Nick’s Notes: Insights from the Trail
The PCT ranges in elevation from just above sea level along the Columbia River in Washington to 13,180 feet atop Forester Pass in central California.Between the extremes of mountains and the desert, the PCT offers countless transition zones. One of the most rewarding aspects of a long hike is to walk through these margins and see how one environment slowly morphs into another and how the plant and animal communities change.
On my last long hike in 1999, I was disappointed by the lack of cultural diversity that I observed on the trail. Over a span of four months and 1,800 miles, I met only three people of color.It is not my desire that everyone become a modern-day John Muir, but if they are not in the woods simply because they have never had the opportunity or the resources, that is problematic.
Since its inception in January 1998, Bay Area Wilderness Training has reached out to ethnically diverse and underserved urban youth. Unlike other well-intentioned organizations that just take kids out into the wilderness, BAWT has gone one step further by training these youngsters to be new outdoor leaders and role models.
I am honored to be working with the dedicated folks at BAWT and Earth Island Institute as they strive to make the wilderness experience more accessible.
We arrived at the border monument at 5:30 a.m.. Still shrouded in darkness, the austere monument marks the southern terminus of the trail. A short and rather flimsy corrugated aluminum fence delineates the actual border. Running, I assume, the length of the border is a meticulously raked dirt road that the US Border Patrol routinely inspects for fresh footprints. Not a minute passed before a Border Patrol jeep came roaring up the road to confirm that we were not engaging in illegal activities. After signing the trail register, I took a deep breath, hoisted my pack and, still under surveillance, took my first steps along the dusty trail.
I encountered my first rattlesnake of the summer, a rite of passage of sorts for PCT thru-hikers. I developed a couple of small blisters earlier in the day, which I tended to before retiring to my tent for the night. For the first few weeks, blisters and aching muscles are pretty much par for the course as the body adjusts to the rigors of the trail.
I have a food box waiting for me at the post office in Mt. Laguna, which does not open until 8 a.m. on Monday morning. With me tonight is an ambitious hiker named Brian who is attempting to become the first person ever to hike the Appalachia, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails (about 7,500 total miles) in less than one year. With 2,300 miles already under his belt, he is in much better shape than I.
By noon today, the thermometer on my watch read 102 degrees Fahrenheit at about the same time the thermometer in my head said it was too hot to walk, so I holed up for a bit under a large rock. The desert has been unusually colorful. Prickly pear and beavertail cactus, teddy bear cholla and agave are now in full bloom.
I have been experiencing some pretty severe pain in my left knee. A week before I started hiking, I broke through a rickety flight of stairs and struck my knee pretty hard. At one point, I thought it would be appropriate to rename this hike: Nick’s Long Limp...
On May 5, Nick was hospitalized with a bruised tendon. After a brief recuperation, he returned to the trail on June 5. Stay tuned.