Sunday, December 28, 2014

Confessions of a Thru-Hiker

I started my hike in an attempt to hike the entire PCT. Being the anal person that I am, I meant to do it all, without skipping a single step. Yes, I am one of those stupid purists who gets a ride into town from one side of the highway, then gets back to that same side on the next day, to hike on from the exact same spot.
However, after a while I gave up. I wasn't enjoying the trail that much, and I had thoughts about quitting. When the opportunity arrived, I decided I don't care that much for the trail anymore, and I should just do whatever I want to, instead of forcing myself into following stupid rules, for no logical reason at all. So I started skipping.
I wasn't skipping whole giant sections, hitch hiking up and down the trail. Not that there's anything wrong about it. But I occasionally let myself off easily. I admit.
After the Sierras, when I decided (again) that I want to keep on, and hike the entire trail, I decided I'd try to go "pure" again. I knew it doesn't matter. It never did, actually. All that matters is whatever I felt matters. Being pure now won't change me being not-pure before, nor should it. I just decided again I wanted to try it.
I started making lists in my head, about all the different miles I had skipped. I figured maybe somehow I'll do them again someday. I don't expect I will, now. But I wanted to write down all the trail miles I haven't walked, with the reasons/excuses I gave myself every time. Some are better than others.
I got up all the way to the closure
162.64-178.00 (Cedar Spring Trail to Tahquitz Peak Trail) - The famous ;Mountain Fire Closure. The trail is closed between those two locations, though most hikers get off the trail at Highway 74 (mile 151.86), and either hitch into Idyllwild, or road walk all the way there on the highway. From there most climb up to San Jacinto on the Devils Slide Trail on mile 179.40. I hiked on north from Highway 74 with the intention of getting down the side south-western side of the mountain at the Cedar Springs Trail junction, and then road walk on the highway up to Idyllwild, and climb through Tahquitz Peak back to the PCT. My plans got foiled when I twisted my ankle right before I got to the highway, and I hitched into town, rested there for two days, rested two more days at the ADZPCTKO, and then got a ride back to Idyllwild and limped up to Tahquitz Peak. I entertained a thought of getting back to the road walk, on my way back from the Kick Off, but at the end I decided I would skip that boring and dangerous section.
252.06-266.04 (Onyx Summit to Highway 18) - I took a zero day at Ziggy and The Bear, feeling really light headed and not up to hiking, and Idan went on without me. We were supposed to meet again in Big Bear, in 4 days. After hiking two days alone, and feeling really depressed and done with the trail, I suddenly came upon Onyx Summit. I was surprised to see a road leading to Big Bear, and even though I planned on hiking ~6 more miles, and then reaching town on the next day, I changed my plans and headed into town from there. I had cell service, and talking to Idan I realized he was already zeroing in town, and would leave tomorrow. So if I'd take another day, I'll have to keep on hiking alone. I spent a boring and lonely evening in Big Bear Lake, and met up with Idan and headed out from the next road crossing on the next morning.
386.25-398.19 (Islip Saddle to Highway 2, 6th crossing) - This one was around the Endangered Species Closure. The official trail is closed from mile 390.30 (Eagles Roost) to mile 394.30 (Burkhart Trail), but the official detour starts here, at 386.32, and goes around for 20.22 miles (instead of 8 miles on the trail), all the way to Burkhart Trail. There is also an old alternate, that loops right around the actual closer, and is only 5.44 miles.
When we got to the road crossing right before the official detour, we were planning on hitching back into Wrightwood (After spending the previous night there), and have already called a local trail angel that will let us crash at his place for the night. Our plans weren't met with success, as we were trying to hitch on that deserted road for ever, and nobody stopped for us. Finally, as the sun went down, we made camp at the rest area over there, and crashed.
4 happy hikers, after cheating the trail a bit
The next morning, we wanted to at least get a ride to the end of the closure (thus skipping both the official, 1 day extra, alternate, and the old alternate). We didn't have any hitching luck in the morning as well, until we saw Kyle and Snail Trainer coming down to the road. They spent the previous night at Little Jimmy Campground, and met a weekend hiker named Barbara, who agreed on taking them around the closure. We joined in on the ride happily. Very quickly we got convinced to hitching all the way to the next road crossing at 398.19, instead of getting of at Buckhorn Exit, and hiking an additional 2.16 miles just to get back on the trail. As a consequence, when we finally crossed the 400 miles marker, I didn't feel like it was much of an accomplishment.
