Q and A
How was it?
Long very long. It was hard, wonderful, intense and long.
What was the favorite part of the trail?
This is probably the question that I have been asked the most. Probably that is asked the most to every hiker. There is no answer to this question. The question could be interpreted in various different ways; the most beautiful, the most enjoyable, where did I have the most fun. I thought about this question a lot by now and I do have a few answers.
I think this year it was not extremely hot, and therefore it was easier to enjoy the desert. I did like the desert and all the strange weather patterns we had. The wonderful different ecosystem I walked through. I remember hiking out of Julien, the endless switch backs, the colorful cacti everywhere. It was beautiful. I remember I could not stop taking pictures when hiking out of Ziggy and the Bear.
Most people say they love the Sierras. True they were beautiful, I just do not like hiking uphill. And I hate mosquitoes. I never experienced mosquitos like in the Sierras (apparently there are areas that are worse). The longer we were in the Sierras the earlier they came out until the point that they were out all day. And … you will have to carry the 1.000.000 pound bear canister. The Sierras were beautiful but was definitely not my favorite.
Just after the Sierras, my friend Fin joined me for two weeks. It was soo nice to have a friend from home with me for a while. Someone familiar to share my experience with. We hiked out of the Sierras together, Sonora Pass – Echo lake, I was really happy to hike out of the Sierras. There were less mosquitoes every day. We hiked through endless field of flowers. We had some terrible weather. It was amazing, fun, beautiful.
California was fun and enjoyable. There were some amazing places. However, I think some of the most impressive, stunning wilderness I hiked through was in Oregon and Washington. I loved the volcanic landscapes, the endless views. I remember seeing mount Washington, mount Jefferson and mount hood just after mount ???. the hazy fog had lifted that day. The Three Sisters Wilderness was beautiful. I loved the Goat Rock Wilderness. Someone told me, that I should wait for good weather before I enter, because it is worth it. That person was right. This was the most spectacular trail of the PCT. It was stunning. Washington, when it is not raining is gorgeous.
What was the hardest part?
It took me about three days before I started to enjoy being out there on the trail. It has been my dream to hike the PCT (or the CDT) for about four or five years. I never planned on leaving a boyfriend behind. This was one of the hardest things. Being away from him for that long. I did not feel the expected excitement at the border monument when I started. It was more like, hmm now I really have to hike… it’s hot… why did I want this again??
What are some favorite moments?
Did this experience change me?
I fulfilled my dream. A dream that started as a fantasy when I was maybe ten years old, the fantasy of hiking with my sled dog that I would have when I am a grown up, through the emptiness of wild Siberia. My fantasy became more real when I read about the PCT when I was 22. Now at 28 I accomplished hiking the PCT. That feels great. This was one of the first travels I did while not thinking about my next big trip. Not thinking about my next vacation. I was thinking about the rest of my life instead. I still am.
Did it change my perspective towards the Netherlands?
I have traveled a lot. When I was 17 I went for a year high school to Ecuador. One of the things I learned here was that the Netherlands is my home. I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else. My hike did not change that. The Netherlands is my home. My tent in the woods was an awesome temporary home.
The PCT was wild. Not too wild, but wild enough. I don’t think I believe anymore that the Netherlands can offer something like that. I had some vague plans when I was younger to hike the Pieterpad, a trail north to south in the Netherlands. I would like to hike that now. Before I thought it would be hard. Now I think it will be easy. Go to a store and/or restaurant every other day.
Did the PCT live up to my expectations?
I was working a lot before I left. I was daydreaming about hiking. I was reading blogs about hiking the PCT. The idea of just having to hike each day sounded lovely. It is an amazing feeling to go to sleep after a long day of hiking. But the truth is that you will have to hike each day. I learned very quickly that the best part of hiking is resting. There were times I was so tired, that I did not have the energy to go into my pack to get some food. After ten minutes I got some food, mostly mixed nuts and goodies. It took me about half an hour to eat it all. So 45 minutes later I was hiking again. Hiking. Every day. I had to finish on time. I had to keep hiking. I wanted to keep hiking because at the same time I also wanted to get home again.
I thought I would be alone more often. I am kind of scared to be alone in the dark. Camping alone in the wild. I sort of wanted to be alone to concur my fear. I spend ten nights camping alone. There was not a single day that I did not see another hiker. I was not alone. There were always people within a couple of miles. Even though I wanted to concur my fear, I was grateful for not having to camp alone too often. In the beginning I was getting anxious at the end of the day, what if I had to camp alone? After 700 miles I camped alone for the first time. I was oke. I had peace with it. By the time I was in Oregon and Washington I still preferred not camping alone, but I slicked to my own plan. I did less planning to end up camping with other people. I just went.
Against my expectations there was a lot of drugs on the trail. In California it is now legal to use marihuana for medicinal purposes. In Oregon Marihuana was legalized in June 2015. In Washington it was already legal for a while. Besides getting stoned people were drinking a lot here and there, mostly in town though but also on trail. I saw a very dehydrated guy at Ziggy and the Bear, due to beer on trail instead of water on a long hot waterless stretch. People were shrooming (mushrooms). People were tripping (LSD). In Belden there are a lot of raves, you could get all the drugs you wanted according to the hikers that were at the rave. I did not expect this. Often I did not mind too much. I could take my distance. I do know other hikers did mind sometimes. I know hikers seriously considered going off trail because of this. I know hikers flip flopped and skipped to get away from some groups. And I know people did get off trail because of the attitude of some of these drugs using hikers. This is a shame.
The trail was as beautiful as I expected. The views were amazing. I loved being out in the wild, sleeping in my tent. I met a lot of different people. A lot of wonderful people.
Was I ever afraid on trail?
Well I had my irrational fear when camping alone. Scared of a boogieman. On the places I camped there were only hikers, the chances of meeting a scary person were very limited. Scared of a mouse. What is a mouse gonna do? Make a small hole in my tent and eat some of my nuts, I will survive that. Scared of a bear. Yea I don’t know, that is slightly more scary and realistic, thankfully I was never woken by a bear.
I got a little ill the day I hiked into Iddylwild. I hiked out with a slight cold. I started coughing more and more, but I kept hiking. I was somewhere between Ziggy and the Bear and Big Bear Lake, where I got troubles breathing. This was scary. I was in the middle of nowhere, well 15 miles from the nearest road but quite some uphill to go. I did about 8 miles over the course of 6 hours in the morning. Not that much. I had lunch, filtered a ton of water. It got worse. I went into the bush to go pee and I had to stop to catch my breath (I wasn’t even wearing my pack!). This was scary. I could not breath! I had to hike uphill! I decided to pack my things and hike a little further, to the next stop, off trail water 2 or so miles further. The last source before Big Bear. What else can you do. While packing up I started coughing again. I coughed up this yellow phlegm (disgusting I know) and my airways seemed to be unblocked. This was a relieve. I made it 15 miles that day, arriving out of breath and out of energy at coon cabin that evening, where by the way I had my first mouse encounter. I managed to hike the hole 20 miles into big bear the day after.
Do I miss the PCT?
At first I was mainly happy to be reunited with my boyfriend. I was happy to be home. To get my well-deserved rest. When it was time for me to go back to work I was excited to be back at work. It wasn’t until I started emailing with my trail friends at the end of November that I realized I miss the trail. My trail friends. The exercise. The outdoors. I started to watch pictures my own and the photos of others on facebook and internet. I am writing on my blog again.
I found it very difficult deal with my foot sores after the trail. When I was back at work my feet really started to heal which is a great feeling. My knees however (I hardly had troubles with my knees on trail though) still feel weak-ish.
If I know what I know now, would I do the same?
Don’t get me wrong, hiking a long distance hike was my dream. I am truly happy I set out to hike the whole trail. I intended to hike every step. I hiked over 4000 kilometers starting in Mexico and ending in Canada. Honestly I was done when I reached Oregon. I thought I would be in my best sprits to hike by the time I got that far. Honestly, I did not feel like hiking too far anymore. By the time I was in cascade locks I was a little sorry for not making this my end point, it would have been a good spot to stop. Cascade Locks would have been just a little longer than enjoyable, you’ll need some suffering for the whole experience. But I continued through Washington. Now looking back its all easy but I do think Washington was too much for me. This is where I started to wake up every night. Where my knees got weak. At the same time I am thankful and proud that I did continue, or else I would have missed Trout Lake with the Buddhist Temple, Goat Rocks, the Dutch hikers and I would have missed the ending. The last three days were so beautiful.
If I knew what I know now, and I was at the beginning of this, for me, ones of a lifetime opportunity to do a long distance hike, I think I would consider a three (and a bit) month section. I remember Kaspar who set out on his three month adventure. He did not need a visa, he said three months is long enough. I remember thinking: why did I never consider that? (Well I wanted to hike the whole thing I needed six months) I think I now would consider that.
Do I have any regrets?
My mom thought me not to have any regrets in life. Off course everyone always has small things you would do differently, but I do not have any regrets. I don’t regret skipping miles. It helped me to finish on time, that was more important to me. It still is. I do not regret not stopping in Cascade Locks even though I was often miserable in Washington. I had some really good times as well, that was so worth it. Should I have hiked the CDT? Well who knows, I didn’t.
Would I do it again?
No, one time was enough. I would like to go hiking again, but for a few weeks, maybe even a month.