Goat Rocks



Seems like everybody always goes on and on about how the Goat Rocks Wilderness is spectacular, gorgeous, and, well, spectacularly gorgeous (ad nauseam); many say it’s the most scenic spot on the whole PCT. I went through that stretch today with perfect weather. Though it certainly was beautiful, I guess the buildup had raised my expectations to such high levels that they were hard to exceed; it was a pretty cool section of trail, but no match for the Sierra…

Honestly, I was just as happy to see the Kracker Barrel, a convenience store at White Pass, after 24.2 miles of steep and rocky terrain. What has this trip done to me? (Don’t answer!) In any case, I’m more than a quarter of the way through Washington after walking 150 miles in five days. Onward and northward.

The Death Stare


I’m cowboy camped on a spectacular saddle tonight, looking over the snowy Goat Rocks, after a 32.5-mile day through the forest.

This morning I came around a corner to find a couple with two dogs taking a rest break. The woman was squatting with pants down, about one foot off the trail, and both dogs instantly charged me so aggressively that I thought they’d tear my legs off. Don’t people realize that they’re on a public trail? That whole group definitely got my silent death stare…

Mount Adams


Taking advantage of good weather while it lasts, I hiked 30.6 miles to camp on a ridgetop flanking Mount Adams today. It’s a pretty sweet spot: from my tent’s door flap, I can look out over endless mountaintops, backlit by the setting sun.

And some exciting news: I’ve been hired to work at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, in the remote Amazon lowlands of eastern Ecuador, from early January to mid-April! I’ll be helping a PhD student with a field project involving Wedge-billed Woodcreepers and mixed flocks, logging a lot of time in the jungle. After spending last winter in Costa Rica, I’m looking forward to dodging another one in the tropics! Got a few more miles to hike first, though…

Sunny September


Happy September! The forecast calls for sunny, warm weather through the rest of this week. It just needs to hold a little longer…

I walked 30.9 miles into the Indian Heaven Wilderness today, where the mosquitoes are as voracious as ever, and camped with Todd, a recent Stanford graduate in plastic surgery specializing in hands (which are, apparently, a tricky business, between the trauma victims, congenital diseases, webbed fingers, stitching big toes in place of thumbs, stuff like that). I’m now seeing cougars in every shadow out here, but otherwise am healthy and in good spirits.

Mountain Lion #2



While hiking alone early this afternoon, I rounded a bend to find a Mountain Lion sitting calmly on the trail about 40 feet away. The big cat took a minute to notice, then, unfazed, just gazed at me curiously while I stared right back in amazement. What to do?

I took some photos, then, thinking vaguely like a matador, unpacked my silver umbrella in case the kitty was feeling feisty (no big deal). And… well, we kept staring at each other, neither of us budging, for almost ten full minutes. I checked out every whisker through my new Leica binoculars – awesome! Finally he looked away, stretched, rose to his feet, and padded silently down the trail, quickly disappearing around the next corner. You couldn’t ask for a much closer encounter – definitely more satisfying than my first one, back in northern California. Today, I beat that Mountain Lion in a staring contest, face to face.

Otherwise, I hiked 30.0 miles, climbed 5,000 feet and descended nearly as much, and camped by a sweet river with Sniper and Todd. I have now walked farther than the length of the entire Appalachian Trail – but still have 500 miles to go. It feels good to be in Washington.



After a cold night of whipping fog at Indian Springs, I hurried 15.7 miles down a 4,000-foot drop this morning to Cascade Locks, the Washington border, and a night at Best Western! It took me 20 days to walk the length of Oregon (457 miles), including a four-day injury timeout; with luck, the remaining 510 miles across Washington will go just as fast.

I took a spectacular route today down Eagle Creek, used by most PCT hikers in this section, highlighted by a series of incredible waterfalls. While admittedly a bit jaded by scenic vistas after 2,150 miles of continuous hiking, I thought Tunnel Falls was pretty cool – the trail had been blasted out of solid rock across a vertical cliff, right behind the torrent, with at least seven American Dippers lurking just downstream.

Fall Is Coming…


I looked down on fog-filled valleys all day, smug in my alpine sunshine, until the fog lifted to my elevation in late afternoon, the temperature dropped, the wind sprang up, and I was left scrambling to set up my tent with shivering fingers as darkness set in early. It had been a while since I actually felt cold – and Washington promises lots of mist and moisture ahead. Just hope the weather holds for three more weeks; the climate has been been pretty much perfect for this entire hike – so far.

