2016 PCT Thru Hike Update: Let’s Eat Cake!

The PCT & Burning Man: What A Long Strange Trip!

As I approached Chester, CA after passing the half way point of the Pacific Crest Trail (1330 ish miles), I was excited for some down time and a trip to Burning Man. I was also nervous about the fact that I was so far behind where I should be mileage wise. Injuries, too many zeroes and taking my time when in town meant that I was late in the season and would be fighting snow and possibly getting snowed out as I travelled North going into October, November and beyond. I was far behind the bubble of other hikers and the odds of completing in 2016 were extremely low.

After Burning Man I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back on trail or not. Should I stay in San Diego? Grab my truck and a few things and go to Colorado, Washington or maybe even Oregon? I was severely depressed and lost, but since I had no intention of leaving the trail when I departed for Burning Man, I had to adult and decided that I had no choice but to get back on trail.

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More PCT? Yes, Please!

After a three week break, my injured foot felt great, but going North would inevitably result in my season being cut short due to snow. This meant that I needed to “flip”, which meant I would fly to the Northern Terminus and hike Southbound / SOBO back to my original exit point at the half way mark of the PCT in Chester, CA. This would enable me to complete Washington sooner, rather than later, reducing my chance of getting snowed out.

The day of my flight out of San Diego I rushed to get 3 food resupply boxes and last minute errands run but still missed my flight. I purchased another ticket at the airport and after spending a night in SeaTac Airport in Washington and a long ride on a GreyhoundI, I found myself at the Manning Park, BC at 4:00 AM.

I’m Back on the PCT and This SUCKS! Or Does It?

My first day back on trail reminded me of what a grind hiking can be. Hour after hour of climbing, mud and hunger …. once in the groove it is fun, but my first day back sucked. That night at camp I made my mind up the I was going to quit, something that had never happened before even in my lowest moment on the trail. As I lay under my quilt in my bivy sack exhausted and depressed, I dreamed of all the awesome stuff I was going to do once back in civilization and off the trail…. trips, food, Mexico and more! Then something happened …. I got my first good nights rest in weeks. When I awoke the next morning, it was clear that I only was it necessary for me to keep on trucking, I actually wanted to!

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Washington is Gnarly and Beautiful!

The coming days were sunny and beautiful until I approached Rainy Pass. The final 10 or so miles approaching Rainy Pass are high and exposed, so much so that the relentless rain and wind proved that my minimalist rain gear was not up for the task. I spent the night at Rainy Pass in a soaking wet quilt that had gone into my bivy sack bone dry, but had wetted out completely in under two hours due to condensation. Since minimalist summer gear wasn’t cut out for the climate of the Pacific Northwest, I hitch hiked to Winthrop where I purchased a new tent, rain jacket and gloves. Rainy Pass was a perfect spot to pull the rip cord, had I been a few days away from an exit point with wet gear and not sun to dry things out, it would have been gnarly. I have very little rain experience and no PNW experience, so this was a great learning experience!

My day trip to Winthrop turned into a week stay when I fell sick, but what a great little town to fall ill in. A brewery, hostel, gear stores, cell reception and sunshine, yes please! Yet another longer than anticipated break pushed even later into the season. I got back on trail at Rainy Pass and pushed onto Stehekin, which was amazing, if you get a chance to go there, do it and absolutely visit the bakery!

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To Steven’s Pass, Skykomish and the Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven

The next week to Steven’s Pass was filled with beautiful views, brutal climbs and lush forest vegetation. When it wasn’t raining, it was absolutely gorgeous, in the high 60s at times, but then it became snow above 5k and rain below 5k and very cold. I approached Steven’s Pass rationing the very little food I had left and was all too aware that after six months on trail, the thought of pushing another 1100 plus miles in winter, didn’t sound fun. If I was fresh, it might sound like an epic challenge I would be eager to take on, but six months in, pushing on sounded horrific.

To Push On or Not?

