Canadian Border! The Finish! NOBO 2658

This post is from August 3, 2003.

Ray and I reached the Northern Terminus of the PCT today at 12:30 noon.  We still had to walk an additional 8 miles to hike out to Manning Park in British Columbia.

These are photos of Ray and me at the end of the hike, in Manning Park, BC:

ManningPark1ManningPark2

It was very emotional for Ray, and indeed even for me.  Hiking 263 miles in 7 days was probably the most grueling 7-day endurance test of my entire life.  I never would have done this if it was not for trying to keep Ray company on his amazing feat/feet!

Ray’s feet at the end:

SoreFeet

Ray’s trail shoes, bronzed:

shoes

 

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

After the alarms rang and had gotten shut off, Paul and I had trouble moving. How long had the alarms been ringing? How would Paul feel this morning? My body ached. I’d struggled with the cold for most of the night. In my run-down condition, my ruined bag couldn’t keep me warm at this altitude. Had I eaten enough yesterday?
“Ray, I shivered violently all night. Didn’t sleep at all.”
“Oh, fuck! Sorry.”
Paul no longer slurred his speech. He’d recovered mentally. How had he recovered physically?
“You?”
“I fared a bit better. Very tired though.”
Paul’s eyes had huge bags beneath them. And, there would be no hot coffee, since we didn’t have a stove with us. I needed to encourage him. I would have to will him forward. Another hard day of hiking fueled only by willpower faced us. He no longer had any reserves.
“I feel like I’ve got the worst hangover ever.”
“You’re Swedish. That’s nothing. You’re just getting started.”
“Ha-ha.”
Paul managed a small smile.
“Paul, we’re just 21 miles from the Canadian border!”
Despite our pitiful condition, an overwhelming sensation of joy filled me. Today the journey of my lifetime would be successfully completed. But, how would Paul manage? I couldn’t do much for him.
“I’m with you, Ray. Let’s get this done!”
“Thanks, Paul. Okay, let’s do this. The final push.”
“Yeah! I’ve no idea how you made it this far, Ray. But, given what you’ve been through already, I’m sure as hell not going to let you down now.”
“Thanks, brother.”
I held Paul’s shoulder.
“All right. Let’s get moving!”
Superman emerged from the tarptent first. He crawled out on all fours.
“I can see my breath.”
“Just like Maine, eh?”
“No, much warmer than our summers.”
“Chilly tarn, Baby!”
Superman smiled. He may have even broken into a small laugh. I felt encouraged. Each morning, as we’d moved farther north, Paul had spent more time bandaging and treating his feet. He’d developed a great appreciation for the amount of foot pain that I’d suffered as well. For the final time that summer, doing what had become habit, I repacked my gear and moved it outside the Squall.
Today marked the last morning that I would pack the tarptent into its fraying stuff sack. My home for the summer was being put away forever. The Squall had been a reliable, lightweight shelter. I made a mental note to write and thank Henry Shires for sending me one. I wanted to do the same thing for Glenn van Peski, who’d designed the G4 to be a great backpack. Superman’s morning packing went well. While taking a number of deep breaths in the cold mountain air, I blew on my hands.
“Ready?” I asked.
“Yeah, all packed up.”
“Let’s go. To Canada-A.”
Superman and I began hiking before 5:30 AM. Within a minute off to the right-hand side, we saw a beautiful camping spot. It was the one that we’d been seeking. The groomed site was huge, flat, and even had a bench. I consoled myself by saying that I would have missed the site in total darkness, as it was set a small distance away from the trail. Late last night my eyes had been pointed almost exclusively at my feet, as I tried to avoid falling. I swiped at a bush. What could we do? We pushed north, eagerly anticipating the Canadian border.
The weather remained perfect and the scenery spectacular. Grizzly bears roamed in this area. Wild management actually relocated grizzlies to this area. Were these problem bears? If something in the woods moved, Superman and I did a double take. We didn’t talk much, as we both reflected internally. Exhaustion played a big factor in our behaviors. Periodically, I would drift behind Superman.
“I’ll catch you in a minute,” I said.
I’m sure that it was obvious to Paul that I needed a few moments alone. I wept openly while singing verses from the summer’s songs. When I’d my emotions somewhat under control, I would catch back up to him.
“You okay, Ray?”
“Yeah, thanks.”
I lied. I simply had given my standard answer to that question, but I really wasn’t okay. Once I took the time to recuperate after the hike, I could see that I would be fine. My mental struggles had been brought on by extreme conditions. Once I freed myself from this challenge and the risk-taking, my mind and emotions would stabilize.
Superman and I made consistent progress. Two hikers approached us walking southbound. We chatted. I somewhat expected to encounter flip-floppers in Washington State, and these two were the first. The Asian man’s name was George, and he lived in New York City. His buddy Pedro was from New Mexico. Paul told them his name and that my name was Wall.
George and Pedro had flown from San Francisco up to Vancouver. They’d left Manning Park the day before with plans to hike all the way south to the point where they’d gotten off the trail in California. Paul and I updated them on what to expect in terms of trail conditions. As a group, we spoke of hikers whom we’d met. I got caught up on a few friends and their progress. The information made me smile. Superman and I told them about some of the people whom they could expect to meet in the upcoming few days.
“Wall, you’re flying,” George said.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Appreciate your thoughts on what we’ll encounter,” Pedro said.
“Yeah, thanks for the water warning,” George added.
“He’s too modest to tell you, but Wall here is about to set the record for the fastest hike of the PCT ever,” Superman said.
Superman smiled proudly.
“Wow! That’s incredible!” Pedro said.
“Really?” George asked.
George looked me over and shook his head in disbelief.
“Yeah, 83 days!” Superman beamed.
“You look to be in crazy shape,” George said.
“That’s fucking amazing, amigo!” Pedro said.
Pedro reached out to shake my hand.
“Congratulations!” George said.
George and I firmly shook hands.
“Wall, you’re an incredible hiker! You’ll be a legend. I just shook hands with a legend, Pedro. Ha-ha,” George said.
“Thanks very much! It’s very humbling,” I said.
I could feel that I was blushing beneath my beard.
“Great job! Truly awesome achievement,” George said.
“Good luck, George and Pedro! Hope you don’t encounter much snow later this fall. Thanks for your kind words,” I said.
“Have a cold one for us!” Pedro said.
“How about a few margaritas? Would that work?” I said.
“Oh, yes,” Pedro said.
“Okay, you’ve got it. Bye,” Superman said.
“Good-bye,” George said.
“Adiós, amigos,” Pedro said.
“Good-bye, friends,” I said.
Superman and I continued north to the border. He hiked well. We could both smell the barn. The miles ticked off. I ran through my favorite memories over the summer. Time flew. My feet didn’t hurt. Sometimes I paused, tilted my head up, looked at the sky, and closed my eyes. I reopened my eyes, took a few deeps breaths, and then caught up to Superman. He’d found a seventh wind.

Superman and I made good time. We were getting close to completing my epic journey. This day would be my last day on the PCT this summer. I felt a great sense of joy and relief. To share this section of trail with Paul had been a wonderful experience.
“You’d better go ahead on this part,” Paul said.
Paul made his comment out-of-the-blue, stepped aside, and motioned for me to pass. I figured that he’d seen a grizzly. Looking up though, I saw that we stood just 100 feet from the border. Paul’s kind and thoughtful gesture brought me to tears. What a great person and friend. When I reached the border just in front of Superman, I threw my poles up in the air and raised my arms in a victory salute.
“Yeah, baby! We did it! We did it!”
Paul and I reached Monument 78 at 12:30 PM. We embraced in a long bear hug. We enjoyed a lot of back slapping. Tears flowed freely from my eyes. Paul understood my feelings. He shed a tear or two. This time I didn’t bother to wipe at my tears. They were tears of relief and joy.
“Yeah Ray, congratulations! You should be very proud! I’m proud of you!”
“Thanks. Thanks so much, Paul! Feels great!”
“Congratulations, Wall! You’re the man! New PCT record holder! Wow! I honestly can’t believe everything that you’ve been through and overcome this summer. I’ve been out here only a week, and I’m trashed. Badly trashed. Probably did permanent nerve damage to my feet. You were right. I should’ve gone in trail runners. These boots killed me.”
I gathered myself. I took a few deep breaths.

