. Decades of back packing and mountaineering treks into the Sierra Nevada have blurred in a mirage of memories. I recall moments that I came upon trail junctions such as Rock Creek south of Mount Whitney, or Reds Meadow prior to the year 2000, where the familiar PCT trail symbol was engraved on a mileage sign. It wasn’t until 2008, during a very brief employment with a renewable energy company in Sacrament, which assigned a geologic mapping project on the Pit Number 3 Dam, that I had been awakened by the scale of this path. I had unknowingly hiked up the PCT, above the eastern and western abutments of the dam to optimize my view of regional structure. Later in the afternoon, I wandered down the trail to the Burney Falls spur, where a large sign posted the distance to Mexico and Canada.
In early 2013, I came as close to hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail as I ever would. I still had done little research on the trail, but my lack of planning usually never stopped me from such an adventure. I had been employed by the Department of Transportation in California for about 5 years, and had squirreled away enough payed vacation for a little over 3 months. Normally, an employer would deny a request for such a chunk of time, but this was government, and work was slow at the time. My goal was to succeed at completing the entire trail as so many hikers attempt to do each year. Being as overly cautious as I was however, I had read enough about the logistics and physical challenges to instill enough doubt that 3 months and change was inadequate time to finish. I spontaneously decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, which I also knew nothing about.
In early 2016, while tramping northbound along a dusty gravel road around the colossal glacial lake Tekapo on the south island of New Zealand, I crossed paths with a scrawny long haired young man by the trail name of “Cloud Walker”. His name seemed somewhat fitting for his light footed gate, with a seemingly empty pack half slung over one shoulder. After sharing a bit of beta on our venture of the present Te Araroa, which stretched some 3,000 kilometers from Bluff to Cape Reigna, he mentioned the Pacific Crest Trail and said that hiking it was an epic journey that I had to do. These words excited me even more than tramping across unknown territory in a foreign country on the oposite side of the world. I began immediately thinking about a summer time, southbound hike of the PCT immediately following my return from New Zealand. Anyone who’s completed a long distance trail, knows that having “trail legs” at the start of a long hike makes the hike that much more enjoyable. The Te Araroa was the perfect warm-up for the PCT! During my brief visits at resupply points along the Te Araroa, where I had cell reception and/or free WiFi, I began looking at blogs and resupply beta. The plan to hike the PCT in 2016, was finally in motion!