Saturday, December 6, 2014

2014 PCT Gear Review

There are plenty of PCT gear reviews out there on the internets and I wasn't originally going to do one myself. However, one more gear wrap up certainly isn't going to blow up the web or collapse global servers and maybe some of you will find this helpful. I have a feeling that the PCT is going to see an increase in traffic in the coming years, partly from the "Wild" effect and partly because it seems inevitable. I must admit to having mixed feelings about this, hiking the PCT has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I would love to see many others have a similar experience. On the other hand, more people on the trail leads to more trash, more problems and a change in trail culture. Hopefully, those who do attempt the PCT in the future plan ahead, hike responsibly, show respect and avoid giving thru-hikers a bad reputation.

With that out of the way and in the hopes of helping future thru hikers prepare for an intense, amazing and challenging journey, here is a summary of my PCT gear.

To see my pre-hike gear post go here: PCT Gear List

The Big Three:

1. Shelter

Zpacks Hexamid Solo Tarp (full review): Just about perfect for the PCT! I only set mine up about a dozen times, so for a shelter option that you will basically keep in the bottom of your pack, the weight is hard to beat. In extended rain, it is difficult to stay dry, even when used with a bivy. In my opinion it is mainly for emergency use only. If I was expecting extended rain or much snow I would look into a different shelter. But for the majority of the thru-hiking season (May to September) it is perfect because you don't need a shelter for 90% of the time.

MLD Superlight Bivy (full review): I used this every single night unless I was sleeping indoors and loved it. While not strictly necessary I found this bivy to provide wind protection, kept my quilt snug around me and kept out the bugs and mice. It can be claustrophobic for some, by suspending the mesh hood up off my face, I slept very comfortably. Problems that I had were that the DWR wore out (so it would wet out very easily), the zipper started failing and I got a hole in the mesh. But I have slept a solid 250 nights in this thing over the years and I am surprised it has lasted as long as it has.

2. Sleeping

Enlightened Equipment Revelation X (20 degree): Great quilt, kept me warm every night and was overkill for 75% of the trail. I liked the quilt a lot and my only complaint was that I really didn't need that much warmth. It weighs 26 oz and took up a fair bit of room in my pack. If I were to do the PCT again I would get a lighter quilt and supplement it with a warmer hooded jacket. This way I could mail the jacket ahead to Cascade Locks from Echo Lake and not have to carry the extra weight!

Thermarest Neoair (full length): Absolutely loved it! I was so happy to snuggle into my cocoon every night and this is about as comfortable as my bed at home. Having said that, in the future I might just go for a foam pad. Sure its not as comfortable but I was so tired every night that I would have slept anyways. Blowing it up and deflating it every morning was tiresome and I was always paranoid about putting a hole in it. A closed cell foam pad is much simpler and bomb proof.

Gossamer Gear 1/8" thinlite pad: Basically protection for my neoair and I used it to nap on. Some hikers use this as their only pad, they are god-like and magical, I cannot imagine being comfortable with just this. But for what I used it for, perfect.

3. Backpack

Zpacks Arc Blast 60L (full review): I really wanted to like this pack but I switched it out in Lone pine (~ 750 miles into the trip). For the weight and bulk I was carrying this pack was not sufficient and I had very painful shoulders and hips. If I were to use this, I would absolutely have to have a base weight under 10 lbs. Also, you will be lucky to get more than one thru hike out of this pack.

HMG Windrider 4400 (full review): I really liked this pack, almost perfect for a thru hiker. I carried it for the remaining 1900 miles and will continue to use it in the future. The 4400 size is overkill for most, but I managed to fill it up a few times. I still can't believe I could fill it up... Carried incredibly well, water resistant, durable and you can impress your friends with the cuben fiber. However, they are not cheap and if I didn't get a hefty discount I would never have bought one. But read my full review for the full story.

Clothing Worn:

Columbia Tamiami long sleeve shirt: Awesome hiking shirt! I use this for work when I am in the field in temperatures up to 120 and it breathes really well. This has been my go-to hiking shirt for the past 5 years and will continue to be. Size runs large so buy one size smaller.

Nylon Shorts: I got mine at the thrift store for four dollars and they lasted 5 years and 4500 miles. Try to avoid expensive shorts, they are not worth it. I like having big pockets to put snacks and my phone in, you may be different.