“Thanks, Paul. Your being here for this week has meant the world to me. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Although my voice quivered, I got the words out.
“Look at the border,” Paul said.
Paul and I stared at the 20-foot-wide swath of trees that had been cut to distinguish the United States from Canada. Paul pulled out his disposable camera. One shot remained. He’d saved this final picture, so that he could capture my moment of glory at the northern terminus of the PCT. This plan was another in a series of thoughtful gestures that he’d made. I positioned myself near the monument, which looked identical to the one 2,659 miles south of here.
“Just a moment,” I said.
I combed my beard with my fingers.
“Okay, ready.”
Paul framed me in his view finder, and depressed the button on the camera. To our great surprise, nothing happened. We heard no click.
“Damn!”
“Try again.”
“Nope, it’s history. I’m snapping. Sorry!”
“Oh, bummer.”
It turned out that when the camera read ‘1,’ there actually weren’t any pictures remaining. Paul had expected it to read ‘0.’ The film had run out. I briefly held out hope that another hiker would come by heading south and that the person would be willing to take our picture. This scenario didn’t materialize though, so there would be no picture of us at the northern terminus.
As I imagined that all thru-hikers did, I climbed up on the end marker and left a pebble on top. A penny filled a crack in the wood atop the monument. Who’d left it there? We ate and drank, and savored this time. The sun warmed my smiling face. I thought of family and friends, and I hoped that all my thru-hiking friends would make it safely. My Mom had been an incredible source of strength for me, and I felt sure that she would be very proud to hear my news. I couldn’t wait to tell her. I felt sad that my Dad wouldn’t be with her when I delivered the news. I looked up toward the sky. I felt blessed and fulfilled. A huge burden had been lifted.
I took the remaining cork out of my pocket. I held it in front of my face, and twirled it around several times between my fingers. Near a small
healthy spruce, I found a nice place to set down the cork on the border. I stood back, stared at the cork, scratched the back of my neck, and smiled. I’d lived my life on the border this summer. Some memories would be best left behind. When I walked back over to Paul, I now felt ready to depart. We headed for Manning Park Lodge, where many cold beers and margaritas awaited us. I’d my emotions better under control. Along the way we chatted.
“The PCT is one hell of an amazing trail,” Paul said.
“Yeah, it sure is. What a national resource. Do you think you’ll ever come out and thru-hike it? I’d be glad to support you.”
“Ha-ha. Maybe I’ll section-hike it. After this week’s experience I don’t think I’d be up to a thru-hike. Not doing these mileages anyway. I need some time off.”
“Let me know if you do decide to section-hike.”
“Sure.” Paul paused. “Ray, someday your record will be broken.”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that. Maybe Flyin’ Brian or Fiddlehead will come out here and kick my ass.”
I smiled.
“Yeah, or some young ultra-runner.”
“Horton is going to try to break the record next year, but he’ll be supported. He’s not going to be carrying a pack.”
“That doesn’t count, though. You did it basically unsupported. Carrying your pack the entire way. No slackpacking. And, you did it honorably. You wouldn’t even cut a damn switchback. You didn’t miss any trail.”
“Thanks. I feel really good about the hike.”
“I think it’s going to be a long time before your unsupported Master’s record falls. I can’t see a guy over forty beating your record. At least not anytime soon.”
“Right now, I don’t really care. It was a lot of fun. I did what I could, under the circumstances. What a great time and adventure. I’m just glad that we got it done safely. You gave me a real scare last night.”
“Yeah, that was rough. So, what’s next?”
“I want to complete the Triple Crown. Fiddlehead always said that the CDT was his favorite trail. So, I’ll do the CDT. Maybe finish the seven summits. Ever heard of a bicycle race called RAAM? They bill it as ‘The World’s Toughest Bicycle Race.’ ”
386
“You’ve got a full plate. Fiddlehead is going to be amazed, when he learns you broke the record! I’m amazed!”
“Yeah, he’ll owe me a six-pack.”
“Cheers to that, Ray. Let’s go celebrate!”

Paul and I entered Manning Park Lodge at 3:30 PM. I phoned my mother, and told her that I’d finished the PCT. She was exceptionally happy for me. I felt relieved to deliver this good news, and my Mom was moved by what her youngest son had accomplished. Her epic was over, too, as her worries and concerns over my hike came to an end. I called Jimbo, who missed my call for only the second time all summer, and left a message for him that I’d completed the trail. I’m sure that he would be relieved to hear my voice-mail message and feel excited for me. Shortly after he’d retrieved my message, the hundreds of people who’d been tracking my adventure through the Web also found out that I’d finished, when Jimbo posted the following message on his website.

 

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Tent on the trail itself NOBO 2640

This post is from August 2, 2003.

Today was probably the toughest day of this week for me.  We put in about 42 miles.

RayFillerScenery

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2003 edition of “The Fastest Hike [click here to view book](note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARMAN since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

As Superman and I hiked through rugged terrain, I saw a brown bear in the bushes about 75 yards away. The bear looked at me and bolted. Thank, God. I couldn’t tell whether he was a grizzly or a black bear. He was huge.
“You see that?” I asked.
I pointed toward the bushes, where I’d seen the bear.
“I just heard rustling and branches moving. What was it?”
“Probably a grizzly.”
“Oh, crap.”
“He bolted, when he heard us.”
“Geez, what’s next?” Paul said.
Paul shook his head back-and-forth. I clanged my poles overhead. Fortunately, Superman and I never got another look at that bear. Bear scat plastered the trail. There were bear signs and footprints all around the plentiful berry patches. The higher that we climbed, the safer that we felt. We told ourselves that bears would be lower down eating berries, which grew better at the lower elevations. Why were we still seeing so many bear footprints then? I didn’t want to admit that we were wrong. When we passed the 2,600-mile point, my inner strength swelled. Keep hiking.
On our penultimate day we missed a “pleasant trailside campsite with water” that we’d been counting on for refilling our bottles. Neither one
of us could make sense of Volume II’s directions. We threw our hands up in the air. We cursed. When we found several water sources dry, we couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t sweating anymore. Paul’s parched lips indicated terrible cotton mouth. I licked my lips. Keep hiking.
“I’m thirsty as hell,” Paul said.
“Yeah, me too. My tongue feels swollen.”
“Can’t believe how dry it is out here.”
“Are we still in the Northwest?”
Paul and I both managed small smiles.
“Doesn’t it rain all the time in Seattle?” Paul asked.
“It did when I lived there. Every fuckin’ day.”
“Laurel said they were in a drought.”
“Well, that’s what it looks like. Hard to believe.”
“Yeah, crazy.”
A bit later after finishing the last of our rationed water, Paul sank to a low point. The uncertainty of not knowing when we would find more water wreaked havoc on our tired minds. Superman’s pack seemed to contain only kryptonite. His willpower started to fade. We’d been pushing close to 17-hour days, hiking from 5:30 AM until 10:30 PM. Even this man’s great stamina had reached its absolute limit. Superman’s dehydration was extreme.
“I’m fuckin’ parched, Ray.”
Paul could barely get the words out. At least he’s still able to talk.
“Hang in there, Paul. We’ll get water soon.”
“I can’t …”
I cut Superman off.
“Just a bit more. You’ve got this.”
What could I do? I’d shared my last water with Superman. I’d pushed him too far. We’d made a mistake in not carrying more water during this stretch, and in drinking our water too quickly. I needed to do something to obtain more water, before Paul collapsed. Since it was a weekend, I hoped to encounter day-hikers. Keep hiking.
Superman and I were on our last legs, when a southbounder crossed our path. The three of us chatted a bit, and we learned that his trail name was Jelly. Jelly learned that we were Superman and Wall. I didn’t want to seem rude, but before too long, I popped the question.
“Can you spare a bit of water, Jelly?” I asked.
“Yeah, here’s a quart you can have, Wall. Wall, right?”
“Yes. Thanks, Jelly. That’s a life saver.”
“Literally,” Superman added.
I gave the water to Superman. He guzzled like a man coming out from the desert.
“Here, Wall,” Superman said.
Superman shared the remaining half with me.
“Thanks,” I said.
I lifted the container to my lips and guzzled. My cracked lips stung from the water. I figured that Jelly had treated it. Shortly thereafter, a woman arrived. We learned that she was Jelly’s wife, and that her trail name was Bean.
“This is Wall. And, he’s Superman,” Jelly said.
“Nice to meet you both,” Bean said.
“You, as well,” I said.
Bean looked us over.
“Do you guys need water?” Bean asked.
The corners of Superman’s mouth had little white splotches. My parched lips must have contained white globules.
“Yeah, anything that you can spare. Thanks,” Superman said.
“Here’s a quart for you,” Bean said.
“Oh, thanks so much!” Superman said.
“Yeah, thanks, Bean,” I said.
Superman drank most of Bean’s water. I took only a few sips. I wasn’t yet sure where we could pick up more water. At this point of our trip, I could handle dehydration better than Superman.
“Thanks, you saved me,” Superman said.
Superman bowed slightly.
“Don’t mention it,” Bean said.
“There are fires burning to the east, but the PCT to Canada is open,” Jelly assured us.
“That’s great news. Thanks so much!” I said.
“Really appreciate your help and the water,” Superman said.
“Yeah, we hit a real dry spell back there,” I added while pointing south.
“We’re okay,” Jelly and Bean said in unison.
“Thanks again,” I said.
“North of here you won’t have any water issues, Wall.”
“Great, thanks, Jelly.”
The news that fires wouldn’t stop us was music to our ears. Jelly and Bean’s gifts of water had eased our suffering. In the back of my mind, I hoped that the couple was going to give us some jelly beans and live up to their trail names. But, we’d needed water far more than sugar.
“Good-bye, Jelly, Bean,” I said.
“Good-bye. Thanks again,” Superman said.
“Good-bye,” Jelly said.
“You’ve been a tremendous help,” I said.
“Oh, here. Take a handful of these jelly beans,” Bean said. “I almost forgot.”
Bean reached out a plastic bag of mix-colored jelly beans. They looked beautiful. Superman and I both smiled, and we each scooped a handful. I put some in my mouth immediately, and began chewing.
I said, “Wow, these are good.”
“Yeah, thanks a lot you guys,” Superman added.
“Okay, bye. Good luck, Superman, Wall.”
“You, too, have a great hike,” I said.
“Good-bye.”
“Bye.”
I waved, as Jelly and Bean headed south. They smiled and waved back. When Jelly had stopped to chat with us, Bean had been able to catch back up to him. As Superman and I hiked north, he remarked about how happy he was that the couple had lived up to their trail names. I didn’t mention it, but I thought that I’d lived up to mine, too. Although we still were dehydrated, we felt far better. I picked at the stuck jelly bean pieces with my tongue. A bit farther up the trail we caught up to two attractive women. When Superman and I were ten feet away, he spoke to get their attention.
“Hi,” Superman said.
“Hi, I’m Tyran,” the tall, blonde woman said.
“Hello, I’m Paul. And this is Wall.”
“Wall?”
“Yes that’s his trail name,” Paul said.
“Hi, Wall, Paul, I’m Becca-A”, the redhead said and smiled.
“Becca-A?” I asked.
“No, just Becca, sorry I’m Canadian.”

