We were doing some 40 dull miles south of Mt. Hood on July 27 around 7pm when a strange man appeared, a man unlike any other.
He seemed to have come right off a tropical beach, yet was hiking an obscure, boring part of the PCT. This tall, lanky man in his mid thirties was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and tiny shorts that were in style circa 1972. His beige wide brim hat is more popular on African safaris than on the PCT. Despite his odd clothing, he seemed to be gliding on air, effortlessly turning a corner with his feet just barely touching the ground. He floated toward us, smoothly, and asked, "Hello. Where are you hiking to?"
"Mexico," I replied.
"Really? Where did you start?"
"Did you skip any sections?"
"Good," he said, "Can I film you? I am helping a friend who is doing a documentary on the PCT. My name is Scott."
"Are you hiking from Mexico?" I asked.
I got excited and declared, "So the first northbounder and the first southbounders meet!" Only once in each season do the leaders of each group cross paths.
Scott confirmed that we were at the front of the pack.
"I am actually trying to yo-yo this year," Scott said, "I did it last year, but now I am just trying to beat my record."
To "yo-yo" means to go to Canada and then walk back, or yo-yo, to Mexico.
"Wait," I said. "Does your last name start with a 'W'?"
"Yes. Scott Williamson."
Scott Williamson is a famous thru-hiker. He has done the Triple Crown (PCT, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail) and was hiking the PCT for the 8th time! He is the only person to have ever yo-yoed the PCT. He tried to do it three times, but was stopped twice on his return through the Sierras by early winter storms. He did it on his 3rd attempt. This year, by leaving from Mexico on May 22, he hopes to shave one month off his own record by returning to Mexico on Nov 5.
"So how are you doing?" I asked.
"I am 4 days behind schedule. I never filter my water and I got sick. I was out for 5 days and lost 20 pounds. It's been hard putting my weight back on when I have been averaging 38 miles a day."
That's an insane pace, especially considering that he encountered snow for most of his journey. He will average over 40 on his return despite the shorter days.
Scott had hoped to do Oregon's 430 miles in 10 days, but had problems with a mail drop and had to do it in 11 days. He'll try to do it in 10 days when he returns to Mexico. We took 18 days to cover the same ground.
"Why is Maiu hiking in flip flops?" Scott asked, noticing her battered feet.
Maiu hiked in big heavy boots in Washington because of the 300 miles of snow we encountered. However, by the end of the state, the snow was gone and a heat wave had hit. She expected to get new shoes in just 75 miles at a remote guard station that had no outgoing mail facility, so she sent her boots home and bought $4 flip flops that she could toss at the guard station.
When we arrived at the remote Ollalie Guard Station we learned that for the first time in 25 years they were no longer receiving packages. Maiu's shoes got forwarded to the next closest location - 75 miles south on the trail. That meant that she would have to walk a total of 150 miles in flip flops. Despite the pain, she managed to walk 30 miles day after day. By the end, Maiu's feet looked like she had fed them into a shreader.
After talking for 30 minutes, we said good bye to Scott. Just as I started walking south, I turned to get one last look at him walking away, but he had already vanished.
Oregon had some amazing areas, including my top 5:
1. Crater Lake
2. Jefferson Park
3. Three Sisters Wilderness
4. Mt. Hood
5. The Lakes south of Ollalie
The spectacular scenery was spaced out among some incredibly boring flat forests. The Appalachian Trail also had plenty of monotonous sections; however, they were frequently extremely steep. Therefore, while I was in Oregon's dull sections, I reminded myself that it is better to walk on boring and easy trail than to walk on boring and back-breaking trail.
We got through Oregon's 430 miles in 18 days, significantly faster than Washington. Washington took 32 days, yet was just 500 miles. The difference is because we took a week off in Washington and we had about 300 miles of abundant snow.
With Oregon and Washington behind, only California remains. Although we have walked 2/3 of the states, we have done only 1/3 of the miles.
Sponsor spotlight: Pristine
Just as we were leaving Oregon we met a young man named Ryan who looked like he had Death on his shoulders. I asked him what was wrong.
"I don't purify my water and I got some nasty bacteria in my system. It's been a really long day. Drinking water makes me want to throw up. I need to go to the hospital," he gasped.
"Where did you think you got it?"
"There are a few cow pastures near the border. I wasn't purifying," he panted.
Most PCT thru-hikers do not purify 95% of the water they drink. Most of the time the water sources are high in the mountains and very safe. However, it is a judgment call and when I am not sure I use Pristine.
Pristine weighs a fraction of a water filter and doesn't have the nasty taste or side-effects of iodine. Its two part solution results in chlorine dioxide, which is safe and used by municipalities.
Find out more at: http://www.pristine.ca.