Synthetic boxers: I used REI brand, they worked. Some people prefer commando, I don't.

Darn Tough socks (no show ultralight versions): Great Socks, get them on sale and have them for life. Mine lasted about 300-400 miles each then I would turn them in at an outfitter on the trail and get new ones for free. Lifetime warranty FTW!

Brooks Cascadia 9 shoes: Completely subjective choice, footwear is probably one of the most difficult gear decisions. These worked for me, I could get 900 miles on a pair (not really recommended) and I never got a single blister (may not be the shoe I almost never get blisters). I did have daily foot pain that never went away, this seems to be my curse as I always get foot pain in any shoe I have ever used, usually after 10-12 miles.

Outdoor Research Sunrunner hat: Great sun hat, I wore it every day. It started to fall apart by the end of the trail.

Simblissity Levigaiters: I love light gaiters and have used these for years but now I hate them. They did not stay secured very well for me and I found myself admiring all the dirty girl gaiters everyone else had. The dirty girls need the Velcro tab, but really a little super glue and you are golden. Do yourself a favor and get the most crazy and loud dirty girl gaiters you can.

Other Clothing:

Just a preface, this is where I would make the most gear changes if I were to do the PCT again.

Patagonia Houdini Windshirt: Pretty awesome piece of clothing and I wore it quite a bit but I would not take it again. I would just use my rain jacket instead.

Montbell Stretch Windpants: I love these and I will cry when they wear out. I wore shorts most of the time but when I didn't I wore these.

Patagonia Capilene 1 tops and bottoms: I used these mainly to keep my sleeping quilt clean. I only needed them for warmth maybe 4 days on the whole trail. I would not take these again, I would take a set of Terramar silk tops and bottoms at half the weight and price and 1/4 the durability (be careful!). Or just be a dirtbag and wear your hiking clothes to bed.

Montbell Ultralight Down Jacket: Great jacket, I love the fit of Montbell but this one is not very warm. I would switch out for a warmer hooded jacket that is 12 oz or less and be happy. My ultimate thru hike jacket is the Nunatuk Skaha Plus, but unless you use dollar bills to wipe your ass, you probably can't afford it. The Montbell Mirage Parka looks pretty decent (also not cheap but at least not insane).

Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket: I liked it, I would take  it again. Never really got to test out how waterproof it was because I was using an umbrella but it worked well to shed wind and keep me warm when I needed it.

Zpack cuben rain wrap: I don't know what to say about this. It is a great idea and works well except that the zipper broke the 3rd time I used it. I continued to use it after that, I just couldn't unzip it, fortunately it broke near the top so I could still walk normally while wearing it. I brought a pair of rain pants starting in Washington that I never used, the rain wrap thing is really functional, just watch the zipper.

Mountain Hardwear liner gloves: They weigh about 1oz and I used them from the border up to Yosemite and then from Snolqualmie pass to the Canadian border. Not super warm but if you are in the normal thru hiking season you don't need a super warm glove.

Mountain Laurel Design rain mitts: I only used these a couple of times, they are not waterproof, kind of disappointing. Not really necessary until Washington and I would try the Zpacks cuben fiber ones.

Zpacks fleece hat: It fit pretty well and kept my shaved head warm.

Cheap Flip Flops: Spend a little more and get the 10$ flip flops, they will last the entire thru hike and your feet will love you. I went through 4 pairs of cheap ones and finally wised up. I used flip flops every single day, great for letting your feet air out and breathe.

Cooking and Hydration:

Snowpeak Litemax Canister stove: It worked really well, and I ended up using it for the entire hike and sending my alcohol stove home. They are safer than alcohol, they heat up water much faster and you can simmer. What's not to like?  Well, from Oregon north, finding fuel is sometimes a pain.

Evernew titanium pot 1100 mL: Worked well but bigger than I needed, a 900 mL would have been fine and lighter. Check out Toaks, they have super light titanium cookwear for cheap!

Titanium spoon: go for the long handle and keep your hands cleaner.

Snowpeak titanium mug 600 mL: really not necessary, I am not sure if I would take a cup on a future thru hike, but  a nice luxury. Again, check out Toaks for good options.

Insulating Pot Cozy: I liked having it, you could use your jacket or sleeping bag but what if it spills?