I walked 29.3 bland, forested miles today between Mount Hood and an abandoned campground at Indian Springs, setting myself up for a short day into Cascade Locks tomorrow. Looking forward to some rest and civilization.

Timberline Lodge


This afternoon I walked in to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, sat down in the third-story bar, and ordered a sandwich plate, a chili bread bowl, and an amber ale with another hiker named Dewy. What a treat! We stuck around long enough for the janitor to show us a photo album of his snow biking, kite boarding, and white water rafting adventures (serious stuff – the guy had spent $8,000 on bikes alone, welding the frames himself), then waddled just far enough to camp past the ski lifts after a 22.3-mile day. I’m now watching the grooming machine do laps on the upper slopes, still open for skiing.

I was laboring up the last steep mile before the lodge, through soft sand, head down, when a couple of day-hikers ahead of me exclaimed, “Oh look, a Turkey Vulture!” I glanced up in time to catch a subadult Golden Eagle cruising past – way more unusual than a vulture in these parts… Glad they spotted it! I guess day-hikers are useful for some things ;)

Easy Trail


I walked 35.3 miles through beautifully lush, green, and snow-free forest today, on nearly perfect, soft, pine-needly trail the whole way. It felt good to set the cruise control for a while, not worrying about my knee.

In the morning I walked with a semi-retired radiologist from Maine, on his first day of a section hike (hi Robin!), and in the afternoon I met two southbound section hikers who recognized me from this blog (hi Don and Richard!), but I didn’t see any other through-hikers today. At least I *think* not; twice in the last two nights I’ve been passed by a mysterious pair of hikers around 9:30 pm, two hours after dark – who is walking that late, and why?

Day 100



I awoke this morning to the sound of a Common Poorwill calling outside my tent (decidedly rare west of the Cascade crest), so I grabbed my iPhone, turned it on, and broadcast a poorwill recording while still inside my sleeping bag, just before dawn. Apparently it was loud enough, since the poorwill immediately fluttered in to land next to my stash of day-old pizza, sitting about four feet from my tent’s door flap.

That kicked the morning off to a good start, and I walked a steady 29.7 miles, passing close by Mount Jefferson around lunchtime. Today’s oddest moment happened suddenly when I surprised another hiker while she was, er, taking care of serious business, pants down, full moon showing… two feet from the trail! Yuck. Hope I never get that lazy!

Two Thousand Miles!



Early this morning, Day 99, I found a small rock cairn and some sticks arranged on the trail, spelling out “2,000” in the dirt – the two thousand mile mark! (Even better, a Three-toed Woodpecker posed quietly nearby: trip bird #168).

My dad met me at Santiam Pass around midday and we spent more than four hours celebrating in a parking lot there with cheesecake, blueberries, pizza, a picnic table, and a pit toilet – who needs anything else? When he headed home, I hiked north with a heavy pack into the evening, logging 26.9 miles to camp on a high saddle north of Three Fingered Jack. Should be at Timberline Lodge, on Mount Hood, in about four days.

Lava, Lightning, & A Legend



Lots of interesting scenery today as I walked 24.4 miles past alpine terrain along the Three Sisters, across Highway 242 at McKenzie Pass, and through several miles of lava fields to the base of Mount Washington. Some trail angels at Lava Camp fed me ravioli, chocolate, and soda while I waited out a thunderstorm there in late afternoon – thanks guys!

Approaching dusk, I recognized a southbound hiker from PCT legend – Scott Williamson (AKA Bink), a thirty-something tree-trimmer from Truckee who has, among other things, hiked the trail 14 times, yo-yo’d it twice, and set the all-time speed record two years ago (62 days). He stopped to chat for a few minutes, saying he left Canada on August 8, just 18 days ago (!), and is on pace to finish the entire trail, southbound, in 65 days, averaging 40 miles/day (today he did 43). Makes my four-month, 22 mile/day average seem mighty slow by comparison!

South Sister


Nope, didn’t climb it, just walked past it. But after a couple days of mosquitoey forest, I wasn’t quite prepared for the beauty of South Sister when I popped out next to it in low-angled sunlight late this afternoon, near the end of a 30.5-mile day (my knee has improved – thanks for all the encouragement!).

