A juniper branch and fog hanging over Deschutes River Canyon, this morning.
Today the weather was perfect and the snow was fresh from the recent storm. We skied from the Mount Bachelor parking lot into the broken top bowl and up to 9,000 feet on the ridge below the summit. The ridge was steep and we put our skis on our backs and boot packed the final push up to the top of the ridge. The trip ended up being 15 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing. I was elated to get farther up onto Broken Top and get out with a larger crew of backcountry skiers!
I created this 36 inch wide collage with photographs from an old "advanced" photography instructional book. The book had wild, surreal photos that were created before the Photoshop era.
Today friends and I skied into the Broken Top Wilderness. Our 13 mile loop brought us over Moon Mountain, the Summit of Ball Butte, and up the south east shoulder of Broken Top. Conditions were icy and challenging but it was a beautiful day in the Oregon Wilderness.
I'm back in Bend after a long, cold shift at work in the high desert. I created this collage today. The design is inspired by the sacred medicine wheel symbol, common to many American Indian peoples. The portraits are from a photo ethnography of the Sioux and Apsaroke peoples.
Tumalo is a small mountain 20 minutes from Bend and just east of Mount Bachelor. It is a popular backcountry skiing spot. We skinned to the summit, got an amazing view of the Sisters Range and got a few early season runs on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
I climbed for the first time today at this world famous rock climbing location near my home in Bend. My friend Phil Samaha lead climbs over the Crooked River in this photo.
Portraits with "trail names" of fellow 2013 PCT thru-hikers. I hiked with each of these amazing folk at some point during the summer! On the top row are Wabash (Vermonter Casey Gannon) and Lorax who I hiked over half the trail with - I am Miracle Zen. Fantastic photographers and human beings - Wildcat and Baxter (who got engaged on trail) took these photos and captioned them! You can view their blog baxterandkitten.wordpress.com here. Miss you all!
One of the stunning western views on the drive to Oregon.
When I'm not hiking I work as a freelance designer helping clients meet their needs through a range of services. Since I finished the Pacific Crest Trail I designed a website for visual artist Amy Sabrin (click to view her site).
I've been driving across the country to my new home in Bend Oregon. I got to take a break from driving today and ride the Mount Helena Ridge Trail.
Casey and I posted short videos every few weeks from the trail. We called them "Only the Essential" webisodes and we hope they can give a taste of the movie we are producing about our Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikes. This webisode features footage from my final few weeks on trail. Click here to visit vimeo and view our other videos from our Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.
I have found it difficult to summarize or even describe to friends and family "what it was like" on the Pacific Crest Trail. I think as the days go by and I put more time and space between myself and the trail I can begin to more deeply reflect on what this experience really represented and bestowed upon me. I recently wrote this post for Muscles Not Motors. I hope these words can more closely convey the emotion, power and rhythm of a summer spent walking in the wild.
On September 6th I completed a 2668 mile thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. All I have now are fleeting glimpses of the beauty, joy and adversity of the “getting there”:
I touch the tall-corrugated metal fence of the U.S. side of the Mexican border, turn and step northward without an idea of what is ahead; beaten by relentless desert sun, learn to value shade as dearly as food and water, sleep under a bridge, pass the next day curled up under the shade of a sage bush; become nocturnal and walk on silver sand reflecting the full midnight moon; cowboy camp under the diamond stars.
A six foot rattlesnake boils in a pot of yellow broth on a fire of pine sticks; thirty mile dry stretch, water fixates body and mind; sleep in an “empty” campground, nearly run over by drunk in a pickup truck at 2 AM; walk for days through blackened skeletons of trees torched by ravenous fires of summers past; a coyote and I cross paths, we pause and glide away.
I climb from the dry, desolate expanses of Southern California onto the mighty plateau of the High Sierras, into its rich, deep, wet folds and onto its snowy crests; the first light of dawn greets me on the highest point of the continental U.S.; cross a crystalline stream reflecting sunshine, trout darting upstream, pause, reach under a rock and feel the wild wriggles in my hand, pluck the golden trout from the stream and its bright eye catches mine for a moment before it returns to the torrent; a yellow-bellied marmot oblivious to my presence on a 12,000 foot pass gazes out on the earth far below; a hundred mosquitoes simultaneously suck my blood and my sanity; last rays of sun catch a bald eagle’s arc above an alpine lake; lightning, hail, then a blizzard at 11,000 feet, cross waist-deep torrents in 40 degree rain.
Wake at dawn and walk till dusk; the endless forest begins to dull my mind and spirit, I am a machine, my body strengthens and forty miles pass beneath my feet in a day; deer browsing feet away serve as my alarm clock; a cinnamon-colored bear raises its head in the brush and for a moment we freeze before it crashes off; then I finally reach a sign that tells me I am no longer in California.
Seven days of wildfire smoke chokes my lungs and vision; a solitary 24th birthday; wake to rain drops on my face at 5 AM, time to start hiking; a stranger hands me a trout, a beer and a bag of groceries, pure generosity, pure gratitude; realize one day that the shirt on my back has transformed into nothing more than a shredded rag; trip, limp, run, walk across Oregon and the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River.
Munch on snow in August, three mountain goats lounge on a snow field a thousand feet below; grace the shoulders of massive glaciers and descend into the primeval creases of a humbling rugged land; rain begins to fall, ceases, returns, then mist, cloud and sun again; six elk pause as I round a bend in the trail, I pause, five minutes pass then I inch forward, the herd explodes into motion, snorting, thundering into the woods; rain falls colder each day, summer is ending with August; shin splint, searing pain, keep walking, almost there now; last night before the border, all-night monsoon and thunderstorm; next day lightning cracks above the ridge and hail begins to fall as I crest the final pass and begin the descent to the border; three hours of cold rain, early hypothermic shivers, I begin to run, I round a corner and there it is.
