171008 – Finished…after 168 days and 2650 miles (4265 kilometres)

Day:  168
Date:  Sunday, 08 October 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 1315.0, 6673 ft
Finish:  Where the PCT crosses Hwy 36 at Mile 1328.8, 5051 ft
Daily Miles:  13.8 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2649.4
Weather:  Cool and sunny
Accommodation:  Room at Antler Motel, Chester
     Breakfast:  Pop tarts
     Lunch:  Tuna melt & fries, ice-cream
     Dinner:  Soup, meatloaf & vegetables, cheesecake & ice-cream
Aches:  Nothing new
Highlight:  Reaching the end of my PCT hike at Hwy 36, having now covered the entire PCT from Mexico to Canada in one season.  I felt no temptation to cross the road and continue hiking!
Lowlight:  None really
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

I was hiking by 5:50am on a relatively mild morning, using my headlamp for light.  Several times, I could see pairs of eyes through the trees reflecting the light, but each time they darted off as I approached.  I suspect they were deer.

The first 90 minutes were spent steadily climbing 1000 ft to 7631 ft near the top of Butt Mountain, with beautiful views of the mountains, particularly Lassen, as they emerged from darkness as the sun rose.   From there, it was basically a gradual descent of 2500 ft over the 10 miles remaining to Hwy 36.  It was almost entirely in forest apart from the last mile or so that crossed some more open country of volcanic origin.  The soil colour changed to orange and there were the usual scoria and aerated rocks.  My mood during the descent was almost disbelief.  I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that once I reached the highway, my adventure would be over.  It seemed unreal, but welcome nevertheless.

I reached Hwy 36 at 11:45am, took a couple of pictures and started hitchhiking towards Chester, 8 miles away.  Within 15 minutes I had a ride, and 30 minutes later I was ordering lunch at the same diner where I had had  breakfast three and a half months ago before resuming my hike northwards to Canada.  After lunch, I checked into the motel I had booked from Quincy, and then spent the afternoon doing laundry, cleaning gear, and disposing of things I no longer need.

Tomorrow, I catch a 6:30am bus to Susanville, and from there a 9:30am bus to Reno, where I will pick up a rental car in the early afternoon.  I will then take a few leisurely days to drive south down the eastern side of the Sierras, contemplating the distance I have walked, eating, and maybe doing some outlet shopping.  On Wednesday or Thursday, I will arrive in Orange County (south of Los Angeles) to stay with my daughter-in-law’s parents, Kelly and Sergio, who have been generously storing my pre-hike gear as well as my ever-increasing belongings (things I no longer needed or wanted for hiking, and mailed to them) until my return.  I fly out of Los Angeles on Saturday, and arrive in Sydney on Monday, 16 October.

The Pacific Crest Trail was everything I had expected, and more, with a couple of surprises thrown in.

The scenery was stunning, and there was rarely a day that wouldn’t justify a day-hike on its own.  By the end, I was feeling a bit guilty that I wasn’t appreciating the wonders I was seeing as much as earlier in the hike.  My spectacular surrounds were becoming too familiar.

The hiking was hard, physically and sometimes mentally.  To complete the 2650 miles in one season is a test of endurance.  You necessarily hike 20+ miles most days you are on the trail, or you will be caught by the autumn snows.  One PCT hiker described our lives as “hike, eat, sleep”, and that was accurate.  Apart from the days in town, I was hiking 12 hours on most days.  Age has a lot to do with the physical challenge, and I know from my running carer, that my body doesn’t recover from big exercise days nearly as quickly as it once did.  When I hiked the Appalachian Trail 31 years ago, I had only two “zero days”, but for the PCT, I must have had more than twenty.  My body also doesn’t move as quickly as it once did, the product of a lifetime of running abuse, which meant more hours hiking.

Luck plays a big part.  Several times, I was a hair’s breadth away from serious injury, or worse, but survived to complete the trail.  Others didn’t.  I also escaped any serious over-use injuries.  Many others didn’t.  I was lucky with the wildfires, just getting through two parts of the trail before they were closed for extended periods by the authorities.  Other fires closed more sections of trail later.  Many hikers were stopped, and I felt particularly sorry for those who had toughed out the deep snows of the High Sierras, only to have their dreams of a contiguous thru-hike scuppered by the wildfires.

The big surprise was the weather.  I never once had to pack up in the rain, and in total, probably only experienced a day’s worth of drizzle, sleet or snow in the whole time I was hiking.  I did have to set up camp while it was snowing lightly a few times, but that wasn’t a big deal.  There are few places in the world where you could hike for nearly six months in almost perfect weather.  The wildfires were also a surprise, and they were particularly bad this year, but as noted above, didn’t really affect my hike.

I’m heading home now, uncertain of whether I will attempt another long self-supported backpacking hike.  The end-to-end Te Araroa trail in New Zealand has been on my radar for a while, but just now seems like too much effort for my ageing body.  Trails where I can stay in hostels, B&B’s and alpine huts (Europe), carrying much less weight, have more appeal, as do shorter hiking trails in Australia such as Bibbulmun and Heysen.  Not that the latter are short, there just isn’t the same seasonal time pressure as for the PCT, so they can be hiked at a more leisurely pace.

