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…
Started hiking around 7am. The trail continued through the same scenery like yesterday. The trail was constantly climbing, but slowly. I was quite happy with that. I had been worried a bit the last weeks hiking in the flat section of Oregon about possible tough climbs in Washington like in the Sierras. We had planned for Washington and the resupply an average of 22 miles per day – less than what we did in Oregon, but more than in the Sierras. Of course this was only day 2 in Washington – but it would turn out easier from the climbs than expected.
Also the climate continued to stay humid.
Pitched the tents around 8pm. Dinner and sleeping time.
We had another big breakfast in town where we met up with Crumbs. Then we brought our resupply packages for Washington to the Post Office. We were sending 4 packages – to our planned stops at Trout Lake, White Pass, Snoqualmie and Skykomish. Due to the fire closure around Stehekin, we had not decided yet to send a package for a last resupply there or not.
Then came a big moment – crossing the Columbia river from Oregon to Washington via the Bridge of the Gods. The bridge is famously featured in the movie “Wild”:
Crossing the narrow bridge by foot, we got a nice greeting by the lady in the toll both – and a mix of friendly greetings and confused looks from drivers passing by…
A beer before noon to celebrate the last section of our PCT journey – the state of Washington. The trail started soon after the crossing to lead us back to the woods.
The vegetation looked differently. Lush green vegetation, big ferns… it always felt like rain forest. The expected climb turned out to be not too bad.
We found a campsite with water at 7.30pm around mile 2146 – 20 miles despite our late start and the celebration beer. Good start into Washington!
Food. Resupply shopping. Getting my gear ready for Washington. Shipping resupply boxes. And rest. So I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Special thanks to Helen and Al – the couple from Oregon had spent time last year at Tinkle’s family’s bed and breakfast in Switzerland. They got friendly with the family and offered help for Tinkle’s upcoming PCT hike. They were so kind and drove us to Portland for shopping and invited us for lunch. Thank you! That made our preparations for Washington so much easier – and I really enjoyed meeting you!
It was still light rain when I woke up with first light. It was comfortably enough in the tent, but the thought of getting out into the rain, having to hike 28 miles through the rain to make it to Cascade Locks was not the most attractive one…
So we stayed in our tents during breakfast, hoping for the rain to stop. At least it changed to just a drizzle when we finally got out and packed our tents. While my tent had held up well during the night, I realized that I had pitched it in a small ditch last night. Water had collected right under the tent and pushed through the floor into the tent. I did not have too much water inside, but the tent itself was soaked with water and mud.
Still I had to pack it and get everything into my pack. We started hiking with rain gear – in my case just my thin wind/rain jacket and short pants and the pack protected by a rain cover.
With 28 miles to go and cold wind and continuing rain, we reduced the breaks to a minimum. It took maybe 30 minutes to get my feet inside the Salomon Ultra X shoes soaking wet.
The clouded sky stayed dark the whole day – walking through the dark forest foggy from low hanging clouds was really special. A new experience after 4 months good weather on trail. But thruhiking can not just mean good weather hiking I guess…
Despite being wet and cold in the beginning, I enjoyed the experience.
There were so many blueberry bushes along the trail. Eating the ripe blueberries washed by the rain was delicious… The only way I want to eat blueberries from now on… 😁
The rain finally stopped and with hiking fast, I was able to get warm even with just the thin rain gear I had. The thought of getting my better weather gear from a box shipped by my good friend Steven to Cascade Locks was helping.
The last few miles offered views onto Cascade Locks.
Today would be the last hiking day in Oregon. The PCT famous Bridge of Gods in Cascade Locks leads into Washington, the last chapter of my PCT journey. It was an amazing last hiking day that Oregon provided. Short before Cascade Locks, I saw a bear cub, a snake and a group of deer – as if the animals were wishing a farewell…
We made it around 7.45pm into Cascade Locks. Two rest days (zero miles days) are planned. Good to dry the gear and get some rest before heading into Washington.