Well, I completed my thruhike of the Pacific Crest Trail. And I am f*cking proud of it. One item of my bucket list: checked. 🙂 I learned what it means to actually live your dream.
When I think about what I have achieved, it puts a smile on my face. Always. And now being back in civilization for almost three weeks, there were enough opportunities to talk to other people about the hike. For the previous 5 months on trail, I was surrounded by thruhikers. So everyone was aiming to complete a 2650 miles journey – a shared dream, the new normal. You could also say everyone shared a good amount of craziness. Now during my last three weeks traveling the US, I got all kinds of positive feedback – from amazed to disbelief. It is good to put it into perspective.
My original plan was to spend some days eating, showering and sleeping in Vancouver and Portland. Catch up on the blogging. Then ride a motorbike from Portland to Los Angeles, following the PCT respectively the resupply towns as much as possible. Continue blogging. And a week at the beach or so. Then back to Germany. Continue doing what I love… Life is just too short and precious to not continuously work on your bucket list.
The motorbike tour turned into a road trip by car due to weather and ridiculous rental prices. And the blogging… well, I will catch up on that… 😉
My original plan was to get a motorbike in Portland and ride it all the way down to Los Angeles, following the resupply towns along the Pacific Crest Trail. With the expected rent for a Harley Davidson Sportster 900 for 10 days coming close to 2000USD from EagleRider, I decided against it and went for a road trip by car. Weather proved me right. And Tinkle decided to join spontaneously – her Canada road trip couldn’t happen without the driving license left at home. So part of the tramily (trail family) could spend ten more days on the PCT. 🙂
Picked up car at 3pm at Portland airport after doing some clothes shopping in the shopping center there. We drove up to Cascade Locks – crossing the famous Bridge of the Gods by car this time.
Go up early enough to make it to Timberline Lodge – to have the amazing breakfast buffet one more time. Driving up to the lodge at 6000 feet showed me that it was a good decision to go by car instead of motorbike. Very foggy and rain drizzling.
The drive to Bend, OR turned out to be very beautiful. Oregon’s flat fields was something I saw the first time. The trail had led us mainly through forests and the lava fields.
We stayed in Bend. Thai food for dinner and movies.
Started in Bend after a late breakfast. Quite nice if you don’t have to do 20 miles hiking where getting up with first light is necessary. First stop was Elk Lake, taking a nice scenic road towards Shelter Cove, a resupply stop we had visited Aug 16. At that time, lots of hikers had been hanging out in front of the store. The PCT tent was full with hikers as were the hiker boxes there. Now, Shelter Cove was more or less deserted…
Next stop was Crater Lake. When we came here first Aug 13 hiking the PCT, we were worried about the smoke from the forest fires. This time, clouds and rain were changing the views…
We came into Ashland around 7pm. Dinner at Sauce, a vegetarian restaurant we had visited during our last stay in Ashland together with Crumbs.
Shopping in the morning in Medford near Ashland. It is so nice to browse outdoor shops – this time REI. Finally got myself a PCT T-shirt. Had an In-n-Out burger. Left around 2pm towards Seiad Valley. Driving small roads, looking for a campground, following the beautiful Scott River road. Just before campground, we saw a small black bear crossing the street. Bear sighting number 4 after three sightings during the hike. It made the camping at night time exciting again.
Started from Campground. Picked up coffee at Starbucks in Yreka. My favorite Dunsmuir Cornerstone Cafe for late breakfast/lunch. Visited Burney Falls. Old Station to take gas. Hat Creek Rim Scenic View point. Passed through Chester – I had spent here several days during my thruhike recovering from a flu. Stayed in Quincy.
Heading on towards South Lake Tahoe. Quick stop at Donner Pass. Remembering the long day that we had hiking into Donner Pass. Driven by a liter free beer, we walked until late. And the marketing worked. When we had finished the beer, it was dark and the legs were heavy – so we stayed in the hostel next door which is conveniently owned by the bar owner.
Came to South Lake Tahoe at 14h. Made it to the post office just before closing time to picked up my replaced Darntough socks. A few words about socks: Many people hiked with toe socks from Injinji. As popular for normal socks are Darntough socks with their lifelong replacement warranty. I had to replace my two pairs three times during hike due to wear / holes in them. So I am not too impressed about their durability.
Some more browsing in outdoor shops in South Lake Tahoe. The city was so full that it turned out difficult to find a place for breakfast – finally accepted a waiting time of 30min. Our next stop just outside town was Echo Lake – Tinkle wanted to get a hat for Mermaid. The general store there was already closed for the season. Continued on to Sonora Pass. Getting back into the Sierra, the views were amazing. We had a picnic stop in the afternoon before we drove on to Mammoth Lakes.
We checked out the Mammoth Mountaineering Supply shop – so nice to browse in outdoor shops. Enjoyed coffee and Wifi at the Looney bean coffee shop. Then up into the mountains towards Red’s Meadow. Went for a walk around Devil’s Postpile – that section had been full of smoke when we were hiking.
Drove on into Bishop. Getting into Bishop while hiking the PCT had been more strenuous – we had to go over Kearsage pass to Onion Valley campground and hitchhike from there. Extra 7.5 miles each way for the necessary resupply.
