Drawing on Experience for Pacific Crest

Someone asked me the other day about my own experiences on the Pacific Crest Trail and how I drew on those for my novel Pacific Crest. Good question!

Over the years I’ve hiked portions of the PCT in Oregon and Washington. My first ever backpack trip was on the PCT from Snoqualmie Pass south to Mount Rainier. We never made it to Rainier. After a long bus ride from Spokane to the pass, my friend Charlie and I set out on the trail, enthused and energetic. We were young and inexperienced, wearing crappy boots and not carrying enough food. We lasted five days on the trail.

Mount Rainier
The Pacific Crest Trail runs along that ridge on Blowout Mountain. Mount Rainier in the background.

Our initial progress slowed due to unusually deep snow left over from winter; six feet in places. It was the middle of July and the snow caught us by surprise. It caused us to lose the trail, and time, repeatedly. Pretty stressful for a couple of novice backpackers. The continued soaking of our cheap J.C. Penny boots caused blisters. In addition, the boots themselves were falling apart. We made it as far as Green Pass and hit more snow there. Without a word, we turned back, hungry and miserable, and much wiser. At Tacoma Pass a Forest Service employee gave us a ride out.

Subsequent experiences were better. I hiked the northern segment from Rainy Pass to Manning Provincial Park as well as the section from Snoqualmie Pass to Deception Pass and parts of the PCT around Mount Jefferson in Oregon.

Hiking aside, most of my time on the PCT has been spent working on the trail as a Forest Service employee with the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest. As part of a trail crew, I sawed logs, dug drainage ditches, cut brush, moved rocks off the trail, backpacked with tools, patrolled as a wilderness ranger, fought fires and more.

Working on the trail, I was able to talk to a lot of long distance hikers (ones who’d started at the Mexican border) and gain insights from them as to what the experience was like. Some were exhausted and grimly powering on to the finish. Others were still energized and looking forward to the rest of the journey though some of best scenery on the entire PCT.

3 thoughts on “Drawing on Experience for Pacific Crest

  1. Hey Jon,
    I hope you are well?
    Just found out you’re a published author, congratulations, most impressive!

    Just recovering fromCovid at moment, but doing OK, had Lyme disease few years back also and that knocked me about, but in true Brave heart style am still on the go!
    Happy trails, have you reached your last season yet?
    Kind regards Alan

    1. Hi Alan,
      I rarely check my wordpress site or gmail as they are very quiet, so just recently saw your message. Good to hear from you! I’m sorry to read that you caught Covid and hope your recovery is going well. I’ve manged to avoid Covid so far and recently got a Moderna booster shot. Not sure how it will fare against the new variant. If the proves to go viral, this area will likely get hit hard as so many stupid and careless people here refuse to wear masks or social distance.

      Yes, I reached my last season. Retired in spring of 2017. Too early, financially, but working conditions at the FS had deteriorated a lot under a difficult district ranger, trail and winter work was getting difficult to do, and the job had me in the office too much. Glad I got out before Covid days hit. Still getting out and hiking, mostly locally. Trying to write a sequel to Pacific Crest, but having writer’s block (i.e. laziness).

      Take care of yourself, Highlander. Chin up, carry on, and KYBO!


  2. Sorry for the rather late reply, 6 months later is terrible
    Recoveredfrom Covid but it took a while. KYBO obviously helped, better than the alternative that I suggested back in Washington nearly 30 years ago of KYBC!
    Yep in was 29 years ago last March that you, Simon and Smart met me at bus, the rest as they say is history!

    I really miss those days, truly the best of my life and the people were fantastic!

    Do you ever see Morrow at all? I guess he’s still worrying, wrote him a few times, but never got a reply, though he promised Deb that he would.

    Fine times and fine people, please pass on my best to all that know me, be great to come over against I. Haven’t seen Tonu since before lock down, so due a trip there too.

    Kindest regards bud


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