Why I detest the PCTA

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) was originally conceived in the 1930s, though it took an act of congress to form the official Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (now the Pacific Crest Trail) in 1968. A Pacific Trail Congress was formed in 1977 to offer some oversight of the trail, and in 1992, it became the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA). In 1993, the PCTA formed a written memorandum with the National Forest Service, having the PCTA serve a major role in the supervision and maintenance of the trail. Since the 1990s, the PCTA has been quite active at promoting and maintaining the trail, as well as acquiring land from private landowners in order to make the trail truly a national heritage. Over time, the PCTA has been instrumental in developing use-restriction permits to prevent overuse of the trail. With time and the acquisition of increased control of the trail, the PCTA has done what so many agencies do, which is to lose sight of its original mission, which was to promote, maintain, and protect the PCT.

The PCTA is quite duplicious with trail promotion. They want people to support the PCTA, but they would rather that you NOT hike the PCT. It is a trail that they claim is overused. The PCTA seems hell-bent on keeping people off of the trail, usually citing hiker safety concerns, the Wuhan virus, or mating problems in yellow-legged frogs as the issue. I’d be happy if they worked as hard to keep people on the trail.

Safety is a trail issue since we live in a country ruled by lawyers, and any incident experienced on the trail would generate liability issues with the state. We can no longer accept that a tree may fall on a person, or snake unwarily attacks an innocent victim. Hikers will tend to do very stupid things, often in challenging themselves to set some sort of trail record, such as doing the fastest known time (fkt) hiking the entire trail. Some real safety policies, like expecting (demanding) that everyone on the trail carry personal locator beacons (plbs), would offer safety as well as provide information as to how many and where people are on the trail. One in a billion worries like the risk of transmitting the Wuhan virus from one hiker to another has clouded the judgement of the agency.

For several years, the PCTA had as their poster child the hiker Cheryl Strayed with her book about hiking (maybe) 500 miles of the PCT. One PCT hiker wrote a massive series of posts detailing how nearly everything in the book Wild was false. The reader is welcome to check this out at https://cherylstrayedisaliar.blogspot.com/?zx=44a5c13d2d5ce1d9. Cheryl Strayed in her book, though attempting to alternate between seriousness and funniness, shows how to cast environmental concerns, trail concerns, trail etiquette, and trail honesty to the wind. She shows just about everything one can do wrong on the trail, including poor planning, poor judgement, and misjudging many people that she met on the trail. Why the PCTA decided to use Cheryl Strayed as a poster child was very poor judgement, a trait shared between the PCTA and Cheryl Strayed.

Just a few years ago the PCTA decided that there were too many white folk on the trail, and so engaged in a campaign to get more “colored” folk on the trail, meaning, more black skinned folk. They even developed a system of trail “ambassadors”, i.e., colored folk, whom they would economically finance to hike the trail. Then, the PCTA developed a system whereby those of confused sexuality could find themselves “protected”. Various work crews would consist only of females (don’t dare have the males do an activity that restricts females!). Directly and indirectly, focus was placed on encouraging folk with various sexual perversions to make themselves known on the trail. I tend to be colorblind on the trail and I never ask a person to describe in full their sexual orientation as I’m not interested. I don’t care if your skin is white, black, brown, yellow, red or green. I do care that you maintain common trail courtesies and that your are respectful of the environment. From the PCTA promotion of Cheryl Strayed, it is quite obvious that the PCTA is more worried about the promotion of females on the trail, regardless of their sensitivity to the environment and leaving no trace, a trait that Cheryl lacked and never acquired during her summer sojourn on the trail. This shift can also be found within the board and administrative structure of the PCTA, where it seems they are more concerned about diversity than with finding the most qualified individuals. In essence, the entire organization became Woke!

I have volunteered many times in the past with the PCTA as well as with the Washington Trails Association in order to maintain or construct trails in the Cascades. What I found was the technology of trail construction/maintenance has not changed in the last 100 years. Pity. We spent much time rummaging for rock and dirt to fill in the trail. Steps and other structures were built by locating hemlock trees just off the trail, cutting them down, debarking them, then sawing them into appropriate lengths and using (mostly) rock to stabilize the structures. There’s nothing wrong with all of that, except that it is an environmentally destructive process, and the materials would not be guaranteed to last more than 10-20 years. Thus, a trail needs to be reconstructed about every 10-20 years. Surely there are materials with a much longer expected life span that can be made to appear as natural which could be used for the trail?

I find it amusing that trail technology has not sought for more durable solutions to trail construction or maintenance. The Romans could build roads that were environmentally pleasing and yet lasted for 2000 years. Our trails scarcely last 20 years! I surmise that part of the problem is the Wilderness Act of 1964. This act was seriously needed and yet is deeply flawed in how it was written. It needs to be completely replaced by more nuanced thought about the designation of sundry wilderness areas. The PCTA, like other trail organizations, thrive off of the restrictions placed on wilderness lands by the Wilderness Act. A segment of trail could easily be cleared of blow-downs and encroaching weeds through the use of a chain saw, gas powered weed wacker, and a three man crew. What would take a 3-man powered crew about 3-4 hours to accomplish would take a non-powered crew of 10-14 a week or more. Since large volunteer work crews are best accomplished by the PCTA or other state hiking clubs, keeping a non-automated restriction works to the benefit of the organization.

Yet, one may ask about the environmentally friendlier choice? With a large crew using nothing but handsaws and manual weedwackers, there is a far greater distraction to hikers from large crews on the trail, and the recruitment of crews usually cannot occur expeditiously, so that major blow-downs (logs across the trail) may take months or years to remove, and in the interim, destructive detours are created by hikers wending their way across the trail obstruction. Some hikers may complain about the noise of a chainsaw, yet that noise is brief compared to the noise of a large crew spending many days on the trail, with the noise of axes, hammers and lumber saw blades constantly grinding. I find also that those who complain about trail maintenance NOT being completely “natural” are the least likely to volunteer for trail maintenance. So, the Wilderness Act needs to be rewritten to allow the limited use of powered tools to maintain trails. With the PCTA operating largely in personal survival mode, its servant status is lost and the fallacious arguments regarding environmental concerns that it uses to defent itself is easily countered.

