Alexandra ‘Rocket Llama’ Wilson Cheats Death on the Pacific Crest Trail
The following link is the trail journal for Alexandra ‘Rocket Llama’ Wilson, the last of the four missing thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The other three were rescued by helicopter.
This journal is most notable for one thing–its utter authenticity. Her ruminations on death are not hysterical, but rather of the look–straight-in-the-eye variety. At times it reads almost like a Jack London novel.
“Be finished before October 1st,” they told us at the PCT Kickoff in 2009. That is obviously great advice, as the case of these four missing hikers, plus the many others who were not able to complete their journeys. However the stark fact is that some of us simply can’t make it from Mexico to Canada in five months. Thus, I, too, found myself racing north towards the Canadian border in October, 2009. And we, too, got caught in some dreadful weather between Snoqualmie and Skykomish, Washington in the northern Cascades. Fortunately I was with a veteran Danish hiker who fancied himself as a good map reader. He found a side route for us to bail out and get to Skykomish where we spent three nights at the renowned Dinsmore hostel. There Jerry and Andrea Dinsmore advised us to take the ferry to Stehekin, the last trail town. “It’s simply not going to be possible for you to get over Glacier this year,” cigar-chomping Jerry pointed out. He was surely right. We got to Stehekin, where we trekked the last 89 miles to the Canadian border. It was great consolation.
But back to Rocket Llama. Obviously she and the others have abandoned their efforts for the remainder of this year. But already they are vowing to return. Rocket Llama specifically mentioned the great PCT hiker community. Of course, the Appalachian Trail has a famously wide community; but the PCT hiking community is especially impressive given how much more isolated the trail is. In her case, 14 thru-hikers had gone out on foot looking for her. After a few errors (trying to bail out too soon when the conditions were simply impassable), she finally decided her best bet lay in hunkering down and hoping for rescue. But she was so deep into the snow that SAR helicopters missed her. Finally, Old Lady Luck shined on her. The weather cleared enough that the snow drifts receded down to her knees. Some astute map reading yielded the conclusion that she could follow a creek down to a US Forest Service Road. There she walked to freedom.
Very inspiring story. And please take a look at her trail journal above. Not everybody could have made it out of such a situation alive.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago, and Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.