Sawyer mini water filter: I loved this at first and then hated it by the end. No matter how many times I backflushed it would clog up very quickly and filter very slow. Do yourself a favor and get the normal sized one, and definitely bring the plunger thingy to backflush. If I didn't hate the taste of Aqua Mira, I would probably use that instead. Also, I used my filter in a gravity set up, I still like this method as the squeezing gets old pretty fast. If you do this with the normal sized sawyer you will need an adapter to fit it into a tube.

Platypus bladders: I got 2 leaks and had to replace them, but overall very happy. Really lightweight and collapsible option. Smartwater bottles work well too and are cheaper but not collapsible.

Camera and Electronics:

Camera Gear:

This could be the subject of an entire blog post, so I am not going to go into it here. Plus, I still don't know how I feel about what I did. I questioned my sanity every day but as a photographer I could not do without. I will say that if you never plan on printing your photos and they are for the web only, then a small camera or even a smartphone with a good camera will be fine. If you are picky and critical like I am, then just grin and bear it.


Homemade solar panel: My dad made it for me (thanks Dad!) and it worked great, was free and fairly light. If I was to do it again, I would just bring an external battery that can charge my phone a couple times per charge and be happy. As a side note I originally planned to use the solar charger to charge my camera batteries as well, I ended up not needing to do that, three camera batteries was more than enough.

Eton Boostblock 6600 mAh: I bought this from Amazon while on the trail and had it delivered to Callahans near Ashland (I am still amazed by this whole internet thing). It weighs 6 oz and took a while to charge but would keep me powered for at least 10 days. Unless you are a power user, this is pretty much all you need.

Motorola Moto G: It cost $200 was unlocked and did everything I needed. The camera on it sucks, just so you know. I never had a smartphone until I started this hike, I found it to be extremely useful. Not only are there some great apps for the trail but you can check weather, order gear (and pizza!), take notes, blog from the trail. It really was a great device. If you can afford it, Verizon had the best coverage by far. I had AT&T and was disappointed often.

Everything Else:

First Aid Kit: bring it and know how to use what you bring, hopefully you wont have to. I never did.

Gear Repair Kit: again, useful if you need it, useless if you don't but I would bring it again. I used cuben fiber repair tape once on my pack and that was it. I watched Slow Bro repair his hipbelt with a needle and thread, he was really glad he brought a kit.

Toiletries: Brush your teeth! A side note about toilet paper -  if you use it, Pack it Out! Please! I am not anti TP, I use it and love it but I carry it out in a little plastic bag. Its not a big deal and then you are not contributing to trashing the PCT. Thank you.

Zpacks cuben fiber stuff sacks: All of my cuben fiber stuff sacks wore out quickly and were never waterproof, I switched to Outdoor Research silnylon dry bags and was happy for the change. More durable and actually water proof.

Aloksak (large size): I used this more for peace of mind, they would last about 400 miles. At first I could fit 4-5 days of food in one, when hiker hunger came on I could not fit more that 2.5 days of food in them. I slept with my food every night, never had a problem with bears or mice. Was it because of these? I don't know but I will keep using them.

Brunton ADC Pro: It can do pretty much everything except cook me dinner. Was kind of cool checking wind speeds in the desert and water speed when crossing creeks. Of course it does temperature, barometric pressure, altitude and a bunch of other stuff. What I mainly used it for was as my morning alarm and I would bring it again.

Petzle Tikka headlamp: I have mixed feeling about this. It worked but I think I really could have got away with a much smaller headlamp. I didn't night hike very often and ended up using this just around camp at night. I would look for a lighter option for a thru hike.

Black diamond Trail trekking pole: I only use one pole for some reason but I really like having it. I ended up breaking the tips off 2 poles but it could be the way I jab at things as I walk. Most people used trekking poles but it is a personal choice.

Halfmile maps: Use them and love them! Don't be like that stoned guy I met walking the wrong way down the trail because he was hiking without maps. And don't think it was because he was high, there were plenty of high people walking the right direction.

Swing Lightflex umbrella: same thing as the Golite Chrome Dome and now the only thing since Golite is bankrupt. I am still not sure how I feel about the umbrella. It was great in the desert, when it wasn't windy, which is about 10% of the time. It was great in the rain, when it wasn't windy, which was more like 75% of the time. I carried mine for the entire trail but used it rarely. I guess I really like the idea of the umbrella but maybe the reality of it is not so great. I would probably not bring it one for the desert again, cool to have but kind of a pain in the ass too. If I was expecting extended rain without much wind then it would be great, but otherwise I think it stays at home.

