It’s been about seven weeks since I reached Kennedy Meadows (mile 702) and left the trail. A few weeks later Donna and I enjoyed a family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with our children and grandchildren. We had a great time and had the opportunity to whitewater raft, fly fish, rock climb on the via ferrata, view wildlife and enjoy the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.
But I digress … back to the PCT.
My original plan was to return to the trail in early July following our family vacation. I delayed my return, however, for several weeks because of the late season snow melt and resulting challenging and sometimes dangerous stream and river crossings. In 2017, the previous heavy snow year, two female PCT hikers drowned attempting to cross swollen Sierra rivers. The latest reports seem to indicate that water levels are improving so I’m planning on getting back on the trail in a few days.
When Donna and I started our PCT adventure at the Mexico border in April 2018, our hope was that we would be able to thru-hike the trail in one season. Obviously that did not work out – initially because of Donna’s knee problem. But, even without the knee issue, it was a lofty ambition. Since there is only about a six-month window to complete the entire 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, northbound thru-hikers can’t dawdle – they have to get their miles in otherwise they won’t make it to the Canadian border before the snow comes. I have a huge amount of respect for all the thru-hikers on the trail – it’s a difficult challenge and a great accomplishment if you can complete the entire trail in a season!
Since I am now a section-hiker, I have the advantage of completing the trail over several years. I can wait for the snow to melt. I can hop off the trail for a family vacation. I also have the luxury of skipping parts of the trail that I have already completed. Since I have hiked the John Muir Trail twice (the PCT essentially travels along the JMT through the Sierra Nevada), I will continue my hike north at Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite). For the record, the only part of the PCT that I haven’t hiked between Kennedy Meadows (mile 702, where I finished seven weeks ago) and Tuolumne Meadows (mile 942) is a short six mile segment between Rock Creek (mile 760) and Crabtree Meadow (mile 766). I’ll make it a point to complete this section later this fall or next year.
Regarding Donna’s knee – it is not doing well and she is very frustrated. She continues to have pain and walk with a limp. She can’t hike or get any type of significant exercise. She saw a doctor at UCLA who is doing a trial study on a new procedure called Genicular Artery Embolization (GAE). This procedure was originally developed in Japan and the initial results are very promising. It’s a minimally invasive image-guided treatment that reduces the blood flow that feeds the inflammation in the knee. Donna’s not eligible for the study but we are hopeful that she’ll be approved for treatment outside the study. Although Donna won’t be hiking with me during this section hike, her spirit will be with me. I don’t think I could do this with out her support and encouragement.
For the gear nerds and once counters out there (like me), I’ve made a few changes to my gear and therefore updated my gear list. My base weight is definitely heavier than I want at 18+ pounds – I would prefer it to be under 13 pounds. Base weight is everything in a hiker’s pack except consumables like food, water and fuel. The additional weight is primarily due to the addition of a bear canister, additional electronics and the addition of the stove that Donna was carrying. I’ll be able to send the bear canister home after I’m out of Yosemite – luckily that’s only 75 miles after I start. The additional electronics are a Garmin device and a second battery pack to recharge the Garmin device. The Garmin device is called an inReach Explorer which is a hand held satellite communication device that allows two-way communication (I’ll be able to send and receive texts from Donna & family), has GPS tracking capabilities so that friends and family will be able to see where I am in real time and has an SOS button in the unlikely event of an emergency. It also is linked to my iPhone via a Bluetooth connection. The Garmin device has other functions that I probably won’t use very often like navigation, a compass and the ability to give weather forecasts for my GPS position.
For those interested, I’ve added a “Where’s Todd?” in the menu above. If you click on it, it will show you where I am as well as where I’ve been. Check it out – it will start tracking me on July 22.
My goal is to hike from Tuolumne Meadows to Ashland, Oregon. That’s about 780 miles and will take 6-7 weeks. I’m planning on resupplying every 4-5 days so will be sending out eight resupply boxes (Kennedy Meadows North, Sierra City, Belden, Drakesbad Guest Ranch, Burney Falls State Park, Dunsmuir, Etna and Seiad Valley). Donna will meet me in South Lake Tahoe about ten days into the hike. She’ll bring a resupply also. Hopefully I’ll meet her again further north. Here are all my resupply packages ready to be mailed out.
That’s all for now. It helps to get messages and comments from all you guys, so don’t be shy – let me know if you have any questions.