Tuesday, 8 February 2011

This page of the blog details an amazing 2,650 mile adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail. The post you see below (Rattlesnake Lunch) is the last entry (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click - 'Older Posts'). To experience my walk from the start with text, photos and video you need to go back to the first page. Enjoy!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Rattlesnake lunch Part 1

Rattlesnake lunch Part 2

Type your summary hereType rest of the post here

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Back home.

Nearly 4 weeks since I've been back in England. I still sleep with my head torch by the bed, I'm way too hot in the house and have to open the windows, even in this weather. I still wake up and for a brief moment think I have to walk 25 miles and feel strange when I'm not wearing my trail gear.

On the plus side, it's great not to be cold for 7 days at a time. I love sleeping and not being restricted in a sleeping bag, I can have a coffee pretty much whenever I want and I don't have to filter my water.

The transition back to 'normal' life has gone relatively smoothly. I don't appear to be suffering from the normal post travel depression which dogs me when I usually return from a travel adventure. However, I do miss the trail. Just being out there in the wild, miles from anywhere, even from a road has left a mark on me. You rise on the trail when it feels right, crawl out of the tent, put some water on the boil and then sit down with a bowl of porridge. No intrusive sounds apart from those that nature intended. No car horns, no radios, no mobile phones. Only bird song, wind and maybe a gentle tinkle of nearby water. I was detached on the trail. Detached from the life that I had grown up with. Detachment is a good thing, it imparts a wisdom, an addictive yearning to learn more about the great outdoors. Leaving my hum drum life behind was easy. OK, sometimes I yearned to be back in civilisation but in the main, I relished being lucky enough to have witnessed the wilderness at it's best.

I am more patient now. Few things are worth becoming stressed over and after a trip of this kind you realise that most situations in life are not as bad as they appear. Spending time outside nurtures you, it grabs you and lures you in to this peaceful, serene environment that just feels completely natural. People talk about the mechanics and logistics of the PCT and there are many but once you are out there, they are all worth it.

So, what now? I'm back doing my decorating work which I enjoy, but I day dream whilst I hold my brush. I think about the next walk, and there will be one. All the national trails in Great Britain in one attempt? A walk around the coast of Great Britain - maybe. Or how about the 3200 miles that make up a classic European E1 hike from Italy to Norway (or the other way if you're so inclined). There are also numerous other LDP's in Europe I am eyeing up, with a possible start date of 2012. America has been great but people think all the best LDP's are over there. The Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, The Continental Divide are all amazing adventures but there is a train of thought that if anyone wants to be a 'great' long distance hiker then they must first walk the AT, then the PCT, then the CDT. Become a triple crowner we are told and you will have made it.

This is not the case. As great as those walks are, and they are great, don't fall into the trap. Come to Europe and we can show you adventures rivalling and surpassing the USA treks. This isn't a competition, it's not about whose got the greatest trails, it's an education. Think about the Himalayas, the Far East, Scotland. Each has it's own unique perspective and ideas about long distance walking, and each should be experienced.

I have started writing my book on my adventure on the PCT. Hopefully it will ready by the Spring. It's a lot of work, much more than the Journey in Between. However, I love my writing, putting down on paper what I have been through during the last 7 months is a creative experience and my fulfillment comes from sharing it with the people that will read it. Photos? Great. Video? Amazing. But there is something about reading a persons adventure in text and imagining, picturing those events that make text truly unique.

If anyone would like to be included on the mailing list for when The Last Englishmen is ready, please send me an email: fozzieman@yahoo.com

I will also be starting a new blog on my adventures next year, whether it be a week in Scotland, a day up on the South Downs, or a long weekend in France. I'll post the address on here when it is up and running.

Once again, thanks to everyone who took the time to post messages to me. I can't reply to some of them because there is no reply email.

I hope my journey has inspired some of you to go and chase a dream. There is far more to life than work, getting a mortgage and having kids. Go on, buck the trend.

Good luck.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

More coming!

I still have one last blog to post with hopefully some more photos from Pockets, stay tuned.

After that I will be starting a new blog which will be updated periodically with news of my latest ramblings back home in the UK.

Many, many thanks to everyone who has sent me messages since I finished the PCT. I am still answering most of them but apologies if I do not respond to messages on the blog. This is because not all of you out there leave me an email address so I can't answer.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 19

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 18

Now where was the trail?

Nick & Chris - great company for the last section
3 Englishmen with excellent taste in packs!

Nick preparing a weeks worth of curry!

190 miles of feet shredding road walking.

Crater Lake - A majestic finishing point.


That last week.

