Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The ultimate hike!

Spring is here, and the weather here in Oregon is as good as it gets. High 60s and 70s and blue skies. We had a lot of rain this year, and it's nice to feel the sun right about now. This is the time of year when my primal urges for skiing give way to my addiction for hiking. It is that which inspired me to photo blog as much as I can on Oregon's open spaces. Wildernesses and parks.
But this is also the time of year when the hikers, known in the world of hiking as "thru-hikers" start their incredible journeys across vast portions of the United States. They are dedicated walkers, making the decision to walk with their homes on their backs for several months out of the year.
They are called Thru-Hikers because they hike long trails in their entirety. The Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. The Continental Divide Trail from Canada in Glacier National Park to the Mexican Border in New Mexico. And the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican Border in Campo, California, to the Canadian border in the Cascade Mountains of Washington.
You might think these people are nuts, but I understand their desire to put life on hold and experience the freedom of not worrying about anything but what your are going to eat next and where you are going to lay your head that night.
For me, I understand it as the indescribable urge to follow the path and find out where it leads.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is 2655 miles long, and takes most people who complete it about four and a half months to complete. You can take as much as five, but the window for completing the entire trail is short, as you must wait for the snow to melt in the high Sierra in California and get through Washington before the snow hits there in the fall.
You have to have some serious time on your hands to undertake this, and an intense dedication to the task. Many of the hikers are young and unmarried without children. Some work two jobs in the winter just to afford to take the entire summer off. Some are older and retired. Some are boomers who have a healthy income from investments or work consulting and can afford to take off for just one adventure of a lifetime.

Well before I knew about blogs, I knew about this site called Trail Journals. They allow these hikers to have space to share their journals with everyone, including some of the amazing pictures they bring back. You'll note if you go to the journals section that there are many more than just the three trails that I described above. The PCT, AT and CDT are the big three, but there are many more adventures for those without the time to take on those monumental hikes. The Long Trail in Vermont. The Colorado trail (which mirrors the CDT for much of its length). The John Muir trail through the Sierra. The Idaho State Centennial trail, and many more.
Someday I hope to try the PCT for myself. Perhaps I'll get to sooner if the kids, when they get older, are up to the feat of joining me. My wife is certainly in. But I expect I'll have to get the buggers all up and out to college first. Until then, I've got the mountains and brief interludes during the summers to come. And I've got Trail to keep me inspired until then.

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