Pacific Crest Trail Blog Part 8
The decision was to take a marked fire track down to a small road. A forest truck pulled over whilst we were trudging down this road and advised that a town called Detroit was another 17 miles further. We walked and debated the options and have decided to road walk the remaining 190 miles to our finishing point at Crater Lake. If we can get onto the PCT at the lower elevations and do some sections then we will do but it looks like we have a lot of road walking to get through.
We will finish at Crater Lake through the pouring and freezing rain and if it means that 190 or so miles has not been on trail then I, and Nick and Chris, are happy and content with battling through and reaching our destination. We have still walled 2650 miles and are proud of that amazing achievement.
Detroit welcomed us with open arms and the proprietor of the Cedar Lodge went off to sort our room whilst I called after her “Please stick all the heaters on full blast”. We went to the bar in the evening and eight locals sat lined up at the bar. They all moved to one side and demanded we take the seats in between them, buying us a pitcher of beer, they simply wanted tales from the trail.
“What you three are doing blows me away,” said Brad, slightly the worse for wear after a few beers but his passion for the outdoor spaces out here was apparent in his voice. “For you guys to come all the way over to my country and spend six months cocooned in our wilderness fills me with pride. I live here and don’t spend enough time up in the hills so respect to you for achieving what you have done so far and we all hope you make it down to Crater.”
We left the following morning to our next destination, Sisters, a mere 60 miles and two days walking. It was hard work, lorries sped past sending showers of red dust smashing into us. The cold wind seeped into our layers, and hard tarmac forced blisters to surface and our muscles to scream. Rain soaked us and now the daylight hours are limited we were forced to rise in the dark and spend two hours walking in it at the end of the day.
We arrived in Sisters late on Friday, 12th November. Hobbling, battered and bruised we threw another couple of ibuprofen down our throats to give us a few more pain free hours. Checking into the Sisters motel we are now drying out and reducing our room, as usual, to something resembling a junk store with tents hanging on curtain rails, sleeping bags thrown over the bed and waterproofs steaming dry. A re-supply here and quick days rest and tomorrow we walk out on our final leg of the PCT. 130 miles awaits us, at best 4 days but probably 5.
They didn’t have large coffee so I figured 3 regulars should do it.
I have no idea how I will feel at the end. Happy of course, probably relieved, probably sad that it’s all over, emotional for sure and definitely very, very proud.
What I have achieved physically and phsycologically over the last few months I know will make me a stronger person and more able to chase my goals and dreams and push restrictions and hurdles to one side. Nick summed part of our feelings up by saying;
How can we ever return back to our normal life and even hope to achieve the high we have experienced out here?
A sombre observation and very true but what waits for me back home is a very different sort of high which I can’t wait to experience. To see my parents and family again, my friends, visit my Nans resting place and embark on what I now know is my calling of a writing future fills me with an eagerness I have not experienced in a while.
One more week and I hope I will be in the position of being able to call myself a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker.
Myself, Nick and Chris are officially the last PCT thru-hikers of 2010. There is no one else on trail.
‘The Last Englishmen’ – great title for a book don’t you think?
All the news below, I hope to have some video and photos for you soon.
Current location: Sisters, Oregon.
Miles left to Crater Lake: App. 130 – 4 to 5 days walking.
The end is in sight!
13th November 2010 – Video Update No. 19
Finished ! ! ! !
Exhausted, sore, tired, tender, proud, relieved, reflective and emotional.
I’ll post the updates, video and photos over the next few days. All I want to do at the moment is sleep.
Thanks to everyone who is following the adventure and those that have sent me messages over the last few months. Respect to everyone over here who have shown me the sort of hospitality that restores a little faith in human kind.
It’s been a blast, the adventure of a lifetime and I’m very proud to be able to call myself a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker.
That last week . . .
Road walking. Not the sort of prospect that any PCT hiker or indeed any hiker relishes. It has some advantages, we didn’t have to concentrate on navigation, didn’t have to watch where we were stepping and had a few opportunities to grab a motel for the night and stop by a few cafes. It is, however, brutal on the feet and legs. The hard surface coupled with a repetitive pounding reduced my feet to a blister ridden and sore mess after just one day. It was like being back at the start, calves ached, tendons screamed and thighs complained, the pain leaching up to my back. Thank god for ibuprofen.
We left Sisters on 14th November for a mild 23 miles to Bend, which we had heard so many good things about. The outskirts had all three of us wondering if we had reached the right town, a bland mix of the usual out of town shops and parking areas. A local woman offered to walk us through all of this to the down town area, telling us she walks 24 miles a day to keep fit, the first ‘townie’ I have met who didn’t assume we had a car and understood the distance in terms of foot placement and not sitting in an air conditioned cab.
Bend was indeed an attractive place and a few minutes after reaching it we had been offered a place to spend the night by a local carpenter called Kelly. He left to go out with a mate but insisted we make ourselves comfortable, got us some beer and showed us the local cafe. We tried to get out early the following morning but several coffee shops slowed our progress.
Somehow the weather held up. We peered up occasionally to see black clouds ambling past but save a couple of cold, snow sections and a few wet hours, we were blessed with reasonable weather. The roadside was littered with all manner of discarded objects. Lighters, mobile phones, urine filled bottles, shoes and clothing. Cars started to honk at us and before long we were reaching celebrity status. Word had spread about these 3 English guys, the last on the PCT of 2010 who had been stormed off the trail but had refused to give in to the elements. We all were insistent, stubborn and refused even for a minute to entertain the prospect of not reaching Crater Lake. The locals had spread the news and we regularly were greeted in cafes by comments such as ‘You’re the 3 English guys road walking to Crater Lake’ or ‘We saw you on the road this morning’ or just ‘You guys are nuts! What are you doing’?!
