Chaotically updated from day 0, April 27th 2006

September 22nd 2006, 10.30 h


Currently waiting not for the snow to melt but to stop falling. Record breaking March snow fall has changed everything but one thing: I’m going. Adding stuff to the seasonal list: crampons, VB socks, WP gaiters, GPS… ¿snowshoes?


The gear list has been updated and now I can say it’s almost the definitive one. Most changes are minor safe for that whole new chapter for the snow fest in the Sierra.


At this stage, most things I do, I do them for the last time. Just came back from visiting family and friends and I have everybody’s blessing. I’m ready to go.


In a few hours, I’ll flying to California. Believe it or not (and I almost don’t yet), the PCT is about to happen. Next report will be from the trail.


Having a near-zero in Idyllwild, all’s going well, maybe just too fast, I might consider slowing down but I can’t help it, I just love to hike.

Thanks to all the beautiful people I’ve met for the great vibe, hope to meet you all again. And thanks all involved for that incredible trail magic. Heading out tomorrow to Big Bear. Take care.

The desert as seen from the Laguna Mountains


Currently in Wrightwood, California (the state that never ends).

Hiking through the semi-barren semi-desert has been a new experience for me. I loved it and I hated it, as is so often the case with most things in life. Days are worse, nights are awesome.

I’m getting stronger every day. I just feel for each day that’s gone, another unique day that’s gone but that’s the best part of it: it’s so straightforward to feel each a day as a treasure to keep. That’s trail life.

Next stop in Agua Dulce (still in that state)

The desert at San Gorgonio Pass. San Jacinto peak still shows snow 2000 vertical metres above


The San Gabriels are over with a couple of rainy days behind, the first real rain in the trip. Mostly welcome, I was able to hike with no hat for a couple of journeys. Agua Dulce will see my first zero and probably my second one too.
I need them and the fantastic atmosphere at the Saufleys’ does the rest. Cheers from Agua Dulce, CA.

We all knew Agua Dulce was a very special place


Nice desert traverse 40ºF below expected. Awesome desert nights. Next is the Sierra Nevada.

The PCT through the Mojave, the Tehachapi mountains in the background


Mojave to Kennedy Meadows has been so far the longest and hardest leg of trip, lack of water and high temperatures. We will change the heat for the snow in the high reaches of the Sierra Nevada for the longest and toughest section of the entire trip. Talk to you again from Vermillion Valley.

Water in the desert: a cache set under a Joshua tree in Bird Spring Pass


Going through the High Sierra this early in the season has been one of the most glorious experiences of my life. Not a soul in sight for miles and miles of the mostly still snow covered wilderness of the Sierra Nevada: high passes, swollen rivers, endless vistas of snowy peaks and valleys and the wonderful feeling of travelling through this untamed land.

Cheers from Vermillion Valley.

Rolling Thunder approaching Mather Pass


The High Sierra was not over after Vermillion Valley: lower snow line, difficult navigation and some scary river crossings. Tuolumne Meadows was yet sadly closed when I got there but that only made a side trip to Yosemite Valley even more worth the two days it’s taken. Too much oxigen at barely above 4000′ and a well deserved rest among the happy crowds before hitting the Sierra mountains again.

Donohue Pass, the PCT enters Yosemite


Tuolumne was that milestone for the end of our pilgrimage through the High Sierra, the place where we would resume our normal hiking. Not quite. Certainly, we were not crossing passes over 12k’ anymore but the snow was far from over and the rivers were even bigger. An odd group from at least 3 of the 4 corners of the world departed from Tuolumne; we were 12 and dirty, hence the self-appointed “Dirty Dozen” brand name which eventually developed into “The Stinky Dozen” as time and trail life did their thing. After some trail magic and many miles we arrived in Echo Lake expecting that was our last day in the snow.

Sugar Daddy & Rolling Thunder getting wet in Falls Creek


Echo Lake – Sierra City

Come July and the lower elevations and summer has arrived in the Sierra Nevada. Last battles with the snow in the Desolation Wilderness but mother nature decided to change our problems: now it’s the mosquitos, the biggest predator known to the human race this side of the Missouri. That and the comeback of the heat, long forgotten… friend? Now it’s easier to get up in the morning but it gets difficult to hike after 9.00 am… nobody said it was easy (but California is still beautiful)

Fantastic scenery in Desolation Wilderness: lake Aloha


Sierra City – Belden Town

The last reaches of the Sierra Nevada brought in the oppresive heat of the deep gorges of the Feather river and the comeback of those largely forgotten wonders from the Southern California sections: rattlesnakes and poison oak. No bad encounters with either so far, I must say. Bye, bye, dear Sierra. Heading for the volcanic lands.

Sunset on the crest, camp with a view


Belden Town – Old Station

Lassen Volcanic National Park has been the highlight of this section, as well as an interesting new background. The mosquitos are still fierce, the trails have turned dusty and the heat is beating hard but the scenery is just as atractive as the young lands can be, geothermal wonders and everything. Water is not scarce… yet. Northern California rocks!

An easy choice for a tired and hungry hiker


Old Station – Castella

It was really odd to go through the hottest days in the trip so far (not even in the Mojave was this warm) with the flu-like symptoms that made for my hardest journey. Feeling better now and they say the heat is gonna slow down. Lassen was left behind and our new beacon is formidable mount Shasta. It’s odd to see all that snow from our dusty and baking trail. In Castella, however, I wore my jacket for the first time in weeks. Maybe it’s cooling after all.