Anyway, in the short-term, I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends and will leave planning the next adventure until the new year.  I would like to thank all of those people who sent me messages during the hike, particularly in the middle stages when my mood was down.  Most weren’t answered because of time pressure, but they were all very much appreciated.

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26 Responses to 171008 – Finished…after 168 days and 2650 miles (4265 kilometres)

  1. Julie Towgood says:

    Well done Dave i have read every post and you are so inspiring even though i have no hought of doing any such things – well done

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rod Lovel says:

    Congratulations Dave. Fantastic effort & thanks for sharing your thoughts & details, I read each entry and waited eagerly for the next entries.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. chrisburglar says:

    Congrats Dave. Although I don’t know you I have enjoyed reading your blog every few days and am glad you made it all the way. I think I enjoyed your zero days as much as you did. I can confirm that the outlet centre at Tejon (just nth of LA) is great with many bargins – we were there earlier this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Krystie H says:

    Congratulations Dave!! I have loved reading all about your PCT adventure. What an incredible achievement. Looking forward to seeing you on Aussie soil very soon. Enjoy spending time with family and putting your feet up. Krystie

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michael Key says:

    Congratulations Dave on a mighty effort in a difficult year to hike the PCT. Glad you ran into Dana and Stephen. Enjoy the achievement.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane says:

    Congrats Dave! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following this adventure through your blog…did you end up with a trail name?…my personal favourite was “drumsolo” :). Safe travels home.


  7. Guesty says:

    Amazing effort Dave, loved following your adventures. Catch up soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Welcome to the club Dave! Loved following your adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Meredith Quinlan says:

    Fantastic Dave, you are a powerhouse. Its been such a pleasure to follow your adventures. Your ever growing CV of achievements is amazing and inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. judy says:

    huge congratulations dave, ive enjoyed your blogs thoroughly…you have inspired me to seek out more adventures for myself, but not quite as long as yours……be great to see you back on the coast & hear more of your adventure stories….your amazing & so tough mentally & physically

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Louise Johnson says:

    Well done Dave! An amazing feat, with lots of adventures along the way. Look forward to seeing you before long. Hope the return to ‘normal’ and ‘ordinary, everyday’ won’t take too much getting used to. Safe home.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dave Newell says:

    Congratulations Dave, well done and thanks for the daily read, loved following your exploits over our own 11 week US adventure, Enjoy your free days B4 your return.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Well done Dave. What a mammoth effort both physically and mentally. You are one tough human to complete the PCT in one season. Enjoy the ‘leisure’ time now. Looking forward to seeing you back running around Terrigal.
    ps: i will miss following your blog 🙂 thanks for doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Steve Hughes says:

    Congratulations on an incredible achievement.
    You surely demonstrated incredible discipline to continue to plug away through some incredibly uncomfortable situations, heat , cold lack of clean water etc and on top of that hitchhike to the the various “zero days” locations just to wash up etc.
    Fully agree with your future disposition toward more comfortable “on trail” accomodation etc. Soooo much more practical.
    Look forward to seeing you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Linda Botham says:

    Brilliant as usual DB! You are an amazing human being. Read every word and looked at every picture. Should think about a coffee table book filled with your words and great pictures.
    Hope to see you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Geoff says:

    Great to hear your synopsis Dave.
    What an achievement. Beautifully recorded.
    Look forward to catching up next month.


  17. dave trevor says:

    Well done Dave. I have enjoyed your blog and the photos. Stunning scenery. I have to say I was not at all tempted to indulge in a similar exercise. You must feel elated at your achievement. The NZ hike sounds a challenge–something I can see you taking on when the feet get itchy!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. rcmcwill says:

    Congratulations, Dave. It’s massive!


  19. melmcrun says:

    What an adventure! I can’t even imagine what it would have been like – sounds amazing. Congratulations Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Philip Murphy says:

    Wow, finally made it Dave, what an adventure over the past 6 months. Delighted for you. Rest up and recover, look forward to hearing what’s next. See you at GNW next year if not before. Phil.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Jenny Byrnes says:

    What an achievement!! Have delighted in telling my friends and workmates about your adventures and now telling them you have competed your challenge – amazing. Can’t wait to see you back in Oz. Hope you come down gently and with deep satisfaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Keith King says:

    Dave what an adventure, amazing that anyone could maintain the pace and put in the effort that you did. Congratulations but now what am I going to read everyday!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Andy says:

    Congrats Dave on yet another amazing adventure. You continue to inspire me with your mammoth efforts. Look forward to seeing you back at GNW next year. And I never did work out who the mutual friend was at Laguna way back near the start. Enjoy the recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. dale williams says:

    So glad you could share your fantastic adventure with your friends through your creative, informative narration, pictures and maps. Enjoyed every post. Congratulations on completing such a demanding challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

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