Perhaps my greatest highlight today, though, was a rare bird – a male Williamson’s Sapsucker at Horseshoe Lake, just inside Lane County (my home!) where the species has been recorded fewer than ten times. The buzz of discovery kept me going for hours…

Familiar Ground


Heading north from Willamette Pass this morning, I was on familiar ground past Maiden Peak, Waldo Lake, and the Taylor Burn – all places I’ve looked for birds in summers past, and close to home. Today, my mission was a bit different: to hike 25.7 miles.

All went well, and my knee felt great – except for an unexpected shin splint at the end of the afternoon, it was a solid day. I even added two birds to my trip list, Barrow’s Goldeneye and Varied Thrush (#166 and #167), before camping by a mosquito-infested lake a couple miles into the Three Sisters Wilderness. Hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

Willamette Pass



At 1,914 miles from the Mexican border, I reached Highway 58 at Willamette Pass today. This is especially notable for me because it’s the closest point on the PCT to my house, just a 40-minute drive west of here; so, in a way, I feel like I’m home. My mom met me at the pass with food, chairs, and a set-up camp.

I climbed past Diamond Peak this morning, through an area of snowdrifts, before walking a while with Billy Goat. At 72 years old, having hiked about 45,000 miles since retirement (including 20,000 on the PCT), that guy contains a wealth of wisdom on living simply; he carries a 10-pound pack, not including any electronics, and urges younger hikers to walk with the trail – not against it. Advice well taken, I hope.

Summit Lake



I struggled today with a new and formidable opponent: boredom. Having capped my effort in order to rest my knee, I set a punishingly glacial pace for 19 miles but still found more free hours than I knew what to do with, and ended up just staring into space during rest breaks.

With so much time to meditate on my feet out here, you’d think that I’d eventually solve world hunger or something. But the truth is just the opposite: my best days are when my mind is absolutely blank – no worries, thoughts of home and civilization, or annoying songs stuck in my head, just the flow of moving forward. I never get bored while walking. Sitting is another issue, though, and one I haven’t dealt with much on this trip!

Anyway, I’m camped at Summit Lake, south of Diamond Peak, with a Common Loon swimming and yodeling out on the water. And my knee is definitely feeling better; another short day tomorrow, and then we’ll see…

Slow Motion



For the sake of health, restoration, and knee preservation, I’ve decided to divide my next two days into three – thus building in an entire extra day before reaching Willamette Pass. This means three sub-20-mile days in a row, and a lot of free time on the trail.

Sounds good in theory, but it’s a big challenge to slow down that much, even for just a couple of days, after averaging 26 miles/day over the last month. It was as much as I could stand to stop after only 17.7 miles today, having spent the entire day in self-enforced slow motion – especially since the trail was flat and easy, with my inner racecar driver aching to push twice as far.

I did see my second bear of the trip this afternoon, a big black one which ambled across the trail right in front of me. And, though I hit a couple miles of big snowdrifts over the trail near Mount Thielsen, that section wasn’t nearly as bad as recent reports had indicated – I didn’t even need my GPS, much less traction spikes. Pshaw.

Back On Trail



My dad dropped me at Crater Lake at 10:45 this morning, and I resumed hiking north after three nights at home. I put in 26 miles before camping on a saddle next to Mount Thielsen.

My knee feels better, though not 100%. I’m currently icing it with a ziplock full of snow – a wilderness ice pack! Just hoping to get back in the groove; it’s weird to come back to the trail after taking time off. Gotta build some momentum again…

Visit To The Orthopedist


Today was just my second “zero” – day off – since leaving the Mexican border three months ago. My main entertainment involved visiting an orthopedic surgeon in Eugene, the same guy who operated on my left leg when I broke it skiing a couple years ago; this time he checked out my right knee.

“Sounds like you’re living from one cool adventure to the next,” he said, when I explained my summer hike. Well, yeah. And the knee? “You’re overusing the s-h-i-t out of it,” he spelled out, “but the x-ray looks good; a couple days of rest should get you back on your feet.” So, clutching a prescription for some serious anti-inflammatory drugs, I headed out the door, got a haircut, saw a movie with my mom, and planned to start hiking again on Thursday. We’ll see how it goes…

Injury Timeout


I’ve been dealing with an inflamed right knee for the past five days, hoping to walk through it, but, after ten miles of severe pain this morning, I had to admit that it wasn’t getting any better, and that I probably needed some time off the trail to rest and recover. Fortunately I’m close to home, and my dad was able to pick me up at Crater Lake for a two-day (I hope!) timeout. So, for the first time since starting the trail, I’m sleeping in my own bed tonight.