Road walking. Not the sort of prospect that any PCT hiker or indeed any hiker relishes. It has some advantages, we didn't have to concentrate on navigation, didn't have to watch where we were stepping and had a few opportunities to grab a motel for the night and stop by a few cafes. It is, however, brutal on the feet and legs. The hard surface coupled with a repetitive pounding reduced my feet to a blister ridden and sore mess after just one day. It was like being back at the start, calves ached, tendons screamed and thighs complained, the pain leaching up to my back. Thank god for ibuprofen.

We left Sisters on 14th November for a mild 23 miles to Bend, which we had heard so many good things about. The outskirts had all three of us wondering if we had reached the right town, a bland mix of the usual out of town shops and parking areas. A local woman offered to walk us through all of this to the down town area, telling us she walks 24 miles a day to keep fit, the first 'townie' I have met who didn't assume we had a car and understood the distance in terms of foot placement and not sitting in an air conditioned cab.

Bend was indeed an attractive place and a few minutes after reaching it we had been offered a place to spend the night by a local carpenter called Kelly. He left to go out with a mate but insisted we make ourselves comfortable, got us some beer and showed us the local cafe. We tried to get out early the following morning but several coffee shops slowed our progress.

Somehow the weather held up. We peered up occasionally to see black clouds ambling past but save a couple of cold, snow sections and a few wet hours, we were blessed with reasonable weather. The roadside was littered with all manner of discarded objects. Lighters, mobile phones, urine filled bottles, shoes and clothing. Cars started to honk at us and before long we were reaching celebrity status. Word had spread about these 3 English guys, the last on the PCT of 2010 who had been stormed off the trail but had refused to give in to the elements. We all were insistent, stubborn and refused even for a minute to entertain the prospect of not reaching Crater Lake. The locals had spread the news and we regularly were greeted in cafes by comments such as 'You're the 3 English guys road walking to Crater Lake' or 'We saw you on the road this morning' or just 'You guys are nuts! What are you doing'?!

We stumbled into Lapine on 16th November after one of those days where despite best intentions, the mileage just didn't seem to want to increase. After 17 miles and nearly dark Chris and I sat down outside the gas station and discussed the options. Another 18 miles to Crescent and make up the mileage shortfall over the remaining few days, or check into the motel. Nick pretty much provided the answer as he emerged from the gas station with a beer in one hand and staggered towards us as though he had already drunk four of them. We chuckled at his painful shuffle as he collapsed on the grass in front of us muttering 'I'm finished'.

An early start the next day as we crunched on a frosty road over to the coffee hut. Denny, the woman who worked there gave us a coffee each with a banana muffin and phoned her husband, asking him to bring her 3 beanies which she had knitted and promptly gave us one each. This generous piece of kindness continued when we reached the Big Mountain Cafe at Chemult after 17 miles and good going by lunch. We wolfed down a late breakfast and chatted to the 4 or so couples also eating. The waiter came over just as we were finishing.

"Guys, your bill has been paid."

We all looked at him open mouthed and said in unison "Huh'?! Trying to keep our last mouthful in.

"I can't tell you who paid it because he didn't want to be known but he just wanted you to know that he was impressed by what you are doing, especially as he can't walk that far anymore and wanted to wish you all the best.'

27 miles enabled us to reach a Cafe and the Whispering Pines Motel shortly before dark and we settled in to discuss the apparent storm that most people had warned us was coming in overnight. Up to 3 feet was expected and whilst we were not worried about the road section because it was being ploughed, the section that concerned us was where we turned off  Highway 138 onto the Crater Lake Road. 'Closed in Winter' was marked by the side of this route on our map and we knew it would not be clear of snow. We just prayed the snowfall would be minimal and reminded ourselves that tomorrow would be our last day, albeit a 37 miler.

Nick peered hesitantly out of the door shortly before a very early and rude alarm at 4.45am woke us.

"Raining", he remarked. At this point we actually preferred snow. Although colder, it meant we didn't get wet. We started the 15 mile stretch to the Crater Lake road and before long a road reflecting it's surroundings began to turn white and slowly the snow started to deepen. We found the turn off and immediately began to trudge through fresh powder about a foot deep, but deepening as we climbed up to the Crater.

The view that greeted us at the top was stunning. A huge expanse of water 5 miles wide dressed in greys and whites had us open mouthed, it was magnificent and everything we had hoped for. The rim road, as it suggests, circles the lake and we turned west for the final few miles down to the highway, where I had left a few weeks prior with Pockets to skip up to Washington. The snow deepened alarmingly to the point where we didn't actually know if we were still on the road. Only a slither of tarmac occasionally peeping at us from one side confirmed we were still OK.

Nick encountered trouble in the middle of the afternoon when an old knee problem erupted with vengeance and his pace dropped substantially. It was dark now, we were all shattered and it was exhausting trying to concentrate on where the road was, where we were and making sure Nick got through. Chris and I took it in turns to lead so Nick could exert less effort by following out foot prints whilst the other behind him supplied some torch light as his had failed.

