First off, thank you all for the kind, encouraging words in response to the previous post. They truly mean a lot to me, and serve as a reminder and a motivator as to why I do this; to (hopefully) inspire and empower others to chase what they want out of life, be it adventure, happiness, anything. Also to help others escape the repetitious and monotonous cycles that our lives sometimes fall into, if only for a moment, through the sharing of my experiences.
I’ve read all of your responses, and was surprised at how few questions you all had. I’ll interpret that as me covering most of the bases already. However there were a few, which I will answer as promised.
If my responses to these questions prompt you to ask some of your own, feel free to ask, and I’ll reply to them in the comment section of this post!
Q: Is this the last entry???
A: No it is not. I planned to take some extra rest time here in Ashland, and wanted to take the time to reach out to any followers with a special post.
Q: So I was just wondering how those altra lone peaks are working out for you?
A: So far, I’m in love with them. Best shoe I’ve ever hiked in. The first full day I hiked in them, I did 41 miles. I think that’s unheard of when breaking in a shoe you’ve never used before. I should write Altra a letter about that, maybe they’ll send me some more for free, hah! I have extremely wide feet, and nearly every shoe I hike in splits down the sides within the first week. It’s something I’ve just gotten used to. The Altra Lone peak 3.0 have held up beautifully so far. They have a very wide toe box, so that’s much more comfortable for me. Plus, the wider area provides better stability on uneven terrain. I have flat feet, so I take the insoles out of all my shoes. I lose a little bit of cushion, but being closer to the ground increases my stability that much more. I recommend the 3.0’s if you haven’t tried them. They seem to be more durable than the previous model
Q: Hi Mayor, I read your book and enjoyed it immensely. I hope you are going to write more. I’ll watch for the next book. I’ve enjoyed following your hike this year, but I wonder if you are pushing so hard to get the miles each day you are missing out on the scenery, beauty, and the other hikers around you. Your trip on the AT seemed less rushed. You are way out ahead and obviously one of the best on the trail. I hope you can smell the roses as you go by. Peace -=- Mike
A: I’m glad you enjoyed the book!
Believe it or not, I’m actually near the very back of the pack right now, as far as other hikers on trail go. I hear there is a bubble of around 300 to 400 people about a week or more ahead of me, with lots more already in Washington.
A sad fact of this trail is that it can’t be hiked like the AT. You have to push miles in order to reach Canada before the heavy snow falls, and the Cascades become virtually impassable (for beach bums like me at least). Nobody knows when or how much snow will fall, but nearly every person out here is trying to finish before October or sooner.
When it comes to smelling the roses out here, these roses are much different than the AT roses. There are not nearly as many distractions or things to sidetrack you out here. There aren’t nearly as many hostels, or things dedicated to hikers within the towns. It almost gives you tunnel vision out here.
When it comes to interacting with other hikers, that’s also very different than on the AT. Everyone is pushing their hardest to make miles; you can feel the urgency in everyone out here. That didn’t exist on the AT. Nobody makes fires or here (for good reason) and because of that, most people go straight to bed when they’re done for the day. You get to meet a lot of people, but this just isn’t a very social trail compared to the AT. This part of the country is also no where near as friendly and socialble as the southeastern side; so there is a massive regional, cultural difference between the two trails when it comes to the towns and the hikers (most out here are from the west coast).
The views and scenery! The fantastic thing about this trail is that you have an incredible, spectacular view nearly every second of every day. The AT does not even compare to the views out here. While you were mostly under the trees on the AT, savoring every view and ridgewalk you were afforded, it’s the opposite out here. It’s mostly completely wide open for most of each day. You turn the corner; you can see for a hundred miles of mountain ranges. You turn the next corner; mountain lakes shimmering under the sun. You enter the trees; massive pines and sequoias hundreds or even thousands of years old engulfed you, dwarfing anything you’ve seen back east. Out here, you’re never really missing anything because you have a constant stream of views bombarding you at all times. You begin to become desensitized to all but the most spectacular of sights, and when you reach those, you do stop for lunch, or a snack, or a break, or to camp.
My strategy of hiking hard long miles is actually working in my favor. It’s allowing me to spend more time in the areas that I want to spend time in. This is because I can hike fast and long enough to make up any time. People that are hiking slower/less miles than me, are actually rushed to get out of towns and camp earlier/ quicker in an effort to keep their progress moving. I have my progress moving so fast, that I can stop and enjoy myself more than others, without the fear of getting behind the seasonal deadline. It involves pushing myself harder, but it feels good, and the rewards are plentiful and worth it. There are people that are grinding all day long, taking no zeros, popping in and out of towns quickly, absolutely miserable; but I can comfortably take 3 zeros in Ashland (which I am currently doing), explore the town, do all the things I want to do, then hit the trail with full confidence that I’m going to be in Canada at the same time, if not possibly sooner than the people grinding it out, not taking nearly as many breaks as myself.
While hiking, you’re submerged in nature, the views, and your meditative like thought routines. You get that non stop on the trail. However, that’s only 50% of the reason for why I enjoy long distance hiking. The culture within the communities surrounding the trail is the other half. The people, the food, the interactions, exploring a new place that isn’t confined to a narrow path. That’s the other half that I live for out here, that many people can’t/don’t take the time to really savor. On the AT, there was virtually no time limit to finish if you didn’t mind a little bit of cold. You could take a year to hike the AT if you really wanted, and as a result, nearly everyone takes advantage of that extra time to explore and savor all that it has to offer. If you look at the numbers, the PCT is around 500 miles longer than the AT, yet most people finish it on average, 1 to 2 months faster than the AT. This is a result of the shorter hiking season window, easier trail, and much, much less distractions out here. The communities along the PCT simply are not as involved with the trail as they are on the AT.
I’ve tried to figure out why the east coast is so much more involved in the AT, than the west coast is in the PCT, and I’ve come up with some theories.
1. The southeast is famed for its hospitality and friendliness. That plays a huge part in your AT experience when beginning in the south, and subsequently rubs off on the hikers; it’s contagious.
2. The AT is much older and the inhabitants around it are more accustomed to hikers. The PCT is only recently blowing up.
3. A great part of the AT falls within the bible belt of our country. Many of the hiker feeds, free hostels, trail magic, trail angels, etc; come directly, or are closely involved with local churches near the trail. That tight nit religious community simply does not exist out here, and it’s few and far between where it does.
That was a very long answer, but it’s something I’ve wanted to get into and address for a long time, so thank you so much for asking it!