Today I start my very first blog…ever! On April 24th, I begin the much anticipated journey from the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at Campo, CA. Hopefully, in 5-6 months, I will arrive in one piece at the northern terminus at the Washington/Canadian border. Total miles hiked will be over 2,655.
Many of you know that I have been planning this trip since 2015 and have asked me “Why?”. Well that is a darn good question. During one of several road trips in 2015, I listened to “Unbroken” the story of WW II tail-gunner, Louis Zamperini. You might have seen the movie, but his book truly describes his struggles to survive and the power of his human spirit. To survive a plane crash, live months at sea on a deflating raft, only to be captured and tortured by the Japanese was so difficult for me to grasp and imagine. I drove for hours completely mesmerized by his story. When I had finished, I went online to read more about him and I found this quote. “All I want to tell young people is that you’re not going to be anything in life unless you learn to commit to a goal. You have to reach deep within yourself to see if you are willing to make the sacrifice.”, Louis Zamperini.
Another book was “Night”, the story of Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. We all know of the atrocities by Nazi Germany upon the Jewish people. I don’t need to recount the nightmare. But I love this quote. “That I survived the Holocaust and went on to love beautiful girls, to talk, to write, to have toast and tea and live my life – that is what is abnormal.”, Elie Wiesel. My simple interpretation? “Life can throw many things your way, but it’s how you deal with them that describes who you really are.”
So I began to think hard. My age, 57. My stage in life, empty-nester. My accomplishments or lack thereof. I don’t have the talent to be a great ball player or a great singer. I don’t have the IQ to run a business or invent something incredible. What challenge could I give myself that allows me to achieve success in my own way? I needed something that would challenge my body…and my soul! My human spirit can be strong if I can just tap into it! So I began reading about the PCT. I spent countless hours on websites, watching Youtube videos, studying trail books and PCT maps, researching equipment, and nutrition (thanks to my daughter, Andrea). I became more and more intrigued by the challenge. I followed the blogs of several PCTers during the 2016 season and my excitement brought me to my second phase. Could I actually make the decision to undertake this journey in 2017. I discussed this with Jennifer, my wife, and she recommended that I take a few trips to see if I really liked the solitude and being in the back country for days at a time. My trips started just over the ridge from our house in the Ohlone wilderness. They quickly spread to Yellowstone, Sonora Pass, Sierra City, Gros Vente, and Yosemite. I was kinda hooked!
So here’s the rub. I’m leaving my loving wife, Jennifer, for a very long time. I am a grandfather for the first time. My mother only has a few months to live. I’m going to miss the birthdays of my two wonderful children. On one hand, technology is wonderful. In fact, it’s a huge enabler for me. Family and friends can track me and text me through my GPS device along my journey. I will Facetime with them whenever I am in a location that has WiFi. But technology will never solve human touch. It will never be able to emulate kissing my wife, holding her hand, hugging my children and grandchild, and sleeping with those damn dogs that don’t want to move at night. I can only ask for their encouragement, love, and support. And, to strengthen my spirit when it weakens. In spite of what I will be missing, I know that when I return they will still hug me. I know that I will love and appreciate my family even more.
My 27 resupply boxes are all stocked and ready to be shipped. My PCT thru-hike permit says that I can depart from the southern terminus on April 24, 2017. All of my hiking equipment lays in a big pile in the garage waiting to be stuffed into my HMG 90 liter pack. I’m hiking Mount Diablo every other day of the week. Mount Diablo is a 3,200-3,500 foot climb to the top depending upon the route I take. Total round trip mileage varies between 14-16 miles. On off hiking days, I’m at the gym. My body will be ready for the 20-25 miles per day that I will need to average in order to reach Canada by the end of September.
As I will be reaching the southern Sierras in early June, the snow levels could be life threatening if I am alone. Jennifer suggested a brilliant alternative that I wholeheartedly embraced. I am going to hike the first 700 miles through the desert to Kennedy Meadows general store just west of Inyokern, CA. From there, I will transit to Bakersfield and hop a flight to Medford, OR. There is a bus that goes to Callahan’s in the town of Ashland just off of Highway 5. I will attack the Sierras from the north and head south back to Kennedy Meadows general store (1,000 miles). This puts me in the high Sierras by mid July…a full month and half later when the rivers and snow level will be much lower…crossing my fingers! I will then go back to Ashland via plane to complete the remaining 1,000 miles north to Canada.
I will blog during my journey giving you updates, pictures, and observations. I am both excited and nervous. Special thanks to Jennifer and Andrea for your help and moral support in my preparation. I love you tons! Ray, you are the man. Thanks for taking time off from your new job to haul my ass down to Campo, CA. You’re a true brother.
It’s a journey, not a race. Enjoy the days spent with nature and take what it gives me one day at a time.