454.50-456.65 (Exit for Hiker Heaven to Unpaved Road) - After spending a nice zero day at Hiker Heaven, we took our time on heading out of there. I think we left a bit later in the morning, but still before noon. Donna arranged for a ride to the trail, just to save us the short walk down the hill. But again - we were quickly persuaded to ride all the way down to where the trail finally leaves the paved roads around Agua Dulce. This was a bit pointless, but I don't think we missed any special sights on that road walk, and I was already in a "whatever" kind mood about being a purist or even completing the trail. So - "whatever".
A schematic map of the Powerhouse Fire Detour
478.23-517.59 (San Francisquito Canyon Road to Highway 138) - This not-so-little skip was around the Powerhouse Fire Closure, which starts at mile 487.23 and ends at mile 517.59 (Or maybe at mile 510.95 on Pine Canyon Road - some people who did the road walk got back on trail over here). Walking the road around the closure is a long, 20.3 mile, walk (or a 19.2 mile walk to Pine Canyon Road, and another 6.64 back on the PCT, up to Highway 138). So we just skipped it.
Hitching a ride into Hiker Town
558.51-566.44 (Tehachapi Willow Springs Road to Highway 58) - This one was one of the most pointless skips I've made. No special reason to do it, other than how easy and inviting it was. We went into Tehachapi on the first road crossing (Willow Springs Road), zeroed there for a day, and headed out to the second road crossing (Highway 58). Thus - saving us about 8 miles of trail I'll never get to see again... Stupid of me.
766.33-767.00 (Whitney Spur Trail to John Muir Trail) - This is a short little bit we skipped, because we left the PCT and headed up towards Whitney on one trail, and then later got back to the PCT while hiking the the JMT from Whitney, which was a tiny bit further north on trail. I don't really consider this to be much of a skip.
View back towards Bullfrog Lake, from Kearsarge Pass
788.47-789.08 (Bullfrog Lake Trail to Onion Valley Trail) - Another tiny bit. We hiked out towards Kearsarge Pass and into Lone Pine on one trail and got back on another one, thus skipping another 0.5 of PCT.
The Devil's Postpile
907.24-909.02 (Devils Postpile Alternate) - After leaving Mammoth Lakes through Red's Meadows, the trail goes by the famous Devil's Postpile. It's the same distance on the PCT and on the alternate, and I figured I might as well see it, since I'm that close. So we took it. It was nice enough.
909.02-922.92 (JMT Alternate) - Right after getting back to the PCT from the Devil's Postpile alternate, the PCT and JMT split for a short section. Here, also, both alternates are almost the same distance, but the JMT section is supposed to have some nicer hikes around lakes, and is generally considered more beautiful. I wouldn't know - I just hiked the JMT. It was a nice enough section, and we had a lovely day.
940.84-942.50 (Tuolumne Campground Trail to Highway 120) - Since we were planning on heading down to Yosemite Valley, to finish up the JMT with Yair, we cut over to the Tuolumne Meadows campground when we reached the intersection. Two days later, when we took the bus up from the valley, and back to the store, we kept on hiking from the highway.
I think it was worth the detour...
1831.54-1843.62 (Crater Lake Alternate) - I don't think there is any PCT hiker who doesn't hike along the Crater Lake Rim Trail. So I don't really need an excuse here. It's the de-facto PCT. So much so, that the mileage marks on this detour, and further up the trail, take into consideration hiking on the Rim Trail, and not hiking on the official, equestrian trail.
This wasn't that impressive, in my opinion. I kinda reminded me of Amicalola Falls, near the start of the AT.
2117.22-2119.33 (Ramona Falls Alternate) - Another tiny alternate, that goes by Ramona Falls. The distance is identical to the official PCT, and I think the trail was changed here to bypass the falls, mostly because of equestrian hikers. I figured that since I'm going to hike the Eagle Creek Alternate on the following day, I can be just as "unpure" on this day, and see some more nice falls. I wasn't too impressed with the falls, at the end.
And the famous Tunnel Falls
2138.06-2154.70 (Eagle Creek Alternate) - Another de-facto PCT. Going down towards Cascade Locks (And the Oregon/Washington border) on the Eagle Creek Alternate is what "everybody" does. The giant waterfalls are very special, and give a nice touch to the trail, before entering the final state. Don't miss it.
In total, I didn't hike over 144.03 miles of the trail, which is %5.41. If I only include sections I hitched around (as opposed to hiking on alternates), I skipped 90.72 miles (%3.41). Maybe I'll come and stitch it all up, some day...