There are several other issues regarding trail maintenance where I think the PCTA has been deficit. First is the issue of campsites. The PCTA in general seems to frown on dispersed camping and for good reason. Yet, simple math tells a different story. A hiker will average 15-25 miles per day. The PCTA permit system allows for 50 people a day starting the trail. Not all permit holders will be starting at their designated time, and for the most part, other hikers will also be on the trail, which means that at peak seasons there will be between 40-80 hikers per day at a time on each 20 mile segment of trail. These 60 or so people will hike roughly 20 miles each day and set up camp. Thus, for each 15-20 miles, there needs to aveage camp sites for roughly 50-60 tents. There are VERY FEW 20 mile stretches of trail that would allow for 50+ tents. Thus, there is either massive amounts of dispersed camping, or perhaps there are far fewer than 50 people per day on the trail? Fact: planned and built campsites are actually much less destructive of the habitat than dispersed camping, and why the PCTA doesn’t see this as a problem and seek a solution is a mystery to me.

Second is the issue of water supply in the desert. There are several places on the trail where a hiker would be in trouble is there wasn’t a cache of water. These stretches of the trail would be nigh to unhikable by conventional means without a cached water supply. Examples include the gate 3 cache, water at Mike’s Place and Mary’s Place, three caches between Lander’s Meadow and Walker Pass, and the cache 22 on the Hat Creek Rim. I am told that perhaps the PCTA helps sponsor these caches? I don’t know. The PCTA is quite critical of people leaving cached water for all comers on the trail. The PCTA needs to be less duplicious on trail water caches. Considering that the water caches are necessary for the bulk of thru-hikers on the trail, why isn’t the PCTA more forthright about it and take seriously that trail safety necessitates the maintenance of at least a few of these water caches? Does the PCTA know the segments of the trail where water supply becomes a true safety issue? What are they doing about it? It’s just another mystery to me.

I’ve noticed that the culture of people who hike the trail has changed. Traditionally, a person would dream about the prospect of thru-hiking the PCT, knowing that it would take up about a half year to do. They would quit or take leave of their occupation, hike the trail, and then return to normal life. Some would do the trail after completing school or other education with the intention of returning to work after the hike is completed. Nowadays, it seems like a greater and increasing proportion of hikers are the permanently unemployed, self-identified hiker trash that spends their life on the trail. Their role-models are people like Heather Anderson, Yogi, and Billy-Goat, whose entire identity is with that of the trail. In addition, social media has allowed for increased communication between hikers and others. Facebook is a prime example, with multiple PCT and trail angel pages. The use (and need) for trail angels has always existed, but has gone up precipitously. I served as a trail angel several years and found it enjoyable though exhausting. My wife and I have developed a number of friends that I first met while on the trail who we were able to act as a trail angel. Now that we live further from the trail, such activity is no longer possible. Yet, I have no problem with trail angels. It’s just that hikers have spent less time planning and organizing their trip, forcing an increased dependency on the outside community including that of trail angels. All in all, the presence of trail angels has been both a blessing and curse for the hiking community. So, what do trail angels have to do with the PCTA organization? The PCTA offers a short web page offering advice for potential trail angels and caution for hikers seeking their assistance. Yet, their advice is moderately displaced. The PCTA realizes how many trail angels have created their own trail culture (Frodo and Scott, Hiker Heaven, Casa del Luna, etc.) though many of these trail angels have become temporary fixtures and when they retire from trail angeling leave serious voids. I would hope that the PCTA realize that trail angeling is a part of their problem and working out a better system would be in order. How does one handle the disappearance of Mary’s place now that she is shutting down? Where does one camp? Where does one get water in that stretch of the trail? Ziggy Bear, the Saufleys (Hiker Heaven), the Andersons (Casa del Luna), Dinsmore’s Retreat and more have all come and gone, while momentarily defining the PCT hiking experience. Meanwhile, the PCTA acts almost as though they never existed. The PCTA webpage discourages trail angels that operate shuttles from charging money for their services, yet their services would not exist if they couldn’t ask even reimbursement for gas. Trail angels being such a vital part of the PCT culture, it is surprising that the PCTA hasn’t expressed more interest in organizing trail angeling into a cohesive group.

Ultimately, the issue with so many organizations is that of a power struggle. When a volunteer/charitable organization becomes heavily financed by the government, the character of that organization usually changes for the worse. Being bound by a governmental agency, the organization ceases to be a volunteer organization and becomes a political monster. As a political agency, true care for the PCT diminishes and political power increases. You are told that it is for your own good, yet the increasingly impersonal approach of the PCTA leaves one seriously wondering.

What do we do about the PCTA? At the present time, it is a necessary evil. If you wish to do hiking that includes PCT in the high Sierra, one has no choice but to apply for a trail permit. The PCTA provides information on trail closures, but rarely offers alternatives for those who wish to complete the full 2650+ miles of the trail. Most trail information I obtained from sources such as www.postholer.com, www.halfwayanywhere.com/blog/ for suggestions on the best trail gear and trail strategies, or Yogi’s guidebook for resupply town information, to name a few. The PCTA does a few things well. They are good at organizing trail maintenance. They are keen on watching for when trail access becomes problematic secondary to private interests. Their PCT Days event is enjoyable. They make a PCT photo book that is good for the coffee table. Sadly, their strengths don’t make up for their weaknesses. Until the PCTA wakes up and realizes that they are just as detrimental as good for the PCT, we may only expect the PCTA to become ever more control oriented, rather than seeking a way to maximize the pleasure of the trail for all.

A year in Las Vegas

On 19MARCH2022, one year ago, we arrived home in Las Vegas. After one year, we are happier than ever about the move. Indeed, the year seemed to fly quickly, but with contentment. Before our arrival, we flew from Spokane to Las Vegas in early February to explore the possibility of moving here. Though the weather was cool in Las Vegas, it was much warmer than in Spokane. We did several days of home hunting with a realtor when Betsy identified several homes in Sun City Aliante which seemed promising. Both homes were acceptable, but the second home seemed to hit home with us. We made an offer on the home, and it was immediately accepted.