Trooper had agreed to pick us up at the highway as he had travelled up to see his daughter but we couldn't locate him so were forced to spend one more final night under the stars. Too tired to any major celebrations we cooked our last trail meal and fell asleep.

A passing ranger told us the following morning that he had seen Trooper looking for us the previous evening and passed on the message that he would be back. Sure enough a few minutes later Trooper, my walking companion for those last few difficult weeks in Washington rolled up as promised and joined in our high spirits as we drove to the nearest Greyhound station. Chris stayed for a day and one stop later in downtown Sacramento Nick and I said our goodbyes as he carried onto San Diego and I caught the next bus to my relatives in San Jose.

Now, after 2 day rest, I'm feeling relaxed and amazed at what I have achieved over the last 7 months. To persevere through the toughest battle I have ever faced I know has made me a stronger character and better able to face up to whatever life now has to offer me. The number of times when I thought I wouldn't make it are too numerous to go into but one thing I have confirmed to myself is that no matter how tough the PCT was in parts, I found the strength somehow to follow through and push my demons to one side.

It has been exhilarating. I have witnessed sights, scenes and views that had me amazed and routed to the spot in disbelief. Each section, whether it was the desert, the Sierras or the pine forests was incredible and will stay with me till my time is up. I have been cold, hot, stressed, relaxed, hungry, bloated, thirsty, sad, jubilant and elated.

Congratulations to all my fellow hikers who made the grade and finished. Congratulations also to those also who may have not have made it because whether they spent 1 week or a few months on the trail, they also achieved great success and I'm sure will return stronger, more wise and more able to attempt their next PCT effort.

For those of you out there who are thinking about attempting the PCT I would say that the hardest part of any thru-hike is reaching the decision to actually go and attempt it. Once you are committed you will wonder why you didn't go for it a long time ago. Second to that, remember it may be your body that carries you, but it's your pshycological approach and strength that will enable you to succeed. Do not give up despite how adverse your situation may be.

Good luck to you.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Exhausted, sore, tired, tender, proud, relieved, reflective and emotional.

I'll post the updates, video and photos over the next few days. All I want to do at the moment is sleep.

Thanks to everyone who is following the adventure and those that have sent me messages over the last few months. Respect to everyone over here who have shown me the sort of hospitality that restores a little faith in human kind.

It's been a blast, the adventure of a lifetime and I'm very proud to be able to call myself a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 17

Latest photos.

Latest news . . .

All the news below, I hope to have some video and photos for you soon.

Current location: Sisters, Oregon.
Miles left to Crater Lake: App. 130 - 4 to 5 days walking.

The end is in sight!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Down but definitely not out . . .

Oregon has lulled us into a false sense of security. Promises from the locals when I was last down here of milder weather, higher temperatures and snow that doesn't come to much haven't, well, come to much.

Chris, Nick and I left Cascade Locks on Tuesday 2nd November confident of polishing of the remaining 330 or so miles and being rewarded with the label of a 'Thru-hiker'. The first couple of days were hard, some brutal climbs and plunging temperatures made the going harder than we had anticipated, but we soldiered on. The odd section of trail was covered in snow from a fall a couple of weeks previously but we ploughed through.

We stumbled out onto Skyline Road on 7th November late evening around 8pm, cold and hungry. We searched the nearby campsite for the promised shelter we had seen on a map as snow flakes fell past our head torches almost completely obscuring the view. She shelter was basic, a bare dirt floor and picnic table inside with one wall completely open to the elements. We set about making a fire which always lifted our spirits, placing our feet on the stones and waiting for them to warm back into life. Water sources are covered in ice and snow now and we find ourselves digging through to filter out enough to re-hydrate.

We knew the following day would be tough, a 1500 foot ascent in the morning and 2000 feet in the afternoon didn't concern us too much, it was what the weather was going to throw at us which made our progress uncertain. The following morning that uncertainty was answered a mere 3 miles into the days walk when we decided unanimously that we would not make it any further on the trail. A hard decision to make but the Brits I am Walking with remained leveled headed and sensible about the limited options we were faced with. Snow had drifted upto our thighs, visibility was poor and we were stopping literally every 2 minutes to take bearings and GPS readings that were abandoned another 2 minutes after that.

We returned to the shelter, dried out and took stock of the situation. Is my Pacific Crest Trail through hike over? The hell it is! We may not be able to finish off the section to Crater Lake by trail but we will still make it down there. All three of us are determined to make it through despite what may get in our way. We have not come this far to back out with 190 miles left on the clock. Nick and Chris are as confident as I am of pulling out all the stops and grinding through to the end.

