Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Part 89 - Who is the PCT Hiker

Tyler Fox, a 2013 PCT hiker who was forced off the trail because of snow, conducted a survey among this year’s class of PCT hikers concerning choices.  He posted the survey and the results of the survey on the PCT Facebook page for the class of 2013.  

He said that the survey was filled out by over a hundred people and the results showed that the average hiker was a twenty-six-year-old white male from California with a bachelor’s degree.  This hiker took twenty zero days off the trail and sixteen near zeros, hiked 2,168 miles by sometime in September and did not finish the trail due to weather.  Final count:  48 percent finished the trail; 52 percent did not finish the trail.  

For clarification, a zero day is a complete day of rest from the trail, whereas a near-zero day is the equivalent of a partial day, i.e., coming into a trail town at noon to pick up a resupply box, then overnighting in town and picking up the trail the next day.

Out of curiosity for the average age of thru-hikers, I conducted my own survey.  I recorded the trail names of ninety hikers I met on the trail, and of this number, sixty shared their age with me Crunching the numbers, I came up with an average age of 34.5 years.

My thoughts on the Donner Party as they relate to Pacific Crest Trail hikers are reflected in the comments of thirteen-year-old survivor, Virginia Reed, who penned these words to a friend,
“Never take no short cuts and hurry along as fast as you can.” (Stewart)

For most of the day my feet feel like they were walking in shoes with small pebbles in them.  Each step was painful, especially in the center of the pads, that area of the foot next to the toes.  I surmised that new blisters were forming, but being in a hurry, I didn’t want to take the time to apply Moleskin and tape to the affected areas.  The last mile of the trail became nearly unbearable as the tread was composed of small chunks of rock that had the appearance of a street paved with setts

 (small angular stone blocks that are quarried and often used in paving European streets, sometimes mistakenly called cobblestones) that had been torn up.

From high up on the mountain where the ski trams were located, I could look to the east and see Interstate I-80 snaking its way up the mountains on its way to the summit at Donner Pass.  Using my cell phone, I called Jodie to see if they were on schedule to meet me at the Old Donner Summit Road; I said I’d be there by 5:00 p.m. 

 She assured me that she and the Cutlers would be there at about the same time.  I was hobbling by the time I arrived at the parking lot adjacent to the Sugar Bowl Academy, a building used as a training facility for ski athletes that fronted onto Old Highway 40.  I walked over to a highway maintenance shed, spread my Z-foam pad on the ground, and sat down to wait for Jodie.

Not having to walk anymore, I removed my shoes to inspect my feet.  I was expecting to see dirt and pebbles fall from my shoes, but there was nothing.  It was then that I spotted the culprit that had caused me so much trouble – it was my insoles.  The fabric that covered the foam padding of the insoles had deteriorated in both shoes and had formed into little balls, like small pebbles right under the pads.  Once the shredded fabric was removed, the problem was resolved except the blisters had already formed.

A half hour later, a white GMC Tahoe pulled into the parking lot, and then standing before me was my lovely wife, dearest friend, and eternal companion – Jodie.  We embraced, and I know I smelled just as bad now as I did when we last embraced at McDonald's on I-15.  But, what the heck, we’re together for better or for worse, and at the moment, she was getting the worse.

My dear friend, Lois Cutler, gave me a warm smile and said she’d hug me later.  As we were standing around the vehicle visiting and chatting, another hiker came into the parking lot.  Without hesitation, and knowing the value of a trail angel, Ken Cutler asked the young man if he needed a ride into Truckee, which was our destination.  

The hiker, who went by the trail name of Kid, said he did.

Kid was small, but he said he’d been in the Marines for four years.  He wasn’t Caucasian and from appearances, he could have been Filipino.  When asked about his nationality, if I remember right, he said one parent was from India while the other was from Japan.  He wasn’t sure where he wanted to go – Truckee or Reno, but when we got to Truckee, we let him out in the middle of town.  I wouldn’t see him again on the trail until Hart’s Pass, thirty miles from the Canadian border.

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