It felt weird to sit around all afternoon after 20 consecutive 20+ mile days, and even weirder to be dropped back into civilization; in a way, I don’t feel like I deserve it since this stop was unplanned. But I’ve been very lucky to avoid injury so far on this trip; looking around at the three nearest hikers at Crater Lake this morning, one had dislocated his shoulder and was out for two weeks in the Sierra; one had been sidelined for five days with extreme blisters in the desert; and one had just returned to the trail after a bacterial infection landed him in the emergency room in Ashland – and they’re part of the minority that hasn’t already quit. Anyway, hoping to be back on trail soon!

Sky Lakes



Encouraged to an early start by clouds of mosquitoes around camp this morning, Honeybuzz and I walked 30.2 miles across the Sky Lakes Wilderness today. We both independently discovered that it’s not a good idea to spit violently while wearing your head net, even if you’ve just inhaled a mosquito that somehow made it inside (at least, until Honeybuzz lost his head net and had to rely on 100% DEET instead); otherwise, our greatest entertainment today was given by feeding bits of chocolate to a hungry beetle until it could barely walk – man, can I relate!

We unexpectedly met a PCT legend on the trail this afternoon, a guy named Billy Goat. This is his 10th consecutive summer on the trail, giving him more lifetime PCT miles than anyone besides Scott Williamson (who has walked this trail about 14 times). Billy Goat decided to section hike this year, so, after doing some hiking in Israel, New York, and Vermont earlier this spring, he has skipped around a bit between different parts of the PCT along with another hiker named Amoeba. Pretty interesting guy.

New Binoculars!



After an extensive breakfast at Butch and Sandy’s house (thanks guys!), they drove Honeybuzz and me back to the trail and we hiked out with bursting stomachs. Eleven miles later, my dad met us at Highway 140 near Fish Lake with even more coolers full of food – good thing hikers have an unlimited appetite…

It was nice to see my dad for the first time in 1,650 miles, and he brought a wonderful gift. A representative at Leica, having heard about the loss of my binoculars several weeks ago in the Sierra, sent me a new pair as replacement, free of charge! For the first time in 900 miles, I’m hiking with binocs around my neck, and it feels great – just in time for my home state.

Honeybuzz and I continued hiking north into the Sky Lakes Wilderness, putting in about 21 miles. The mosquitoes are pretty thick; welcome to the Oregon Cascades…

More Angels



My mom headed home this morning after visiting for the last week, and Honeybuzz and I hit the trail under 30-pound packs and bowed heads. We hiked 25 miles between Highway 66 and Dead Indian Road today, past Hyatt Lake and Howard Prairie Reservoir, only to find ourselves being picked up by more trail angels!

Some friends of Honeybuzz’s aunt, a nice couple who once hiked 800 miles between all 21 historic missions in California, took us in to their house near Eagle Point west of Klamath Falls. The house is actually an old restored restaurant and cafe with a full bar, booths, industrial kitchen, stools in the living and dining rooms, and space for 45 people – awesome! So, I’m sleeping in a real bed tonight, ready for the Sky Lakes Wilderness tomorrow.

Pilot Rock


Honeybuzz and I inhaled a huge breakfast at Callahan’s Lodge this morning, finishing with a chocolate milkshake before hitting the trail at 10:15 a.m. We hiked 24.2 miles, past Pilot Rock east of Ashland, to reach Highway 66 by dusk.

Judging by plants along the trail, wild berry season is just getting underway. I dawdled to pick fistfuls of blackberries, thimbleberries, and strawberries this afternoon, ending up with sticky fingers and a happy stomach. It’s good to be in the Pacific Northwest!



At exactly noon today, I finished walking the entire length of California – 1,700 miles! After 83 days on the trail, through deserts and snowy mountains, I’m now forging ahead into my home state of Oregon. It sure feels good to be on familiar territory!

Honeybuzz and I celebrated by covering 35.8 miles by 7:30 p.m., finishing just past Mount Ashland. We were able to run a 12-mile section this afternoon while my mom drove our packs up to the next road crossing – it was nice to cruise at almost three times our normal hiking speed for a couple hours.

I saw 164 species of birds on the trail in California, only 13 of which were waterbirds of any kind. Should add a few more in Oregon and Washington; 200 might be possible on this trip (?). Anyway, very happy to have made it this far, and looking forward to five more weeks of hiking.