The decision was to take a marked fire track down to a small road. A forest truck pulled over whilst we were trudging down this road and advised that a town called Detroit was another  17 miles further. We walked and debated the options and have decided to road walk the remaining 190 miles to our finishing point at Crater Lake. If we can get onto the PCT at the lower elevations and do some sections then we will do but it looks like we have a lot of road walking to get through.
We will finish at Crater Lake through the pouring and freezing rain and if it means that 190 or so miles has not been on trail then I, and Nick and Chris, are happy and content with battling through and reaching our destination. We have still walled 2650 miles and are proud of that amazing achievement, people can say what they will.

Detroit welcomed us with open arms and the proprietor of the Cedar Lodge went off to sort our room whilst I called after her "Please stick all the heaters on full blast". We went to the bar in the evening and 8 locals sat lined up at the bar. They all moved to one side and demanded we take the seats in between them, buying us a pitcher of beer, they simply wanted tales from the trail.

"What you three are doing blows me away", said Brad, slightly the worse for wear after a few beers but his passion for the outdoor spaces out here was apparent in his voice. "For you guys to come all the way over to my country and spend 6 months cocooned in our wilderness fills me with pride. I live here and don't spend enough time up in the hills so respect to you for achieving what you have done so far and we all hope you make it down to Crater".

We left the following morning to our next destination, Sisters, a mere 60 miles and 2 days walking. It was hard work, lorries sped past sending showers of red dust smashing into us. The cold wind seeped into our layers, and hard tarmac forced blisters to surface and our muscles to scream. Rain soaked us and now the daylight hours are limited we were forced to rise in the dark and spend 2 hours walking in it at the end of the day.

We arrived in Sisters late on Friday, 12th November. Hobbling, battered and bruised we threw another couple of ibuprofen down our throats to give us a few more pain free hours. Checking into the Sisters motel we are now drying out and reducing our room, as usual, to something resembling a junk store with tents hanging on curtain rails, sleeping bags thrown over the bed and waterproofs steaming dry. A re-supply here and quick days rest and tomorrow we walk out on our final leg of the PCT. 130 miles awaits us, at best 4 days but probably 5.

I have no idea how I will feel at the end. Happy of course, Probably relieved, probably sad that it's all over, emotional for sure and definitely very, very proud.

What I have achieved physically and phsycologically over the last few months I know will make me a stronger person and more able to chase my goals and dreams and push restrictions and hurdles to one side. Nick summed part of our feelings up by saying "How can you ever return back to your 'normal' life and even hope to achieve the high we have experienced out here"?

A sombre observation and very true but whats waits me back home is a very different sort of high which I can't wait to experience. To see my parents and family again, my friends, visit my Nans resting place and embark on what I now know is my calling of a writing future fills me with an eagerness I have not experienced in a while. To see my girlfriend who has put so much effort into making us work just makes me want to cry. At times in the past I may not have realised what an amazing woman she is. I realise now and the most important thing in the world to me is that I put in the same determined effort I have used on the PCT to convince her that I am worthy of her. I love her and she is my priority.

One more week and I hope I will be in the position of being able to call myself a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker.

Myself, Nick and Chris are officially the last PCT thru-hikers of 2010. There is no one else on trail.

'The Last Englishmen' - great title for a book don't you think?

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sad news.

Harriett Ann Charman - 12/1/1916 to 30/10/2010
Known to all as Nancy, my beautiful Nan passed away on the day I reached Canada.
My 2010 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike is in memory of her.

All the latest.

Long time no see huh? I apologise for the lack of blog entries of late, Washington is not exactly generous in either Internet facilities, mobile phone coverage, normal phone coverage or Wi-Fi, hence the little contact.

To say we have been into the back of beyond is an understatement. Anyway, read on and update yourself with one of the most exciting, dangerous, eventful, cold, exhausting and saddest weeks of my life . . .

Trooper and I left Stehekin early on Monday, 25th October after hospitality from some of the locals that completely blew us away. We had arrived at the local restaurant at 07.00am for Monica and Mark to give us a ride back up to the trail head, 8 miles up the road. As I entered Monica looked worried and I knew it was about the conditions on the final 90 mile stretch to Canada.

"Have you seen the weather report"? she asked. I knew just from her expression that it was bad. I was also aware that she knew regardless of what she told me, it would have no bearing on our plans. Monica has had nearly a lifetime of meeting thru-hikers and she knows what a single minded, determined bunch of idiots we are.

"I heard there was a storm coming in", I replied, smiling. I think she detected a little nervousness in my voice.

"There is", she continued. "Snow down to 4500 feet and up to 4 feet deep".

I looked at Trooper who shrugged his shoulders. No way, hell or high water was he getting off trail. 2 years prior he had been forced off the PCT 2 weeks before finishing and he had returned to complete his dream.

"The weather will do what it will", I said. "We have to at least give it a go, we've both come too far to back out. I know it could be dangerous up there but there is a couple of roads where we can get out if the going is tough, and a Ranger Station as well. We have more than enough food if we get into trouble. We have to go but thanks for the info".

