Why the Pacific Crest Trail?

The Pacific Crest Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border of California, to the Northern border of Canada in Washington. At 2,650 miles long, the trail is a test of endurance both mentally and physically for any hiker, taking up to 5 or 6 months to complete.

Rory has been an avid hiker and nature enthusiast since his youth. At age, 8, he scaled Half Dome and fell in love with the beauty of the Yosemite Valley. He eventually progressed to longer and more strenuous hikes, and learned much along the way. In 2009 he completed his certification as a Wilderness First Responder, a medical course focused on emergency situations that may arise in the wilderness. With the knowledge and experience he gained, he began looking towards completing a longer trek. The Pacific Crest Trail seemed ideal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tehachapi, CA to Mammoth Lakes, CA

It's been far too long since my last blog post, due to the off-the-grid nature of everywhere I've been since Tehachapi. Since then the biggest news is that I've trekked through the most feared section of the trail, section H of the Sierras. As of now I've hiked more than 1/3 of the way to Canada, and am in Mammoth Lakes, CA at mile 906.7. The conditions getting here have been extreme, with many dangerous mountain passes, and even more high river crossings. Because of these conditions, most people have "flipped" or "skipped" up to Oregon, planning to come back when the snow is gone. My crew has decided to push on, coining the phrase "Flips are for gymnasts, stay true to the thru", in reference to the attempt to have a continuous hike. This last section has been stunning, and well worth the extra effort as we traverse the famous John Muir Trail through the Sierras to Yosemite, where I'll be in a few days. The snow has slowed mileage down from 20+ miles to often under 10, requiring much more food than usual as we burn more calories. As we entered the Sierras there was much fear mongering about obstacles like Forrester and Mather Pass, Evolution and Bear Creek, all of which are now behind us. By far the biggest challenge so far has been Mather Pass, where steep snow faces and extremely sketchy rock scrambles made me wonder how crazy I am for essentially mountaineering without mountaineering equipment. At one point, I found myself stuck on a rock slope on my way to a traverse, standing on a few inches of a ledge. To get to the traverse required letting go and jumping down to all small outcrop. Thankfully, it seems the worst of the Sierras are behind me, leaving only river crossings to be concerned about. Some river crossings take careful planning, as they are often only crossable in the morning hours. Yesterday, the trail crossed a waterfall that was most certainly uncrossable. After consulting my map, I saw the trail crossed back about 600 feet up the cliff. To get to the trail, and to Mammoth, required a decent rock climb with pack on up the falls to the next trail crossing. The same falls had been ankle-deep and calm only hours before. These ever-changing conditions make any news about the trail ahead hard to be sure of, so Quake, Unload, and I have decided to see for ourselves. We leave Mammoth today and hope to be in Tuolumne Meadows by Thursday or Friday, where snowpack is 300% above normal.

Couldn't be happier,


Sunday, May 29, 2011

        After a great second night's sleep in a warm bed provided courtesy of the Methodist church of Wrightwood, CA, I managed to leave their unbelievably hiker-friendly town. My next scheduled stop was Agua Dulce, about 90 miles of trail away. My first night out I took a half-day and hiked 10 miles or so to the base of Mt. Baden-Powell. After a bit of a sleep in (7 am!), I took off to climb to the summit, which I had heard was quite icy from the talk of the trail. The trail quickly disappeared, leaving me to pick my own route to the summit. I chose to follow a few others tracks, abandoning the trail completely and climbing vertically. The next few hours of hiking, including the beautiful views of the summit were trail-less, but I was confident I was going the right way. Coming down the hill towards lunch, I met up with a New Zealander with a thick accent named Safari, and we hiked together the rest of the way. We must have made a good team, because we cleared the next 20 miles (which included a long detour because of a Yellow-Legged Frog Endangered species area) in a matter of hours for a total of 33 miles that day, leaving about 50 miles to Agua Dulce. The next day we hiked through thick shrubbery for hours, full of Purple-Poodle flowers up to neck level that had to be waded through. Apparently, these plants are more poisonous to the touch than poison oak, and made for some very itchy hikers. The climbs that day were relentless up to the 30 mile mark, and when I reached the ranger station (30.2 miles for the day), I was feeling a little sore, but eager to hike a few more miles to dark. I stopped to camp just past dark, on a ridge with great views of the sunset, only to go quickly asleep and wake up with a spectacular sunrise. Seeing the sunrise is something usually enjoyed while hiking, as my days have grown with my stamina to 12-16 hours of movement.
        The last 18 mile stretch to Agua Dulce covered some brilliant terrain, with vast views of desert shrubbery and rolling hills of chapparal in the distance as I dropped in elevation. Reaching Agua Dulce around noon, I scarfed down a large pizza (easily 6,000 calories), and walked on into Hiker Heaven. Hiker Heaven is the name of the Saufley's home in Agua Dulce, a thru-hiker compound of sorts that can accommodate up to 50 hikers a night. This is a tightly-run operation, with a laundry station (complete with retro loaner-clothing), large group tents, bulletin boards with up-to-the-minute trail information, and a veritable post office (100's of resupply packages in storage, and a USPS mailing station. It's easy to see why many hikers spend a few days here, it really is a hub of the trail. The Saufley's even supply a load of bicycles with baskets to do your shopping in town without walking. From here my next stop is ~113 miles, in Tehachapi. Although this is a notoriously hot desert section, the weather has been hospitable lately. 