The decision to move to Las Vegas was somewhat complicated. We were living in Puyallup, and with the progressive liberalization of the Northwest, decided we had to get out. My two brothers Lewis and Gaylon were in the process of moving to Ocala, Florida, but I wasn’t quite so convinced that Ocala would be the best place for Betsy and me. We put our house up for sale, and within a week it was sold at our asking price. We had a while before we needed to vacate our house, but I wasn’t sure where we should go. The decision-making process included a number of factors. 1. We wanted to move to a more conservative area of the country. 2. We wanted it to be mostly warm. 3. We wanted a state that was tax-friendly to retirees. 4. We wanted a place that had a relatively low cost of living. 5. We wanted to live where it would be very easy to catch an airplane to either Sioux Center, Iowa, or to Puyallup, WA. 6. Housing costs had to be affordable. 7. Acceptable churches had to be available with the possibility of becoming involved in that church. 8. There was a strong preference for being close to mountains. Our list of possible states included Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas, and Florida.

We decided that we would start by renting, and then exploring from there whether the area would be favorable to settle. With Las Vegas best filling the above criteria, we went apartment hunting in LV. The area was appealing, but Betsy and I both were not feeling at peace with LV. “Sin City”?? Living close to the Strip?? We almost felt like something must be wrong with anybody who would choose to move to Las Vegas. Clearly, ulterior motives must be present in those that chose to settle in Sin City. We found several apartments that appealed to us but felt we had to think it over some more. On the plane flight home, we both decided to try somewhere else. I suggested that we check out Spokane since it was close to Idaho as a great state to move to. A quick drive from Puyallup to Spokane gave us the opportunity to find an apartment to our satisfaction. Using Sarah, Ken, and the Flanagan kids, we loaded up our belongings and unloaded them in Green Acres, WA, a suburb of Spokane.

Spokane was wonderful in many ways. There were mountains, though the best hiking would require travel into Idaho. The weather in the winter was frigid, leading both of us to decide this area (eastern Washington or Idaho) might not be the best choice for our retirement years. Flights to visit our children were not convenient. So, after about 4-5 months, we decided we better start thinking about alternative number two. Florida was high on the list, with the appeal of Lew and Gaylon. Yet, Florida had no mountains, minimal hiking (unless one enjoyed hiking through swamps), it was very humid in summer, and there were bugs… lots of bugs to contend with. So, our second trip to Las Vegas was made as described above.

I decided that a moving service was way too expensive for something that we could do ourselves. Thankfully, Gaylon was available to help with the move. We flew him up to Spokane, and after hiring a couple of young folks to load a large U-Haul truck, and with Gaylon driving the truck, we headed off to Las Vegas, filled with anticipation. The trip went through Montana, Salt Lake City and down I-15 to North Las Vegas, now to be called our home. We again used an “unloading” service to put everything in the house or garage. Some furniture did not survive the move, but that was okay. Gaylon soon afterward returned to Ocala, and we were left with the chore of creating a home out of a house.

Though the house was in good shape, we desired modifications. A list of a few follows. 1. We had all of the carpets (in several rooms) removed and replaced with plank flooring. 2. We replaced an aging air conditioner/heater. 3. We had solar panels installed to save on electric costs. 4. We installed a water filtration system. 5. We had a landscaper install a brick patio in the back. He also replaced most of the flora with cactus plants. 6. We purchased more furniture, especially in the living room, to better fill out the house, while making use of the furniture that we brought from Spokane. 7. We had cat6 cable strung throughout the house. 8. We installed a security alarm system. 9. I installed a workshop in the garage. 10. We had security rolling shutters placed on all of the main windows. 11. Multiple minor repairs were done. In all, it’s been a great adventure. We have a feeling like we are perpetually on vacation in our new home. There are no bugs. There are mostly sunny days, though it does rain here in winter, with occasional summer monsoons. It is mostly warm. The two hot months of the summer afford an excuse to get out and go hiking or visit family. Several months of the winter were cold and rainy enough to induce one into book-reading mode.

Slowly, we are making friends. Our next-door neighbor is a friendly couple who are wonderful Christians and a total delight to get to know. For churches, we started with a Reformed Baptist church, but eventually migrated back to the PCA denomination, and now attend Spring Meadows Presbyterian Church, which is close to the south side of the Strip. It’s about a 1/2 hour drive for us. Though we wished for a more formal liturgy, beggars can’t be choosy. Hopefully, we might develop a ministry in the church.

My outdoor adventures in the area of the world are just beginning. I’ve hiked and biked the Red Rock Canyon area many times. Mt. Charleston is 1/2 hour from home and has dense pine forests, though it is snowed in for four to five months of the year. We’ve tried to explore many other areas of the state, including the Extraterrestrial highway, hopping I-15 to San Diego to visit friends, running down to Lake Havasu, and checking out the most southern portion of our state, visiting the Grand Canyon, driving to Phoenix to visit family, and exploring Lake Mead and the Valley of Fire. We still have a lot to do. Southern/Central California remains on the list, Southern Utah with its National Parks, as well as exploring central Nevada, remains on our to-do lists.

Las Vegas is properly titled the entertainment capital of the world. That is not a hyperbole. In 1950, Las Vegas was barely a town. With investments from Howard Hughes, the mob, and the Mormon Mafia, the town exploded. It is constantly a town in transition so almost nothing remains permanent. Yet, Las Vegas provides some phenomenal dining opportunities, as well as clean forms of entertainment. We got to meet Rich Little, who is a conservative that rubbed shoulders with all the high and mighty of Las Vegas. Still, the Strip remains about as far from our minds as anything, and our main excuse for going there is the desire of curious guests who come to visit us.

Why would anybody ever want to live in Las Vegas????? Isn’t it Sin City? Don’t you have to be some sort of pervert to want to move here? Isn’t Nevada synonymous with gambling and prostitution? No. It is not. Certain vices are legal here according to the state, but not according to God. Thankfully, there are many Christians in Nevada and an abundance of churches. There is also an abundance of Moroni churches here, remembering that the Moronis were some of the first permanent settlers in Las Vegas valley. Las Vegas is a veritable mission field for Christians, and it is with shame that more Christians are not flocking to this area. Even Paul considered it necessary to visit immoral cities in the Roman empire, including Corinth, Athens, as well as Rome itself. Truth be told, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle far better fit the description of “Sin City” than Las Vegas, and Christians that use the pretense of sin in Las Vegas to not move here should feel deep shame.

We move into our second year in Las Vegas with a bit more knowledge of what to expect. We’ve been blessed with lots of visitors this late Winter and early Spring. I anticipate that I’ll be able to start hiking training in earnest in the next month or so. It has been an unusually cold winter for California, Nevada, and Arizona, so outdoor activities will be a touch delayed. We hope to visit family in Iowa as well as in Washington this summer. I also hope to get in some more extended backpacking, completing more of the Pacific Crest Trail. Betsy and I have no idea what the future will hold for us, but at the moment, we will stay in Las Vegas and use it as a “base camp” to venture out into God’s wonderful world.

Adventure to Yosemite

El Capitan, looking straight at the nose, with the Salathé Wall to the left

I decided to retrieve most of my resupply buckets for a canceled PCT hike, and it happened that I was also able to drop off a PCT hiker that I met three years ago at her new starting point of Kennedy Meadows. Intrepid flew into Las Vegas, and after a day of rest, we ventured off on a direct path to Kennedy Meadows (South). This entailed going through Death Valley in the heat of summer, so I decided to make the journey as early in the day as possible. We left at 6 am in the morning, traveling through Red Rock Canyon, Pahrump, and then down into the south end of Death Valley. This allowed us to see the lowest point in the USA, 262 feet below sea level, at Badwater Basin.

Betsy at Badwater Basin, with the sun just coming up behind us
Intrepid at Badwater Basin
Betsy and I at Furnace Creek at 8 am. Furnace Creek has the hottest recorded temperatures ever anywhere on earth
Saying goodbye to Death Valley NP

There were several significant climbs in order to get out of Death Valley. This put us into the Owens Valley leading us to the curvy windy mountain road up to 6000 ft elevation to Kennedy Meadows (South) (KMS). Here, we had lunch at Grumpy Bears and wished Intrepid goodbye. We picked up the KMS resupply bucket and headed off to Independence, CA where we had the second resupply bucket left at the Courthouse Motel. We spent the night there, then traveled north to Bishop for breakfast at a Dutch Bakery, then took a short bypass to Mammoth, stopping at the Minarets Overlook. We crossed over Sonora Pass, a VERY tortuous, windy road (even worse than the road to KMS) in order to reach a Resort and Packstation, but ALSO named Kennedy Meadows, which I term Kennedy Meadows North (KMN). After retrieving our third resupply bucket and having lunch, we learned that there were no cabins available there, and the campgrounds were entirely full. We were prepared to camp but realized that this was not the place to camp. Off we drove, eventually making it to Mariposa, CA by the afternoon. While driving to Mariposa, I pointed out a cloud of smoke rising in the distance, noting that it was a forest fire, but we thought nothing of it. The hotels in Mariposa were mostly full and hyper-expensive, but we didn’t have much of a choice once we found a room.

In Bishop
Fish cookies at Schat’s. The bakery goods were awesome.
Looking at the mountain range across the valley from Mammoth Mountain. The Minarets show on the right edge of the photo.

In the morning, we wake up to learn that the forest fire is real, and that they shut down the roads to the south end of the park, as well as the Wawona Hotel where we were going to spend the first night, as well as the Mariposa Grove. The hotel reservation was automatically canceled, and we had no choice but to find something else to do for a day, knowing that we could definitely NOT enter the park. We drove to Merced, found a cheap hotel, and decided to get up very early the next day to have a full day in Yosemite National Park. The morning drive to the park was glorious, going through the very narrow V-shaped valley of the Merced River, and then entering the broad glacial carved valley of the Park. What we didn’t realize was that the forest fire smoke had engulfed Yosemite Valley and that we were unable to see anything. We did numerous stops, visited the Park center, and then checked into our cabin at Curry Village. Meanwhile, we were oblivious to our surroundings. That evening, some of the smoke temporarily cleared, offering a view of Half Dome and Glacier Point. Wow!

Blood-red sun rising in the east.
Bridalveil Falls
The Misty Mountains
Mountains in the Mist

The next day, we checked out of Curry Village, and took a hike up the Mist Trail (the actual name of the trail) to Vernal Falls. We then checked into hotel #2, the Yosemite Valley Lodge, across from the infamous camp 4.

Betsy lost in wonder in the Valley
Granite blocks everywhere defined the terrain of Yosemite Valley
Vernal Falls
Yosemite Falls, the tallest falls in North America

The next morning, we did a relaxed departure, spending time admiring El Capitan, and checking out the climbing routes up the face. We did not see any climbers on the rock. It was very hazy again. We departed the park by driving over Tioga Pass. This afforded views back into the Valley, including Half Dome. The views were quite clear from high up on Tioga Pass. We drove all the way to Tonopah, NV where we spent the night at Tonopah Station, a historical hotel but otherwise a real dive. It was an easy drive back home the next day, stopping only at the Area 51 Alien Center.

On the road out of Yosemite Valley, looking down on the valley
A wonderful view of the valley and Half Dome from the Tioga Pass
Hoping to see some aliens, but had to settle for this

The trip was wonderful and relaxing. I was able to get in a little bit of walking, and Betsy and I were able to go places and see things that we’d never seen before. Because of the forest fire and visibility issues, the trip definitely whetted our appetite to return. The trip to the Valley from North Las Vegas would take about 7 hours of driving, easily done in a day if the passes were open from snow. A day later, we again watched the movie of Free Solo with Alex Honnold climbing the Freerider route up El Capitan without a rope or any protection. Being there gave us the perspective to realize what an awesome feat he actually accomplished.

PCT 2022 – Anfang und Ende

Sadness and sorrow are emotions easily felt but difficult to express on paper. It takes a poet to do that, which I am not. I have had a significant amount of grief in the last few days regarding hitting the trail again. There were moments when I thought that I had found a solution: I found a far more comfortable pack, and I found someone who would be hiking (sort of) with me. I knew that before I returned to the trail, I needed to try hiking some trails close to home with a full pack. That I did yesterday, only to find that strength-wise, there was no problem. Instead, back pain, neck pain, and pain radiating down the arms from the brachial plexus was an issue. True, it was a pack that weighed in at about 30 lbs., something that I would need to be carrying through the Sierras. It would not be an issue if I were doing a 2-4 day hike, but to be doing a hike with multiple segments, some of which would be 5-7 days in duration, will probably no longer be feasible for me.

