A group of nine hikers, seven men and two women, made their way into Hood River earlier this week as they’ve been traveling along the Pacific Crest Trail since the beginning of May.
Some of these hikers started in Mexico where the trail begins, while others joined in the path as they made their way towards Canada.
It’s been a troubling year for this trail, however. Normally a much more enjoyable journey, the hikers explained that the harsh, cold conditions in the Sierra Nevada mountains to all the fires engulfing the wild west have made this adventure tough.
“It’s been a rough year for us hiking the PCT,” Papa Oats said. “Through the Sierra mountains in California, there was a lot of snow making it very dangerous to go through and river crossing was higher than usual this year. It’s usually high, but this year it was just higher than any of us had anticipated.”
Papa Oats is one of the seven men in this group; the others are Flame, Hach-P, Spice, Holliday, Snow White and Oregon Fly. The two women are Vortex and Hot Cakes.
Hikers, including these men and women, had to decide this year as they approached the Sierra mountain ranges whether to postpone this part of the hike until later or just push through it.
Hikers who didn’t wait for the conditions to settle down dealt with a troubling passage. “As you went over the passes, there was a lot of snow you had to deal with. We had to use ice axes and grip ons to get through that part of the trail,” said Papa Oats.
The decision to push through this part of the hike was mainly because of the fires. “Right now, we’re showing up to Oregon and Washington already later than we normally do and we’re heading into this area during fire season,” said Papa Oats. “That’s the main problem for us now.”
Those hikers who didn’t push through as quickly as this group were forced to halt their adventure. “We had friends walking on the trail behind us near the southern border of Oregon and for what would’ve been a 17-mile hike from where they were told turn around, it turns into a 40-mile hike alongside roads,” said Vortex. “And road walking is brutal on your body it makes everything hurt so much more after you’ve been hiking mountain ranges and what not, plus breathing all the smoke.”
And with this fire in the Gorge, hiker Oregon Fly explained that “it’s kind of taken some wind out of our sail.” After apologizing to his team for the “corny” Hood River cliché, he continued to talk about what’s next for this group. “We’re constantly trying to negotiate how to get around these fires surrounding the area and as of now the approach is to just wait and see what happens.”
One thing unique about this group is that they all made it through the 400-mile stretch from Crater Lake to Mount Hood. Most hikers weren’t able to do this because of the fires and closures to trails for safety reasons.
“So us hikers, we can handle everything but the fires,” Snow White said.
Although this group is doing what they can despite the road block in their journey, “we’re handling the fire pretty well, right now we’re trying to make the best out of a bad situation,” Vortex said. They were able to enjoy some parts of Oregon on their way to Canada as Crater Lake cleared up when they passed through the area.
But as native Oregonian Oregon Fly explained, “Being from Oregon it’s hard coming through here right now because I want to show off my state and all the beautiful scenery it has to offer and it’s a real bummer because the only thing these guys have really seen is smoke.”
“One of the biggest iconic state crossings this trail has is through the Bridge of the Gods, which having only three states is kind of a big deal and at this point in time I haven’t crossed any state lines by foot on this trail and it’s a little frustrating,” said Papa Oats. “That’s part of the satisfaction and feel of accomplishment on this hike and it’s been taken away.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 6 the hikers collectively came together for some breakfast at Bette’s Place and decided that they’re going to complete this trail every step from Washington to Canada. “We’re going to hike everything we can,” said Vortex. “No more re-routes.”
Whatever part of the trail these hikers are unable to hike will be a “disappointment,” as Snow White put it.
The hundreds of miles left on this trail will be both difficult and hazardous for the hikers, but in the end, it’ll be an experience they will remember forever.