Saturday, April 18, 2015

P: Pacific Crest Trail


 After a little thought, I decided that the Pacific Crest Trail would be perfect for the letter P. It certainly encompasses a vast number of valleys and passes (another "P" word!) through a lot of mountains, if not mountain tops.

The stats: 
What: 2663 miles of trail running from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, as near as is practicable to the crest of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountains.
When: Designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968 and more or less completed in 1993 (note that people had been hiking it for decades before that; the first person to walk border-to-border through the mountains was Martin Papendick in 1952, well before the trail was even planned. The first through-hiker (person who hikes the trail in a single trip, or one season) was Eric Ryback in 1970. 
Where: As noted, up the crest of the Sierra and Cascade mountains through California, Oregon and Washington.
Why: (couldn't resist throwing this one in) Why a trail like this? To celebrate and preserve the natural places. Why hike it? There are probably as many answers to that as there are through-hikers. Had I hiked it when I was young and first thought of it, it would have been in part just to prove I could. Were I to do it now (not likely, but you never know; a lot of the hikers are retired), it would be in a less goal-oriented way, and I probably would skip some of the more tedious bits--so not a "real" through-hike, but a multi-month immersion in the trail and the land.
How: President Lyndon B. Johnson created the system with the National Trail System Act of 1968. But the trail only exists because a lot of people have sweated a lot to build and maintain a trail through some amazingly rugged country.
Want to know more? Visit the Pacific Crest Trail Association.

The PTC and Me:
I first became aware of the trail (not sure if I'd heard of it before that or not) in the mid-1980s when I was living in Seattle and hanging out with a lot of peak-bagging backpackers. Many of them had done at least parts of the trail; at least one had through-hiked the Appalachian Trail as well. That brought the trail to my attention, and during my time there I hiked many small bits of the trail in the course of heading to one place or another.
In 1990, I succumbed to the lure as best I could. I took three weeks off from work, and hiked from Canada to Stevens Pass in Washington, a distance of about 200 miles. For the record, it is not legal to enter the US on the trail, then or now. But the official end of the trail, at the border, is a long way from any US road, so what was a girl to do? I hiked right through.

When I hiked the northernmost bit of the Trail in 1990 (if it wasn't '89 or '91; somewhere in there), I carried a camera fondly (?) known as "the brick." It was my mother's camera, given to her in 1950 (1951? help me out here, Mom!) when she went off to Alaska to teach. It weighs probably 3 or 4 pounds, with only one 50 mm lens, and I had limited understanding of how to use it. I hiked alone so there are no pictures of me (who'd ever heard of a selfie back then?).

So, again, we have photos scanned from old slides with inadequate technology. I could use more recent photos from shorter trips that have included bits of the trail, but I like the feel of these.
Northern border. At this point, I was 6 miles in. Observe the cleared strip that marks the border.
I believe that "Cascade Crest Trail" was an earlier name for the northern parts of the PCT. Gads, that pack was almost as huge as the one Cheryl Strayed carried in "Wild"!
Glacier Peak
No longer sure where this was--somewhere in the North Cascades, north of Rainy Pass. There were some great ridge-line stretches.

I think this is the camp where a t-storm cut loose in the night, and I reached out and flung my ice axe as far from me as I could get it!


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015


  1. Oh my, what an adventure! These are absolutely gorgeous photos, hinting at the untouched beauty of this wild wilderness. Brick or not, you captured some priceless stuff! Thanks for sharing! --Helena from A To Z

    1. Thanks! Funny about that camera--we uncovered it recently rooting through a box of stuff, and my son picked it up and his 1st comment was "man, this thing's like a brick!" Even as to size and shape :)

  2. Hello, fellow A-To-Z-er! Wow! I like the feel of the pictures, too. How much film did you bring with you? And 200 miles is a lot of hiking. When I was a kid, I hiked a lot (because my parents were into the sort of vacation where the whole point is to go up a mountain and then down again), and I probably will do it again at some point... but I've never done a multiple-week-and-camping sort of thing. Alone, too! Um, was that ever scary? Did you hit civilization intermittently during your hike, or was it all wilderness? Did you meet any bears? How on earth do you pack for such a hike?

    1. That's a lot to answer, Melanie! Maybe I should do some Backpacking 101 posts... As for film, I don't remember how much I took, but from 15 days on the trail, I only have 56 pictures (I'm sure I tossed some), so that suggests about 2 rolls. That's in keeping with my budget at the time!

      Camping/backpacking alone is sometimes a little unnerving, but the more I did it, the more comfortable it was. I haven't done any solos for years now, since I have a family! In those 200 miles there is a highway crossing, and (if you detour, and everyone does), a visit to the town of Stehikin, where I actually stayed for 3 days, drying out from 3 days of rain. While I was there I saw the only bear I saw all trip!

      Packing for a trip like that would be so different now than it was then! I had second-hand and borrowed gear, wool clothing, etc. But in fact, I would pack for it the same as for a weekend hike, except a lot more food (I do that better now, too :D ). If you are interested in learning more, I can suggest some good books. Used to be a great forum for that, too, at, but it's suffered a nasty blow recently and isn't as good as it used to be. Still, there are helpful people there still, and some good info.

      We have done a week-long family backpack every summer since about 2005 (for a couple of years before that, they were much shorter, as the kids were very small). I hope in the next year or two to get out for multiple weeks again (with re-supply every 7-10 days), with my husband.

  3. Wow! I'm jealous of the amount of great hiking you have over there. The lupines are beautiful.

    1. We do have great mountains. And deserts. But we are short on good pubs with pub lunches. Fast food is no substitute.


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