Gossamer Gear Polycro groundsheet: Super light and works great! I replace mine halfway through and was happy. It doesn't provide much protection from pokey things but for keeping your stuff off the ground its great.

Titanium stakes: they worked well, I bent one but otherwise no issues.

Brunton Compass: never used it, sent it home and never thought about it again.

Sierra Specific Gear:

BV500 bear canister: I used it because a canister is required, you should too but there is no way I could fit more than 5 days of food in one.

Sea to Summit headnet: kept me sane, highly recommended. I didn't actually need one until almost Oregon but I carried it from Lone Pine just in case.

Sea to Summit Nano pyramid net (full review): cool idea, I did use it a few times but the bugs were just not that bad this year and I sent it back from Ashland.

That pretty much sums it up. Go as light as you possibly can without jeopardizing your safety, every ounce really does count and your feet, legs and knees will thank you. If I were to do this hike again, I would aim to get my base weight down to 8 lbs (without camera gear dammit!). I hope this was post was helpful. If you are planning a thru hike, have fun you will absolutely not regret it. If you are not planning one, well maybe its time to think about it?


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

HMG Windrider 4400 Review

I have just finished hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as I write this review. The PCT is the perfect place to test gear, many different conditions over months of use. The wear and tear from the trail will give a good indication of durability while exposure to wind, rain, sun, snow, as well as heavy loads will challenge functionality. My thoughts and conclusions in this review are from almost 2000 miles of use and abuse.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear is a small company based in Maine that is putting out some interesting gear. They are among the few cottage manufacturers in the US that are providing high quality backpacking gear for the lightweight hiking community. Most of their gear is made of cuben fiber; a lightweight, waterproof and expensive fabric. You can read more about cuben fiber and its properties on their website.

I received the HMG Windrider 4400 pack when I reached Lone Pine, CA, about 750 miles into my northbound hike on the PCT. The pack I was using previously had become more and more uncomfortable the longer I used it. I was going to be heading into the Sierras carrying more food than normal, as well as a bear canister, so I knew I had to switch my pack to something more comfortable. My friend Jacob (check out his blog) got me in touch with Mike at HMG and I very quickly had a new pack. The Windrider comes in three volumes: 2400, 3400 and 4400 cubic inches. These volumes are internal only, the hip belt and mesh pockets provide additional storage capacity. The pack I am reviewing is the 4400 cubic inch model but I believe the fabric, design and features are similar on the other two models as well. There are also four sizes: small, medium, large and tall. It is highly recommended that you measure your torso length before ordering so that the fit is optimal.

on top of Mt. Whitney

The pack itself appears well constructed, with sturdy stitching and materials. The cuben fiber used, looks and feels quite robust and has a very different feel to it than the cuben fiber used by other manufacturers such as Zpacks. The material is waterproof and although the seams are taped, HMG does not claim waterproofness. I can say from experience that this is accurate. When out in rain the fabric does not absorb water but some moisture can still enter the pack through the seams. If you are expecting to be in wet conditions then using dry bags or a pack liner is still recommended. However, there is a benefit, as the cuben material does not absorb water, the pack does not get heavier when wet. After about a 1000 miles, I did notice some of the taping on the inside of the pack coming loose. This is probably from me pulling out items and stuffing them back in multiple times per day. I don't think it is a problem, more of an aesthetic issue than anything else but I will keep an eye on it to see if I notice any issues.

Boat ride!

The color of the pack is white and will get dirty. It is an interesting color choice and is one of the few models of white packs I have seen. White reflects light and will probably keep the contents a little cooler in direct sunlight but it will show all dirt and stains very clearly. The bad news is that you won't look like you just stepped out of an REI catalog. The good news is that you look like badass hiker trash who eats miles for breakfast.

