Monday, October 19, 2015

Reflections on Washington

(It’s probably a bit odd to post this before I finish telling about the Washington section, but I thought the beginning of this week would be a good place to give my general thoughts about Washington, instead of throwing it in as an afterthought after the border. So here goes.)

When I was 19, I visited Washington (my first state west of Kansas) and fell in love with its snow-capped mountains and moss-soaked forests. Since then, it’s held a special place in my heart as my favorite non-home state— and I was worried that the PCT would change my mind about it. In my imagination, the Washington section was a cold, wet, backbreaking up-and-down trail through nondescript woods interrupted only by clear-cuts. (I have no idea where I got this notion.) I was really nervous about it.

Instead, I now love Washington more than ever. It gave us vivid blue skies and mountains draped in green firs and red huckleberries and yellow larches. It gave us huge mushrooms and spooky forests where steam rose everywhere the sun touched. It gave us impossibly jagged mountains and dew-drenched pant legs and hours of gnawing adrenaline rushes, and tears and swearing and biting cold and weather so cool and sharp and autumnal that it felt like paradise. It gave us hundreds of miles of wilderness, and trail angels who bent over backward to help us keep moving forward. It gave us the sound of elk and the sight of bears. It gave us my favorite alpine lake, my favorite hikes, my favorite season. We hiked through Sierra-like beauty with full stomachs that allowed us to appreciate it, and we bought pastries and peanut butter with wild abandon. We cruised through the miles, even the severe climbs and descents, with iron-hard legs and a sense of elation, knowing that the border was growing ever closer.

In the end, that made Washington the most magical: we knew that we were going to make it. And that was an incredible feeling.



  1. This is a magnificent piece of work. I can't thank you enough for writing this. It's taken me about a week to get through all the posts, starting with the first one. I'm the author of one book, and I've started several others, so I can appreciate the effort this takes. You've got about 250K words here. I enjoyed every last one.

    You see, I love hiking. I love long hikes. Long hikes. Unfortunately, my wife detests it. I found this out about three weeks after we were married (25 years ago) when we went camping on the Jersey Shore, she woke up at 2 in the morning, screaming. We've never gone camping since. I love her madly, and I don't want to take vacations apart, so it's something I've been denied over the years. Seeing the trail through your eyes, the honest view without the machismo and bluster you find on most hiking blogs, has allowed me to view it at least in some small part (minus the blisters, swollen ankles, periods etc.)

    You know, it's funny, while I would've been one of the guys smoking dope and partying until the wee hours with some of the others, I didn't need THAT described. I already know what that feels like. I needed the drizzle on my face, the cold hands, the desperation for water.

    Thank you so much for this. It will always be one of my favorite reads.

    Take care.


    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Fred! I'm glad that my descriptions of my experiences can be a way for other people to vicariously experience the PCT. I've done my best to be honest and authentic in my writing, and everyone has responded really well, which makes me happy. :)

      Have a great day!


  2. I agree, Lisa; this has been an epic journey with your words leaving nothing to the imagination...I loved being transported there with you and the photos enhanced the journey as well. You have made it seem, although hard, that it may be possible for me to actually experience some of the PCT in my lifetime, if God allows me to get through until semi-retirement. Thank you ever so much, and I'll continue reading your blogs about this and still yet have to get through your prep blogs which will mean even more to me as I being my preparation. What a great accomplishment to have completed it and then to write about it so descriptively is an even greater feat, in my humble opinion! It's a God-given gift; thanks for sharing!