She gave a smile of recognition that confirmed what she already knew we would say and we all went out into the rain and squeezed into their car. I wiped the inside of the window on the short journey up a gravel track and peered out at ominous looking clouds as rain trickled down the other side. Trooper was silent and contemplative. If both of us had any idea what lay ahead over the next 5 days, neither of us would have even left.

A very appropriately named Rainy Pass was the destination for the day, about 20 miles and all up hill. 2 hours in my right ankle, which had been aching for a couple of days decided to really let me know how it felt and a shooting pain shot up from it. I almost screamed with pain and came to an abrupt halt. Tentatively I placed it back on the ground but the pain did not abate, I hobbled on one foot for a few yards and slumped down by the trail side.

"Is it bad"? Trooper asked.

"Yeah, it certainly feels that way" I said, trying to look positive but failing miserably.

We ate a wet lunch as I became more concerned about the pain but amazingly after 30 minutes it subsided a little and we carried on. However, several times during the ensuing miles the pain hit me again. I knew there was a highway at Rainy Pass, the last bail out point for 90 miles and the Canadian border. I decided to get off trail and come back in 2011 and finish the PCT then, I had reached breaking point and could see no way of hiking that far.

Rainy Pass came at 7pm but should have been re-named Snowy Pass as a couple of inches had fallen. Somehow I had fought off my demons and convinced myself to get through. My ankle, I thought, will do whatever the hell it wants.

I woke in the morning at 6am, as usual, and glanced at  my watch. -7 Celcius, 7 degrees below freezing.

"You up Trooper"? I called.

"My mind is but my body is catching up".

We plodded up to Cutthroat Pass at 6800 feet, the snow getting deeper. As we crested I looked despondently at what lay before me. Everything was white and the trail had disappeared leaving the slightest dip in the surface of the snow at best, most of the time we didn't even have that. I studied the map, checked we were on the right track and tried to relay what I saw on the map with what panned out in front of me. This would be the pattern for the next 4 days. The Pacific Crest trail had gone, at least until the thaw. Our course of action was to check the map regularly, take GPS readings when we thought we needed to verify our location, but mainly to try and concentrate on the tiny dip in the ground where the PCT lay beneath.

Somehow it worked. Plenty of times we lost that dip and had to scan ahead. Sure enough, we would spot it again a hundred yards or so ahead, or notice a faint cutting into the side of a ridge. Washington is poorly marked, there were little or no signs to help us out. There were no foot prints either, we were the first, and probably last hikers through the fresh snow.

The temperature did not rise above freezing all day. Our feet got cold when we stopped and took 30 minutes to warm up again. Our hands had to stay cocooned in gloves, becoming painfully cold even after a few seconds in the open. We waded through snow drifts up to our thighs and carefully made our way across slopes and ridges, wondering if it could get any worse. It did . . .

Somehow my ankle made it through that week. I think the snow helped, maybe the cold numbing the pain and keeping the swelling down, it also softened the foot fall. Wind smashed us at times and drove freezing, stinging snow into our faces. It was exhausting, our bodies were screaming for food and using those precious calories and fat to keep our cores warm, energy for our legs was not an important concern.

Pass after pass came and went, another peak passed us, another ascent and another descent. Our legs screamed and our lungs heaved in protest. On Wednesday 27th, by 3pm we stumbled into Harts Pass at 6200 feet. We had managed a meagre 9 miles in 9 hours. A solitary car with two day hikers inside was parked, the woman peered out at me appearing from nowhere with a look of astonishment on her face. We chatted to them briefly and they gave us apples, bananas and some tea and apologised because they had eaten all their brownies. Libby passed us her email address and pleaded with us to let them know if and when we reached Canada. We agreed that if she had recieved no news by Monday then they would call Mountain Rescue. It was good piece of mind to know at least someone would come looking if we got into trouble.

We called it a day and set about making a fire to warm up and boost morale, scraping away layers of snow to place our tents. We talked about Pockets who we last saw at Snoqualmie Pass. He had recieved news that his illness was confirmed ecoli but was intending to hike out and get to Canada. We knew he was only a day behind and half expected him to turn up at camp that night. He didn't and we worried about his safety, we were relatively well and struggling, god only knows how he was coping.

On Friday we woke knowing we had 12 miles to Monument 78 which marks the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail and the American / Canadian border. We then had a further 8 miles to Manning Park, a remote hotel on a highway in the middle of nowhere. Nothing could stop us now surely, we had battled through 4 days. Fighting our demons, our bodies, a strong urge to quit and a hunger that just never left us we rose at 4.30am and set off at 6am in the dark and limited visibility.