Dreams die hard. Perhaps next year I will find a solution. Perhaps not. It is in God’s hands. Betsy certainly is happy that I am not hiking. Don’t get me wrong; my favorite person is Betsy, and my favorite times are with her. The adventure side of me rages on. What would that trail look like? What would it be like going over Forester Pass or hitting the region of the high Sierra? My hike through the Southern California desert was filled with great joy, though I developed momentary problems that demanded rest. I had mastered the art of long-distance hiking, which is a skill in and of itself, very much unlike regular backpacking. I had devoted hours upon hours to training hikes and preparation. Perhaps my biggest mistake was not doing more training hikes with heavier packs; the pack I used weighed about 17-20 lb maximum.

To assuage my sorrow, Betsy and I went down to the Strip to see Rich Little. He was quite funny and nice to listen to someone with a conservative mindset. In 1.5 hours he had us all laughing and enjoying some political humor, while he reviewed his life story of coming into show business, and then imitating all of the really famous stars that he had gotten to know (and there were MANY!). We got to sit within 6 feet of him, and he even ended by shaking Betsy and my hands. Super-cool! Go see him if you are in Las Vegas, as he won’t be alive too many years more.

Rich Little at the Tropicana

I appreciate the supportive comments that many of my friends have sent me. Sadly, a few people have tried to offer instructions to me as to what I’m doing wrong, though clearly having no clue as to what it involves to do a thru-hike. Adding insult to injury is something that only Fortunato would do, but unlike Amontillado, I will not vow revenge.

Why did things go wrong? I consider several issues were problematic here. First, perhaps more extensive training with a heavier pack should have been done. Secondly, our life had a tremendous disruption because of our recent move to Las Vegas, and that was always on my mind. Thirdly, I knew that Betsy was uncomfortable being alone in a new city, something that pricked my heart well. Fourthly, there was a huge psychological aspect to the hike which I did not account for. The fire to abuse myself and suffer great pain was diminished. I had no cause that I was hiking for. I felt like I was endlessly engaged in a self-flagellating procedure that offered me no redemption. The joy of having a friend or comrade with me was completely absent. All of these things added up to the extinguishing of a dream.

So, I am exploring options with Betsy. I need to pick up my resupply packages, and in traveling to Kennedy Meadows (South) will take Intrepid with Betsy and me to help them start their hike. I will pick up most of the resupply packages that I sent. I hope to get in some car camping, though that is not Betsy’s forte. I will be looking for short trips (1-2 nighters) that I could do, perhaps with the grandchildren? Maybe I need to start cycling more? I love cycle touring, and it is easy to break up a trip into small segments, thanks to the liberal bicycle policy of Amtrak. Who knows what the future holds. I’ll try not to waste the rest of the summer moping. I welcome friendly and informed advice.

P.s. “Anfang und Ende” means “Beginning and End” in German

PCT2022 The Beginning

The Walker Pass Memorial Plaque

14June2022 Betsy dropped me off at the Centennial Hills Transit Station where I boarded an express city bus to downtown. Connecting with the Amtrak bus was not a problem. The bus also picked up passengers at the South Transit Terminal, and stopped in Barstow for a 40 minute break before heading to Bakersfield. The bus also stopped in Mojave and Tehachapi before arriving in Bakersfield on time. I was able to hop a city bus up to Lake Isabella and found my motel without a problem.

The city bus that would take me to the Amtrak bus terminal
The Amtrak bus
The hotel. It’s a dive, but one gets a good night’s sleep, and it gets you to the trail ok. It’s about ½ mile walk from the bus terminal.

Early the next morning I was fully packed, back at the bus stop. By 7 am, I was at Walker Pass Trailhead, eager and willing to hit the trail. Thru-hikers who had camped at Walker Pass were now up and also eager to hit the trail. I started up with vim and vigor.

The start of the PCT just past Walker Pass. It immediately starts climbing after this flat spot.
Moving up the trail, the Walker Pass road remains visible for over a mile. One soon gets out of the Joshua Tree elevations (of about 3000-6000 ft). It had a great amount of beauty, and was very mountainous.

Within about 10 minutes, my back started to kill me. It was something that I just could not ignore, as it got worse and worse as hiking when on. Soon, the pain from the backpack dominated all thinking. I knew that something was wrong, and that I could not go on with the status quo. So, after about 1.7 miles and an hour on the trail, I turned around. I caught an 8:50 bus back to Lake Isabella, and was able to get back home by 1 am the next morning, though it would have been much sooner had I realized the problem with taking public transportation through the Strip late at night. The Strip is a zoo at night.

So, what am I going to do? I have a lot of options available. The first thing is to change how I did things from the start. This morning, I repacked everything in the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. To my surprise, everything fit. I figured out additional means of lightening up the load. I’ll probably only take four liters, and hopefully not start on a very hot day. Doing the trail with somebody could help. Training hikes with a full pack will be necessary, which I’ll start in the next few days. With the aching bones, being careful to maintain a Ibuprofen on board will be totally relevant.

If I find that I can’t manage, then I will do a road trip to pick up my resupply mailings at Kennedy Meadows South, Independence, and Kennedy Meadows North. The VVR package will be left for a needy person or two. It’s in God’s hands. Meanwhile, I’m home with Betsy, the love of my life, and life doesn’t get any better than that!

Final Preparations PCT2022 t-1

It is now only two more days before I depart for the trail. Suddenly, there is much on the agenda. I need to take care of the final resupply packages, which include a bucket that I’ll mail on Monday as well as four boxes that Betsy will send later on. I have not gotten in a few last raining hikes, but still think I’m ready. The forecast suggests that my first few miles will be hotter than average, meaning that I will need to limit my hiking in the heat of the day. Thankfully, the weather is cooling off a bit as I write this.

I made my final review of all my equipment. I set up my tent out on the golf course late one night. I tried out the Sawyer squeeze and realized that it was old, didn’t work, and needed to be replaced. I played around with my stoves, decided to get a 750 ml titanium cup with handles to use with the MSR pocket rocket stove. The final weight (without the fuel canister) is now 7.2 oz compared to the 13.1 oz I used for the Jetboil Flash Lite stove that I was previously using. I blew up my air mattress to make sure there were no leaks. Everything packed nicely into my backpack, so I now feel ready to go.

