The Sparrow and The Barracuda's Grand Adventure
Mile Post ~ 270 Miles
The last 2 ½ weeks have been busy ones for the Barracuda and the Sparrow, but I am very happy to report they are in excellent spirits and moving north on schedule. I feel fortunate to be able to relay their experiences as I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing their voices and talking with them on evenings that cell reception allows. Each day, as they gain experience and confidence on the trail, they seem lighter on their feet and more absorbed in the thru-hiker culture of the Pacific Crest Trail. They are now talking the talk and walking the walk.
Trying to convey another long distance hiker’s experiences, either physical and emotional, seems rather short sighted, as each hiker’s journey is so individual. I still can’t get my head around how amazing and challenging this PCT hike must be for the Barracuda. And I never fully understand my amazing wife, so what follows will be my bird’s eye view of their experiences based on my own past long distance hiking.
|(I can tell you one of the Barracuda's favorite things is eating!)|
Working Out The Bugs:
I find weekend and week long hiking trips so difficult, because you don’t truly have enough time to learn to live out of a backpack. By the time a short trip is over, you're just starting to learn all the quirks of setting up the tent, preparing meals, and doing the routine hiking chores. About the time you figure out how to load your pack just right and how those shoulder straps shift the weight around it is the end of your trip. The Sparrow and the Barracuda have crossed over that line at this point and have worked out most of these little issues. They have established a routine, which is truly crucial for the Barracuda, and both of them know their responsibilities.
This has been a huge breakthrough for the Sparrow, as much of the hiking we have done in the past has been together. I’ll admit I have a pretty ingrained system that works for me based on my past hiking experiences, and the Sparrow has generously yielded to that pattern when we are together. As the sole parent hiking with our son though, she has had to throw off those past routines because the division of responsibilities isn’t an option. Nearly every task, from filtering water to breaking down camp, now resides on her, and my system simply didn’t work for one parent. The great news is I get the feeling that establishing her own methods and tricks is liberating, as we usually approach a problem form completely different angles.
|(Both the Barracuda and The Sparrow are pretty amazing.)|
The Sparrow, with grace and patience, has somehow managed to figure out how to live out of a pack, route find, plan for water needs in the desert, prepare food after long, tiring days, and set up and take down camp. While that may sound like what any other hiker does, the remarkable part is that she has figured out how to do all that while also parenting the Barracuda. On top of the regular obstacles and challenges of hiking, she is mom: checking for blisters, making sure the Barracuda is drinking enough, providing encouragement (often when she is tired), and generally putting her needs behind that of our son. Words can’t express how awed and impressed I am in her abilities and strength.
|(A water cache provided and stocked by trail angels. This is the only water source available for many miles.)|
Based on my short experience on their first day, I can only say it is hot! The Laguna mountains and San Jacinto mountains have offered a harsh introduction to the trail, with full exposure to the sun on very hot days. They have climbed ridge-lines in full sun and traversed ranges in high winds. Several days have broken the 100 degree marker, and water is scarce. Budgeting water and timing water sources has required a pacing schedule that has necessitated planning, and once or twice hiking a mile (or three) with empty water bladders. One rule of hiking that quickly becomes apparent when you lift a backpack is that 1 quart of water weighs 2 pounds. Some of the hiking has required the Barracuda to carry 2 ½ quarts and the Sparrow to carry up to 6 quarts of water to reach the next source. Even with a light base weight, this quickly adds to their loads.
The irony is that they also face dramatic swings in temperature at night. While the days may be scorching, the evening temperatures often drop into the 30’s. Because they are becoming use to the heat, the contrasting evening temperatures often find them wearing every scrap of clothing they own.
|(A cold start after a colder night. The temperatures will quickly warm up.)|
The Hiker-Trash Culture:
The Sparrow and the Barracuda are not alone one this journey to Canada: each year the PCT hosts a new batch of migratory hikers all striving to make the trip. These are fellow travelers who have trod the same ground as them, feasted on the same natural wonders, and suffered the same challenges. This forms bonds unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and the Sparrow and the Barracuda have made quite a few amazing new friends. Hikers, like everybody else, are drawn toward the Barracuda, and his charisma and zest for fun has even gotten tired trail hikers to play tag after a long day. The Sparrow has found support and friendship among the community, and it is great to hear her talking with these hikers. They are a tight knit group, and the cost of entrance to the group is shared experiences and miles. I am thankful for each of these people. Though I don’t know them, they have camped with my wife and son when they were close to the Mexican border for added security, provided encouragement and warm smiles, bartered and given food to an always starving stinky boy, literally given the Sparrow the shorts she lives in, and made the trip one that the Barracuda will never forget. If you’ve never experienced the long distance hiking community, it is simply unbelievable and will quickly renew your faith in humanity.
I'm counting the days until I can meet up with the Sparrow and the Barracuda. I can think of no better way to spend the summer than hiking with my crazy family.