Welcome to Will’s PCT Hike

From April 28th – September 7th 2015, I walked approximately 2,000 miles from the US border with Mexico to central Oregon along the Pacific Crest Trail.

I documented the experience with words, pictures, and videos for each day of my trip and am happy to share the experience with you.

I intend to pick back up where I left off in Mid-Late August 2016, so if this is your first time here, you have plenty of time to catch up before I begin the next leg of this adventure.

Thanks for stopping by!

❤ Will

 

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In Conclusion

I gave it three weeks of rest before calling it a day. My range of motion steadily improved but it was still painful to put my pack on and wear it for more than 5 minutes at a time. I looked into getting a pack animal, considered buying or building a cart, giving it more time and then hiking south from the Canadian border, but in the end, the most prudent thing seemed to give it a rest and to focus on my gratitude for all the wonder filled experiences of the past 5 months.

Britt and I celebrated our last days together at the ironically named “Cape Disappointment,” and then parted ways at the Vancouver Amtrak Station.

I don’t know when I will see her again, but the love we shared will echo throughout the rest of my life and my gratitude and love for her, I sense, may never cease.

Thank you for joining me on this journey, it has brought me much joy to share its unfolding and I am forever grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Thank you for every prayer, comment, and message, for every package of food, ride into town, monetary donation and shelter from the storm. I couldn’t have done it without YOU.

I am in awe of how this experience has brought me closer to people from all stages of my life and feel more deeply connected to my communities in Iowa, Vermont, and North Carolina.

I have ideas and hopes for future wanderings but for now will be focusing my energy at the group homes I’ve served for the past 4 years and saving my pennies for the next adventure.

With all the love in my gratefully beating heart,

Your Happy Wanderer

❤ Will

Day 133 – The Rescuers

I woke up at 3 am, in excruciating pain. I swallowed two ibuprofen and washed it down with some dark chocolate I’d left by my side and checked my phone for a signal. 

We were 15 miles from the nearest paved road, had no cell service, and it would still be dark for 3 hours. Gratefully, my body relaxed enough to drift back to sleep until dawn.

The right side of my upper body was spasming in pain, and my right arm felt like it was trapped in an imaginary sling, stuck in a chicken wing like form. It could bear no weight, making me unable to lift water to my lips, let alone dig a hole for my morning constitutional.

 It took several minutes to stand, and when I did, I couldn’t straighten up. Aside from the piercing reminders of pain, I was bewildered to have fallen asleep an athlete and woken up a physically disabled individual. 

There was a family camping a few hundred feet down the trail so Britt introduced herself to them and asked if they could help.

There just so happened to be a steep, partly washed out, jeep road nearby, and we were in the kind company of three generations of off-road jeep enthusiasts. They were packing up to leave, and Diane, the matron of this extended family, offered to build a bed in the back of her jeep and carry us to safety.

As far as I can remember, this was the first time in my nearly 2,000 mile journey that I happened to camp near people with vehicles. Diane and her family come here every Labor Day weekend, but this was the first time they brought an extra vehicle along and so were able to help.

With my hunched back and chicken wing of an arm, I slowly shuffled over to their camp, still gnawing on my dark chocolate bar and wincing in pain.

Diane offered to drive us to either Eugene or Roseburg, Roseburg being on her way home. We agreed on Roseburg because I have some family friends in town that might be able to help, and it was on her way home, too. It took 90 minutes to reach a paved road, with many ups, downs, ruts, and unmarked intersections along the way. She drove skillfully and slowed down at bumpy parts of the road, knowing that each jarring movement sent fitful spasms throughout my upper body and elevated my pain through the roof.

Halfway there, I realized that I had family friends in Redmond, not Roseburg, and so I quickly searched for hosts on the international couch surfing network, and found two hosts in town.

Britt and I have been trying to use the couch surfing network throughout our hike. I’ve been a member since my band’s touring days, and host travelers when at home. I’d had great luck with it, until this hike. We reached out to 30+ hosts during our hike this summer and not once did it work out to have us stay with someone from the site. (couchsurfing.com)

Nevertheless, I sent off messages to our two potential hosts and within 30 minutes, my phone was ringing with a friendly voice on the other end admitting she’d woken up this morning to thoughts of hosting and how she would be happy to have us over for the night. Cory lives 4 blocks off the highway we were on when she called, and we drive right to her place and set up camp in her spare bedroom, all within an hour or so of my initial reaching out.

I also checked in with my dad, who suggested finding a highly reputable massage therapist to work on my muscles before seeking further medical attention. I was relieved to hear him say this and started calling around to find those healing hands.

I wanted to take a shower but couldn’t get my shirt off or even sit properly on the toilet, so I laid down, half propped up on a pillow, while Britt reached out on Facebook to seek shelter for us once we returned to her hometown of Portland.

Almost immediately, her friend Brie responded and invited us to stay at her friend Del’s house for the remainder of the week. Del was hiking the John Muir Trail and would be gone until the following Monday. We would move into his spare basement bedroom by nightfall.

We were 3 hours south of Portland and Britt’s grandma offered to drive down and pick us up Tuesday morning, but it just so happened that Britt and Brie’s mountaineering partner, Sharia, was on her way back north after spending the holiday weekend hiking in the Russian Wilderness with her boyfriend.

