Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 7,749 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 13.4 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 190.5
Weather/Temp- rainy, foggy, snowy 30s
Injuries- object stuck in leg
Pain level- low
Days without shower- 1
I woke up early this morning to freezing fog and rain. If experience has taught me anything over the years, it’s: you don’t hike out in freezing rain at 7 am, when checkout time for your room is 11. We rode that checkout time all the way to the last minute. Unfortunately, it was still cold, foggy, windy, and rainy, although the rain had slowed considerably to more of a heavy mist.
We caught a ride back to the trail head in a pickup truck; I sat in the back bed with Katana.
The steepness of the climb wasn’t bad at all, but the endless switch backs really dragged the climb out.
Snow and ice were on the ground and trees, becoming more plentiful as we climbed higher and higher. Seven thousand, eight thousand, then over 9 thousand feet before the trail leveled off. This was the highest altitude I’d ever hiked at before. My legs felt three times heavier than usual, and I felt a little bit of a sinus headache for nearly an hour until it subsided and I felt normal again.
The trees growing at these altitudes were enormous and seemingly deformed. Many of the pines didn’t grow into their typical streamlined cone shape. Instead they’d go up, then abruptly stop, looking like someone had chopped them half way up. At these stunted tops, the main bough of the tree would split into multiple branches that fanned out, or drooped back towards the earth. It was a strange sight.
The entire day was spent walking amongst these enormous trees and equally enormous boulders. Snow and ice were everywhere, with some of the snow packs covering the trail. Some were 3 to 4 feet high, but hard enough to walk on without trouble, granted you didn’t slip.
Katana was once again in her element. She always seems to be at her best when the weather is cold, snowy, and icy. I kept her on leash for the majority of the day, and she was so energetic that she was pulling me down the trail many times when I was picking my way carefully over the ice.
We were stuck in the clouds and fog for most of the day, so we didn’t get many views. Despite the lack of visibility, the terrain alone was breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life.
Hollywood hiked out earlier than us this morning, so we didn’t catch him until close to 7pm near a dirt road. We found him with a bloodied and bandaged leg. Earlier in the day he had slipped and fell in a stick. The end of the stick had caught the bottom of his shin, then sliced up as he fell down, leaving a ten inch gash and flap of skin. He had his family friends pick him up at the dirt road and take him back to town to assess his injury.
I have no clue what’s going to happen to him, or if he’ll stay on, or get off trail. I gave him a little pep talk before he left, and he assured me he would get back on after getting medical attention.
We’re camped at nearly 8000 feet, and my fingers freeze fairly quickly when not gloved, or out of my sleeping bag; even while writing this.
I’ve noticed an interesting contrast between the AT and the PCT. At the end of every day on the AT, everything hurt. The thought of moving quickly, doing anything high impact, or even walking down stairs, was enough to make me cringe at the end of the day on the AT. Out here on the PCT, I feel like I’m getting stronger. I can jump around and move quickly at the end of the day with zero pain.
I’ve come to the conclusion that both trails make you stronger, but in different ways. The AT breaks you and beats you down. You get stronger in the sense that you become tougher learning to handle the pain and suffering with a smile . Everything hurts, but you’re better and stronger for it. On the PCT, you’re simply becoming physically stronger. The terrain doesn’t offer as much resistance, so the opportunity to become stronger without the added pain and damage to your body is much higher.
Both trails make you better, but I believe the AT gives you more of the mental edge when it comes to dealing with pain; while the PCT gives you more of a physical endurance edge. At least that’s how I’m interpreting it for now…
Go to my book, “Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail”