Gear: dry sacks

I generally have one for my toilet kit and one for electronics and medicine.

Toilet kit (in Lightheart gear bag):

  • Trowel
  • Toilet paper (in a zip lock)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A disposal bag (just in case for carry out areas).

Other (in DKM bag):

  • Battery (x1 or x2 10mAmp depending on the area hiked).
  • Wall charger with folding plug (30 watt for fast charging)
  • Two cables (usb c to usb c and usb c to lightning)
  • Meds — vitamin D, ibuprofen and altitude sickness meds.
  • Multivitamin.

Additional bag; I’ve started carrying one more for water:

  • BeFree Katadyn filter (backup)
  • Platypus 3 liter bags —very light.
  • Chemical water treatment goes in a hip belt pocket. Moved from drops to tabs again.

I had started with it for carrying my shoes when I wore my water sandals but it has shifted to carrying water gear as I’ve left the sandals home and just gotten my shoes wet.

Sandals worked well on the Pinhoti Trail but they take time and for really swift water the shoes are better. I carry some bags I can put on after I cross so my socks (taken off before crossing) stay dry. Shoes dry out as I hike in them.

Having a dry bag for water stuff has worked out well to keep everything else dry.

For my sleeping bag I’ve gone to a $2.50 Nylofume bag. The ZPacks Dyneema bag liner wicked the water from the bottom of my pack into my sleeping bag. A dramatic fail for something that expensive.

I had used a special waterproof compression sack before but I lost faith in it after a lot of use. I think my pack loads better with things just stuffed into the Nylofume. Win uses Nylofume too.

We have 250 miles of the Sierra section left. Who knows what next year will bring. But I’d like to get that done and finish the PCT.

Gear: gaiters

I had bad luck with some gaiters.

These hurt my legs. Altra gaiters wore out so fast and since I don’t wear Altras (with gaiter traps) the Velcro would not stick or even glue on. That was frustrating.

Rain gaiters worked well for me but they are heavy.

I’m trying these next as I have a pair.

My wife wore Altras but is getting displeased with how short their life span is. Soles separated after a hundred miles on her most recent pair.

I need gaiters when hiking in shorts. With pants the pants hang down and keep the detritus out. I’ve been really pleased with that.

PCT vs Appalachian Trail difference. The PCT has a lot of gray sand. It is really ash from the fires. Hundreds of miles of it. It will slide right through the mesh uppers of shoes that aren’t waterproof and permeate your socks.

Since my feet don’t sweat much, I like to hike with GTX (waterproof) trail runners. Which is good since for my shoe size (between 40.5 and 41.5 in wide, depending on the brand) often GTX versions are the only ones available/in stock.

The difference in how my socks end the day between the two different types of shoes really got my attention.

I bring this up since gaiters don’t protect against the problem.


Happy on the trail nails it.

Steve and I have spent the last 24 hours discussing the pros and cons of starting the Sierra section of the PCT next weekend.


An amazing hike.
We would completely finish the PCT in 2023.


There is still a lot of snow and significantly steep terrain with ice and snow fields above 9000 feet. There are also lot of miles above 9000 feet in that section of the PCT.

The creeks/rivers in that section are at full flood stage.

There are essential bridges that were destroyed this winter. Detouring around those essential bridges would involve long miles, difficult terrain and add some extra sketchiness as we crawled up and down unstable talus slopes.

There are re-supply options that are not available this year due to the conditions.

We keep hearing stories about very athletic hikers who have not finished the section due to the conditions. Someone yesterday in Bishop mentioned coming across 15 JMT hikers who bailed yesterday due to the increased difficulty of the section. Many hikers are making comments about simply not seeing anyone else out there due to the conditions — yet hikers are told to bunch up to increase safety with the river crossings.

We recognize that there is nothing special about our abilities. We do not have past experience with difficult ice climbs. We are not especially interested in crossing glacial-flow rivers at full flood stage. We read about some rivers that have logs to get across the water. Too many people mention, “ If you slip, you will die.” They don’t say that to be dramatic. It is simply the facts of the situation.

If we do not hike the section starting this next weekend, we will miss the opportunity this year as I am committed to a locum contract in Virginia. Hiking later this year is not an option.

