Coming out of Seiad Valley Jen’s foot started to hurt as she had cut herself in the night a few nights ago and now the wound had gotten infected. We had planned to do the 6000 foot climb in two halves but only made in about 2 miles before we had to call it a night. The smoke was very strong as we were now at the lowest point we have been for a long time. This also meant the temperature was very hot which made getting to sleep hard.
The next morning we woke up early and were able to make it up the hill by lunch time. The smoke actually kept temperatures down which made the hill, coined Cardiac Hill, manageable. By lunch we had caught up with the rest of the group again but the climb for the day ended up being over 7500 feet of elevation gain over a 26 miles day. It was on this day that we also hit an amazing milestone of only having triple digits between us and Canada.
The next day we were buzzing with excitement as it would be the day we would cross into Oregon. Ten miles in and we crossed the state line. It feels so surreal that we spent over 3 months hiking the longest state in the United States and that we now have triple digits ahead of us to Canada.
We were so happy to celebrate this moment with so many of those who we started the trail with and we had a drink to celebrate this achievement. It’s crazy how far we’ve come.
We then had a nice 10 mile day to get us into Ashland. On this section we started to get trail magic again which gives fellow hikers the biggest smiles. The new state of Oregon made us feel great and hitting Ashland we were ready to recharge for the next 900 miles.
Getting to Oregon made us pause to reflect on the main things we’ve learnt so far in this trip. Here are some cheesy lessons we learnt or were reinforced whilst on trail:
1. Assume positive intent. 90% of the people we have met out here have been lovely, 5% have blown us away with their kindness by letting hikers sleep on the floor of their restaurant or by cooking lunches at trail heads, and of course there are always a few people who can turn things a little sour. Whether that be as simple as being very laddish or being rude to the point that trail angels will no longer host hikers, the PCT class of 2018 definitely has a few people who can spoil a good thing. That said, if you assume everyone is going to be in the last group you’ll affect your own headspace and probably won’t get the most out of people.
2. How to appreciate water. Since being on this trip the majority of our time planning is around water. Whether that be how much water to carry to drink, river crossings or snow passes where these are best done early morning or afternoon. When we first started the trip we carried way too much water slowing us down and putting undue pressure on our joints. River crossings were also new for us and we had to learn as we went through the Sierras. It’s amazing how much time we spend thinking about something that at home is just the turn of a tap away.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve had the best hitches and conversations with those we’ve least expected it from. A good example of this was we got a lift in Idyllwild from a very beat up van. Jenny looked at me to say “should we get in” beforehand but this guy was awesome and so nice driving out of his way to make sure we didn’t have to walk further than we needed to. The trail brings people together who otherwise wouldn’t have much to do with each other and that is one of the best bits about it.
4. It’s not life in the fast lane – look after yourself. When we arrived at Scout and Frodo’s at the start of the hike we met a fellow British hiker who seemed to know what he was doing, having walked the Appalachian Trail last year. 50 miles in we caught back up to him and he raised his eyebrows when we told him we were averaging about 16 miles a day. He said, “This is the easiest part of the trail so if you are not pushing 20-25 here you won’t make it to Canada”. This hiker ended up getting a stress fracture due to pushing himself too hard in the first 100 miles and had to leave the trail.
5. It is so important to enjoy the little things. There is so much going on in nature that it’s important sometimes to stop and take in the scenery we are walking through. Whether that be something small like a lizard doing push ups on a rock or the vast beautiful scenery, this is what you’ll remember, rather than focusing on hitting big mileage.
6. Having little makes you appreciate a lot more. Everything we own we carry on our backs. Therefore we only have the most essential things. It’s at that point you appreciate what you have a lot more, but it also makes you realise that we have a ton of superfluous stuff in our everyday lives. That said, we appreciate simple things like having water you don’t have to filter and a bed a lot more when we get them.
7. How to hang a bear line, dig a cathole and glissade. These are such primal Bear Grylls skills but we now feel much more equipped for the apocalypse. It’s been fun learning things you’d never need to know in our simple lives back home.
8. Everyone has a different story to write. Not everyone has the same reason to be here so there is no point competing. This is definitely true when looking at people’s hiking styles and speeds. We enjoy the towns as much as the hiking, as they are so different from what we have back home. Others hate towns and see them as a way to get food and head back to the trail. There is a commonly use phrase out here: hike your own hike
9. Importance of morale/it’s mostly a mental game. These past few weeks we’ve had lower morale because of the fires. It makes the walking much harder. The same can be said if Jen and I are in a mood. Staying positive makes the walking much easier, especially if you’re chatting to those around you as the time just flies past. We’re lucky to have found such a fun and diverse trail family.
10. We can walk 1700 miles! Your body can do more than you think even if it takes a beating getting there. It’s been a great challenge getting this far but it feels so rewarding to know our bodies are capable of achieving so much.