Yours on the Trail, 

To learn more about the wonderful hospitality of the Saufley family, visit www.hikerheaven.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

     It's been almost 3 weeks since my last posting from Julian, CA, so I apologize for the lack of blog updates, but this is my first real full day off the trail since then. I'm now in Wrightwood, a small mountain town just north of San Bernandino and the I-15 in California. Since my last posting, I've hit the 100, 200, and 300 mile marks, and am now 364 miles down the trail. As I walk, I feel endlessly grateful to the many donors, supporters, followers, and trail angels who have helped me on my way, this trip would not be possible without all of you. 
     A lot has changed about the hike since the terrain near the Mexican border. I've now ventured into higher elevations, from the high desert to the snowy mountains of San Jacinto. Though this change came with lots of steep, endless climbs, I welcomed the respite from the harsh desert heat, hiking through patches of snow has been a treat. My diet has changed drastically since the kick-off of my journey, as my "hiker-hunger" has kicked in. The ability to instantly digest food is both a blessing and a curse, a single Snickers bar will give me an energy boost in about 10 minutes, but i'll be hungry again in 15. My diet is all about the calories, and I've learned a lot from other hikers about what to eat. Turns out, the best food for thru-hikers is the worst food you could eat at home. I eat about a pound of peanut butter a week, putting it on my snickers and clif bars (of which I have about 5 a day), and sometimes just eating it raw as I hike. With over 90% calories from fat, it's a perfect hiker-food. Hikers are constantly in search of low-weight, high calorie food, so breakfasts are often hostess or little debbies cupcakes or honey buns (400 calories). When we come into towns, we eat constantly, always in search of the biggest burrito or hamburger to satisfy our insatiable hunger. Before going under the long tunnel that took us under the I-15, we passed a sign for McDonalds. Some hikers spent as much as $60, loading up on hamburgers to eat constantly over the next few days (they keep forever). 

     Overall, my health has been good, and I feel extremely fit for the trail. Because of this, my pace and mileage has increased, from an average of about 16 miles a day to a new goal of 24 (highest mileage to date 32 miles). I've been meeting a lot of new people as I travel up the pack, hiking with a group of Germans for awhile, a man from Kenya, and a few people from Portland. My feet have started to get used to the endless hiking, helped in part by Ibuprofen and two large holes cut into the back of my hiking boots (their nearly sandals at this point) to relieve friction. Sometimes I envy Softwalker, a hiker from Iowa who has hiked barefoot from the border, who is blister-free. As I picked up my resupply box here in Wrightwood (full of trailbars, electrolytes, tuna, and socks), a lady asked if I needed a place to stay. I and about 6 other hikers were taken in by this family and fed burgers and a hearty breakfast at their rather large cabin. This is not uncommon on the trail, especially in Southern California, where so-called "trail-magic" is most common. After my day of rest here, I hike on to rise another 4000 feet in elevation to summit Mt. Baden-Powell, and then descend over 90 miles into Agua-Dulce.
Yours on the trail,

Saturday, May 14, 2011

San Jacinto Peak Here We Come!