The four of us laughed. The laughter relaxed me. We sat down and chatted. Superman and I learned that Tyran and Becca intended to hike from Snoqualmie Pass to Manning Park. They planned a 17-day trip.
“We left from Snoqualmie five days ago,” Superman said.
“Really-A?”
“We’ve been out here almost two weeks! You guys are crazy.”
“Just a bit,” I said.
I made a crazed face. Tyran and Becca looked at one another, put on frightened faces, and laughed hard. Superman joined in the laughter. I did too.
“You guys are amazing hikers.”
“You’re so lean and wiry-A.”
“He is,” Superman said while pointing at me.
“You, too,” Tyran said.
“Thanks,” Superman said.
“Tell us more about your journey. I’m impressed,” Tyran said.
“Where to start …”
Our conversation continued, while we admired our new friends. Becca offered Superman a quart of her water. He accepted and downed the needed fluid quickly. This gesture prompted Tyran, the blonde-haired American, to offer me a quart. I downed that equally fast. As we bantered back-and-forth, we repeated the process a second time. Becca and Tyran took a series of photos with us. We both took a photo standing in the middle of them. They happily agreed to email us the photos, once they’d gotten back home.
“Where did you gals pick up that water? We didn’t see any along this stretch,” I said.
“There was a hidden spring a mile or so ago-A,” Becca said.
“We drank a lot and topped off. It’s been so hot out here,” Tyran said.
“Much, much hotter than we expected,” Superman said.
“Us, too-A.”
“We’re so glad you found that spring. We somehow missed it. Thanks so much!” I said.
“You helped us out, too. We picked up too-much water back there,” Tyran said.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yes.”
“Good luck with your hike,” Superman said.
“Stay well. Stay safe,” I added.
I hugged Tyran, while Superman hugged Becca. We then switched partners. Both woman were tall, had beautiful faces and long necks, and were extremely thin. I figured that they were models, but I didn’t want to stress them by bringing up work. I admired their courage in hiking together alone.
“You guys are amazin-A!” Becca said.
“You, too,” I said.
“Good-bye,” Tyran said.
The two ladies waved, as Superman and I headed north. I waved back.
“Bye-bye.”
“Hope to see you at Manning Park!”
“Likewise-A.”
“Good-bye.”
As Superman and I were just leaving earshot, I picked up on part of Tyran and Becca’s conversation.
“Did you see how wiry Wall was? He was the thin one, right?”
“Yes,” Becca responded. “And, did you see how muscular Superman’s legs were-A? I’d like to squeeze him-A.”
“Wow, too bad they were hiking so fast,” Tyran said.
“I wish we could have f…,” Becca said.
“I wanted to …,” Tyran said.
I slowed down a bit, but couldn’t make out the rest of Tyran and Becca’s conversation. The sacrifices continued. Keep hiking. Superman and I continued north.
I asked, “Do Canadians really talk like that?”
“No, I don’t think so. She was just flirting with us-A.”
And with that, Superman and I broke into heavy laughter. It’d been a very worthwhile and much-needed break.