After arriving at Steven’s Pass, I spent a few days at the Dinsmore’s Hiker Haven (Trail Angels’ house) in Bering, WA contemplating my next move. Then it became clear to me that I could have the best of both worlds, I could finish the trail and could do it in more favorable conditions! It simply meant I had to decide if finishing in the 2016 season was important to me or not. Should I call it a day and finishing up my remaining 1100 plus miles next year fresh and renewed with beautiful summer weather?

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The Last Few Hundred Miles is the Crux For Many

As I had travelled South bound over the past weeks, I passed many of my NOBO friends and many hikers I had never met. Some were sad to be almost done and wanted to keep hiking, some were in absolute anguish and not having fun at all, but the vast majority seemed happy, but tired and ready to be done already after such a long and trying journey. I also became aware that perhaps I was not the slowest person on trail as many hikers were skipping sections of the trail in order to finish before they were snowed out in Washington, some were skipping entire states like Oregon or even bigger stretches.

As I contemplated my decision to move forward or pull the ripcord, a new storm front came in. Then the Facebook reports of hiker after hiker after hiker quitting the trail in the last 200 mile stretch to the Northern Terminus started coming in. I knew many of these hikers and some had just left the trail angel’s house I was staying at in the last day or two. Still others were skipping up to Rainy Pass to skip the Steven’s Pass to Stehekin section to try to outrun the weather.

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Give Me That Cake Now! Nom Nom Nom Bitches!

Should I push on through winter and oncoming storm fronts cold, miserable and exhausted? Should I skip sections as many others have to try to outrun the sections with the most potential for bad weather?

Neither of these options made sense to me as I wanted to actually hike the entire trail and enjoy myself doing it! This is when it became clear to me that once I put my ego in check, an arbitrary goal of finishing the PCT in the 2016 season was held very little meaning to me. Then it occurred to me that I could have my cake and eat it too if I were to continue my PCT Thru Hike in 2017. This would truly be the best of both worlds as I would get to come back rested, excited and with all of the experience I gain in the 2016 season!

So what to do? Hmmmmmm….

I AM SO FUCKING ECSTATIC TO BE CONTINUING AND COMPLETING MY THRU HIKE THROUGH HIKE IN 2017 ! MY JOURNEY IS NOT OVER, IT IS JUST BEGINNING!!!

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Post Hike PCT Weather Update and Shout Out

In the week following my departure from the trail, more storm systems have come in and snow pack has prevented many from completing their thru hikes. Some hikers quit and then tried again after a rest, only to be shut down again by weather or exhaustion. As of this writing, I have friends trying some alternate lower elevation non PCT routes to go North as there is a foot or two of snow at higher elevation making sections impassable with nothing but snow in the forecast going forward.

Finally, I want to give a big shout out and big love to all PCT hikers that made it to the trail this year and to all the awesome trail angels! Thank you so much all for being so fucking awesome, hope to cross paths again soon. Cheers!

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So What’s Next?

Bwahahahahahahahaha…. That’s a good one as I have no fucking clue! I’ve been in San Diego AirBnB ing for the last week and getting caught up on all of those things life and work related that have been neglected over the last six months. I will likely continue getting caught up for the next few weeks while putting together a plan. Am I going to go hike all the major trails and volcanoes in Hawaii? Hit the Israel trail and travel in the Middle East? Stay in San Diego? Move to Colorado, Washington or Oregon? I have no idea. I’m just having my way with each day as it’s granted to me as I wear this ridiculous ape suit on this beautiful spinning rock racing through infinite space! WITH TEARS IN MY SILLY EYES, BIG LOVE YOU WILD BEASTIES AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE KIND WORDS AND SUPPORT, I LOVE YOU ALL!

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Trace

Hiya. I'm Trace, thanks for checking out Alpine Science! I love the outdoors, gear, sailing, traveling, playing ukulele and guitar and everything life has to offer. I have an extra uke, want to jam???

One thought on “2016 PCT Thru Hike Update: Let’s Eat Cake!

  1. russell boles says:

    Trace,

    Sounds like you made a good decision. I’m always interested in hearing updated reviews on the gear people used on their hike. I hope if you get the chance you can update us on your gear choices in regards to would you go that route again, what was really good, what might you do different, etc.

    I’ve enjoyed following your journey this year – hope you get back on the trail next year.

    Thanks

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