Rory and his trail buddies are climbing San Jacinto Peak today. With its 10,804 feet elevation at the summit, is the highest point PCT hikers from Mexico encounter before they reach the San Gorgonio Pass. Due to snow hazards, it just has just re-opened. We wish Rory the best of luck! Hopefully no altitude sickness!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Week 1

Rory has hit the one week mark! 

His latest journal entry:
77.4 miles of desert from the Mexican Border and I've made it to Julian, CA. I had about 5000 words written, though those are lost now somewhere in facebook's servers. I'll try and re-write as best I can, though the spark is gone. Life out in the desert is a matter of constant organization and time-management. My day begins at 4am, the only sane time to wake and beat the harsh heat. After a quick breakfast and a half-swallowed cliff-bar or two, I try to be on the trail by 5am. 5am to 7:30am is when the fastest hiking can be done I've found, as anytime after that the heat is a significant factor to be dealt with. In the heat, which peaks at about 90 degrees, the essentials of life are water, sunscreen, and electrolytes. Water must be drank at a minimum of 1 liter an hour, and sunscreen every 30 minutes. Hiking from 12-4pm is absolute madness, the heat sucks any energy right out of the muscles. I found this is a good time for self-care, cooking a big meal (though it seems to hot to eat hot food at anytime), and a siesta in those rare oasis' of shade. From 4 to dusk I hike on, though the temperatures only really become bearable again around 7:30pm. When I stop in the evenings im usually too drained of energy to do much prep-work or organizing, though there's always lots to be done. A quick dinner of whatever seems do-able or easy enough to make and I try to be asleep by 9pm (Hiker midnight as it's called). While this schedule describes an ideal day, it doesn't always work out this way. My second night out I camped in a meadow with about 12 other-thru hikers, and got into my bag at the ideal 9pm. The wind began to pick up as we were on an elevated ridge, and it made sleeping difficult. A glance at my watch at 11pm and I realized I had not yet got any shut-eye. In and out of sleep as the wind howled at 60mph (according to a ranger we met the next day), I stirred at 1:30 am and had to venture out into the dust-storm to replace my tent-stakes which had been ripped out. Thus began my battle with the wind, and I got about 3 hours of sleep that night. The next morning began another 20 mile assault through the desert, a pace that's hard for my body to quite get used to. The third night I chose not to continue my tent's  battle with the desert wind, instead cowboy-camping beside Oriflame River (hardly a creek). Wrapped only in my sleeping bag, as I fell asleep with the others beside the river Pepe Loco (Paul is his real name, he's named for the Chevy's sombrero he hikes in) alerted us that we were invading on a white scorpion's home (he said it was rather poisonous, we were all too tired to think much). Waking up with my bag covered in morning-frost, I decided to take an easier day across the desert, stopping at mid-day in some rare-shade for a nap and a meal, which allowed me to escape the heat for the climb up to my next-night's roost. Water is a commodity in the desert, and that cannot be stressed enough. Tomorrow I begin a long stetch with no guaranteed water for 30 miles, though there are sporadic  trail-angels )(PCT volunteers, god bless them) that refill occasional water cache's with 100's of gallon bottles of water, we couldn't survive without them. On the animal side of things I've seen about 7 rattlesnakes (had lunch with one by accident on day one), hundreds of horned lizards and similar, and millions of bugs (all of which don't look inviting). One of my buddy's was unfortunate enough to have a rattler crawl into his tent through an opening in the zipper, luckily he notced before calling it a night. Tonight I'll cowboy camp out at Scissor's Crossing, beside Hwy 78, where a bunch of young student trail-crew workers stopped with a trailer full of water, music, and enough junk-food to give a small town diabetes. In town I'll eat terribly, I burn 9000 calories a day and can only really eat about 2,000 , the weight is shedding off me that I can't lose (6 foot 2 and 150 lbs is not good out here). Apparently there's a lot of coyote's in tonight's area, I hope to see or at least heae one. 77.4 miles in, 2630 miles to go to Canada. My biggest concerns are blisters (I have lots), water (never enough here), 
and calories. 

Yours on the trail, Rory (haven't garnered a trail-name yet).