Checked Eastside sports shop in Bishop – did I mention that it is nice to hang out in outdoor shops? Went to Schat’s bakery, got some cinnamon rolls.|
We picked up a hitchhiker, Alex from France on the way to Onion Valley Campground, above Independence. The views on the Sierra got nicer and nicer – difficult not to miss hiking in the mountains. Next stop was Kennedy Meadows – the gateway into the Sierra. Continued on to Lake Isabella. Dinner at Nelda’s. Stayed in Paradise Cove Lodge outside Lake Isabella – after checking the Hobo campground :-p – unfortunately closed.
Did some food shopping in Vons in Lake Isabella plus coffee from Starbucks. Took a small canyon road towards Tehachapi. Drove on to Cajon pass to visit the McDonalds there. A popular stop for thruhikers. I had probably never used the free refill that much before. But right after Cajon pass was a possible 20 miles stretch without water – who says you should not hydrate on soft drinks? This time – diet soda only.
Driving to LA. We returned the rental. I decided to hang out in Venice at the Samesun hostel for a couple of days. Enough time to decide what to do with my remaining time in the US. Tinkle took the Amtrak to Seattle.
The road trip was good. It was nice to see some of the places again that we had hiked through during the last 5 months. I had mostly happy moments on the road trip. Coming back into the Sierra was maybe the most touching moment for me. It is clearly my favorite section. So many good memories in this remote part of the Pacific Crest Trail / John Muir Trail.
On the road trip I lost some tears here – during my through hike, I surely lost my heart.
Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.
I came a long way. 2650 miles and more than 150 days later, I have completed my journey on the Pacific Crest Trail on Sept 24th!
I am happy, relieved, proud, excited… and haven’t fully understood yet that the hiking has really come to an end.
Hiking the PCT meant freedom and new encounters every day. I got used to beautiful sunsets, landscapes that take your breath away. It was a pleasure to meet all these amazing people on trail – especially Cactass, Tinkle and Spirit Kick.
Thanks to my family, friends and former colleagues for their support and encouragement during the last months.
The last two weeks in Washington were the biggest challenge during the hike. We got soaked in heavy rain several times (where also my phone died), had snow several times. We were at a point to turn back and leave the trail due to the weather and limited food. But the weather changed and the sun dried our gear and motivated us to push on.
“The only impossible journey is the one you never begin”
PS: I will be updating the blog for the missing weeks in Washington with amazing photos during the next days…
The alarm went off as usual at 6.15am. As we had feared, the tentsite had had a lot of humidity from the vegetation surrounding us over night. So in the inside of my tent was wet from condensation that had also settled on my sleeping bag. And it was very cold – a wet cold.
Slow start, we were still chewing our breakfast at dawn when Spirit Kick walked by, not recognizing us in the red down jackets.
Started walking with sleeping underwear and my hoodie as well as the down jacket and gloves on… But got warmer maybe 30min later. Caught up with Spirit Kick again a bit later and caught up on the latest. We hiked for a good part together chatting.
Refilled some water and discussed the hitching options into Trout Lake. One road just 10 miles from our tentsite with very little traffic and a second road another 5 miles and 1500 feet altitude later with a bit more traffic and a potential shuttle into town.
We gave it 15min at the first road that we hit around 12pm – but with no cars at all, we moved on.
At 2pm at the crossing, Tinkle was quickly lucky and stopped a ride. There was only space for two – Spirit Kick took the ride together with another hiker. Shortly later Tinkle got us the next car. Bill – a friendly older guy who has been living around Trout Lake for 50 years. Bill is a dog lover. As we passed through the neighborhood, he stopped from time to time. Dogs would run up recognizing his car – and he threw some goodies out for them.
Trout Lake is a small community. We went through our town duties quickly. Met up with Spirit Kick again, had some burgers, moved on to the grocery store that also held our resupply packages and new shoes for me. We had trouble finding the packages… we looked again and again. I found again a package addressed to another hiker Florian Eckert. I never met him, but had seen packages for him along the trail again and again.
When we looked one more time, we got our packages!
While there was free camping in the yard of the grocery store, we opted for the village campground – it had decent showers! After pitching our three tents, we went one by one to have the shower. Tinkle attracted some trail magic – coming back from the shower, we were greeted by water melon, hot dogs and more snacks.
Got a little earlier start at 7.30am. The vertical profile looked a bit easier for today. With weather still decent, we made it to the 2200 miles marker around noon.
We took our lunch break at Blue Lake. The clouds turned darker and the wind was cold – it was not easy to find a protected spot to lay down for a while. The lake however was popular with day hikers. It was really icy, we cut our break short and moved on.
Water at Bear Lake some miles later. And we had so much blueberries today.
With many day hikers around, we ran into two mothers with 4 kids around 5pm. With the kids getting tired, they were getting desperate to find a campsite. We pointed them into the requested direction and moved on.
We had amazing views of Mt Adams just before pitching the tents around 7.15pm.
Had two dinners – hungry from the cold wind… and I need the energy.