Trooper's last ascent of the PCT was before us, a relatively easy 1500 feet. We were in good spirits until I saw on the map that the trail turned sharply east into Lakeview ridge. The east slopes had taken a hammering during the storms and snow was drifting alarmingly deep. We turned the corner and saw a 1/4 miles stretch, barely visible in the mist. It was sloped from right to left at about 40 degrees but we could just see a faint trail. If this snow had been frozen we would have been in trouble. Neither of us had crampons or ice axes, not having the time to arrange for them to be sent to us. The snow, however, was soft and we carefully made our way along as it held our legs in place. One slip here and we would have ended up about 1500 feet down in the valley.

Down the Devils Staircase and then Trooper stopped abruptly.

"Whats up"? I asked.

"That's it", he replied.

"Whats what"? I looked at him waiting for some sort of verification as I tried to decipher the expression on his face.

"Monument 78", he said. "Look through the trees there, that's the Canadian border, that's where I finish my walk and become a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker".

I peered through the trees and sure enough, about a hundred yards away the silver obelisk and wooden structure that I had seen so many times in photos and other hikers videos peeked back at me through the foliage. It was a huge moment for me as well but it also reminded me that I was yet to finish, still 330 miles to polish off in Oregon.

Trooper jumped for joy when he reached the international line.  A clear cut line of trees stretched away into the distance either side of us marking the border. "They cut all those trees down just to mark the bloody border"?! I thought to myself.

We took endless photos and video and I then partook of the smoking of the ceremonial stogie. A stogie is a cigar that was kindly left for me at Stehekin in the post by Ceder Elk, an inspirational hiker I had walked with back in California. He had left it for me to smoke at the border as well as a request for me to sign the log book because he couldn't find it! It is is actually located under the obelisk, the top portion of which lifts off.

We now had a mere 8 miles to Manning Park, where a warm hotel waited for us along with a shower and as much food as we could eat. The final blow was a 1000 foot climb though, just to rub it in and we arrived cold, tired and literally glad to be alive, collapsing on our beds exhausted.

I called my parents in the morning to share the good news and could not have anticipated what sadness I was about to recieve in reply. My mother tried to tell me but broke down in tears, passing the phone to my sister Tracy.

"Keith, Nan died this morning. She had a stroke a couple of weeks ago and has been in hospital since. She couldn't really talk but understood what we were saying and nodded her answers. Bruv, we asked her if she wanted you to finish the walk for her and everyone. You will probably miss the funeral but she nodded that she wants you to complete it, she definitely wants you to complete it. My sister was trying also to hold back the tears and I broke down myself.

My Mum came back on the line. "Keith, you must finish the walk now for Nan, she wanted you to finish. Go and finish it off for her".

I choked back a few tears trying to come to terms with the news. My high had come down to earth with a thump.

"OK, I will", I said. "I'll do it for Nan".

In all my life time I have never exchanged a bad word or feeling with my lovely Nan. We had never argued, it was only ever good feelings between us. She was one of the most caring people I have been privileged to know, always meeting me with a smile and a kiss and a "Hello Keify", with an affectionate shrug of her shoulders. She shone with affection that radiated out from her, I could always sense it. Not a bad bone in her body.

To think I have suffered on this hike is nothing compared to what my Nan went through in the early years of her life. Struggling to bring up 3 children through a world war with little money to buy even the basics she took care of all of them somehow.

This final two weeks is not just for my Nan, my entire Pacific Crest Trail 2010 thru-hike is in her memory and honour.

I will miss her dearly but I feel comforted that I saw her before I went to say good bye.

I'll see you when I get back" I had said. Little did I know then then that I would never see her again.

Bye Nan, see you on the other side.

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 16 - The smoking of the stogie

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 15 - Canadian border (not Mexican!!)

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 14 - Urich Shelter

Latest photos.

 Natural hair jel - I did warn you.

Knifes edge ridge.

Trooper does lunch.

Another pass conquered.


Cutthroat Pass and the first sign we were in trouble.

This was the light stuff!

The ascent of Glacier Pass

Filtering water.

Lakeview Ridge. The final difficult stretch.

Fu . . . I mean shattered!

Where were my shoe laces, I saw them earlier?

Troopers proud moment - an official PCT thru-hiker at Monument 78.

My entry in the PCT register.

Monument 78.

The ceremonial smoking of the stogie.

Current statistics.

Location: Seattle, WA. On my way back to Cascade Locks to complete my final 330 mile section to Crater Lake.
Miles walked: 2328.4
Miles left to finish: 321.6
Estimated finish: 16th November
Next update: From Sisters, Oregon in around a week.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Latest update

Current location: Stehekin, the last trail town before Canada.

Miles walked: 2252.8.

