Twenty miles, only six for the day, out of South Lake Tahoe, my right shin flares up. As a runner I know the feeling, shin split (beenvliesontsteking voor de Nederlanders) the outside of the shin gets irritated and starts hurting. I stop and take a break, stretch and massage both my calf and my shin.
With the High Sierras done and a nice rest in Mammoth, the Low Sierras were waiting. The section straight out of Mammoth Lakes had seen a big wildfire just last year. While it was still very clear, new vegetation was already taking over the view. The trail passed Devils Postpile National Monument, where beams of rock seem to come out of the earth.
Let me introduce you to Glen, Pinchot, Mather and Muir, the four main passes of the High Sierra Nevada. All at an altitude of around 12,000 feet or 3,636 meter, they make up the big test of the Sierra Nevada.
Back to the place where it all started. Two years ago, I drove through the Sierra Nevada and while I was there I hiked part of the Mount Whitney trail. I didn’t summit, but vowed to come back to do so. Then and there is where the idea of hiking the PCT was born. Now as a PCT hiker, I followed up on this promise to myself and summited the highest mountain in the contiguous USA.
Thanks to a ride of trail angel Rick, I got to Kennedy Meadows without any problems. Kennedy Meadows is the portal to the Sierra Nevada, from there hikers head into the mountains. The last couple of weeks there has been a lot of talk between hikers about the snow situation up there, so we are fully prepared with ice axe and micro spikes before hiking out. We also carry a heavy bear canister, which is mandatory in most of the upcoming sections to keep bears from eating our food.
There I was, back in Wrightwood, the town where I got off trail five weeks earlier. A lot had changed in those weeks. Where the town was buzzing with hikers back in May, now I only see two other hikers. After 38 days, I finally got back on trail. I’ve been looking forward to this moment ever since I left. My friends had continued and are at the beginning, or in, the Sierra Nevada already. The first day on trail started great. In my previous month on trail, I had not seen one rattlesnake. Now just after five minutes one is on trail in front of me. Mount Baden Powell…
An European hiking the PCT on a three-month ‘visa’ sounds weird. Everyone from outside of the USA makes sure to have a full visa, allowing for a six months stay in the country, when attempting a thru-hike that takes between four and six months to complete. Why did I do it differently?
Everyday a new experience on trail. Different scenery or friends, or even hiking tipsy during a gorgeous golden hour. The sun was setting and we had 3.5 miles to go. Hops and I had left Hollywood somewhere on trail and now we were looking for his tent. The first time we thought we saw it, it turned out to be a large rock. The next time we were sure and yelled ‘Hollywood’, only to discover it was a different tent. Finally we got to camp and found four other hikers, including Hollywood. We packed out a six pack of Budweiser from the bar and spread it amongst our fellow hikers….
After a night under the phenomenal sky with the view on San Jacinto (see last photo of previous post), it was time to head on, into the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Before getting there, I had to get through a short section of desert with low vegetation and winds blowing. The miles were hard, but trail magic underneath the highway made it all worth it.
It is day six on the PCT for me and the trail resumes at Scissors Crossing, where hikers go into or get to from Julian. I eat a couple of slices of my Apple Boysenberry Crumb Pie for second breakfast and leave the rest for hikers coming in after me.
In the summer of 2017, while hiking in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, I started seriously thinking about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. It took me about nine months to decide for myself that I’d go for it in 2019. And now, more than a year after that decision, it was finally April 18th, the day I’d start the PCT. So exciting! My adventure is finally started!
When I tell people about my plans for the next 2-2.5 year, the first question is always ‘What made you decide to do this?’. This reaction is totally understandable. If you met me during the last 10 years, you’d know me as this ambitious student/professional trying to build a career in finance. Knowing that, the initial reactions I’m receiving are certainly understandable. So why the Pacific Crest Trail?