Superman and I had come nearly 40 miles today, as darkness fell upon us. The elevation measured over 6,000 feet. The cooling temperatures forced us to put on our wind-breakers. We wore our headlamps, and I consulted the illuminated Databook. If we could find Devils Backbone, I could pinpoint our position. Surely a feature with such an intriguing name would be easy to spot. Instead of finding Devils Backbone though, we became lost.
The starry night appeared beautiful from our high vantage point, but we should have been descending steadily, rather than traveling over flat ground or ascending. We couldn’t enjoy the light-show properly. The moon shone brightly. We finally found a series of steep switchbacks and began heading downhill. Superman and I probably had been standing on the backbone itself. We never would have found it. As we got lower, the canopy in the dense forest blocked the moonlight and stars.
In my state of absolute exhaustion, I made mistakes more easily. Superman and I had been hiking the trail for 17 hours today. We couldn’t have hiked without the headlamps, but the lighting which they provided was far less than adequate. With our dry eyes they opened a fuzzy window of visibility only the size of a sliding-glass door. The dark forest threw ever-changing shadows at us.
While trying to find the trail, Superman and I had to swivel our necks in order to see anywhere, except directly in front of us. This tedious maneuvering made us dizzy. As my fatigue worsened, unpleasant visions of a multi-headed grizzly bear leaping out from behind a giant tree and grabbing us played endlessly in my mind. I didn’t worry Superman with my delusions. Was he experiencing his own? Keep hiking.
When I’d consulted Volume II earlier, I noted that there was a good campsite up ahead. It was located three-quarters of a mile beyond the headwaters of Shaw Creek at mile 2,629.6. Superman and I hoped to find it and camp there. We remained on the lookout, but the darkness made recognizing anything difficult. I hoped that we would be able to hear the creek, once we approached it.
“Over there, Ray. You see the lake? Headwaters of the creek coming out of it.”
“Where? I see you pointing to a rock slide,” I said.
I realized that the combination of shadows, headlamp light, and deep fatigue had fooled Paul’s eyes. Or, was I wrong? I craned and squinted.
“There,” Paul said.
“Wait a sec,” I said.
“No, over there,” Paul insisted.
Paul pointed to the exact-same spot. I saw a rock pile angled at 45-degrees.
“Paul, it’s a rock slide. I see it clearly.”
“Oh, shit!”
Paul spoke dejectedly in a muffled voice. We needed to camp soon. Paul’s mind and body had started to malfunction, as had mine. A huge debt needed to be paid with rest. We’d pushed ourselves too hard, and our senses had failed us.
“There! I see the headwaters,” Paul said.
When I heard Paul’s excitement, I raised my head up startled. I stared. While scratching the back of my sore neck, I saw that he’d pointed to a dead tree, which had lost all of its bark. With the moonlight reflecting off of the tree, it appeared to be much larger than it actually was.
“That’s a dead tree,” I said.
“No, over there!”
“Dead tree.”
“Those are the headwaters of Shaw Creek,” Paul insisted.
“Okay. You’re right. That’s Shaw Creek.”
Alarmed by Paul’s repeated hallucinations, I freaked out. Paul’s in serious trouble. What was I going to do? Should I let him keep walking? Did we need to stop? What the fuck? I couldn’t even make a decision. Paul struggled onward with extreme fatigue. I somehow concluded that I should hike ahead as quickly as possible and set up camp. However, the
idea of us separating in this vast wilderness at night disturbed me greatly. What if Paul’s or my headlamp burned out? What if a grizzly bear grabbed one of us? What if one of us fell or became lost? We needed to stay together, until we actually did reach the headwaters of Shaw Creek.
Where the hell is Shaw Creek? I kept wondering. We dawdled, making almost no progress. Keep hiking. Camping on this terrain meant no sleep. Dammit! Given our predicament, I decided finally that I definitely needed to walk up ahead and set up our camp at the first viable spot. Paul needed to lie down as soon as possible.
“Make sur dah tok first one, Way,” Paul said.
Oh, fuck, Paul’s slurring his speech. Oh, no! I took a close look at him.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to get my light in your eyes. Will do. Paul, can you keeping walking?”
“Sur dat can, Way.”
“Okay, stay on the trail. Got that?”
“Yah, on dah tail.”
Unable to think straight myself, I reluctantly moved off and soon couldn’t see Paul’s headlamp behind me. I felt worried as hell. Paul courageously plodded north, behind me and alone now, going on sheer willpower and fumes. His courage, effort, and stamina moved me deeply. Paul was a wonderful friend and companion. I had to get him through this ordeal uninjured.
Hiking alone changed my attitude drastically. My awareness and my fear doubled, as had my concern for Paul. While scanning both sides of the PCT for a feasible campsite, I slowed slightly to avoid tripping. No acceptable place presented itself. My concern for Paul dominated my mind. The thought of his headlight burning out haunted me. How long should I wait before I went back? I continued ahead believing that the best thing that I could do for Paul now was to set up the shelter.
The small trickle, which Paul had pointed to earlier, must have been Shaw Creek. My fatigue had messed with my mind. Am I going to Mexico or Canada, I wondered. Oh, fuck. I’m just going to keep walking in this same direction. Eventually, I decided that I needed to erect the Squall soon. If I waited much longer, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to set it up. Since leaving Paul, I thought that I’d come maybe a mile. I must have missed the campsite mentioned in Volume II. In spite of my
utmost care, my miss had been due to extreme fatigue and darkness. We wouldn’t be in an established site tonight.
The only-feasible place to set up the Squall that I’d found was a slight widening in the PCT. I never had camped on the PCT itself, nor had I ever planned to because of animal traffic. Should I set up here? How far behind me was Paul? Would we get trampled here? Paul and I had seen tracks all over the trail. Large animals were more active at night. They preferred to walk on an established path, rather than plowing through dense forest and undergrowth. Make a decision, either go back for Paul or set up here. He’ll need a place to get warm, as soon as he arrives.
In spite of my worries, I decided to erect the tarptent right in the middle of the PCT. While suffering from extreme fatigue, in the pitch blackness it took longer than usual to set up the Squall. I tried to bang one tent peg in upside down. The Squall’s large footprint barricaded the trail. Although this spot was the best that I’d found since leaving Paul, it sloped ten degrees. We would be sliding into each other all night. Bigger issues weighed on my mind.
I prayed that Paul would arrive soon. It was well after 11:00 PM. I shouted his name a few times. No response. Should I go out looking for him? In my hammered state I concluded that it was best for me to stay put. I would be of little use to him. I couldn’t help myself. I blew on my cold hands. Wherever Paul was, he was facing one of the greatest struggles of his life. I arranged gear inside the shelter to ready it for him. It felt cold. I begged for Paul’s safe arrival.
My worries overcame me. I crawled out of the Squall to search for Paul. After a few minutes of walking, I realized that I’d hiked north on the PCT. Dammit! As I returned to the Squall, I could see a faint light. Were my eyes playing a cruel trick on me? I rubbed my eyes. No, it was Superman! He’d pushed through yet another set of unknown mental and physical barriers. He came in staggering.
“Oh God, Paul! That was a superhuman effort. Great job!”
“I’m freezin’. Need da get ’em bag.”
“I’ve got everything set up for you. Go in.”
“Huh?”
“Go in, Paul,” I said.
I pushed Paul toward the Squall’s entrance. He crawled into the tarptent slowly. I could see some leaves on his leg. Had he fallen?
“Set the alarm for 5:15 AM.”
“Do dat fer ma, Hellwin,” Paul muttered.
Paul had thought that I was his wife, Helen. Oh, my God. I fed Paul a handful of ibuprofen tablets.
“Here, wash those down,” I said.
I handed Paul a water bottle. He missed, but got it on his second try.
“Dat’s all give you, Way. I’m fuckin’ terash rashed. I fall down, see thins, bad thins. Fuckin’ Shaw Creek. Fall down. Fell. Down her.”
“Tomorrow, we’re done.”
“Thank, God. I donna know how yer last. Yer goin’ to write a beek ’bout dis her trip.”
“Naw, I don’t want to relive this shit.”
Paul probably couldn’t understand me. I prayed that he would make it through the night. I can’t lose Paul. Dammit! I was worried deeply about him. Paul shivered violently.
“Get in your bag, Paul. Now.”
“I see-in shit. Ber bad shit.”
“So glad you made it, Paul. Real glad. Close your eyes.”
“Glad Way made eh. He-he. Ha-ha-ha. Becca. Becca-A.”
I heard Paul’s mutterings continue, as I fell to sleep.

 

Porcupine Creek NOBO 2598

This post is from August 1, 2003.

We hiked about 40 miles today.  We were re-supplied by Laurel at Rainy Pass at 9:30pm, a few miles before our camp for the night.  We were supposed to arrive there at 8pm but I was having trouble keeping up with Ray’s blistering pace.  We left Laurel at 10pm and continued hiking with our headlamps for another hour.

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

Superman and I seemed poised to make our tightly scheduled rendezvous at Rainy Pass. August 1st, though, was another day when we couldn’t swim, wash, or talk much with section-hikers. We focused all of our energy on advancing north. Shortly after crossing Suiattle Pass at mile 2,550.3, I realized that the gap to the border measured less than 100 miles. This fact was huge. I did some backslapping with Superman and danced a little jig.
“Let’s bring it home, brother.”
“I’ll follow you, Ray.”
“We’re gonna get this done.”
With the end in sight, there was nothing that could stop us now. If I’d broken an ankle, I would tape the hell out of it and hike to the border injured. A chill trickled down my spine. After all this effort my dream would come true! The PCT record would be my summer’s pay. Superman shared my joy. Any more thoughts along these lines, though, and I would break down crying. Keep hiking. That phrase had become my new mantra.
Superman and I arrived at Hemlock Camp at mile 2,557.3, and all appeared well. I scouted the huge campground, but couldn’t find the PCT leading through it. After consulting Volume II and some deliberations, we followed a trail leading off to our right.
“I’ve got an uneasy feeling about this place,” I warned.
Was it the name? I couldn’t help but think of poison. I’m not picking up water around here.
“I hope we didn’t guess wrong,” Superman said.
Paul had little faith that we were heading the right way. His shoulders drooped. The sign that I’d seen marking this trail had troubled me.
“I think that we’re off course.”
“Let’s go a bit more,” a dejected Paul proclaimed.
I could hear Paul’s sighs. He and I hiked steadily over a number of rolling hills. The sun shone brightly off to my left. Off to my left!
“Oh, fuck! We’re heading south,” I said.
“South?”
“Yeah, we’ve been heading in the wrong direction.”
“Crap.”
“Sorry. Shit!”
Paul hung his head in despair. We’d made a wrong turn from Hemlock Camp on a trail following the South Fork of Agnes Creek. I figured that we’d gone at least three-quarters of a mile out of our way. Luckily, I caught the sun on the wrong side, when I did. The early morning hours permitted me to determine our direction. A little farther
ahead and the mountains would have blocked the sun. I felt lucky, but Paul felt depressed. I whacked the back of my leg with a pole.
“Paul, I’m going to cruise back and scout for trail. That should save us some time.”
“Okay.”
“See you back at Hemlock Camp. Stay on this trail.”
“Sure,” Paul said in a weak voice.
I’d thought that it seemed best to give Paul a chance to walk alone. As he regrouped, I went in search of the PCT. Maybe I was making a mistake? Maybe Paul needed me then? I figured that he needed to blow off steam. He probably cursed right-and-left, following me at a distance. The fast pace, which I moved at, helped to dissipate my frustrations. My mistake meant hiking another hour tonight. We would have to push ourselves in the dark to the point of collapse, again.
When I arrived back 15 minutes later, I proceeded through the gigantic camp. Sure enough, the PCT continued on the other side. If I’d gone only another 50 feet here 45 minutes earlier, I would have discovered this fact. I wished that there had been a PCT marker in the vicinity. I looked at the ground, as I shook my head back-and-forth. Then I took a violent swing at a bush. I drew an arrow in the dirt and set up a small cairn to assist others. This activity gave me some relief. Backtracking to the front of the camp, I sat down and ate some crackers. I waited for Paul. He arrived about ten minutes later.
“Did you find the trail?”
“Yeah, I got trail. It’s over there.”
“That was bad.”
A dejected Paul averted my eyes.
“Yeah, sorry.”
I didn’t bother to elaborate on how close we previously had been to finding the trail. Paul seemed very frustrated, but glad to know that I’d re-found the trail.
“How’d we miss this fuckin’ cairn first time around? Look,” he said pointing helplessly.
“I built that, while I was waiting.”
“Oh, good job and placement. That’s going to help out a lot of other folks.”
Paul and I pushed north, trying to make up for lost time, hoping that no more wrong turns would plague us.
“I honestly don’t know how you got so far this fast. The PCT isn’t marked worth shit. This is nothing like the Appalachian Trail. When we talked on the phone and at times you told me that you were lost, I really had no idea. I didn’t know you were dealing with this type of thing every day,” Superman said.
“Yeah, I’ve been lost almost every day. It’s been tough. Real tough.”
“I can’t even imagine. Why don’t they mark the trail better?”
“Not sure.”
I’d asked the same question to myself many times. All I could do was shrug my shoulders.
“It’s dangerous.”
“Yeah, very.”
I made a mental note that when I returned to Savannah, I would write a check to the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Hopefully, as I planned to request in my letter, they could use the money to mark the trail better. I didn’t need any reassurance markings, just enough to resolve ambiguities. At least they could post signs at all trail junctions and road crossings. My gift could be used to replace worn-out, vandalized, or missing signs, too. I’d seen many burned signs. I would ask Paul and other friends to make donations as well.
During the next section of the PCT, giant Douglas-firs, blue spruces, and red cedars greeted Superman and me in old-growth forests. The Douglas-firs rose straight up at least 150 feet and measured six-to-eight feet in diameter. The spruces topped the biggest that I’d ever seen. The red cedars grew 25-to-35 feet around and tapered toward the sky, their tips invisible from the forest floor. This stretch contained the most-impressive forests of my entire trip.
“I love these trees,” I said.
“We’ve got nothing anywhere near this big in New England.”
“I’m sure it rains like hell out here most of the time.”
“We’re very lucky with this weather. Even if it’s kind of hot for me. I never expected this in Washington.”
“Yeah, imagine doing this in mud. Imagine how dangerous all the creeks would be. Mudslides.”
“No thanks.”
The old-growth forests inspired Superman and me, and lifted our morale. We hiked well through the dark woods, which provided us shelter from the sun’s rays. By PCT standards the terrain was relatively flat and low in elevation, as it reached only 2,500 feet above sea level. The trees thrived lower down. Superman thought of snapping a photo, but we’d precious few shots left. Now that we’d a camera, I too wanted some pictures. Should I have carried one during the entire trip? Adrian would have gone crazy snapping photos here. For the remainder of the day, Paul worried about us getting lost. It would be exceptionally hard to make up any time now. Our minds couldn’t handle another detour. We pressed toward Canada, as hard as we could. After a lot of climbing, Superman and I arrived at Rainy Pass a mere half-an-hour behind schedule. As the temperatures dropped, we crossed a deserted highway and entered a large trailhead parking lot. Laurel was there alone, in the middle of nowhere, waiting to meet us. Thank God, she was all right.
Laurel’s support meant the world to me. She’d driven out by herself from Issaquah with our supplies. It was too late at night for the rest of our elderly Washington crew. At one-mile high we made our final resupply in total darkness. Realizing that this was the last time that I would go through my resupply ritual brought emotions to the surface. I pretended to dry my face off with a towel, while brushing away tears, but I didn’t fool anyone.
“Are you okay, Ray?” Laurel asked.
After a pause and big exhale, I said, “Yeah, okay. Thanks for checking.”
Laurel knew that I wasn’t okay. Superman knew that I wasn’t okay. I knew that I wasn’t okay. But, we all knew that I would continue to the border.
“We’ll get this done, Ray,” Superman said.
“You guys are almost there. Great job!” Laurel said.
Superman and I devoured meat-and-cheese sandwiches, chocolate-chip cookies, potato chips, pickles, and some other high-calorie foods. I loaded the mesh pocket of the G4.
“These cookies are awesome!”
“I’ll take some more chips.”
“We’d better drink up.”
“Plenty of salt in these pickles.”
“How’s the weather been?”
“Clear skies. Hot and sunny. Amazing really.”
“Can’t believe this is Washington.”
“They’re saying this is the hottest, driest summer on record.”
“I believe it.”
“Need anything else?”
“No, I’m stuffed. You?”
“Me, too.”
“Thanks.”
“Great.”
“Good going.”
Superman and I had drunk as much Gatorade and Coke as our stomachs could handle. Although I’d never had any safety net nor redundancy in my gear to this stage, I went even lighter now. The last items to go included my nail-clippers, toothbrush, and toothpaste. Superman rid himself of anything that he deemed nonessential. I even thought of ditching the tarptent, but with two potentially cold nights of camping and a lame sleeping bag, I decided to retain the shelter. Time passed rapidly.
“It’s already ten.”
“Just let me finish changing this battery,” Superman said.
Superman continued to fiddle with his headlamp, while using one of the flashlights that Laurel had brought with her. I helped Laurel load all the supplies back into her car.
“You’re good?” Laurel asked.
“Yeah, I think that we’ve got everything. Thanks so much!”
“There. Got it.”
“Ready?”
“Yeah.”
“Thanks a lot Laurel.”
“Oh, sure.”
“Everything’s in the car?”
Laurel scanned the ground using one of her flashlights.
“Yes, I’m all packed up.”
“Be careful, take it easy driving home.”
“You guys be careful.”
All of us exchanged warm hugs. Superman and I put our packs on.
“Stay warm out there. Good-bye.”
“Bye.”
“Good-bye, Laurel. Thanks!”

Laurel had done a great job resupplying us and restoring our morale. Superman and I waited a moment, as Laurel got in her car and began to pull out. We then headed uphill with our lights shining. Superman and I saw the last of the highway and Rainy Pass. Laurel’s taillights disappeared quickly. I worried about Laurel driving back home alone through the mountain roads. As best as I could, I took consolation in knowing that she’d grown up out here. I hoped that she would be okay. A branch tripped me up. Get your mind back on the trail, I said to myself. Keep hiking.
Superman and I carried only two days’ worth of food, so the packs didn’t cut into our shoulders. We struggled to Porcupine Creek at mile 2,590.6 very late. Fortuitously, we found a reasonable campsite. We both now believed that I would set a PCT record. In fact, we felt 100-percent sure that I would. This anticipation kept us motivated, and it gave us a great sense of accomplishment. Having Superman to share in the joy made the experience very meaningful.

Nameless Tentsite NOBO 2558

This post is from July 31, 2003.

We hiked about 40 miles today.

RayFillerScenery2

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

Early on July 31st, Superman and I reached the fast-moving Kennedy Creek. We’d been encountering quite a few bear tracks as of late. When Superman and I reached water, we scanned the area carefully before approaching, because we knew that bears would be even thirstier than we were. We’d seen some fresh tracks, but luckily no bears. Gray, glacial silt densely filled the opaque water. Sometime in the past year an avalanche and ensuing flood had wiped out the old bridge and no sign of it remained. The water level was far-too treacherous to contemplate crossing at the PCT. Having survived many dangerous fords in the Sierras, I approached the crossing lightly. The wrinkles on Superman’s forehead expressed much-greater concern. We’d planned to hike 40 miles today, and I didn’t want to waste time reconnoitering the area.
Superman and I walked upstream. Not too far from the PCT, we saw a thin log that nearly spanned the creek. Kennedy Creek raged a class-four river. The scale of the landscape out West became clearer to me now than ever before. Back East we didn’t have creeks turning into kayak-able rivers, except during 50-year floods. Whereas out West, huge natural disasters seemed to happen every year. I figured that someone had placed the log there at low water, and under those circumstances the log probably had served as a sturdy bridge.
“This looks like shit.”
“Agreed.”
Superman stepped onto the thin log anyway. While staring at it closely now for the first time, I saw that many of its branches had been cut off. The log was too thin, too slick, and too unstable. I watched it vibrate. When Superman attempted to balance himself with his trekking-poles, he found the current flowed too strongly for his poles to be of any use. They got swept out horizontally, even though he braced them with all his might. After a brave attempt Superman had gone forward only ten feet, and he retreated via unsafe, blind backpedaling.
“Fuckin’ hairy.”
I could see beads of sweat all over Superman’s face.
“I’m going to make the crossing,” I stated emphatically.
On this trip, whenever I made such a commitment, my decision was final. I would either make the crossing or fall in trying. Under no circumstances would I retreat. Superman didn’t bother trying to reason with me. He knew that doing so would be futile. Superman more than anyone understood my mental state.
“Good luck, Ray.”
After lengthening my telescoping trekking-poles, I took a good look at Superman. He stared at me. If I fell into the boiling glacial water, we didn’t know what would happen. The thought of my lungs filling with the ice-cold, gray water upset the hell out of me. The PCT controlled my destiny, perhaps for the final time. Gulping several breaths of air and summoning my courage, I made my way onto the thin bridge.
“Steady, Ray. You can do it,” Superman said.
Superman provided me much-needed encouragement.
“Fuckin’ narrow tree.”
“Yeah, I know. Take it easy. Slowly.”
“Okay, thanks.”
The tree rocked. I attempted to find the creek bottom with my trekking-poles to gain stability, as Superman had done. But, even though leaning over as far as possible and bracing my poles against the current, my effort came up short.
“I can’t believe how deep it is near the shore.”
“I don’t think it gets much deeper than that.”
“Shit.”
I took several big breaths. The water ran too fast and deep. While glancing down at the ever-changing river to see if I could utilize any rocks, I spotted a few that occasionally broke the surface. I poled onto them to help me balance.
“No, oh no!”
“You, okay?”
I couldn’t respond. Looking past the sides of the log in search of pole placements had created problems. It’d distracted me from my next foot placement. Secondly, it’d caused vertigo, because the current raced so swiftly. Staring at the silty river produced a sensation that I moved fast, while the water remained stationary. Despite my dizziness, I proceeded. My previous three steps had brought me past the point of a safe return. Had I made a big mistake? I dredged up all my courage and willpower to push out self-doubt.
“Come on, Ray! Steady. Steady now,” I said.
I used self-talk, as I’d done before to calm nerves.
“You’re doing great, Ray!” Superman shouted.
I stood only one foot above the water’s surface. The whitewater now splashed over the narrow log, making my bridge even slicker. The crux of the crossing lay in the next 15 feet. When the final trekking-pole placements disappeared behind me, my chance of losing it increased dramatically. I would go Wallenda-style the remainder of the way. I kept my hands firmly in the grips, as I reached my hands out to my sides in an effort to create a balancing pole. Extreme fatigue overwhelmed me. How long had I been out here? Although my balance had improved dramatically over the course of my hike, I still didn’t consider myself a funambulist.
“You need to move, Ray,” I said softly.
I became afraid that even speaking might throw me off balance.
“Move now, Ray!”
I heard Superman yell. My legs trembled. Don’t fall in now. Please, don’t fall in now. I stepped forward. My grips tightened even further on my balancing pole. The roar of the river and the distance between Superman and me now prevented me from hearing anything that he said. Had he shouted a warning? There was no way in hell that I could pivot. I couldn’t hear him. I bit my lower lip.
I sucked in another deep breath being careful not to move my head to either side. As I wobbled forward on the tapering tree, it then occurred to me that I could balance myself better by placing the trekking-pole tips on the tree itself. Why hadn’t I thought of that before? The hardened-steel tips on my poles had been ground down to stubs hundreds of miles earlier, so I couldn’t stick the blunt ends into the wood, but perhaps I could get a slight bite. 

While testing out my new solution, I reached forward with my right hand and placed the trekking-pole on the log just ahead of where I would step next. This method worked, and I moved forward slowly. When only about six feet from the shore, I saw that the tree had only three more usable feet. Fuck! I thought back to the time that I’d knocked Falcor accidently into a river in a similar situation. I prayed that Superman didn’t step out now. Need to move. My legs and feet were so battered that I couldn’t jump more than a few feet. I made one final firm foot placement and flung myself fast toward the shore. I landed painfully, but safely.
“Whew!”
I exhaled forcefully. Once on the shore I wiped my brow to prevent any more sweat from entering my eyes. When I turned around, I saw that Superman stood frozen, staring blankly. I couldn’t even imagine the thoughts that had gone through his mind during these difficult moments. The whitewater had prevented communication. I pumped my fist in the air.
I yelled, “Yeah, baby!”
Superman screamed, “Way to go, Ray!”
Superman probably felt relieved, but only for a moment. Having witnessed my hairy crossing, he wouldn’t consider attempting this feat a second time. How would he cross? I should have thought of that earlier. He stood too-far away to have a conversation. I watched as Superman went bushwhacking upstream, disappearing from my view around a corner. I walked downstream and rejoined the PCT, wondering how long he would be gone. The crossing had sucked away all my energy. Exhausted, I collapsed in a heap. When would the trail get safer? I prayed for that day.
I found a comfortable rock and sat there with trembling legs. From the mesh part of my G4, I pulled out a large bag of Fritos. As I devoured handfuls, I occasionally looked upstream for Superman. I wondered how he would make his way back down on the north side of the ford, as I now saw that a steep cliff fell to the river’s edge. Twenty minutes elapsed, but still no sign. I simply had to wait and hope for the best. Thoughts of making the dreaded call to his family drowned out everything else.
While I filled my stomach and calmed my nerves, a couple of hikers arrived at the south side of the ford. Based on their huge packs, I guessed that they were section-hikers. They shouted across to me, and I assumed had asked where I’d crossed. The noisy river and its width prevented me from hearing their voices clearly. I pointed upstream in the direction of my narrow-log bridge. They headed off in Superman’s direction while shaking their heads. As Superman had done, they soon disappeared. Would they find him? Ten minutes later an exhausted Superman returned. I saw blood on his legs. I got up and hurried over to him.
“Shit! What happened? Worried about you,” I said.
“I’m all right.”
“You’ve been gone a long while.”
“Had to bushwhack way upriver. There was no decent place to ford. I thought I was fucked. I broke off a small, straight sapling after a major effort. I wanted something green and flexible. I vaulted to land on a boulder mid-river.”
“You pole vaulted into the middle of a raging river with your pack on, and your landing pit was a wet boulder? Are you fuckin’ shittin’ me?”
Although the situation was incredibly serious, Superman’s account was so harrowing that I had to suppress laughter. The type of laughter that relieves tension. The fear on his face was overwhelming.
“I’d fuckin’ whitewater gushing all around me. You wouldn’t have believed it.”
“Oh, God.”
“From my boulder, I made a five-foot standing jump to the shore. And this lousy place was the best place that I found to cross by far,” Superman said, exasperated.
“There’s no way in hell that I could have done that, Paul. Unbelievable.”
“To be honest with you, what you did was actually safer.”
“Sergey Bubka couldn’t have done what you did.”
By now Superman and I had walked back to my boulder and were sitting down.
“Geez. That’s totally nuts,” I said.
“I hope we don’t encounter anything else like that. Crazy stuff. Was Mono or Evolution Creek that you told me about, as dangerous as this?”
“A slip there would have been fatal.”
“Fuck! I guess that’s why they call it Evolution Creek.”
Superman managed a small laugh, even though his nerves were frayed.
“What happened to your legs?”
“I scratched the shit out of them on a blowdown. Don’t worry, that’s the least of our problems.”
“Thank God that you made it.”
Superman and I rested for a few more minutes, his shirt completely drenched in sweat. His chest eventually stopped heaving. His legs were cut up and his feet drenched. After Superman finished one of his snacks and a few handfuls of my Fritos, we pushed on to make our daily miles. I couldn’t help but shake my head back-and-forth. Even though I’d made a harrowing crossing, I had chosen the safer route. If things got any more harrowing, we were going to need diapers. Superman had lived up to his trail name.
Our delay at Kennedy Creek meant hiking another 45 minutes in the dark tonight. At night, even with both of our headlamps on, we could travel at best only two-thirds of our daytime speed. I thought that by now all thru-hikers were at least two weeks behind me, and prayed that none of them would find Kennedy Creek at this high water level. I became concerned that Superman and I couldn’t make our resupply point on time. There was no way to contact our crew. We pushed hard. Once we did make it to Rainy Pass, there would be only 60 miles of the PCT left. Our penultimate day would be difficult, but our last day would be much shorter, than we’d planned originally. Although we desperately needed a break, Superman and I had no choice but to hike virtually non-stop to reach Rainy Pass on time.
The scenery impressed us during this difficult stretch. When the mountains allowed, the fabulous weather afforded us 100-mile views. We traveled over many passes and past dozens of beautiful lakes. Mica Lake at mile 2,527.2 housed bluish-green icebergs. A perfectly shaped evergreen “Christmas tree” floated on one berg. We wondered how the tree had come to be standing on top of the glistening ice.
Superman and I applied insect repellent liberally. We couldn’t slow down except for bathroom breaks and water refills. The bugs were bad, but didn’t rival their insanity-causing relatives in Sky Lakes. We’d planned for rain every day in Washington, so the perfect weather gave us a real boost. My journey was 98-percent complete, but Superman’s only 60-percent. In PCT terms he hadn’t made it out of California yet. Just as I’d done, he needed to confront his own demons.
The endless descents trashed our quads in the breath-taking North Cascades. We would reach the top of one pass, see no sign of mankind in any direction, and then plunge for hours down to a valley floor. As we descended mountainsides, the forests became denser and the trees larger. Temperatures and humidity soared. There were more berries on the bushes and more bear tracks.
Water flowed plentifully in the valleys. Superman and I drank as much water as we could at a beautiful pristine creek. We refilled our water containers there. We remained alert to bears. Saddled with heavy water loads, we headed toward another huge ascent. We oohed-and-aahed at the scale of this wilderness area. It stretched in every direction, as far as we could see. When we looked north, I felt for sure that sometimes we must be looking at Canada. The remoteness made the trail exceptionally beautiful, but also scary. If one of us had gotten injured, the other could do little to help in these undulating mountains.
Superman and I had been walking for many hours, when we arrived at another small creeklet crossing. This one appeared to be no different from any of the 20 or so that we’d forded recently, except for the fact that someone had placed a debarked log across it.
“This one’s even got a bridge,” Superman said.
“Ha-ha. Nice of someone to put that here. Lot of work.”
Superman led the way. When he stepped onto the two-foot-diameter log, his leg shot out from underneath him. I stared in horror with my mouth agape. An invisible film of slime had coated the stripped log. Superman began falling down the mountainside. Before I could say or do anything, I heard Superman scream.
“Fuck! No!”
Helplessly watching from behind, I couldn’t assist my best friend. I quickly reached out with a pole, but I’d been too slow. I couldn’t lose Superman! What about his family?
“No! Fuck! Noooo!”
Superman glanced downhill in the fraction of a second that he was permitted. A lance-like fallen tree waited to impale him. Like a knight in armor, his body went completely rigid. He hopped once leaning backward, and miraculously limboed, slipping beneath the lance. With saucer-wide eyes I couldn’t comprehend Superman’s gymnastic maneuver. If he’d been mortally wounded, what would I have done? Despite being horribly shaken, Superman rejoined the trail.
“What a fuckin’ save, Paul! I can’t believe it.”
“Yeah.”
In Superman’s state of shock, he could manage only one word. He shook his head from side-to-side.
Superman yelled, “Fuck.”
“You okay?”
“Yup,” he smiled.
The two of us shook our heads and smiled at each other in disbelief. Continuing onward in his state of shock, Superman made the same mistake, as he just had made.
“Nooooo!”
In the replay Superman slipped and lunged uphill to avoid the lance’s side of the trail. Luckily, the danger was far less in that direction, and he recovered quickly. His tirade expressed utter disgust and anger.
“Paul? Paul, are you all right?”
“Fuck no!”
Still slightly stunned, Superman walked directly through the creeklet, soaking his boots. Like a confused spectator forced onto the playing field, after shrugging my shoulders, I chose the safest of three bad options. My shoes emerged drenched, as I followed directly behind Superman. I wasn’t going to step on a greased log with a death trap set up below. The PCT could alter our lives in a second.