Nearly five months of hiking have brought me 2,660 miles northward from the United States-Mexico border across California, Oregon and Washington State. A wooden monument stands in the middle of a 10 foot wide clear-cut that marks the border from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans. The ground is covered in hail, the dark green pines shimmer with afternoon downpour, the sky is grey, cold and quiet. The chill rain has broken for the last few minutes, welcoming me to the end of this incomprehensible summer. Fellow thru-hiker Spoons and I scream wildly, we hug each other, we kiss the monument, we fall silent, our hearts still pumping with adrenaline, and all is quiet and still again. The journey is done and we don’t know what to say, what to think, or what to do. There is no great realization, no epiphany, no feeling of bliss – I understand that these moments rested in the life of the journey, not in its ending.
Complete strangers offered countless rides, sodas, beers, meals, words of support and random acts of kindness. On the trail I made some of the most unlikely friends and met some of the most determined, unique, intelligent and kindly people I have ever known. I hiked with Swiss, Germans, Canadians, Brits, Israelis, Scots, French and New Zealanders. We laughed, cried, danced, swore, spit, slept under stars, woke wet and cold, but mostly just walked. I wore my shoes until they fell apart and then wore through four more pairs. I felt bored, felt crazy, felt exhausted, but somehow never once did I wake up and think, “I don’t want to hike today”. I dropped out of society during the longest summer of my life, put all my heart, soul and strength into something that my culture sees as useless. I performed a feat without any concrete value, that most folks can’t quite seem to grasp. Somehow with each day I fell more in love with the wild, with the journey, with humanity. And people must have seen this in me, for if they couldn’t understand what drove me, they saw the grin on my face that neither rain, nor boredom, nor pain, nor loneliness could seem to wipe away.
Two of my good friends from the University of Vermont, Tad Cooke and Erick Crockenberg, are leading a plan to reclaim the Burlington Waterfront's abandoned Moran Power Plant and revitalize it as a community hub community for the
arts, energy innovation, local food and waterfront recreation. Click here to visit their Kickstarter page to learn more and donate.
NPR recently featured a story on the Pacific Crest Trail on all things considered! One of my friends and fellow hikers was interviewed as well as the incredible Dinsmores - the last trail angels I stayed with on my hike.
I am back in Vermont, visiting home for a few weeks before I make the move out to my new home in Bend, Oregon. One nice thing about being off the Pacific Crest Trail is that I have the time and tools to work on art. I was inspired to create a collage using images from an old coffee table book "The Sea Around Us" - authored by the famous environmentalist writer Rachel Carson. The composition is inspired by pre-digital split focus rings.
On September 6th I walked into Canada after 2660 miles and nearly 5 months on the Pacific Crest Trail. Washington was in general a challenging section. Frequent rain, huge climbs and a tiring body. The final night on trail was marked by a nine hour downpour and thunder storm. My final day of hiking was even more challenging. One quarter mile section of scree took us more than an hour to scramble through and contained five deep gullies (5-15 foot sheer walls) that had been washed out earlier in August by a major storm. The final climb of the trail crested at 7000 feet at which point hail began to fall and lightning started striking nearby. It poured the final three hours as I descended to the Canadian border. The rain broke at 4:30 PM just as the monument marking the Northern Terminus came into view. We celebrated for about a half an hour at which point it began to pour again and we walked eight more miles to the lodge at Manning Park in British Columbia. I arrived at the lodge in the dark, thoroughly soaked but without a care in the world and the hike was over. It has been a little unsettling to no longer be moving north each day but I am also ready for a rest. I loved every minute of the trail and can say with certainty that this was the best summer of my life! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue my dream. Thank you so much to all who supported my journey!
Yesterday we were surprised to discover that the Pacific Crest Trail section that we were hiking on was the site of the Cascade Crest Ultra Marathon, a 100 mile trail running race. The race organizers urged us to help ourselves at the food stations (backcountry buffets) that were stationed every eight miles along the trail. We were keeping a good pace with the competitors, enjoying the bountiful food and having fun so we decided to continue on the race course after it veered off the PCT at mile 50 - we dropped our packs at an aid station and decided to try and finish the race. I ended up dropping out at 4 AM. At this point I had covered 62 miles in 20 hours and while my energy level was great, I was worried about knee pain that I was experiencing. As my primary goal is finishing the PCT and joining the race was a spur of the moment decision I decided to play it safe. My friends Roger Dodger and Spoons continued in the race and crossed the finish line after 31 hours! I couldn't be more proud of these fellow PCT thru-hikers and thankful of our spontaneous decision to jump into this crazy challenge! I can't wait to run a 100 this fall and this time not carry a 25 pound pack for the first 41 miles! I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the Cascade Crest Race who warmly invited us to jump in and all the wonderful volunteers who fed and took care of us during the long day and night!
I am now half way across Washington and less than 270 miles remain till Canada. I hope to finish the Pacific Crest Trail with 10 days!
Yesterday I descended 5,000 feet from the base of Mt. Hood to the Columbia River. Today I crossed the Bridge of the Gods, marking my departure from Oregon and arrival in Washington State. I'm pleased to have arrived in Washington earlier than I expected, since the northern Cascades have a reputation for heavy rain and snow storms in early fall. 500 miles remain until Canada, and I hope to reach the northern terminus in early September before the weather becomes challenging.
It's hard to grasp that I've finally reached this point in my hike. I'm happy that the end is in sight, but it's also bittersweet to be close enough to the end to see that this summer's immersion in nature is finite.
I don't anticipate being able to post from the trail in Washington State, so hopefully the next time you hear from me will be in Canada.