After a full day of discussion, the final answer is that we will wait until 2024. It is really hard to write that answer.
So much of me wants to go right now. I want to be there already. The other part of me recognizes our ages that do limit our physicality somewhat and the intrinsic danger of the current situation up there is extreme.

Mentally, it is so hard to choose the safer option. It feels like a fail. It is a fail. It feels like we are giving up. We are giving up. This is a full acknowledgment that the physical conditions are beyond our skill set .. and I hate that.

Not to mention I’m still not doing as well with altitude over 7,000 feet as I did pre-Covid.

Possible Sierra Section, Mammoth to KMS starting August 1

July 29 —Mammoth Lakes (altitude adjustment day) mile 1747.4 7904 feet elevation

July 30 — Bus to Red Meadows 7705 elevation. 1745.7 is the trail junction. 7719 feet elevation.

July 31 — 1758 Duck Creek Tentsite

Aug 1 — 1775 Mono Creek Tentsite 7878 feet elevation. VVR for resupply.

Aug 2 — 1795 campsite with water 8175 feet elevation.

Aug 3 — 1821 campsite. 9310 feet elevation.

Aug 5 — 1842 campsite. 10187 feet elevation. Not much else?!?

Aug 6 — Woods Creek — Bridge Repaired. 1854 campsite 8534 feet elevation.

Aug 7 — 1864 Bishop for resupply. Kaersarage Pass Trail at 1864 — 7.5 miles out.

Aug 8 — zero in Bishop

Aug 9 — hike 7.5 miles back to trail. 1879.9 Tentsite. 11000 feet elevation.

Aug 10 — 1894 Tentsite. 9643 elevation.

August 11 — 1912.3 Tentsite 9665 elevation.

August 12 — 1937 Tentsite 7783 elevation

August 13 — 1951 KMS. Resupply. 6149 elevation.

August 14 — 1972 tentsite. BLM Campsite.

August 15 2002.0 is Walker Pass and finish. Bus out.

Really tentative plans.

Gear changes, Updated //more comments.

On the train off-trail. Updating and reflecting in the time. Especially since due to breakdowns and congestion and the crew hitting their work limits for time in service and needing replacement we are probably going to be eight or more hours late.

This is a list of changes with explanations and some updated discussion.

  • Rain jacket. Had a Lightheart Gear jacket. It finally wore out after over two thousand miles and a lot of use as a wind shirt. Replaced it with an Outdoor Resesrch Apollo rain jacket. Why that change? It was what was available where I was. Paid $98 at the outfitter which is less than Amazon. Went from bright orange to a pretty blue color. Again. What was available. Worked well in a significant rainstorm and not too bad as a blanket on the train. I do think orange remains a good emergency color.
  • Pants. White Sierra to Prana Zion. The Sierras finally wore out after thousands of miles of service. My replacement pants were in the wrong resupply box. These pants were the only ones in my size in two outfitters. Some pilling on them. Heavier fabric protected my legs from a lot of abuse and some mosquitoes.
  • Shoes. My Hoka ATRs wore out in under 300 miles and I was starting to nurse shin splints. In two stores, one pair of shoes (Speedgoats) in my size (wide and 8 or 8.5). Again. All that was available. Let me note that they are pretty much completely collapsing now. As far as I can tell Hokas have gone from good for over 600 miles to dangerous and complete failure before 300. As for shoes my size, the Reno REI had none. I’m thinking of going back to Moab 3s or UltraRaptors. There are shoes I’d like to try but I need to find them in a store in my size.
  • Sun gloves. My OR and Buff gloves both wore out quickly. I am using REI gloves now. Tougher palms. Longer finger coverage. This was planned since I’d seen the gloves and the others wore out over time in the desert. Finally have a small hole but it was caused by the hiking poles needing repairs.
  • Hiking poles will need new tips and repairs to the top of the handles.
  • Sun hoody. The thorns really did a job on my Mountain Hardware. The factory store didn’t have anything in a similar colorway. Looking back I should have just grabbed an ugly one. Got a TYR sun hoody. Pretty color. Fabric holds too much water and it doesn’t grab my hat brim as well. I’m conflicted because I’ve actually been benefited from the extra warmth. So I’m not happy—but—I am happy (if that makes sense). Don’t recommend but they worked out. The thumb holes are painful to use. I don’t need them right now but it is one more thing.
  • Hat. My orange hat disappeared. ?!? At a large grocery store/etc (like a super Walmart [Fred Meyer]) I got an “outdoor cap(tm).” Has a black underside to the brim. A great improvement. Still think so though I’m considering a higher visibility hat for our next hike.
  • Sunglasses. The hiker box ones finally died to scratches. Replaced with what I got for cheap at REI. With a holder/cord. This one works well.
  • Left my pillow in a hiker box. My clothing bag works well as a pillow. After years of hiking with a pillow, suddenly I am not.
  • New smartwater bottle. Old one wore out. New Core Water bottle too (for the cap that works as a scoop). Working out well.
  • Phone. My old one died to a dying battery that expanded. Replaced phone and also added a pelican case.

