Pacific Crest Trail Is More Dangerous, Exhilirating Than Appalachian Trail
October is that time of the year. The search and rescue teams in the northern Cascades are busy. Much busier than any such teams in Maine. In both places, thru-hikers are finishing their long journeys. While Maine is as gorgeous of a place as one can find on this earth, it is no match, in one respect, for Washington State in the northern Cascades. Peril. Put simply, the northern Cascades receive more snow than anywhere else in the Lower 48.
“Be finished by October 1st, PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) thru-hikers are advised at the annual PCT Kickoff the last weekend of April. That is good advice; I did my darndest for five months, but come October 1st I was still digging to make it to the Canadian border. We all had to skip Glacier Pass, due to stern admonitions against doing so by the Dinsmores Hostel in Skykomish. Thus we took the ferry to Stehekin. There I faced 89 miles to Manning Park in Canada. I was down a dangerous amount of weight (over 40 pounds), had a history of getting lost, and was horrified by the possibility of an early snowstorm and potential avalanches. Feeling ran high. Fortunately none of those things happened. I brought the ship to port.
But plenty of years, those still hiking on October 1st are in for blasts and snowdrifts the likes of which they can only fathom. Several have had to be rescued. Others have not made it all.
Thru-hiking the PCT was one of the great experiences of my life. It was exhilarating in a way few mortals get to experience. But be careful; the clock is ticking.
Bill Walker is the author of several hiking books, including Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail and Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail.