With some trepidation, long anticipation, and no small hope of redemption, today I declare my intention to return to the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 and once again attempt a northbound walk from Mexico to Canada. One of my longtime friends observed that accepting failure is not one of my strong suits. True enough, my decision last year to leave the trail after almost 800 miles has haunted me ever since. Were the conditions really that dangerous? Why the stubborn refusal to skip ahead and come back later? Why not settle for a section hike? I have thought about such things every day since.
I do think I made the right decision. The celebrated mountaineer Ed Viesturs famously quips, “Reaching the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory”. Last year two young women tragically drowned in separate incidents while attempting the same Sierra runoff conditions I avoided. Based on reading others’ accounts from last year, it would seem the best chance to connect a full northbound thru hike required an early start (think March) and the fortitude to brave 300+ miles of Sierra snowpack before it all started to melt in earnest (think snow bridges in May). Those that made it through have harrowing tales to tell and my utmost respect for their accomplishment.
Not surprisingly, I watched weather reports in California this past winter with interest. Whereas 2017 was an epically high snow year, as of 4/1, the snowpack this year is only about 45% of average sparking both renewed drought worries for Californians and high hopes in one erstwhile backpacker. I pulled a permit back in November when they were all quickly snapped up by this year’s crop of PCT aspirants. Just in case I told myself.
And so, not without some heartache and other complications, next Tuesday, I will retrace my steps back to San Diego and try again. I can’t very well explain the need to start over from Mexico especially given my grumbling account of the desert last year. Suffice it say that I am nothing if not my word. If I say I am going to do something, come hell or high water, I typically do it. Er, I guess maybe strike that last bit about high water 😊
I will however do some things differently this year including relaxing my self-imposed requirement to blog every day. It became a source of undue stress especially when network coverage was spotty or nonexistent. I will write as frequently as I’m able and pledge again to take you along for the ride if you are so inclined. I have another idea about capturing the experience for others via virtual reality. Other than adding an obnoxious amount of electronic weight to my pack, I am excited by the prospect of creating an immersive post hike retrospective in VR wherein you’ll be able to walk beside me and glimpse the glory of the PCT. Stay tuned…