Hiker Trash

The layout of the pack is pretty basic with a main pack body, two hipbelt pockets and three outer mesh pockets. There are also 12 separate straps and places to put more straps if you feel the need for more. I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out where all the straps go but it is very secure. The suspension system includes a solid back panel as well as metal stays. These do an excellent job of transferring weight to the hips. HMG claims a carrying capacity of 40-60 pounds. While I think the pack is certainly capable of handling that weight, I don't think it would be very comfortable. This is somewhat subjective but for me 35 pounds and less was very comfortable. I did get a sweaty back from the pack, while this is pretty normal for most backpacks, I would like to see them implement curved stays to allow for better airflow. There are a couple of manufacturers doing this and I think it really improves carrying comfort, especially on warmer days.

in the High Sierras

The 4400 cubic inch model is huge, it could even double as an emergency half bivy. I can easily fit all my gear and eight days of food (that is in PCT hiker amounts which is more than most people carry on shorter trips). This is more than I require most of the time and is more than many people will need but the pack does compress down quite well when not full. Normally I am not a fan of big packs but I enjoy the freedom of not having to think too hard about how I pack it, I know everything I need will fit. This is especially nice when hiking long days and I don't want to spend extra time in the morning making sure everything is fit together like a tetris puzzle. Additionally, this will make a good winter pack when more volume is necessary.

Emergency half bivy!

Additional storage capacity is available in the pockets. The pockets are on the side and back of the pack and are made of mesh. I was initially skeptical of the mesh used because it is a more open mesh which I thought might catch on things easily. It hasn't so far and is proving to be quite durable, I have not torn or ripped it and I am not being extra careful. The open mesh also has the advantage of being easy to see through, so I know what is in the pocket at a glance.

The side pockets need some improving, it is very difficult to pull things out of the pockets while wearing the pack. Many hikers, myself included, prefer to be able to reach water bottles without having to take off the pack. The pockets are raised up a few inches from the bottom of the pack, probably to keep the mesh from rubbing on the ground. If the pockets were lowered and a more durable fabric put on the bottom, this might solve the problem. The mesh pockets are sewn into an extra layer of cuben fiber that skirts the bottom of the pack. I think this is meant to increase durability but has the unfortunate side effect of channeling water into the bottom of the pack where is can soak through the seam into the inside of the pack. I would like to see this changed as well.

HMG Windrider next to a 65L Deuter pack

The two hipbelt pockets are integrated into the hipbelt and cannot be removed. I found them to be frustrating to use and too small for my needs. I like to be able to keep snacks and some small miscellaneous items easily accessible, the pockets were too small and very difficult to take things out when the hipbelt was buckled. The tension on the pockets make the opening very tight and I had trouble with anything larger than a tube of chapstick. If the pockets were larger and easier to use they would be great.

In conclusion, I am really happy with the Windrider 4400. Aside from the issues I had with the pockets, I found myself really enjoying this pack. It handled everything I needed easily, was comfortable, held up to a ton of abuse, and did everything a pack should do. If the side mesh pockets and hipbelt pockets were fixed and the stays curved to provide a little airflow to the back, I would say this is close to a perfect pack. Although, it is expensive it is also quite durable and will easily handle thousands of trail miles. Compared to the other cuben fiber packs I have used or seen, the HMG Windrider is far more durable and in the long run will prove to be a better value.

Disclaimer: I did receive a discount on this pack in exchange for writing this review.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Last Days: Day 129 - 141

Day 129: PCT miles 2402 to 2414

Well the nine days off trail were very nice. The wedding was great as well as being able to eat as much as I wanted. However, I did feel quite stiff getting back on trail. I guess I should have done some yoga or stretching during my time off.

Day 130: PCT miles 2414 to 2438

The day started out cloudy, which was cool and it progressed to a light rain. The light rain turned to heavy rain for a while and I was happy to have my umbrella. I did get wet after stopping to set up my tarp but it wasn't too bad. The rain stopped long enough for me to make dinner and clean up and as soon as I got back under my tarp it started up again. The rain came down all night along with some serious lighting and thunder nearby. My tarp is a bit too small for prolonged wetness and I did get damp.

Day 131: PCT miles 2438 to 2461

Today continued to be wet and cool. All the vegetation along the trail was sopping wet as well so I remained damp all day. It wasn't bad as long as I kept moving. There was also snow at higher elevations but I was low enough not to have to walk in it.

Day 132: PCT miles 2461 to 2480

Sunny Day! The 15 miles to Stevens Pass went fairly quickly. However, I was dealing with some pain in my knees. On the uphill my left knee would hurt and on the downhill my right knee hurt. I don't know if it was because of the nine days off, muscles stiffening up, or the new insoles I bought. I took some ibuprofin and removed my insoles, the knee pain left but then my feet started to hurt. It was frustrating but I made it and hitched a ride to Skykomish quickly. After eating and resupplying I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and keep hiking. It took me longer to hitch back, about 45 minutes but I was able to put in four more miles. Not too bad, now I only have 100 miles to Stehekin and 4.5 days to do it in.