Volcano selection: forested Sugarloaf Mountain to the right, snowy Lassen Peak in the background


Castella – Etna

This westward leg brought the trail to the Trinity Alps and back to that high mountain feeling that seemed a bit lost among the forests and canyons of Northen California. Are this already the Cascades? I think so but I guess the mountains don’t really know about borders.

Back to granite in Russian Wilderness


Etna – Seiad Valley

Short stage to reach one of the smallest places the PCT goes trough where supposedly you can find the biggest pancakes. Tried a couple of those but not the 5 piece challenge. Marble Mountain Wilderness and the PCT section within it was officially closed due to the wildfires but it seems they’re letting the PCT hikers through. I’d have hated to skip those miles. The only fire in sight was miles and at least one ridge away. Next section takes us to Oregon!

Hydration break for Mike while in the Marble Mountain Wilderness


Seiad Valley – Ashland

Day number 100 into my trip saw me crossing at last the California – Oregon border. California said goodbye with unexpected rainy and stormy weather but Ashland was close. Biggest town so far, number of inhabitants in the 5 digits range. There’ll be no more real towns until the Washington border, almost 500 miles away.

Somebody doesn’t like some Bush over here

Oregon Days

No internet access while in Oregon so what follows is a recall of those 18 days along the mountains of the wild west.

Ashland – Crater Lake

The lava fields near Mt. McLoughlin were the highlight of this section of mostly forest routine and little views. I joined some of the remains of the “Stinky dozen”, still hiking together, for the last days before we met some of our favorite Trail Angels to eventually get to the base of the former Mt. Mazama, now Crater Lake, but the views will have to wait until tomorrow.

Bad place to realize you forgot your glasses at the Mexican border

Crater Lake – Shelter Cove

Crater Lake is one of the most spectacular places along the PCT. A blown up mountain and a lake that takes 800 years to fill the resulting hole. Amazing. After that, long, dusty days that killed my feet and gave me my first relevant physical problems of the whole trip. I arrived in Shelter Cove Resort in real need of a break in the relaxing shores of Odell Lake.

Long, dusty day on the trail

Shelter Cove – Big Lake

Only a few hours later and my feet are so well recovered that I can hike normally again. That’s good news. More forest and many lakes along this section that brings back the mosquito nightmare, at its worst! Almost lost my sanity a couple of times. The Sisters Wilderness was as spectacular as a volcanic, lunar landscape can be but the worst was about to come: the other nightmare, that of the forest fires that were burning not near but on the PCT proper and made me go through around 60 miles of a road walk that killed my body and soul and that I only survived thanks to the kindness, generosity and charm of those other hikers who helped me through it before my remains could rest in one of the wooden cabins around Big Lake.

Big fires going on below Mount Washington

Big Lake – Cascade Locks

Traversing around Mts. Jefferson and Hood brought back the Alpine landscapes so much missed right before the dramatical drop to the lowest point in the whole trail at the bottom of the gorge of the mighty Columbia river. My left leg’s quadriceps has just decided it’s got enough and I’ve been dragging said leg for 40 miles hoping I can bring it back alive while taking a well deserved break in Cascade Locks, just at the Washington border.

Delicious huckleberries

Washington, the stylish end

Cascade Locks – White Pass

Day 2 from Cascade Locks and the rain welcomed me into Washington. Rain and cold but it only lasted a couple of days. Then, Mt. Adams brought back the alpine environment and the Goat Rocks just blew my mind with that trail stretch on the very crest.

Mount Rainier is our beacon through the Goat Rocks

White Pass – Snoqualmie Pass

Back to routine except for those impressive views of glaciated and mighty Mt. Rainier and the more distant Mt. St. Helens that’s still smoking. Lots of awful logging towards the end of the section but the promise of what’s about to come in the views north of those craggy peaks in the Northern Cascades.

Necessary outcome of a berry pig-out

Snoqualmie Pass – Stevens Pass

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness is the perfect welcome to the Northern Cascades were everything turns wild and incredibly beautiful. Good weather, unlike what I experienced here a couple of years ago so this time I can see where I’m going through and marvel yet even more. Some more rain towards the end but still looking good and worry free.

Some trail sections through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness are blasted off the rock walls

Stevens Pass – Stehekin

And here come the bad news: the forest fires nightmare returns in full force, with Stehekin evacuated and the trail closed just south of its northern terminus (can anybody imagine a worse place for a trail closure?). I leave Skykomish praying for rain and the hiking gods must have heard me: after a couple of summer days, here comes the rain and it doesn’t come alone, freezing wind and snow join the party and find me sivering around the flanks of amazing Glacier Peak. I bail out hoping the wet and cold put all fires out in the meantime. By the time I get to Stehekin I get the best news I could hope for: the best trail town in the whole PCT has been saved and is up and running again! I get the best of times relaxing and sharing experiences before the final push to Canada.

Triad Lake from High Pass. Weather deteriorating

Stehekin – Manning Park

The weather still looks awful, as it’s been for almost a week in a row now but we still need it so the fires in the Pasayten Wilderness are done before we get there. A final push from the wet and cold brings a few inches of snow to the higher areas of the trail and quite a bit of urgency in my hiking as if I’m in a race to finish before winter sets in but the good news is the PCT is fully open now and we all can make it to Manning safely. I’m so happy to be able to join other hikers for a memorable end to the most memorable trip.

Cloud, snow and cold one hiking day from Canada. Smiley opens the way