I still need a new shoulder pouch, the zipper on my current one is dying. I’m looking at the Durston pack so that will be a built in rather than an add-on.

Using my back-up reading glasses since the others were pretty scratched up. Kept them for an emergency backup. Win drove over her primary pair. Rental car totally destroyed them.

All the gear changes and shaving are why when people meet me that I met in the desert section they can’t quite figure out why they are having trouble recognizing me. Met a lot we had met before. They really tend to remember Win/Happy Six’s trail name.

Other gear need. Power charger for my phone died. Win located her missing nitecore and it is in the mail. Of note, searching for chargers will get you flooded with power banks (batteries) which are completely different. It is also hard to filter by weight.

So. I need a replacement charger. Probably need replacement high visibility clothing. Probably getting another sun hoody. Looking forward to my other pants. Shoes. And my backpack is getting pretty worn.

So we hiked into Elk Lake

The weather was warming up and we had planned on doing only sixteen miles.

Elk Lake was where we hitched into Bend from last year and then flipped up to Timberline to get around the Elk Lake fires and the Lionshead closure.

The pattern of blowdowns continued.

Snow was melting and after the initial water carry there was plenty of water.

Trail was mostly good.

As we broke into the alpine meadows it began to get hot and the ground was very dry.

Finally we began the final decent to Elk Lake.

At this point we had left the lake (and the mosquitoes) where we had planned to stop behind and were headed into a twenty-four mile day.

The early start got us into Elk Lake just in time to get one of their three PCT hiker campsites.

Then we had our last dinner on the trail.

Last year we had flipped to Timberline from here. The Elks Lake fires and the Lionshead closures had hikers scattering all over. So this year hiking into Elks Lake meant we had finished Oregon.

Too bad the wedding at Elk Lake was so noisy.

We were able to buy showers and sleep some and then got up early to hitch a ride into Bend. We eventually succeeded with a really good guy who drove us to the airport were we picked up a rental car.

Drove up to Kris & Ken’s place and got our bear canisters and stopped by Trout Lake for our resupply boxes there.

Trout Lake still had its Taco Truck. It also had showers and laundry available and we were ahead of the bubble.

Happy’s summary of the same day. (Link has pictures).

We left our campsite next to Minnie’s Spring early this morning. We thought we would do an easy day and hike maybe 15-16 miles and then camp next to some random lake. Swimming was the goal. We had a pretty good pace this morning and did faster miles than we expected.

Suddenly, doing some more miles and getting into Elk Lake Resort seemed like a good idea. 25 miles later, we are at Elk Lake Resort. I am asking myself if the effort was worth the goal. My knee continues to ache. But, it works, so I keep making it do its job. Today was not a good day for my knee.

Yesterday and today, on trail, included many lava fields, snow patches, many complicated blowdowns, a long water-less section and some beautiful views of the Three Sisters.

This last week, we did 150 miles in 6 days plus one morning. Three days ago, the day we arrived at the Big Lake Youth Camp, we were done hiking by 9 am. I’m not sure how to fit that into our daily mileage. That is the “plus one morning.” For us, this remains a solid week. Right now, I am absolutely and completely exhausted.

Elk Lake Resort is our “finish spot.”
As of this afternoon, we have completed all of the PCT. We have hiked all of Washington, Oregon and California from Canada to Mexico — except for a 200 mile section of the Sierra. That will be next. There is still a lot of snow in the Sierra and the creeks that will need to be crossed are all at flood stage due to the current spring melt. They had over 300% of their normal snow amounts this year. That snow-mass is now melting. Two essential bridges were destroyed this winter. We plan to go down and hike what we can. If we turn back, at least we can say that we tried. If we do not get those miles done this year, we will get them done next year. That being stated, we would like to get that section done this year.