Day 133: PCT miles 2480 to 2503

Today felt like I was walking uphill all day. I know there were some descents but they passed so quickly and were not very noticeable. Washington is turning out to be as challenging as I had heard. I have scheduled myself for 22 miles a day and I have to push it to get that far. What views there are are beautiful but the trail does pass through a lot of forest. For tonight I am camped in an open sub-alpine area with a beautiful view to the east.

Day 134: PCT miles 2503 to 2527

I really enjoyed the scenery today. The steep, green mountainsides and the rugged peaks. The elevation gain and loss was not bad and I had 23 miles done by 5:30, so I stopped early to enjoy the sunset.

Day 135: PCT miles 2527 to 2553

There were a couple of good climbs and descents today. I think I am getting readjusted to the trail again, I really didnt mind the ups and downs. I also would have kept hiking but I ran out of daylight. Getting close to Stehekin, the last resupply of the trip. I have mixed feelings, I am looking forward to this ending but also don't want it to end. Mice are starting to become an issue, although they have not tried to get my food they were running over me during the night.

Day 136: PCT miles 2553 to 2580

I wasn't planning on pushing to get to Stehekin but it happened anyways. After the initial 3500 foot climb, the trail went downhill for the next 18 miles. I had 7 hours to make it to the last shuttle bus and the lure of food and beer was too much to resist. It was a little bit painful on the feet but worth the effort.
Stehekin is a cool little resort that is very isolated. There is no cell service or internet and the only way in is by boat, plane or foot. The weather has been incredible for Washington in September and looks to be good until I hit the border, only 4 days away.

Day 137: PCT miles 2580 to 2585

I spent most of the day in Stehekin doing chores and hanging out. A group of us left together and this is the last four days of an incredible trip. The mice are again running around camp and being a nuisance.

Day 138: PCT miles 2585 to 2609

Today went really well, the weather is perfect for hiking. There was a 19 mile climb but it didn't drag on like other ascents have. I ran into trail magic at Rainy Pass and ended up spending almost two hours hanging out. Tonight is cold, need to sleep with my water filter so it doesn't freeze!

Day 139: PCT miles 2609 to 2630

It got pretty cold last night and nobody wanted to get up this morning. We were all waiting for the sun and so didn't get started until 9 am. Despite this and a leisurely lunch we made it to camp in good time. Only one more full day of hiking left….

Day 140: PCT miles 2630 to 2654

A great last full day, cool weather and beautiful views.

Day 141: PCT miles 2654 to 2660

The six miles to the monument went super fast. I spent the time reflecting on the trail and my experiences. Each day seemed to be really long but the whole five months has gone by so quickly. I have met great people on and off the trail and had an incredible experience. It is hard to put all that has happened into words and I think it will take me some time to really process everything.

The group I have been hiking with the last few days has been tons of fun and we had a photo shoot at the monument. Everybody was really excited to have finally made it, it was not an easy task and we all had to have strong determination to go the distance.

Hello Canada!

The eight miles after the monument are lovingly referred to as the "Glory Walk" and it was glorious. I made it to Manning Park and got a room at the hostel. I had to wait a day until Lori could come and get me but it was a relaxing time. Now I must reintegrate back into society and get back to my life in California. Fortunately, Lori and I have a little time to visit with friends and family on our way back.

Portraits from the PCT has also been updated, click here to check it out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 109 - 128

Day 109: PCT miles 2007 to 2030

I was amazed at how easy it was to hitch in and out of Bend. On the way there it was just a matter of talking up a couple guys at the trailhead. DC and I had no idea how we were going to get back to the trail. We were walking with our packs this morning, looking for a place to hitch from, when a random guy asks us if we were hiking the PCT. After answering that we were he asked "Do you need a ride?". He couldn't take us all the way but he took us the 20 miles to Sisters. After getting huckleberry smoothies (totally awesome!), we didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes to get picked up. Jen, from Jen's Garden restaurant took us the next 22 miles, going totally out of her way to do so.