New Sawyer Squeeze
Final stove arrangement
Stove packed
Thermarest air mattress – deflated
All of my stuff for the high Sierra, including micro spikes and a bear canister
Fully packed pack

Other chores involved taking care of odds and ends around the house with Betsy, mailing my final resupply, and assuring that my electronics were up to speed. Finally, I am doing this post on my iPhone as a warm-up to doing this every night on the trail. I think I’m ready, and tomorrow I catch busses to take me to Lake Isabella. You can follow me on this blog page as I will NOT be posting to Facebook. My public InReach breadcrumbs which will tell you exactly where I’m at at all times (if I’m on the trail) can be found at share.garmin.com/PuyallupPilgrim

I welcome your prayers. You are welcome to contact me but please don’t use Satellite messaging unless it’s an emergency. Also, it may take a week or two for me to get back to you.

PCT – 9 days and counting

Resupply packages ready to mail

On 14JUN in the early AM I will be hopping a city bus down to downtown Las Vegas, where I’ll be connecting with a Trailways bus to Bakersfield. From there, I’ll take a Kern County bus up to Lake Isabella where I have a motel room (I’ve stayed there before) awaiting me. I will also pick up last-minute supplies in Lake Isabella, such as some fresh fruit, for the trail. Very early on 15JUN, I will be boarding another Kern County Transit bus to Walker Pass, where, at about 7 am, I disembark and start my journey north on the PCT.

Preparations have been extensive. I needed to obtain a consent to hike the High Sierra through Yosemite. I needed to prepare resupply provisions. True, I could have picked up many things on the fly while on the trail, but then, that can become another hassle that I’m trying to avoid. The four buckets go out on Monday to Kennedy Meadows South, Independence, Vermilion Valley Resort, and the Kennedy Meadows North. I am using buckets since these items are going to remote locations which are prone to injury and vermin. I almost certainly will be leaving a lot of food for fellow hikers, but then, better to have too much food than too little.

I’ve posted both on this blog site and on Facebook a few of my training hikes. I thought that there would be a problem finding training hikes in Las Vegas, but the opposite proved to be the case. I’ve worn out a pair of Altra Lone Peaks and will be starting the trail with a fresh set.

Generally, a day on the trail consists of waking up, resisting the urge to stay in the sack, making a simple breakfast (I do like hot chocolate or coffee), oatmeal or a granola bar, collapsing the tent and packing my bags, and heading up the trail. I will usually sing a few dittys (the Doxology, the Nicene Creed, the Gloria Patri, and Schönster Herr Jesu), while I start out slow on the trail. Then, it is about 8-12 hours of just walking. I try to take lots of photos. I stop once in a while for breaks and for lunch. I generally am deeply engaged in thought, or brain fog, during the walk. Having free time to think, I can also engage in prayer for family (beloved wife, 5 siblings, 4 children, 13 grandchildren) plus prayer for friends that I know are going through various trials in life. Hiking is always a time to reflect on God’s goodness to me. Serious attention is always paid to the trail and whatever dangers it may present. Once I feel that I’ve hiked far enough (a distance ranging from 15-25 miles) I find a decent campsite, set up my tent, and cook dinner, which is usually very simple. I don’t cold soak my foods; perhaps someday I will. Climbing into my tent, I’ll write my blog entry for the day, perhaps get in some reading, and struggle for some serious shut-eye. I usually wake up 2-3 times at night to urinate; hey, that’s what geriatric male hiking is all about.

I usually will do some reading in the evening, and that I will do on my iPhone Books and Kindle apps. I read a chapter or two of Scripture and then some serious book. My future blogs will talk more about what I have set apart to read. I find that I don’t read too well while hiking; I am usually too tired and the brain fog prevents serious reading. I’m not sure how some people can pack large paperbacks; that just isn’t congruous with my way of doing things.

You will be able to follow my journey on the trail. The InReach mini will leave bread crumbs as to my current and past locations. That is accessible at https://share.garmin.com/PuyallupPilgrim . I will also be sending my wife and a few select friends a text when I hit the trail and retire from the trail every day. I mentioned that I have a theme song this year that I will be keeping in mind. Here are the words (auf Deutsch), and then my verbatim (not poetic) translation. The usual English translation is poor.

Schönster Herr Jesu,
Schöpfer aller Dinge,
Gottes und Marien Sohn!
Dich will ich lieben,
Dich will ich ehren,
Meiner Seelen Freud und Wonn.

Alle die Schönheit
Himmels und der Erden
Ist gefaßt in dir allein.
Keiner soll immer
Lieber mir werden
Als du, schönster Jesus mein!

Schön ist die Sonne,
Schön ist der Mond,
Schön sind die Sterne allzumal:
Jesus ist feiner,
Jesus ist reiner
Als die Engel im Himmelssaal.

Schön sind die Blumen,
Schöner sind die Menschen
In der frischen Jugendzeit;
Sie müssen sterben,
Müssen verderben:
Jesus lebt in Ewigkeit.


Beautiful Lord Jesus, creator of all things, God’s and Mary’s son. You will I love. You will I honor. You are my soul’s joy and ecstasy.

All of the beauty in heaven and on earth is held in you alone. Nothing will be more my affection than you, beautiful Jesus.

Beautiful is the sun[shine], beautiful in the moon[shine], and especially beautiful are the stars. Jesus is more spendid, Jesus in purer than all the angels in the sky.

Beautiful are the flowers, more beautiful is mankind in their fresh youth. They must die, they must rot [or spoil away]. [Only] Jesus lives forever.

The hymn certainly was NOT sung by the Crusaders but did originate in the 1600s or before. It is a fitting song for pilgrims on pilgrimage. And thus, Pilgrim will use this song as the 2022 hiking theme.

Kudos to the Hiking Rev on YouTube for being an inspiration for me to do “it” this year. His vlogs are awesome coming from another old geezer (Alte Knacker), and most of his advice is consistent with what I’ve discovered while long-distance hiking before.

