First, the trail. I decided to combine some summary stats with back-links to a few of my posts to allow you to read up on some of my ups and downs on the trail.
Total PCT Miles: 2,660
*NOTE: Does not include Northern Terminus to Manning Park (~8 miles), side trails including the Devil's Slide Trail to Idylwild (~ 5 miles), Whitney Spur Trail (~18 miles), Kearsarge Pass (~18 miles) Three-Fingered Jack spur trail to the summit (~5 miles), Glacier Peak spur trail to the summit (~4 miles), Sierra Buttes Fire Tower Spur Trail (~3 miles), Acorn Trail to Wrightwood (~5 miles) and many other side trips and a few re-routes due to forest fires.
Total Days Mexico To Canada: 159: April 26, 2012 to September 30, 2012
Biggest Miles hiked in a day: 35 miles
Number of mile days 30 or greater: 9 days
Number of mile days 25 or greater: 29 days
Number of mile days 20 or greater: 85 days
Number of "zero" days: 23 (includes a seven day break at Lake Tahoe)
Number of "Nero" days: 18 (Partial hiking days of 12 or fewer miles)
Number of "Injuries": 3
1. Day 15 Shin Splints after descending San Jacinto to I-10
2. Day 19 Achilles Heel Injury on right side at Big Bear
3. Heel Pain on the left side that started inconspicuously on Day 116 (Mile 1807) south of Mazama Village near Crater Lake and continued on and off for the rest of the hike to Canada. This heel pain did not completely go away until almost two months after finishing the trail!
Number of times I entertained the idea of quitting: 2
1. Days 22, 23, 24/Miles 308 to 365 - May 16th was my longest day so far, at 28 miles, but it was not intentional. The ice chest before Silverwood Lake was empty of fruit as it had been pillaged before I got there. I had been looking forward to a swim at Silverwood Lake and passed up potential spots because I was shooting for the Wegman Picnic area, which turned out to be a significant distance from the lake. After 21 hot brutal miles that day, I decided to continue walking to seek a place to camp, but was forced another seven miles because the trail yielded no suitable camping spots. These last seven miles were the most painful miles I had put in yet. By the end I was limping and walking on the sides of my feet because the pads of my feet screamed bloody murder with each step. The next day I hiked the remaining six miles to McDonalds at the I-15 crossing and got food poisoning and severe diarrhea which plagued me all the way up to the Acorn Trail and down into the town of Wrightwood.
2. Days 71-77/Mile 1094. I reached Echo Lake and immediately hopped a bus for Reno where I secured a very cheap $30/night room in Harrah's Casino and Resort. Two days later, busing it back to South Lake, and after finishing my resupply, I made an on the spot decision to fly home from Reno to Tucson to spend time with my Ex-wife, which meant busing it back to the Reno Airport the next morning. I had told her via text in Reno that I could quit the trail after reaching the California border and come back to her and try to start over with our relationship. I immediately regretted this and after admitting to her in Tucson that I could no possibly end my hike before reaching Canada, she got angry and we parted on negative terms. This is the last time I considered quitting the trail.
Number of Days of Rain: about 4! (2012 was a really dry year!)
Number of Peaks Summited: 4 (Mt. Jacinto, Mt. Whitney, Three-Fingered Jack, Cathedral Peak)
* See my write-up about my summit of Three-Fingered Jack here on the PCT Trailside Reader Website, and look for it in the next edition of the monthly publication, the PCT Communicator.
Favorite Section of the Trail: Goat Rocks Wilderness & the Knife's Edge
Least Favorite Section of the Trail: Deep Creek Hot Springs to I-15
Windiest Night on the Trail: Sunrise Trailhead CG
Most Magical Sunrise: Mt. Whitney Sunrise Summit followed closely by this sunset in the Russian Wilderness
Best Burger on the Trail: Paradise Cafe Runner Up: Elk Lake Resort near South Sister in Oregon (try the Kayak Burger with Blue Cheese and Bacon! Yum!!)
Best Bakery: Tied between the Stehekin Bakery and Schat's Bakery in Bishop
Favorite Trail Town: Stehekin. Idylwild is a close runner up.
Least Favorite Trail Towns: Mojave and Belden
Best Trail Angel Food: This hands down goes to Piper's Mom in Chester, Meredith Piper. She cooked Jubel and I up steak and potatoes for dinner and followed it up with the biggest all you can eat breakfast including everything you can imagine, and some you probably wouldn't (blueberry pancakes with vanilla ice-cream!) and we devoured it all.
Number of Bears Sighted: Sadly only one at Charlotte Lake near Kearsarge Pass.
Favorite Piece of Gear: Osprey Exos 58 Backpack (read about my personal experience with Osprey's All Mighty Customer Service Guarantee) or Xlite Sleeping Pad or JetBoil Stove or Sony S100 Compact Digital Camera. Too many great pieces of gear!
Worst Piece of Gear: MSR Canister Stove (not sure of exact model). After sitting at camp watching hikers with the Jet Boil finish eating before my water finished boiling, I switched it out in Reno for a Jet Boil.
So where am I now? Since completing the trail on September 30 2012 I have had the great fortune to continue exploring. I have traveled to China, Thailand, the Utah and Arizona National Parks, and after dragging my physical possessions from Tucson to Portland I am now living in the adequately named "Hiker Haus" along with several other thru-hikers. I am still unemployed, by choice. I am committed to my goal of experiencing this life working for myself, on my own terms. A job may be necessary while I work toward my long term goals, but only as a temporary arrangement. I am currently spending my time writing a book about my experiences and writing short stories for the PCT Trailside Reader website, while planning for a thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail in 2014!
This has been a really humbling and magical experience and it is difficult to adequately summarize into words my gratitude to everyone who helped make this possible. But I will start here - first and foremost my mom who cheered me on and mailed all my resupply packages and my dad who encouraged me the entire way. A big thanks for all the trail angels who helped feed me and took me into their homes. I have a big debt to pay forward to the hiking community and future thru-hikers. I also want to thank the fantastic new friends I met and hiked with along the trail. The people you meet on a thru-hike are not your run-of-the-mill individuals. It takes a special breed of character to pursue a five month hike in the wilderness and with very few exceptions, I would be proud to call anyone I met on the trail a friend.
This is not the end, but only the beginning. I hope I have inspired some of you to get out on the trail, weather that be the physical trail or the trail as a metaphor for achieving a major goal in your life. Life is too short and the cubicle is too small to spend one more summer indoors staring at a computer screen.
Russ (Morrissey) Mease