The air is pretty thick with smoke from wildfires. None in the immediate area and the PCT is open to the north of us. There are a number of fires to our south and it sounds like many hikers have to skip from Etna to Ashland. Just hoping to keep ahead of the fires.

Day 110: PCT miles 2030 to 2058

DC and I passed by Mt Jefferson today. It was cool to see the glaciers and there were some nice river crossings. Reminded me a bit of the Sierras. We stopped at the Ollalie Lake store, which just recently reopened after the fires in the area were contained. After that begins a 21 mile detour (road walk) to avoid the area still closed.

Mt. Jefferson in the distance

Road Walking

Day 111: PCT miles 2058 to 2086

The road walk today was not bad. Despite how much thru-hikers hate road walks, this one was OK. There were many kinds of berries to taste along the way and the walking was fast. We only have 21 miles until Timberline Lodge and our next resupply. After that, it is just a couple days until Cascade Locks and the end of Oregon. If we play our cards right, DC and I can hit up the last day of the Portland International Beer Festival which is happening this weekend. That would fit perfectly with our brew-hiking goals.


Day 112: PCT miles 2086 to 2107

The 21 miles went really fast into Timberline Lodge. Nice place with lots of people. We are camped out nearby, looking forward to an all you can eat breakfast buffet tomorrow. 

Timberline Lodge

Day 113: PCT miles 2107 to 2132

The breakfast buffet was amaaaazing! I stuffed myself silly and it was glorious. We got off to a late start but still managed to put in a decent day. I have also learned that my recent change in body odor is due to not eating enough. Apparently I have burnt through all my reserves and now my body is starting to use my muscle as fuel. This causes an odd ammonia smell. The good news is that it will go away when I eat enough. The bad news is that it is really hard to eat 5000 calories a day. I think this is about what I am burning on the average day and I have trouble eating that much. But it is a good excuse to take a day in Portland and visit the food trucks, as well as the beer festival.

DC doing a river crossing

Day 114: PCT miles 2132 to 2155

DC and I cruised down the eagle creek alternate route and into Cascade Locks. The waterfalls were impressive, especially tunnel falls, that was cool! There were so many people it was a bit overwhelming. I thought that would mean an easy hitch into Portland but alas we had to suffer a bit. It seems that our magic PCT powers to get rides right away do not work everywhere. After standing by the side of the road for a bit and getting some dirty looks we changed locations. On the way I texted Red, who is in Portland for the weekend if he would come get us. I was mostly joking but partly hoping, and he says OK! Cool, we were saved and so we celebrated with a beer (or two) at the new and only brewery that is actually on the trail, Thunder Island Brewery.

Tunnel Falls

After that, Red picked us up in his red pickup and we are now in Portland. Staying with DC's brother-in-law's sister, I don't know if there is a word for that relation, but she is very nice to let us dirty thru-hikers stay in her place. Thanks Cari!

Tomorrow is the last day of the Portland Beer Festival and the Mecca of all hipster brew-hikers. I think I am going to get people overloaded.

Day 115: PCT miles (0)

I really like Portland, it has cool neighborhoods, interesting shops and places to eat as well as great people watching. The International Brew Fest was not spectacular but was enjoyable and a must-do on any brew-hike. I got a little overwhelmed by the choices but my favorite was probably one of he sour beers I tried.

Afterwards, we rested for a while and then out to the food carts for dinner. I got an excellent cardamom milkshake to go with my crepe. Temperatures are hot, sweating it out in the apartment tonight.

Day 116: PCT miles 2155 to 2168

Cari dropped DC, Red and I off at Cascade Locks. We finalized our resupplies and had a last beer at the brewery. Thunder Island Brewery is very hiker friendly and is a great spot to chill for a while. The day was hot as we crossed over the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. There is no pedestrian walkway on the bridge so we had to walk against traffic to cross. My pack felt quite heavy with 6 days of food (about 20lbs of food) and I think this is the heaviest the pack has been on the entire trip. We were all sweating profusely as we climbed the hill in the afternoon, seemed like the most I sweated on the entire trip as well. Fortunately, we only planned on hiking 13 miles.

Day 117: PCT miles 2168 to 2191

Today was muggy as we hiked through really lush vegetation. Really starting to feel like the Pacific Northwest. A light rain cooled things off and was very nice.