I have no idea whether I’ll accomplish my goals for this year. It doesn’t matter. My wife, family, church, and friends are the most important thing to me. I am older now, and various parts of my skeletal anatomy hurt constantly. I have the strength to do as planned, but other circumstances may prevail. Only God knows what will ultimately become of my hike. Soli deo gloria.

You did what????

Our home in North Las Vegas
The view of Gass Peak from our front yard (looking North)

Some people are a touch agast when informed that we just moved to “Sin City”. Actually, we don’t live in Sin City (Las Vegas), but in the town of North Las Vegas, and are about 1/2 hour drive from the Strip. People outside of the Strip almost never visit the Strip except when entertaining friends and family. We have now lived in North Las Vegas for slightly more than a month. If you would have asked me a year ago about moving to southern Nevada, I would have responded with an “absolutely not” answer, that is, until Betsy and I took the time to check it out. We are totally loving our new abode, and couldn’t be more content with our decision. Yet, an answer is in order as to why we changed our mind about our decision to move.

A year ago, we were still living in Puyallup, WA, but noted that the town was being very poorly managed. Traffic was becoming unbearable, taxes were out of control, and der Führer of Washington, Jay Inslee, felt quite comfortable with oppressive declarations that defied the US constitution. I loved living in the shadow of Mt. Rainier and loved the beauty of the woods. Still, the weather restrained outdoor activity, and 8 months of the year, trails in western Washington demanded either long hikes through snow, or else slogging through endless mud puddles and swampland. Roughly about last May, we received notice that my brother Gaylon from Portland, OR was moving to Ocala, FL, and soon afterward my brother Lewis (also from the Portland area) decided the same thing. We realized that a move was in order for us also. Much of my hiking in 2021 was placed on hold as we quickly decided to put our house up for sale and get out of Dodge. Our house was able to sell quickly. In the meantime, we (Betsy and I) sought desperately an alternative location to live. We considered Idaho, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and even out of the country (like Belize) as well as Nevada. The decision was to first live in an apartment and then gauge from there as to a more permanent location. We did a trip to Las Vegas and nearly signed on an apartment when I decided that perhaps a temporary move to the Spokane area might be a wiser decision.

We lived in Spokane Valley, WA for six months with mixed feelings. There were lots of outdoor activities, yet the fall and winter proved to be quite cold. I got in some snowshoeing but found that the trails were even muddier than in western Washington and less conducive to vigorous activity. Betsy found Spokane more akin to living in a refrigerator. I was VERY uncomfortable with the two churches we attended in Spokane. Thus, the thought of moving across the border into the Coeur d’Alene area was immediately stricken. We saw several options still persisting. Boise, Idaho? I would have loved Boise, yet it was colder in winter than Spokane, and hotter in summer. We wished for easy access to our grandchildren, some living in western Washington, and some in northwest Iowa, which was not convenient from Boise. Iowa? Iowa was VERY tax unfriendly to retirees, and bitterly cold in winter, with summers that were hot and humid. Perhaps Sioux Falls would be a good choice, though the weather issue remained. What about Florida? Florida was miserably flat, and though the weather is warm, it is also quite humid, and I tolerate humidity very poorly. We lived in the south (Biloxi, MS) for two years, and somehow did not find it as appealing as many others did. Arizona? Arizona is not terribly tax-friendly and is much more expensive to live in than many other places. So, that was out. Our thoughts returned to the Las Vegas area.

Originally, I didn’t want to live in a 55+ community, feeling that it would be desirable to have mixed ages. What we learned in the apartment in Spokane is that a broad community can be quite noisy, and crime is also much higher. Thus, we both felt comfortable with the possibility of a retirement community in Las Vegas. On another trip down to Las Vegas and a tour of several 55+ communities, we fell in love with a home in North Las Vegas in Sun City Aliante. It was not a gated community, yet the crime rate was very low, the HOA fees were very low, and housing prices were not astronomical. The 55+ community was not so isolated to leave one feeling that you had no one but old fogeys around you. It was close to outdoor activities, and we could move in within a month. Betsy and I both agreed without hesitation to make the move.

We were able to terminate our lease in Spokane Valley early without too great of an expense, realizing that in the long run, we would be saving a large amount of money by doing so. We had Gaylon fly up from Florida, and he drove a 26′ UHaul truck from Spokane Valley to Las Vegas. The route was simple with only one turn, driving east on I-90 to I-15 and then south to North Las Vegas. Gaylon was a real trooper for which we are deeply grateful. There was minimal furniture damage in the process, and we were able to arrive home in NLV completely intact. The back porch of our home overlooks the golf course, which is actually owned by the city, and thus of no cost to us. Here is our floor plan…

Our home actually has the optional casita, which is a perfect guest house. This means that if you come to visit us, you have your own little “hotel” room, with a kitchenette, bathroom, and entertainment tv screen (which was there when we arrived). The garage is the only issue to me, in that it is a little small, yet ingenuity is allowing us to make-do quite nicely.

We had to quickly make some house modifications. There were tv mounts in almost every room, none of which were usable. We took one down, changed several others, and thus left a tv in the living room, in Betsy’s den, and in the casita. We pulled up the rugs in the master bedroom and master closet as well as the second bedroom (my office) and put in vinyl planking. The house is 17-18 years old with minimal improvements. It was originally owned by the madam that ran the brothel in XXX, NV, and she didn’t seem to do much to the infrastructure of the house. We will be replacing the air conditioning/heating unit, installing solar panels, and eventually putting in a garage floor surface, and possibly pavers for the driveway and patio between the house and casita, as well as extending the back patio. All in all, it has been a joy to be able to make a home again that has a personal touch, while simultaneously improving the home value.

Public transportation will take us down to the Strip or to the airport/bus station allowing us to easily get to either Iowa or the Northwest or to Florida, or anywhere else in the USA. Las Vegas tends to be very accessible by the airline! We are 45 minutes away from snow (present 8 months of the year) on Mt. Charleston (elevation 11,900+ ft), 30 minutes from Red Rock Canyon, 1 hour from the Valley of Fire, 2.5 hours from the Grand Canyon, 4 hours from Phoenix, AZ or San Diego, CA, and 3-6 hours drive from the Utah National Parks. Thus, we remain close to outdoor activities. Hopefully, I can get Betsy back into camping!!!!!

