Life on Trail

Guest Post on The Mighty

Yesterday I wrote a guest blog post for The Might which is a blog geared towards family members and people challenged with disabilities and other medical conditions. This is the first blog I've written as a guest blogger and I hope to continue sharing my story with a wider audience. The blog provides an overview of my PCT hike so for those of you who have followed my blog from the beginning might not read anything new, but I did share a few new pictures.

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Click image to read my blog on the Mighty.

Click image to read my blog on the Mighty.

Introducing: CP and the PCT

After months of work, I finally have a video that I'm mostly satisfied with.  I hope this video will be the first in a PCT series.  Oh, and if you enjoy it please share it with your friends.  

A man with Cerebral Palsy defies the odds and hikes 2,660 miles from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail. This is his story. 

Anthem of Confidence

Before I entered into the High Sierra I created a music playlist designed to complement the epic terrain and help propel me through the steep climbs. The playlist (entitled Crushing It) consisted primarily of soundtracks from various movies such as Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Batman, and Transformers. In the Sierra I came to the realization that the beauty of my surrounds provided ample motivation. Once I reached Northern California, however, the playlist became a great asset.  In the sunny, hot afternoons while I hiked through the monotony of the vast forests, my epic playlist helped energize my spirit.  

Magically Mellow Marathon

Many of the thru hikers on the PCT pick up their pace in the mild terrain of Oregon.  In fact, some of the most ambitious hikers attempt to hike all 455 miles of the Oregon section in two weeks which is unofficially called the Oregon Challenge.  I’ve heard several different variations of the challenge, but all of the variations entail hiking through Oregon at a fast clip.  I didn’t even consider taking on the Oregon Challenge, however, I did set the goal to average 30 miles a day through Oregon.

On Empty

The first mile of the day starts slow as I work out my tense joints and achey muscles. I'm not as energetic as I was just a month or so ago, but I'm pulled through each day by the hope of reaching Canada. My weariness grows, and like weeds along the trail, it chokes the beauty of creativity from fully blossoming, and at the end of the day when I settle into my tent I have no energy to string together thoughts for coherent blog posts. I have many stories to tell but not enough daylight in the day to hike and write. I guess I'll just have to share these stories after I get to Canada.

Breaking the Mundane

Hundreds of miles of the PCT wander through forests of dense trees which confine views to limited corridors. In Northern California these vast forests strangle ambition and many hikers leave the trail.  It's easy to loose focus in the monotony of the forest, but without warning, beauty breaks through. At times I'm stopped dead in my tracks as light gracefully penetrates the tree canopy and the fading morning vapor. In these experiences I find myself thrown back into the essence of the moment. I forget about Mexico and I stop planning my arrival to Canada, I simply breath it in before I continue my cadence to the north.

The Art of Trekking Pole Maintenance

I bought carbon fiber trekking poles for my Colorado Trail thru hike for two reasons. I tried to cut as much weight from my gear as possible, and I figured I'd rather carry carbon trekking poles instead of aluminum lighting rods, especially while hiking extended distances high in the San Juan Mountains. After the CT my parents met me in Durango and we backpacked into Chicago Basin to climb several fourteeners. Near the top of Sunlight Peak I cached my poles before scrambling up the final few pitches. When I returned I found marmots had chewed up my wrist straps and handle grips. Apparently marmots enjoy the salt found in sweaty trekking poles. I was bummed at first, but then I realized the marmots were simply helping me cut more weight.

Thirty within the Window

Over the past few months, most of the thru hikers have established their daily routine on trail. By now most hikers know how to get the most miles out of each day. I've realized that I have a pretty precise hiking window for each day. I try to be on trail by six in the morning and I shoot to setup camp near seven in the evening. If I hike outside of these hours my performance will inevitably suffer the following day, so I try to make the best out of my thirteen hour hiking window.

