2753 Miles and 140 Days in 15 Minutes of Eye Candy


Whiskers Gone Walkabout - PCT 2015 from Whiskers on Vimeo.

Obviously watching this full screen would probably enhance the viewing experience. But hey, HYOH!

Finished, Finally, Mostly, At Last

           This writing is my attempt to capture who I was for a stretch of moments in a stretch of place. Some bits may not be factual, but it will all be as true as I can make it. It will not be a chronological accounting of my days but will instead be my impressions of the trail and my place in a world which exists alongside this one but impossibly far away.
In the beginning, a decade ago, I heard about the AT, the Appalachian Trail. 2200 miles of bucket list punishment winding from Georgia to Maine. The more I read about it the more it seemed like my sort of thing. It’s long and arduous but doesn’t require any sort of masterful expertise. It’s just walking. I got so excited about it that I even went so far as to buy a custom down sleeping quilt and fill a spreadsheet full of gear data. I bought a sewing machine and learned to sew just so I could make my own tarp-tent, ditty bags, rain jacket, and anything else I could dream up. I made alcohol stoves and read gear reviews and could have spoken at length about the pros and cons of a wide variety of outdoor fabrics.
And that was it. I never did anything else. Life got in the way, or rather, I turned away from any sort of actual thru-hiking plan. Ten years later found me working in the oilfields of North Dakota. The price of oil had been dropping for months and work was slowing. Some days I’d get to my truck at 5am and sit in it till 11 waiting on a dispatch before going home. Things had gotten stale between my girlfriend and I. We shared a bed, we were polite and respectful, but we lived life separately.  
One bitterly cold day in late January “why not?” slipped into my psyche. At first it was just a quiet question and when I could produce no viable counter-argument it became a gut-punch of excitement and anxiety. I re-researched gear, I bought an Appalachian Trail guidebook, I mentioned it to a few close friends. Then one day, lost in youtube trail porn, I stumbled on a 90 minute video of two best friends on the Pacific Crest Trail. I watched them walk through spiny plants and crumbling dirt. I watched them turn shaggy as they climbed up into snow capped peaks and danced across icy streams. I watched them disappear amid old, lichen covered trees like rare woodland creatures. That was all it took. The scenes they captured, the immense variety of terrain and weather unfolding as they walked told me that if I was going to attempt just one trail, the PCT should be it.
            I dug out all my gear; the homemade, the store-bought, everything. With all the time and money I’d spent the previous decade collecting, collating, and categorizing a plethora of outdoors accoutrements surely a quick order to REI would fulfill all possible needs. What I found out was, of course, the opposite. Even the simplest homemade gear didn’t seem as robust and reliable as I'd need, ‘If that stuff sack fails, well, some Boy Scout troop will discover my body years hence and I will become nothing more than a cautionary tale told around campfires.' 
            The custom down quilt, my lawn mowing hat, and a toothbrush I sawed the handle off of were about the only things I already owned that would make the trip. Everything else, from tent and pack to sunglasses and socks, was replaced. And as far as REI went, a titanium spoon, long underwear, and  a water filter I would discard after a month and a half were the only appropriate gear they seemed to offer. Everything else came from either expensive cottage industry businesses or Walmart.
            And then, faster than I was really ready for, I was on a plane to San Diego and wondering if it was too late to go back to North Dakota.
             For the sake of simplicity I’ve divided this blog into separate pages rather than a bunch of posts. They are organized in chronological order in the header above beginning with the desert. If you have any questions or feedback at all please feel free to email me through the form to the right, or message me on Facebook, or just tap me on the shoulder while we're walking down some dusty trail.