Those who know us well also know that we consider church to be of great value. We had our hopes on one church about 20 minutes distant, only to learn that they were turning more radical and of a theological flavor that we had learned to dislike. It is a church that would have worked if there was nothing else. Contrary to what seems intuitive, there are a number of orthodox, Reformed churches in the Las Vegas area, and we were able to find one a bit closer to home. The pastor is blind but has a real heart for God. They are Baptistic in their orientation, but we can live with that, should that be their only theological fault. Almost by accident, we discovered that one of the deacons of that church is also one of Betsy’s cousins! It’s a small world. It will probably be the church that we stay at. Las Vegas is a veritable mission field; one need not go overseas.

Summer tends to be hot. We know that, but it is less hot than Phoenix, AZ where Betsy grew up. This summer, I plan on completing more of the PCT. Betsy plans on visits to the grandchildren. Even in the heat of summer, mornings and evenings can be quite comfortable since the humidity is very low. There are very few bugs, so we don’t need screened-in areas in order to sit outside. I sit outside now almost daily and read. We just purchased a small Recteq barbecue (Lew’s recommendation), and hope to be making animal sacrifices quite soon on the bbq.

You are welcome to come to visit. Our casita (guest house) is begging for visitors, especially children, grandchildren, and siblings. Summer is not the most advisable time of the year to visit, and chances are high that we will be gone at least part of the summer. Neither Betsy nor I have a burning interest in acting as Strip tour guides; if you wish to visit the Strip, you are on your own. As we have learned, there is so much more to Las Vegas than the Strip. Please notify us in advance. You do not need a personal invitation from us, and we will let you know if the timing would work out for us.

Going through the Desert…

The Red Rock Canyon Grand Circle Loop, hiked on 16APR2022

I am now starting to do longer hikes in preparation for the summer hiking season. Today, I decided to hike the Grand Circle Loop, which encompasses all that would be seen should one choose to drive the Red Rock Canyon loop, yet there is much more that can be seen.

It was a beautiful day but very windy, with gusts up to 60 mph. The wind was a blessing, as it kept me feeling quite cool. The route was mostly very well marked, though there were just a few areas in the Calico Hills where I had to retrace a bit to find where I was going. Here are some photos…

Calico Hills 1
Calico Hills 2. I waited forever for those dudes to move, and then finally just snapped a shot and ran.
More Calico Hills
Getting to the Quarry (white rocks ahead)
The view back to the Quarry and Turtlehead Peak
White Mountain Loop area
Desert Beauty
Panorama shot of the Red Rock Canyon. The visitors center (where I started and ended) is off in the
central distance, close to the Calico Hills.

This was a most enjoyable hike, and I will definitely do it again, probably in conjunction with the White Mountain loop to add on a few more miles. Desert hiking can be quite cool, but hydration is most vital, and shielding oneself from the full brunt of the sun, using a broad-rimmed hat and long sleeve shirt with full length pants. It seems like it would be hotter being fully clothed, but it is just the opposite, so long as you are not wearing cotton.

Close by (within 10 miles) is Charleston Peak, at an elevation of over 11,900 feet, and still with snow on it. I will probably soon start attacking that peak. There I will encounter less of a desert environment and more of a bristlecone pine forest terrain. If I can talk my hiking friends to come visit, a chance to do the Grand Canyon will be in order, which is only a few hours drive from us.

More adventures of Mountain Guide Ken in the Snow

27JAN2022 Dishman Hills Iller Creek Loop, 5.5 miles, 2:30 time, 1368 ft elevation gain. I did the hike to the Rocks of Sharon last week but was unable to go any further because of dense cloud cover. Thus, I decided to return on a day with less cloud cover. This time, I was able to actually see the Rocks of Sharon as well as the Spokane Valley and Mt. Spokane, and then to identify a parallel trail that ran down along Iller Creek which took me back to the car, making the entire trek a loop. The day was beautiful and I could see in the far distance. I obtained just a few photos of the Rocks as well as the trail back.

The Rocks of Sharon. On the left is the Palouse.
Another view of the Rocks of Sharon.
A winter wonderland for the trail back.
I was able to use my Microspikes for the whole loop. I used these Microspikes for my journey on the PCT. They are a little more durable than the Exospikes for ice and snow, and I was able to maintain a faster pace throughout the hike, maintaining full confidence in my stability with the earth.

01FEB2022 – Mt. Spokane State Park Snowshoe trails; 6.3 miles, 3:13 timing, 1,263 ft elevation gain. This was another beautiful day though it was cloudy in the Spokane Valley. I was a touch apprehensive with this new area, but it quickly proved to be a favorite of mine. I wondered what took me so long to discover the snowshoe paths of Mt. Spokane, save that I mistakenly thought that it was going to be a repeat of the snow conditions in the hills around Spokane Valley. It wasn’t. The snow was powder, there was little ice, and snowshoes were the perfect travel modality for these conditions. The trails were quite well defined. After parking in the snow park lot at the Kit Carson trailhead, I headed out. The trail was at first a snow-covered road. Following my nose, I eventually reached Smith Gap. There was an outhouse here, but there was also supposed to be a warming hut, which I didn’t notice. The trails went in three directions, but I chose a single file path upwards, with an arrow indicating that Mt. Carson would be ahead. After many curves and much climbing, I reached Saddle junction, where the road permitted snowmobiles. Throughout the trip up, beautiful glimpses of Mt. Spokane were noted but did not afford a photographic moment. A short side trail to the summit of Mt. Kit Carson was not yet broken in, so I decided against that route but did locate yet another alternate route back to the trailhead. This again went smoothly, save for the terror of having to cross a narrow log across a creek (see photo below). I reached the car feeling awesome and regretting that I had to depart. There were tears in my eyes all the way back home when I contemplated how much I loved the mountains, winter and summer.

Well-groomed road that started my journey
Single track trail up through the trees. It was impossible to tell that in summer this is a mountain bike trail.
Approaching the summit of Mt. Kit Carson
Narrow log bridge to cross, not so easy to do in snowshoes.

I’m already studying the maps, looking for more opportunities to return to this area. I see more trails, more adventures, and more discoveries awaiting.