They routed their return through Roseburg to visit a highly sought after creamery rumored to be in town. Shortly before arriving, Sharia texted Britt about an unrelated matter, and upon realizing how close they were, Sharia appeared at Cory’s doorstep within 5 minutes. She had driven out of her way to visit a creamery that incidentally had no retail outlet, but had room in her car for us and our gear. We drove through Dairy Queen on our way out of town and headed north.

She dropped us off at Britt’s grandmother’s house in Vancouver, WA. We were welcomed at the dinner table, picked up Britt’s car, and drove back across the Columbia River to Del’s house for the night.

I still couldn’t get my shirt off, but Britt helped me disrobe and I wept beneath the healing warm waters of the basement shower and scheduled a massage for the next morning with a LMT Brie recommended.

It was a remarkable turn of events.

On Labor Day, I was forced to stop and rest, no longer physically able to bear the burden of my pack.

In my darkest hour, in my time of greatest need, when I lacked the strength to help myself, I was saved by a grace filled string of events. I was rescued by a team of perfect strangers, who unknowingly conspired in gently guiding me along the path toward healing.

I was given, through pain but not suffering, a practical story of salvation and a testimony of grace. I was finally receptive enough to accept that which cannot be earned but is freely available to all.

If I spend the rest of my life trying to share and communicate this “amazing grace,” along with the awe and wonder I’ve experienced on the trail, I sense that it will be time well spent.

But for now I’ll just say THANK YOU.

❤ Will

 

 

Day 132 – Last Day Aboard the Nautilus

Over the course of my trip, I have slowly indulged in the famous French adventure novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

Captain Nemo guided me through the seven seas, while I gently trod upon the soil.

But as Professor Arronax and his companions experienced loneliness and isolation while held captive, I discovered love and companionship as I willingly traversed the land.

Yet like my brothers below, the fate of my travels and its destination, depended upon forces outside my control.

At mid afternoon, I took a break from my audiobook to contemplate the horizon, catch up on my blog, and release what would be my final “Sunday Serenade.” 

I picked my pack back up and began hiking, but soon discovered a now familiar discomfort, that had slowly been intensifying over the past few days. 

I hiked on into the setting sun, completing the book an hour before sundown. It was an abrupt and unexpected ending, with Arronax and company being thrown overboard amidst a maelstrom and miraculously being rescued off the Norwegian coast. 

I listened to a few of Aesop’s fables during my last hour of hiking, and took particular interest in the story of the fox and the grapes.

I reached the south shore of Summit Lake as the sky completed its darkening, and was grateful to find Britt there with camp set up. 

I took off my pack off for what would be the last time and achingly laid down upon my sleeping pad while Britt prepared our last supper.

I did not know this would be my last night on the trail.

❤ Will

Day 131 – Winter Wonderland

We woke to a snow covered tent and a transformed landscape.

it’s amazing how even the slightest dusting can change the way I look at things.

But as I walked, the snow got deeper. 

And its effects more dramatic. 

The forest opened up to display Mount Thielsen, an impressive extinct volcano with a horn-like peak. 

We ate lunch near a stream that ran down the mountain, and warmed our bodies in the sun.

By mid afternoon, the snow gave way to the sun’s radiant gaze.

And clung only to the places still in shadow. 

We reached the highest point for the remainder of the trail. 

And started making our way down the mountain. 

Its all down hill from here, right? 

❤ Will

Day 130 – Starting to Snow

Crater Lake receives an average annual snowfall of 44 feet, and it started TODAY.

We waited for the warmth of the sun to appear before giving up our down sleeping bags and rubbed our hands together to keep our fingers nimble as we packed up and prepared breakfast. 

The skies were mostly clear as we said our last goodbye to the lake, and then the gusts came bringing frozen rain, hail, and a dusting of feathery snow. 

We wrapped up our walk along the rim.

And were soon back in the company of trees. 

We warmed our stomachs with some chicken soup, and hiked along the freshly dusted trail until dusk.

❤ Will

Day 129 – Back to Crater Lake

We made it back to Crater Lake in time for lunch, and found gracious homes for the rest of our trail magic goodies.  

Crater Lake is off the beaten path so hiker resupply options are generally limited to mailed packages or the offerings at the small camp store. However, between what was left of our treats and the foodstuffs Britt brought to share, we filled up the previously barren hiker boxes with free food and headed back to the trail. 

With a final hug and kiss I bid farewell to my parents, grateful for our time together and feeling as close to them as I ever have.

Thank you SO MUCH Mom and Dad, I'll be home for Christmas!
Thank you SO MUCH Mom and Dad, I’ll be home for Christmas!

It felt good to be back on the path but I admit that my pack felt freaking HEAVY. I decided to carry 8 days of food and we were approaching a 20 mile waterless stretch.  

We joined up with the rim trail and headed up toward the lake

Upon reaching the cool waters, I took an opportunity to offer thanks to my parents and my friends and family who pooled resources to feed the hikers.

The lake cast a different glow in the fading sunlight and it started to get cooooold. 

Camping is not permitted along the rim trail so we walked off onto a side trail to set up camp. 

We experienced a magnificent sunset and then braced for the cold night ahead. 

❤ Will