Our annual pilgrimage to the desert last Thanksgiving felt like a return to our road trips of yore. We had a few goals in mind, but no explicit itinerary. We felt this acutely on our first night, fighting exhaustion in order to find a place somewhere around Lake Tahoe to park our Escape Campervan. Turns out most of the places we’d researched in advance were closed for the season, so we had to head all the way up to Sugar Pines Point State Park for the night.
At the end of July, Stephanie accompanied me on a business trip to San Diego. We booked a later flight home on the Saturday after my meetings so we could visit Anza-Borrego Desert State Park—the largest state park in California, and the second-largest in the country. On the two hour drive out there, it occurred to us that we’d probably be crossing the Pacific Crest Trail. At that point in time, Dad was on the trail way up in Oregon, one day past Crater Lake. Stephanie compared the PCT map I was using to track him with our location in Google Maps and realized we were almost there.
Driving slowly along Country Route S22, it didn’t take long to find the trail markers. We got out and took a few pictures. Like our backpacking trip in Kings Canyon, it was another neat Dad was here moment. But even cooler was realizing that he had used his SPOT to transmit his nightly campsite just before the road. It had been only his 5th night on the trail, at mile 101. So really it was more like: Dad slept here! That made it feel even more special. We’ll probably be doing this for the rest of our lives—crossing the PCT on some road trip, stopping to pay our respects, and thinking back on Dad’s incredible feat.
After having such an incredible experience with my brother at Yosemite’s Merced Lake High Sierra Camp last summer, I really wanted to return with Stephanie. We entered the lottery last September, but didn’t get picked, so in February I pieced together a partial loop for Labor Day Weekend from among the dates that were still available. We chose the “Meals Only” option, which meant we got to enjoy the same amazing, homemade meals as all the other guests (while saving us from having to carry food and cooking supplies), but we had to bring our own tent and sleeping bags (instead of staying in the tent cabins).
When we left San Francisco early on the morning of July 3rd, bags packed for a four-day backpacking trip, there was no guarantee that we’d actually be able to hike our intended route: the 41-mile Rae Lakes Loop in Kings Canyon National Park. All of the reservable wilderness permits for the holiday weekend had been booked long in advance. So we decided to try our luck at securing two of the ten first-come, first-served permits, which become available after 1pm the day before your hike. We had no idea if there’d be a groundswell of interest in the loop (as it’s one of the most popular in the park), so we left as early as humanly possible (aka 6am) to improve our chances. When we arrived at the Roads End Permit Station just before noon, anxious to size up the competition, there was no one else there. We ate our lunch in the shade of the tall trees, and when 1pm arrived, we got our permits without issue.
It’s hard to believe it’s finally over, but today at 11:50am, my dad (aka Tartan) reached mile 2660 of the Pacific Crest Trail (aka the PCT, the Crest Trail, or just, “The Trail”) after 144 days. He was projecting it would take him about 150 days, or 5 months to complete, at an average pace of about 17.75 miles/day. At 144 days, his average pace was just under 18.5 miles/day. Of course that includes a number of zero and “nero” days, necessary in order to resupply somewhere off-trail. When he was really moving, usually hiking from about 6am to 5pm every day, his normal daily mileage was more like 20-21 miles/day.
A few days ago, my sister flew to Vancouver and then drove to Manning Park so she could meet him at Monument 78—the official end of the PCT. That entailed an 8.6-mile hike to the US-Canada border, and since they were not planning on camping, they hiked the same 8.6 miles together, back to Manning Park. The first time I hiked more than 17 miles in a single day was earlier this year, with Dad on the PCT, so this was no small feat for Katie. Way to go!