I’m Happy discussing hitching into Bend.

Happy on the Trail discussing what is next.

658 to 678. Day one out of Big Lake Youth Camp, 4k ascent and ~20 miles.

So many lava fields. So much in the way of blowdowns. So little water. First stretch in a long time where we had morning sun.

Usually the trail and the path works out so that we have shade in the morning and the sun hits us in the afternoon. Today we had full sun from early on (we had a 5:22 am start).

Big Lake was fun but the vegetarian and vegan food made me grateful for my own diet. The people were very friendly and helpful. Kind.

Win scrubbed and washed the floor in the hiker hut. She washed a lot of dirty towels. We got showers and prewashed our clothes and then washed them.

We had considered taking a zero because of her bruises from her tumble and fall. She was doing better so we just took a Nero. We had hiked in, had meals, got our boxes and reduced things to three days of food (we had a little and the boxes had 4+ days).

Left a lot of pepperoni in the hiker box. Four unopened packages. One opened. All gone shortly.

I left a package of tortillas too. A full day’s food—breakfast, snacks, etc.

Elk Lake was three days. After today it is 23.6 ahead. Tomorrow and a breakfast.

Other news.

The updates from the Sierra section are not positive. On the other hand it looks like Win’s job wants her early.

So we are seriously considering making Elk Lake our stop for the year.

Big Lake Youth Camp.

Did the Summit Pass bypass route. Just under 12 miles. 642.3 to 653.0 on the PCT.

Big difference is more water and far fewer blowdowns. Great trail.

We stopped at 21 miles for the day and were hiking at 5:01.

Wild strawberries.

Then we made it to the Big Lake Youth Camp with the hiker lodge, meals and our resupply boxes.

Horse Camp 579 to Olallie 606.9 and beyond.

So. We agreed to do twenty mile days. We have food for the section at twenty mile days. And we did 27 today plus some extra checking out a campsite that was a dud.

Trail was nice. Even had one bar Verizon (there was a guy stopped under the power lines with his phone). Not enough for most things (no email or web browsing etc) but it did let me do a blog update.

Mild ups and downs. We eventually got to Olallie Lake. Bought a mountain house dinner and sodas and a small pie. Talked with “Irish Exit” and went to sleep.

Our next big target is Big Lake Camp at 659 with showers and laundry.

Day two we did about 17 miles. It was a hard day. Rough trail and a water crossing.

Then today we did 21 miles, part of it on the old PCT”Old Summit Trail.”

We had over two hundred blowdowns and a lot of snow today. More NOBOS. It is getting normal to see them instead of the random feral hiker or hikers worn thin by many hard miles. One poor couple we met this stretch had done over a thousand miles of snow.

The alternative trail had recent maintenance and we had to climb over only half a dozen blowdowns. Where it joins the PCT again there are supposed to be virtually no blowdowns.

Win’s idea to try the alternative was brilliant and I really appreciate her navigation.

Tomorrow we will be at the youth camp. A resupply box. Showers. Laundry. Free camping. That leaves us with Elk Lake at 701.6 which finishes Oregon for us.

To Horse Camp Mile 579.3 from Timberline Lodge.

We are with some trail angels who are feeding us. We walked from 555.6 today. About 23-24 miles, especially including the hike back to Horse Camp (there are a number of places that are just “Horse Camp”).

We started before six after our hiker breakfast and using the restrooms in the lodge. We got great mileage.

Hiking SOBO out of Timberline was so much sandy trail. I had no idea the shoulders of Mount Hood were made of sand.

We then got into the trees and hiked a long “green tunnel” for miles. Second breakfast/lunch around ten. Our siesta around noon. I slept fairly well and we took 45 minutes.

Then we finished our day. Ended at 3:30 and looking for a place to camp. We got spotted by some horse people who invited us to dinner.

They were a delightful crew. The hamburgers were amazing. They recharged Win’s phone.

We finally said good night just before six. I’m ready to see if we can share an apple and then brush my teeth and then go to sleep.