To reach Rainy Pass on August 1st by 9:00 PM, Superman and I couldn’t be more than 37 miles south of it on July 31st. If we could walk from 6:00 AM until 9:00 PM at two-and-a-half miles per hour, this plan would give us 15 hours of hiking time for a total of 37.5 miles. Since we usually started hiking around 5:30 AM, our plan provided a little insurance, too. We achieved our mileage on the last day of July, but we hiked a couple of hours after dark to do so. Superman and I settled on a less-than-desirable campsite in the black of night.
Superman made an incredible effort to put in the miles that I needed. The mountainous terrain challenged him, as did the hot temperatures. His feet ached, and his body absorbed lots of punishment. Superman never complained once, but I could tell that he’d gone way past his limits. We’d taken a lot of big risks. I didn’t want him to have to take any more. How many more times could we count on Lady Luck?
Paul needed checkpoints along the trail, so that his mind could persuade his body into pushing a short, doable distance. The knowledge that another goal had been reached, helped his mental state. I used Volume II to provide him carrots. Whenever we made a wrong turn, Paul’s morale suffered a catastrophic blow. I did my best to keep us on track.

Baekos Creek NOBO 2518

This post is from July 30, 2003.

Today we hiked about 38 miles.

CrossingBaekosCreek2CrossingBaekosCreek1

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

Superman and I hiked in the midst of the warmest and driest summer in over 100 years in Washington State. He drank enormous volumes of water. Each ice-cold stream brought him relief. Superman drank twice the quantity that I drank, and I continued to eat twice the quantity of food that he ate. Our average speed during this stretch computed out to two-and-a-half miles per hour. So, to go 40 miles, assuming no wrong turns, we needed to hike 16 hours. I became concerned that we wouldn’t make our resupply rendezvous.
Being on my feet for 16 hours hurt a great deal. The only way that I could manage this was to ignore my pain. Adding the time that Superman and I spent on bathroom breaks, acquiring water, camp set up and tear down, eating, map consulting, and hiker encounters to the 16 hours that we spent on walking, didn’t leave a lot of time for sleeping. We made the best of our situation, though.
The night after we left Stevens Pass, we reached Baekos Creek. We descended in the darkness to a campsite near the creek. The steep descent fatigued us. As I erected the Squall, Superman obtained creek water. We’d passed several pairs of hikers on the way. Some of them planned to hike to Manning Park―our final destination. They would provide us with some security. If we’d a major problem along the PCT, they would be coming along behind us. For most of the summer, I was too far ahead of those behind me to enjoy such a safety blanket.

Superman and I both slept well at Baekos Creek. In the morning the little bridge spanning the creek meant dry feet. Starting a day with wet shoes and socks always made for an even longer day. Although we never really discussed it, we knew that for the remainder of the hike we needed to wake up shortly after 5:00 AM. Superman and I wouldn’t be getting the proper amount of rest until we reached Canada. The great weather created great views. This combination helped ease our pains. Reaching 5,710-foot Wards Pass at mile 2,500.6, marked another big milestone for me.
Each time that Superman and I saw Mount Rainier, which I’d passed very close to near Chinook Pass at mile 2,327.5, we would say in unison “Enjoy it. That’s the last view of Rainier.” Amazingly, with the tremendous visibility and clear skies, we still saw Mount Rainier from near the summit of the 6,500-foot Reds Pass at mile 2,510.0. Mother Nature gave us a show. The massive peaks in Washington popped straight up through the earth’s crust and reached skyward, held down only by huge sheets of ice. The extraordinary views of Glacier Peak uplifted us. Superman and I would have loved to have climbed on nearby glaciers, but instead we focused on going north. If our lives permitted, we promised ourselves that we would come back here.

Steven’s Pass++ NOBO 2476

This post is from July 29, 2003.

We hiked about 32 miles today.