Miles left to Canada and the official PCT finish: 81.8

Miles left to complete from Cascade Locks to Crater Lake in Oregon (skipped section): 321.6

Weather: Rain below 4000 feet, snow and freezing conditions above. This final section is all above 5000 feet, a lot of it between 6000 and 7000 feet.

Frame of mind: Good. I have, and will be cold and wet for the next few days but am holding it together. Oregon is at a lower elevation and has a slightly kinder climate.

Next update from Manning Park in Canada around 30th October. Plenty of photos and video coming, have not been able to download because of poor Internet access.

Don't forget to stay tuned!

Natural hair gel.

I stink. No, I mean I really stink bad. I smell something like a mix of week old socks, the odour that hits you when you open a rubbish bin after a heatwave and mouldy cheddar. I didn't think it was actually possible to smell this bad. The wall of stench that assaults me when I take my boots off in the evening should be illegal.

We get strange looks in restaurants when we get to town. The smell, unkempt hair, dirty clothes and straggly beards gives people the impression we are vagrants, homeless. I am past caring about how people label me now. To be frank, it's them that smell bad. The odors that waft around my nose make me close my eyes. A cocktail of deodorants, hair products, after shave and perfume makes me gag in a sea of offensive chemicals. It's everyone else that stinks, not me.

I carry a toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, that's it. It's all I need. Deodorant carries a weight penalty and it doesn't work out here. After 2 hours hiking it screams 'Ok, I give up'! Hair products? What's the point? I don't use them back home and there is no call for them here either.

That said, after 2 days hiking, the mix of sweat, dust, grit and filth that accumulates acts as a natural hair gel anywhere. My hair sculpts into all sorts of weird shapes. I scare myself when I see what peers back at me when I reach town and look hesitantly in the mirror.

Stehekin, snow and Canada.

I'm writing this from a cabin overlooking the lake at Stehekin, the last chance to get of trail and re-supply before Canada.

Supping on a cup of Earl Grey (an Englishman must have his tea), I look at what lies above me. There is a clear snow line down to 4000 feet, the tops of the mountains dusted with a fine layer before the clouds obscure the upper elevations. Spectres of fine mist float across the lake and geese call to me to move. The hill flanks are coated in the greens of pine trees, the uniformity broken by the occasional gold of a maple. It is eerily quiet save for the occasional rustle of leaves as a weak breeze plays with them.

I think about how far I have come, and how far I have still to go. The last two weeks with Trooper have been amazing, he's a fine walking companion. Tommorow he leaves at 7am for the final 89 mile stretch where he finishes his 2010 Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. I will wait for Pockets who is in Chelan, a 3 hour ferry trip down the lake. Pockets has confirmed ecoli and has been told by the doctor to get off trail. He is ignoring this advice saying to me 'You can't keep Pockets down'. We will leave around mid-day and hopefully catch Trooper up by evening camp.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The latest.

Apologies for the lack of communication of late. I am walking with Trooper, we are on the final 190 mile stretch to the official finish point in Canada, about 10 days walking. After that I have to flip back down to Cascade Locks and walk a final 330 mile section to finish at Crater Lake some point mid November.

We have Ben walking through remote wilderness and will be for the next 10 days. Hence no blog updates (I am sitting outside a closed library picking up wifi on my iPod to write this). Next update in Canada where I should plenty of video, photos and text.

Weather freezing but I am holding it together and looking forward to getting home to my warm girlfriend. Thanks everyone for the messages and keep tuner in for an update from Canada and then subsequent news from the final stretch in Oregon.

Fozzie x

Friday, 8 October 2010

Latest shots from Pockets.

One Pan Wonders

Many thanks to Teresa Dicentra Black at One Pan Wonders (see the link over on the right). I met her during my first week on trail in California where she extolled her idea.

I have just recieved a parcel from Dicentra stocked full of her own home cooked and dehydrated food, plus a few goodies. Dicentra has a simple idea in that it is possible to eat well on the trail and her book 'One Pan Wonders' shows how easy this can be. Alternatively, you can do what I did and exchange a yummy food parcel for a little blog advertising space!

I'm eating well on the trail for the week or so!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Western Mountaineering - thanks.

Thanks to Gary Peterson at Western Mountaineering for the loan of their Summerlite sleeping bag that has given me some cosy nights over the past couple of months. I have now switched to their Ultralite model (good to -7c / 25f) as the nights are much colder. See their excellent products at http://westernmountaineering.com/

Cold nights and staying warm.

It was 8pm just before the ascent to Goat Rocks Wilderness and a knife edge ridge walk. There was no way I was going to attempt this in the dark, especially with some ominous clouds rolling in. A little light from the moon bounced around my camp, not enough to see so I switched on my head torch and carried on supping on some hot chocolate.

My torch began to pick out something falling around me, its beam reflecting thousands of particles. I assumed it was some light rain but then noticed that they weren't 'falling', more 'floating'. It was the first snowfall and whilst not heavy, it only deposited a light dusting, it was a sure fire sign that the Washington winter was beginning.

