|Me: "Zach, point at the map and pretend that we're lost!" (Northern California, when we were hiking into an inferno)|
Did you ever get lost, and when were you the most afraid of getting lost?
On one hand, I would love to pull an awesome story out of my hat at this point. “Well, you see, we were trekking over miles of snow in the High Sierra when we lost the trail and spent the next two weeks telling directions with a sundial and fighting the bears for huckleberries…!”
One the other, more realistic hand, I’m really glad I don’t have any stories like that to tell. Zach and I came to the PCT not ever, ever wanting to get lost. We printed out all of Halfmile’s very useful and detailed maps, then downloaded his GPS tracks onto Zach’s phone (his phone’s GPS functions even when he doesn’t have cell service). We kept his phone off most of the time and brought a backup solar charger, so we never ran out of battery. Whenever we were the slightest bit confused, we whipped out that GPS and checked out location against the downloaded track. And finally, the PCT is, as a rule, extremely well-marked and well-trodden. In short, a lot of things would have had to go wrong before there was any chance of us getting lost.
This very helpful and happy reality makes all of our “dangerous PCT!” stories fall flat.
“There we were, standing at the crossroads of a massive network of trails, unsure of which one led to the PCT…” (And then two seconds later we saw the PCT emblem on a nearby tree.)
“We started following the footprints on the snow, but they disappeared and we were left in a trackless waste of glaciers!” (But we could see exactly where the trail ended up in about half a mile. We just ended up climbing down an almost-sheer cliff and post-holing around a lake to get there.)
“After a brief foray to go to the bathroom, we bushwhacked our way through the forest, unable to locate the trail again!” (We found it a minute later after consulting the GPS that Zach still had in his pocket.)
…Yeah, not very inspiring stuff.
But you know what? I’m okay with that.
I knew from the beginning that Zach and I were “bad backpackers.” We weren’t in constant rapturous appreciation of nature. We hitchhiked past the trail closures while others dutifully road-walked detours. We sought to make our lives and our hike as painless as possible (believe me, it was made painful enough by our lack of cash!). And so, not having to worry about losing our way was a big load off my mind. It made the experience more relaxing. It was one of a thousand little reasons that we were able to finish the trail at all.
Have a question about the PCT or backpacking in general? Leave a comment!