On Monday June 26, Linda and I stopped into Burney Falls Lodging to talk in with 2016 Honorary Mayor Nancy Bobo. As we were driving out, we saw two Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers coming out of the office with their packs. I had only seen a few hikers this year and as yet hadn’t talked with any so I stopped to ask them about their experience on the trail.
Their names were Pecan and Walnut. They came from Illinois to hike the PCT and they have been married for 37 years. They began their hike on May 5 at Campo near the Mexican border and hiked through the desert area of Southern California. At Tehachapee one of them took a break and the other continued on to Acton. Then they took a break and went to San Diego for a rest.
After they had rested and recuperated, they skipped the Sierras and started the trail again from mile 1232 near Quincy.
This year there is still a lot of snow in the Sierras. (See Pacific Crest Trail 2017 site on Facebook). It is still very dangerous to hike through because of avalanches and flooding rivers.
According to Pecan and Walnut, most of those who have attempted so far are Europeans who are determined to thru hike the entire trail. They told me that there have been numerous rescues this year.
Many are skip hiking, hoping to complete the trip to Canada and then perhaps to come back and hike the Sierra portion later in the summer.
Pecan told me of one veteran who had just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. He thought that after serving in the mountains there he was ready for anything. He was carried 400 feet down mountain by an avalanche and almost lost his life. That narrow experience convinced him that the PCT Sierra stretch was too dangerous to cross this year.
Pecan and Walnut have been checking the snow map as they look forward. There are areas to the north in the Siskiyous and the Cascades that still have a lot of snow.
So we see, each year the trail is different. Two years ago, during the drought, there was little snow in the Sierras and hikers were able to hike through. Last year, the snow impeded progress in the Spring, but by late June hikers were streaming through. Peak season in the Intermountain area from Lassen to Shasta extended through July into early August.
To make it to Canada before the next winter snows set in hikers need to maintain a steady pace. Even in the areas where the snow pack is hikable, deep snow may slow the pace from a normal 20+ to seven miles a day, so it will really be a challenge for hikers to reach Canada by late September.
Since talking with Pecan and Walnut, I have begun to see more hikers. Traffic is picking up. I’m eager to hear more stories.