Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (Free Amazon Kindle)
The outdoor narrative, Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010), will be available for free Amazon Kindle upload on Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23. This is the story of 6’11” Bill Walker’s (Skywalker) 2009 hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
The Pacific Crest Trail runs 2,663 miles from the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border. It is renowned in the hiking community for its stunning beauty. Indeed, the variety of terrain that the PCT traverses is mind-boggling. The first 703 miles are in the desert, including the western corner of the famed Mojave Desert.
PCT hikers begin their epic trek at the annual PCT Kickoff Party held each year for departing thru-hikers. Ex-PCT hikers give intensive seminars to the current year’s hikers on water in the desert, including detailed water reports. Further, PCT ‘trail angels’ provide key assistance by stocking caches of water in key locations in the desert. Walker discusses the way (“Ten by ten”) PCT hikers adjusted their schedules to deal with the intense desert heat.
At mile 703, hikers leave the desert for good to enter the so-called ‘High Sierra’. This is what they have been waiting for as the PCT covers the very highest areas on the entire American mainland (Forrester’s Pass, as well as a side trail up Mount Whitney). Snow levels are key in terms of the hiker’s ability to ford streams and traverse slick mountain passes. Except for those lucky few who have trekked in the Himalayas, the three week stretch in the High Sierra is bound to offer the most beautiful vistas the hiker has ever faced. After the High Sierras, the hiker goes over parts of Mammoth Mountain, through Yosemite National Park, and skirts Lake Tahoe for several miles. In fact, the PCT goes along the three deepest lakes (Crater Lake, Lake Tahoe, Lake Chelan) in the United States.
The PCT hiker spends 500 miles each in Oregon and Washington, much of it in the rugged Cascade range, which has its own brand of ‘bleak beauty’. The PCT is bound to be the journey of a lifetime for most any mortal lucky enough to attempt it. But make no mistake–it is challenging. Walker points out that he lost 43 pounds on this trek, which wasted away his near 7-foot frame. In fact, the book shows a photogaph of him that looks like one of the grainy old photographs from a concentration camp (His mother begged him to not put it in the book!). This hemorraging of weight, and subsequent loss of insulation, caused extreme difficulty in maintaining body warmth.A PCT hiker faces greater extremes of weather and terrain than an Appalachian Trail hiker.
One interesting thing about the Pacific Crest Trail is just how different it is from the Appalachian Trail. The AT is mostly a deep wilderness adventure, while the PCT hiker is much more exposed above tree line with wide-open vistas. While there is the inevitable rivalry between the two trails and its denizens, the fact that the America has two such truly great trails is nothing but good news for everyone. “I can say without any compunction,” Skywalker says, “that the United States has the two greatest long-distance hikin trails in the world.”
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010), as well as Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008), as well as The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago (2012). Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.