Day 118: PCT miles 2191 to 2214

The weather has finally cooled off. We hiked through clouds and mist which I really enjoy, it adds a mysterious feeling to the forest, it is also much more pleasant to hike. I met Scott Williamson today, he is a legend among thru-hikers. He has hiked the PCT at least 15 times and was the first person to yo-yo the trail (hike the entire trail, then turn around and hike it again in one season). This year he is attempting to beat Anish's unsupported record and is headed southbound.

Scott Williamson

Day 119: PCT miles 2214 to 2243

Today started out cool and misty. Sometime in the afternoon, a gentle rain began to fall. My combination of umbrella and rain wrap kept me dry and was perfect for the conditions. Excepting my shoes, which would get wet no matter what I did. I love the weather, it reminds me of my time living in British Columbia.

Day 120: PCT miles 2243 to 2266

Another overcast and cool day, perfect for hiking.

I thought I would share a little bit of what I have been listening to while hiking the trail. In the past I have not brought music or any audio device on my hikes but I thought I would appreciate having something on this hike. I use my phone as my mp3 player and music really helps to motivate on difficult days or during difficult sections. But what I have found most entertaining is audiobooks and podcasts. For the first half of the hike I listened to all 5 books of the Game of Thrones, which was fantastic (except book 4 which was a little off). I think each book was around 30 hours and really helped keep my mind occupied. After that was over, I was turned on to a podcast called Hardcore History by Dan Carlin, totally awesome! I highly recommend this podcast if you have any interest in history and especially if you are interested in military history. If you like the zombie apocalypse genre, then I recommend We're Alive, very well done and entertaining. I also have been listening to The Nerdist, This American Life, a number of science podcasts and other more mainstream stuff. Although the purist part of me thinks I should not listen to anything while hiking, the rest of me really appreciates the mental stimulation.

Glacial silt in the river

Day 121: PCT miles 2266 to 2291

We entered the Goat Rocks Wilderness today. I have been looking forward to this section since the beginning of the hike. It did not disappoint, I even saw some wild goats.

This is the trail...

The Knife Edge

Day 122: PCT miles 2291 to 2303

DC and I cruised into White Pass by 11:00. We were able to take showers (Thanks Red!), eat some food, drink beer and organize our resupply boxes while waiting for Kerry to pick us up. She is a friend from Davis who now lives in Yakima and is a winemaker. She took us to a brewery and then headed back to her place for dinner and some excellent wine.

Mt. Rainier

Day 123: PCT miles (0)

Kerry took us to her family vinyard and winery (Du Brul) for a little tour and wine tasting. This was a great zero day for DC and I, a chance to get some calories back in us. We drank more wine and had a great time.

Kerry at the winery

Day 124: PCT miles 2303 to 2317

Kerry dropped us off at the trailhead around 11:30. Thanks again Kerry! We did a half day and camped next to a nice river.

Day 125: PCT miles 2317 to 2343

Today was a great day, cloudy and cool.

Marmot in the Mist

Day 126: PCT miles 2343 to 2365

Today went by in a blur of clearcuts and huckleberries. The weather has been fantastic and DC and I are camped on a  ridge with a nice view of Mt. Rainier. I have almost 900 miles on my current pair of shoes, impressive but the cushioning is totally gone and my feet and legs get sore quickly.

Day 127: PCT miles 2365 to 2391

This is the last full day that DC and I will be hiking and camping together. I need to take a week off for my sister's wedding and DC has some time constraints and must keep hiking. It has been a great 1200 miles hiking together, much more enjoyable when shared with someone. I did not expect to hike for so long with anyone and it has been really cool. I think it will feel strange to continue hiking solo again but that is the way it goes sometimes. Good luck DC, I'll see you in Mendo!

Day 128 PCT miles 2391 to 2402

We hiked towards Snoqualmie Pass in the morning and met my Dad and Stepmom with some of their friends at Beaver Lake. We had a nice little lunch there before hiking to the trailhead. I am looking forward to seeing my family and participating in the wedding. It is very rare for so much of the family to be together in one place, we are spread out over two countries and this is a great opportunity to catch up. I am also very excited to get some more calorie reserves built up (fooood!) before the final push.

This is probably the last blog post until I finish the trail. There are only two more stops before the border and I don't think I will have time to find a computer at either of them. So, it will be a few weeks before the final blog post and no need to worry about me.

I have also updated my weekly selfie page as well as the Portraits from the PCT page, so check them out too.