Knocking a few more miles off the road walk . . .
We stumbled into Lapine on 16th November after one of those days where despite best intentions, the mileage just didn’t seem to want to increase. After 17 miles and nearly dark Chris and I sat down outside the gas station and discussed the options. Another 18 miles to Crescent and make up the mileage shortfall over the remaining few days, or check into the motel. Nick pretty much provided the answer as he emerged from the gas station with a beer in one hand and staggered towards us as though he had already drunk four of them. We chuckled at his painful shuffle as he collapsed on the grass in front of us muttering ‘I’m finished’.
An early start the next day as we crunched on a frosty road over to the coffee hut. Denny, the woman who worked there gave us a coffee each with a banana muffin and phoned her husband, asking him to bring her 3 beanies which she had knitted and promptly gave us one each. This generous piece of kindness continued when we reached the Big Mountain Cafe at Chemult after 17 miles and good going by lunch. We wolfed down a late breakfast and chatted to the 4 or so couples also eating. The waiter came over just as we were finishing.
“Guys, your bill has been paid.”
We all looked at him open mouthed and said in unison “Huh’?! Trying to keep our last mouthful in.
“I can’t tell you who paid it because he didn’t want to be known but he just wanted you to know that he was impressed by what you are doing, especially as he can’t walk that far anymore and wanted to wish you all the best.’
27 miles enabled us to reach a Cafe and the Whispering Pines Motel shortly before dark and we settled in to discuss the apparent storm that most people had warned us was coming in overnight. Up to 3 feet was expected and whilst we were not worried about the road section because it was being ploughed, the section that concerned us was where we turned off Highway 138 onto the Crater Lake Road. ‘Closed in Winter’ was marked by the side of this route on our map and we knew it would not be clear of snow. We just prayed the snowfall would be minimal and reminded ourselves that tomorrow would be our last day, albeit a 37 miler.
Nick peered hesitantly out of the door shortly before a very early and rude alarm at 4.45am woke us.
“Raining”, he remarked. At this point we actually preferred snow. Although colder, it meant we didn’t get wet. We started the 15 mile stretch to the Crater Lake road and before long a road reflecting it’s surroundings began to turn white and slowly the snow started to deepen. We found the turn off and immediately began to trudge through fresh powder about a foot deep, but deepening as we climbed up to the Crater.
The view that greeted us at the top was stunning. A huge expanse of water 5 miles wide dressed in greys and whites had us open mouthed, it was magnificent and everything we had hoped for. The rim road, as it suggests, circles the lake and we turned west for the final few miles down to the highway, where I had left a few weeks prior with Pockets to skip up to Washington. The snow deepened alarmingly to the point where we didn’t actually know if we were still on the road. Only a slither of tarmac occasionally peeping at us from one side confirmed we were still OK.
Nick encountered trouble in the middle of the afternoon when an old knee problem erupted with vengeance and his pace dropped substantially. It was dark now, we were all shattered and it was exhausting trying to concentrate on where the road was, where we were and making sure Nick got through. Chris and I took it in turns to lead so Nick could exert less effort by following out foot prints whilst the other behind him supplied some torch light as his had failed.
Trooper had agreed to pick us up at the highway as he had travelled up to see his daughter but we couldn’t locate him so were forced to spend one more final night under the stars. Too tired for any major celebrations we cooked our last trail meal and fell asleep.
A passing ranger told us the following morning that he had seen Trooper looking for us the previous evening and passed on the message that he would be back. Sure enough a few minutes later Trooper, my walking companion for those last few difficult weeks in Washington rolled up as promised and joined in our high spirits as we drove to the nearest Greyhound station. Chris stayed for a day and one stop later in downtown Sacramento Nick and I said our goodbyes as he carried onto San Diego and I caught the next bus to my relatives in San Jose.
Now, after 2 day rest, I’m feeling relaxed and amazed at what I have achieved over the last 7 months. To persevere through the toughest battle I have ever faced I know has made me a stronger character and better able to face up to whatever life now has to offer me. The number of times when I thought I wouldn’t make it are too numerous to go into but one thing I have confirmed to myself is that no matter how tough the PCT was in parts, I found the strength somehow to follow through and push my demons to one side.
It has been exhilarating. I have witnessed sights, scenes and views that had me amazed and routed to the spot in disbelief. Each section, whether it was the desert, the Sierras or the pine forests was incredible and will stay with me till my time is up. I have been cold, hot, stressed, relaxed, hungry, bloated, thirsty, sad, jubilant and elated.
Congratulations to all my fellow hikers who made the grade and finished. Congratulations also to those also who may have not have made it because whether they spent 1 week or a few months on the trail, they also achieved great success and I’m sure will return stronger, more wise and more able to attempt their next PCT effort.
For those of you out there who are thinking about attempting the PCT I would say that the hardest part of any thru-hike is reaching the decision to actually go and attempt it. Once you are committed you will wonder why you didn’t go for it a long time ago. Second to that, remember it may be your body that carries you, but it’s your pshycological approach and strength that will enable you to succeed. Do not give up despite how adverse your situation may be.
Good luck to you.