100 Days of Mostly Solitude

It's hard for me to believe I've spent one hundred days on the PCT. Looking back on my time on the PCT I realize I've hiked the vast majority of the 1800 miles alone. Within the first hundred miles of Oregon I've only hiked with two thru hikers for a total of twenty-five miles, and I'm guessing these numbers could be representative of most of my hike.

The Promised Land

The way thru hikers talk about Oregon makes me think it's flowing with milk and honey. For the past few weeks many hikers have talked about how easy Oregon will seem compared to what we faced in California. Many hikers plan on hiking 30 mile days and many say they will attempt to hit a 40 mile day in the Oregon hills. All this talk about Oregon makes me hope it's free of Poison Oak, mosquitos, and rattlesnakes. I hope the trail is smooth and well shaded with cold springs that sit adjacent to the trail every five or six miles. I hope the highs will hover in the sixties and the lows in the mid-forties, and I hope for just the right number of clouds to make breathtaking sunsets. Ok, maybe this is a lot to ask for, but I'm going to be thankful that Oregon will go quicker than California. Nearly 1700 miles to hike through a single state is simply outrageous. I'm hoping for a short and sweet Oregon. 


Puddle Water

It was bound to happen while hiking the PCT in a severe drought year; after 1500 miles I was finally forced to filter my drinking water out of a swampy, stagnant pool. For the first 750 miles a water report helped hikes navigate through the arid sections. Hiker updated the water report via email and text message, and anytime the adjective "stagnant" appeared on the water report I planned according and carried extra water.

In Northern California no such water report exists, so I rely on the information found on my trail maps, which is often quite accurate,  but my luck finally ran out.

Potato Chip Pocket

I still hike with a traditional backpacking pack, whereas most PCT thru hikers use ultralight style packs that tend to weigh a fraction of most traditional packs. Ultralight packs have less structure, support, padding, and features; however, one feature still exists on almost every pack.  A large mesh pocket on the front of the pack helps hold bulky items.

The Post Office Victory

As I exited the post office I held up the duct-taped priority box high in the sky as if it were a trophy. I had just hiked 75 miles in two and a half days to pickup my resupply box before the post office closed for the three day Fourth of July weekend. My two thru hiker companions at the time, Marathon and Fat Dog, were both experienced ultra distance runners, and they weren't phased by my accomplishment; or maybe they were just fixated on filling their stomachs with food, free food.

Crash Course

Only three storms have interfered with my PCT thru hike so far, and it just so happened that the worst of the three storms hit while Katie section hiked with me near Donner Pass. Katie currently lives in Davis, CA which sits just a few hours from the trail, but we met in Colorado when we both worked for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. When I announced my plan to hike the PCT Katie expressed interest in hiking with me while I was in her neck of the woods. I didn't know the hike would turn into a crash course in thru hiking.

Defending the Snickers

I eat a candy bar every day. In fact, through the High Sierra I ate two everyday. I typically eat my daily candy bar (which is a Snickers the majority of the time) in the late afternoon as a treat to get over the drowsy afternoon slump. A few days ago I was hiking up a series of switchbacks listening to a podcast called The Trail Show, and I realized I needed my daily pick-me-up. I dug out my Snickers, pulled back the wrapper, and took a few bites as I slowly progressed up the slope. I turned the switchback with my half eaten Snickers in hand when something caught my eye. Thirty yards from the switchback stood a good size black bear.

Fifty Hour Holiday

On a whim, my parents drove out from Colorado to spend the weekend with me in South Lake Tahoe. I had planned to nero (hike less than 10 miles) into Tahoe on Saturday and nero out on Sunday, but instead I enjoyed a full zero with my parents on Sunday and then neroed out on Monday afternoon. Most town stops induce stress for me because I have more errands than I have time, so relaxing in town always falls behind the necessities, but Tahoe was different. My parents drove me around town to complete my errands, they took me out to eat numerous times, including an all you could eat Brazilian Barbecue restaurant. On Saturday my parents rented a jet ski for a hour, and my mom baked me a homemade chocolate chip cake. Miraculously, my mom found a great hotel even though most places in Tahoe were already booked for the beautiful summer weekend.