The mornings and nights are cold, the days chilly. I wake to ice on the tent and on the trail, my boots crunching on the frozen dirt as they break through the crust. Ice protrudes horizontally from bushes where the wind has forced it sideways. I unscrewed my water bottle to take a drink but instead of water flowing out, I was met with a clunk as a block of ice slid down and hit the bottle neck. Time to start sleeping with it in my sleeping bag - that will be cozy.

My feet are in bad shape. Not blisters but areas that are red and tender, painful to walk on and I don't understand what is causing them. Possibly grit from the trail working it's way into my boots and rubbing those areas, I have been forced to stop in Packwood for a day to try and start some sort of healing process.

A quick gear sorting as well as I send back my summer sleeping bag (a down bag on loan from Gary Peterson at Western Mountaineering - thanks Gary!). I have also picked up my down jacket, got new socks and my beloved neck buff knitted by my girlfriend Cherry back home (the best piece of kit!). My Terra Nova tent is also past it's best so I now have a Tarptent Contrail model which is 33% lighter and offers me a lot more internal space.

Low temperatures are the name of the game now and I have to be prepared for it to get a lot colder.

Latest Statistic.

Current Location: Packwood, WA.
Miles walked: I am at mile 2304.2 here with 345.8 miles left in Washington. However, I still have a 400 mile section to go back and complete in Oregon.

Latest shots.

Uncle Gary with locals Mile & Murray at Trout Lake store
Knifes Edge Ridge - Goat Rocks Wilderness
The approach to Cispus Pass (6450 feet)
Mountain Lake near Goat Rock Wilderness

Saturday, 2 October 2010

As of 2nd October:

Current location: Trout Lake.

Next stop and update: Not sure!

Red foliage and Chanterelles.

The bears know when its time. So do the mountain lions, the squirrels and the snakes. They sense when the snows are coming and they prepare for the winter. I can see the obvious signs like the leaves displaying reds, oranges and yellows and when the wind catches the trees we walk through thousands of them cascade down, floating from side to side like a mother cradling her baby. The mornings are colder, frost clinging to our tents as we watch a cloud of warm mist rise up as we exhale. Gaggles of Geese fly over us calling out, almost warning us of what to expect.

However, the feeling of Autumn encroaching and the signals run deeper to something that is hard to explain. Its more than just visual signals, as mesmerising as they are. This is my favourite time of year, the temperature is perfect for hiking, the sunsets magical and sitting in camp with a blazing fire is comforting. Something in my body makes me aware that Summer has ended, it's more than the smell of musty leaves, goes deeper than the mist banks swirling around me with beams of sunlight splicing through.

Pockets and I have been joined by Uncle Gary. Hailing from Petaluma, north of San Fransisco, he sports an impressive beard. 26 years old and studying outdoor education and research, he is an interesting guy to walk with. A powerful hiker with thighs like tree trunks, he walks a good, but not quick pace and reels of a series of jokes. Many times he has stopped to study fungi poking through the soil and we have feasted on the forests bountiful supply. His knowledge in this area is impressive and has supplemented my meagre memory banks of edible shrooms. Our food stocks have been well supplemented by the likes of Cauliflower Fungus, Boletes, Chanterelles and White Matsutake. Throw in some leftover bacon, fresh garlic and possibly some 'past its best parsley' and the finest restaurants would struggle to come up with anything that tastes this good.

Washington is proving great walking. Heavily forested, we meander through pine trees towering above us so high that we struggle to see the tops. The trail has been dampened with occasional rain which cushions our steps and has put a stop to the clouds of dust we normally kick up. Occasionally we glimpse valleys below us, lakes peek through the gaps and peaks such as Mt Adams and Mt Hood tower impressively above us, capped with fresh snow. Tough going after our brief Oregon entree, this state is back to the dips and crests we had become used to in California. Climbs of 3000 feet plus and 4 hour ascents make our thighs and calves scream. This 500 odd mile section will see us reach the Canadian border and trek a further 12 miles to the official finishing point in Manning Park before Pockets and I return to Cascade Locks on the Washington / Oregon border to walk south to our finish at Crater lake where we skipped up a few days ago. Having stopped a few miles short of Crater Lake, we never saw the magnificence that so many PCT's had been raving about. It should prove an amazing finale.

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) - Part 13

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Trail magazine, the biggest walking magazine in the UK has just published the article I wrote for them with photos by Pockets. It's out on Wednesday 29th September and even if I do say myself, it looks great!
As of 28th September:

Current location: Hood River, OR. Trying to get a ride to Cascade Locks to start the Washington section of the PCT.
Miles walked: 1833.6
Miles remaining: 816.4
Next stop and update: Packwood around 4th October.