Here are some shots of the scenery today:

This is a photo of the Ray and me with some of the crew that resupplied us at Steven’s Pass very late in the day:

StevensPass

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

Superman rose early and planned to reconnoiter for the PCT near Deep Lake. When he was gone, a deer meandered into camp. The healthy, unconcerned doe sauntered within touching distance of me and didn’t blink. I marveled at her beauty. Would she get shot during hunting season? Enjoy life now, while you can. Although I never heard of a deer smiling, this one smiled at me. This lovely encounter stirred my passions. Superman was gone a long time. Too long? When Superman finally returned, it took him a moment to catch his breath.
“Morning. What did you find?” I asked.
“We’ve gone past the PCT. Good thing that we stopped last night when we did.”
“Bummer. Glad you found the trail, though.”
“It’s not too far. Let me rearrange my pack a bit.”
“Sure. I’m just about packed up.”
“Okay.”
Superman took a drink. As he made final preparations, I snacked. After a short hike we reached the ford at the outlet to Deep Lake. Our shoes got wet on this ford, since the water level exceeded the height of the stones which someone had placed at two-foot intervals across the creek. The rock bridge allowed us to keep our socks dry, though.
Superman and I hiked hard, passing a number of northbound hikers. Our goal was to reach Stevens Pass at mile 2,471.6 by 6:30 PM, where we would meet our resupply crew―Honey, Laurel, Lois, and Mac. This stop would mark the first time that I hadn’t resupplied on my own. Our timing looked good. Superman and I flew down a long, dusty descent that led to a ski-area parking lot. We arrived at 7:00 PM. Our crew met us there, as we emerged from the woods. It was hugs and smiles all around.
Paul and I filled our friends in on the details of our journey. Our team carried out folding chairs for us. I felt like a boxer resting in my corner. We’d been beaten up by the PCT, but we would recover and come out swinging in the next round. Our crew made us sandwiches, filled our water containers, and gave us to-go bags of grapes and cherries.
In addition to Superman’s and my basic needs of food and drink, our crew provided us with much-needed love, encouragement, and good cheer. While they’d been waiting for us to arrive, they’d talked to some other hikers. That conversation had helped them to understand our needs better. They unselfishly gave to us. We felt extremely grateful. As darkness encroached, we crowded around for some group photos. Our friend Mac, who was 79-years old at the time and had suffered back trouble for decades, inspired me greatly, when he picked up my fully loaded pack and put it on my back. We swigged some sodas. Everyone exchanged warm hugs with us.
“Great to see you guys. Thanks for coming out here. This has been an incredible help,” I said.
“Glad we could make it.”
“Nice to see you both.”
“Likewise.”
“Take care.”
“Good-bye. Be safe.”
“Good-bye.”
“Thanks a million. Good-bye.”
“Good luck, Ray, Paul.”
“Thanks, bye everyone.”
Superman and I crossed Highway 2 at 8:00 PM in search of the darkening northbound trail. Mac had told us to expect hot and dry weather for the duration of our hike. We’d learned that the large blaze burning in Northern Washington was a long-way east of the trail. If the PCT had been closed due to fire danger, my judgment would have been severely tested. Would I have tried to push through anyway? Would I’ve taken big risks? Thank goodness that Superman was there to keep me somewhat rational. We planned to talk through any tough decisions and reach a compromise.

Bloated from our heavy feed, Superman and I trudged along slowly. We carried heavy loads, too. Even though my stomach bulged, I ate my grapes and cherries, spitting the seeds off trail. The dense brush obscured all viable targets. Unlike in the Rogue River area, I’d nothing at which to aim. Superman decided to save his fruit until the next day. Since the blackberry bushes looked full, we figured that bears wouldn’t bother us over a bag of fruit.
My schedule called for us to hike to Bridge Creek at mile 2,577.3 in three days. The original goal called for a resupply at Stehekin River Road at mile 2,569.3. Our revised plan called for a resupply at Rainy Pass’s Highway 20 at mile 2,589.1, about 20 miles farther. We hoped to arrive there on August 1st by 9:00 PM. When we left Stevens Pass, the intent was to hike six more miles that night, but we came up short. This fact meant that we needed to cover 115 trail miles in the next three days. In the rugged and unfamiliar terrain, this distance would test us.

Deep Lake NOBO 2444

This post is from July 28, 2003.

We hiked about 35 miles today.

Here are some shots of the scenery today:

The following is an excerpt covering this day taken from the 2018 edition of “The Pacific Crest Trail: Its Fastest Hike”   [click here to view book] (note that at that time Ray had given me the trail name SUPERMAN. I have used TARman since my 2013 Total Ankle Replacement)”:

Superman woke up just after 5:00 AM. He must have been sore from the previous day’s climbs, but because of his mental toughness and his focus on me, he didn’t complain. Once we got going, I described Fish’s and my routine to him―eating dinner at 6:00 PM or so, and then continuing to hike until the day’s miles had been completed. Superman liked the plan.

Superman and I hiked through gorgeous mountains and enjoyed phenomenal weather. In one rocky area we circled a mountainside and saw a handful of mountain goats. Seeing these wild beasts in nature touched me. Superman carried a disposable camera with 25 exposures.

While maneuvering around, we tried to frame a good shot with the goats. These wise-looking animals acted shy, but we succeeded.
The PCT traversed huge avalanche areas. The goats moved with ease on the uneven rocky surfaces, but we twisted and turned our ankles. While whistling their warning calls, marmots ducked in-and-out of jagged-rock formations. Superman taught himself to imitate their language perfectly. His marmot conversations made me laugh. They were too clever for him to get any close-up shots, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
The section between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass is a popular two-week backpacking trip. We wanted to hike it in two days. When we met hikers en route, we all shared personal and trail information. Although our conversations were brief, we bonded with other hikers quickly. We wished them well, and vice versa. Superman and I met more people already in his first full day than I’d encountered in a typical two weeks.
Because the temperatures in Northern Washington far exceeded those in Southern Maine, the heat bothered Superman. We frequently crossed rivers, and obtained drinking water as needed. Superman would splash water on his face or dip his shirt at most crossing. I couldn’t imagine water being a problem for the remainder of the trek. Superman and I carried minimal loads of water.
As my trip drew to a close, I became less concerned about giardia and Larry Sr.’s warning. If I contracted giardia now, the symptoms wouldn’t manifest themselves until I’d finished the PCT. For some reason I didn’t seem to care what happened to me then. I no longer bothered to treat water from streams. Fiddlehead always drank directly from streams, and now I followed his practice.
Superman had lived all over the world, including in many Third World countries. He considered himself to be immune to any bacteria. He always drank the water without treating it. He savored clear, icy-cold water. We agreed that iodized water tasted like crap. As Superman and I continued northward, we approached a place that Volume II described as a “chilly tarn.”
“Wanna take a dip,” I said half-jokingly.
“I’m sure this is warmer than what I’m used to in Maine.”
“All right, let’s head over there,” I said.
I pointed to a friendly looking set of rocks at the edge of the tarn.
“Sounds good. Let’s grab a snack. I want to pick up some water.”
“Sure.”
The chilly tarn was at mile 2,425.6. High, craggy, snowy peaks surrounded the beautiful bowl. We stripped in the hot sun and jumped in naked.
“Fuck that’s cold,” I said.
“Ever swim in Maine?”
“Oh, come on.”
“I’m serious.”
“Ha-ha.”
Superman and I both laughed ourselves silly. The cold didn’t seem to affect him. In an effort to keep warm, I thrashed around. Since I failed, I would be getting out soon. The water temperature in my pool in Savannah reaches 90 °F, so the snow-melt tarn almost stopped my heart. I washed my privates and scrubbed at my legs. I vigorously rinsed my hair and beard. We enjoyed the swim. Superman relaxed. Would this be the only swim that we’d time for? I stayed in a bit longer.
While I re-bandaged my feet, Superman and I sunned ourselves. We snacked and drank.
“This is the life, eh?” I asked.
“Yeah, sure beats working.”
“Gotta love it out here.”
“Spectacularly beautiful, Ray. Thanks for bringing me out here.”
“No, thank you.”

This is me after our swim in the chilly tarn:

ChillyTarn
After our enjoyable repose we hiked north, continuing through rugged country. Eventually, we sat down for dinner on the heavily creosoted Waptus River Bridge at mile 2,433.4. I reasoned that fewer bugs flew near the middle of the river. Although the strong-smelling bridge bothered us, we ate dinner there. I guessed right about the bugs.
Superman only ate about half the quantity of food that I did. He still had some reserves, but I looked like skin and bones. My schedule called for us to camp near the Waptus River, but we pushed on toward Deep Lake. When accompanied by a friend, I felt comfortable using my headlamp, so we night-hiked, more than I’d done alone. Having two lights gave us redundancy in case of an emergency.
In the late-evening darkness, Superman and I came to a trail junction. Off to our right campers partied around a roaring fire. Much of the woods in the Northwest faced burning restrictions because of extreme dryness. The rangers at Snoqualmie had told me that no fires were permitted. Of course, I never had planned to have a fire at any time during my hike. I didn’t even have the means to start a fire. We hoped that the campers would take good care of their fire. We branched to the left. The pitch blackness prevented us from knowing if this trail was the PCT or a spur. This fact necessitated camping soon. After crossing a large meadow, we arrived at Deep Lake.
Relying 100 percent on our lights, we erected the Squall close to the lake shore. The stakes went in easily, as the ground was almost mud. Amazingly, even with the damp ground, the bugs barely affected us. I set up my bag in the Squall first and Superman followed. He felt exhausted. After a brief chat we went to sleep.