It was just a short hike in August, but it accomplished a big goal for a couple of hikers: John and John walked the three-mile gap they needed to complete their 507.9-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail across Washington state.
I did more than 200 miles on the PCT in Washington with John during the past three years, including a long hike from White Pass to the Columbia River and Oregon. I walked onto the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, OR, on September 5, 2014.
I hiked from Hart’s Pass to the Canadian border in September 1973. The incident that stands out from that solitary hike through the Pasayten Wilderness is being in my tent while deer licked the outside of it — perhaps for salt or food I had spilled on it.
My obsession with the PCT started in either 1971 or 1972, and you could build a book on tracing what was going on in my life as I filled in portions of the trail year after year. Maybe I could call it “Wilder.” Or maybe “Mild” would be a better since I don’t think I can compete with Cheryl Strayed’s behavior as she told it in her book that has brought hordes to the PCT.
Much of my early hiking on the trail was with my sister or my friend Jeff. Mary Jo and her husband, Don, accompanied me on a couple hikes in Central Washington. Mary Jo was also with me from Rainy Pass on the North Cascades Highway south to Cloudy Pass and around Glacier Peak. I remember a bear standing up out of a berry patch along the trail and having a very close face-to-face with him before he ran off. The most amazing moonrise I have ever seen came over a lake on the approach trail from Holden just off Lake Chelan.
Most of my hikes with Jeff on the PCT were in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, perhaps the most beautiful and remote section of the trail in Washington. Jeff and I were in our 20s, played rugby and carried more weight in our packs than I could probably lift now. I remember baguettes, bottles of wine, salamis and cheese. I also remember this Ohioan’s first dunk in a glacial stream and rushing out of the frigid water into a pile of fallen branches. I still have the scar from the weird infection that followed. And somewhere in the Goat Rocks came my introduction to huckleberries, another obsession.
Kathy and I hiked the trail mostly in the Central Washington area, including one memorable trip when we found someone’s abandoned log raft and poled across a lake. Kathy reminds me of watching a rock avalanche across a valley and being glad we weren’t over there. We hiked with Max, her then our Llasa Apso, who loved to roll in snow banks and would sit down on the trail and refuse to move when tired.
Then we hiked with Jake, and Kathy remembers father and son skinny-dipping in a lake and a rainy hike where they stayed in the tent while I did all the cooking and served them.
The vistas, the memories, the completed miles. Almost makes me want to do it over.
But so glad I did.