PCT Update – Volume I from Mike Rumsey

Every year Tahoe Mountain Sports sponsors a PCT hiker to hike the trail, use our gear, and report back. This year, Mike Rumsey is the chosen one. Mike hails from Portland, OR and just started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail a few weeks ago. Here is his first check in, so enjoy! Thanks Mike.

Well the first couple of weeks, the first couple of hundred miles and the first couple of blisters are behind me.  Have I had a good time?  Absolutely yes!  Have things gone according to plan?  Absolutely not!  Have I rolled with the flow?  Absolutely!  It’s been a great adventure so far and I am looking forward with great excitement for the next part of the journey.

I started the journey with Doug and Mike, a couple of guys from the Northeast whom I had never met before.  My initial plan was to “ease” into the journey.  Due to the distance between water stops easing into the journey was not as easy as I had hoped.  The first day included a 15 mile am hike followed by a 5 mile pm hike. This landed me at Lake Morena.  The highlights of this stop included a shower and an excellent little store, complete with a large and tasty malt.  Not bad for the first day on the trail.

The following day included a re-route off the trail due to an aircraft crash.  We were told it was a 10 mile road walk but everyone seemed to think it was more like 13 miles. All of which seemed to be uphill and in the sun….the rainbow was a USFS campground which included showers….so, with a large handful of quarters I felt clean.  So, two days two showers……living the life of luxury, as long as it lasts anyhow.

As I soon learned, the deserts of Southern California are not as flat as one might expect.  After a few days I developed a couple of blisters as a result of too much of a good thing – downhill hiking.  So, an easy day was in order.  Around this time it seems everyone learned about the same lesson; hike early in the morning, hide out from the heat and hike more late in the afternoon, earlier if there is a breeze. 

Although I’ve seen a few snakes they have not been a problem.  The most pressing concern in the desert has been finding and carrying enough water from one water stop to the next.  To assist in this effort the primary tool is the PCT Water Report.  One plans each day and each segment of each day around the water report.   I’ve carried as much as six liters of water and as “little” as 4 1/2 liters.

After a few days on the trail most hikers hit Mt Laguna, still in San Diego County, but in the mountains.  The post office there was quite busy as almost without exception PCT hiker have decided their pack is too heavy and contain unnecessary stuff.

Since beginning the trail the sequence has been desert, mountains (Mt Laguna), desert, mountains(San Jacinto Wilderness), desert, and mountains (San Gorgonio wilderness – leading to Big Bear).

Along the way, I have met many other hiker and have already made some great hiking friends.  In fact, I met another hiker, also hiking with a Deuter ACT Lite 65 + 10 and he and I have already become fast friends.

The pack has withstood the rigors of the desert, including the numerous types of thorny and spiny bushes, with no noticable impact.

I’m also happy to report the MSR Hubba and the Thermarest Neo-Air are also no worse for wear.  I especially like that I get a great nights sleep with the Neo-Air.  Certainly better than the Z-rest.  Well worth the extra weight in my opinion.

As a result of differing hiking speeds and whether one makes town stops or not, there is some leap-frogging of hikers.  I’ve take every opportunity to have a meal, an ice cream bar, a malt, or a root beer float along the way, provided it has been along the trail (within a mile of the trail).  So, two weeks into the hike, about 265 miles, less 20 miles on the yellow blaze, a bit of saving the feet.

The most memorable moment of the first two weeks are seeing a fellow hiker hike back into camp and stating “Tell me you’re not where you camped last night”.  It seems a rock in the shoe and a switchback made for a bad combination as I was in the same spot.  Luckily, he only backtracked about an eight of a mile.

A welcome relief was seeing a recliner on the trail when I was nearly into Big Bear.  Seems there are three hostels/hotels that have a friendly rivalry in obtaining business.  One of them opted for a full-on rest stop, complete with a recliner and fresh fruit.  Nearly stopped me in my tracks it did.  It was a great rest stop and in fact I considered spending the night in the chair.  Alas, I hiked on and arrrived in Big Bear the next morning.

As a result of the blisters, never severe, but never quite gone, and due to a “still small voice” I have “yellow blazed” to the Fresno area to regroup, re-equip and spend a few days with family before resuming my hike.  I’ll be re-starting next week, at the end of the desert / beginning of the Sierra’s and at a bit more moderate pace.  I am looking forward to the beauty and serenity of the Sierra’s and the more relaxed pace I’ve opted for for the Sierra’s.

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