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PRT to PCT - a story

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PRT to PCT - a story

Postby Eric_Hightower on Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:55 am

An Ode to Pine Ridge Trail

It was raining all day when I pulled into the parking lot at the Big Sur Station. It was late in the afternoon on the shortest day of the year. The smell of the wet, loamy earth and redwood became ubiquitous. The smell of a wet forest is always unique – and the smell of wet redwood is what I now associate home with.

I figured this would be the perfect time to see Sykes Hot Springs for the first time since fewer people would be out there. There were little landslides on the road here and there and a mudslide seemed imminent. What a way to beat the crowds.

I didn’t have a lot of backpacking experience and I was actually feeling a little down about that so I figured I’d try something sort of challenging: start a hike into the Ventana Wilderness in the dark while it was raining.

I sat, ready to go, for at least an hour in my van. Contemplating what I was doing, what I was getting ready for. A vacation spent kayaking in Thailand sounded really nice. Warm water, endless fishing, ‘pretty chill’ I thought.

Yet there was an aching sensation that I had business here in the States that I wanted to appreciate before heading far away to somewhere, somewhere I knew I’d keep thinking about one thing: the Pacific Crest Trail.

So I finally shouldered my pack. I caught a break in the storm where the trail climbs the ridge and it provided a sense of a sunset. The light changed, it was dark, and it was raining. “This must be the place”

I was a little ways past Barlow Flat Camp when I started having issues with my headlamp. It pressed emphasis on how unprepared I felt for something like the PCT. I stood there in the dark for a moment with my headlamp in my hands wondering what to do. There were a few people back at Barlow Flat and the embarrassment of admitting my unpreparedness seemed better than fiddling with this headlamp any longer.

All of the sudden a guy appeared. He had a tiny little backpack and asked me what was up. I told him my headlamp wasn’t working and he asked if he could see it. He informed me that I had reattached the housing on it in a way that didn’t properly seal and that it was causing the electrical connection to short out in the rain. He said he had had the same issue with his headlamp before and someone else showed him it so it wasn’t a big deal. I think he could tell I felt embarrassed.
Then he asked, “hey, is your name Buffalo?”
“uh, no – why?”
“oh, you just look a lot like this guy I met on the PCT named Buffalo and this seems like the sort of thing he’d be doing.”
“you hiked the PCT?”
“I actually just finished it in October”
“wow. I’ve been thinking about doing it for a little while and am actually out here seeing how I feel about it. What do you think, was it hard?”
“oh dude if you have any inclination to do the PCT you should do it.”
“how hard was it?”
“if you can do this you can do the PCT”
I remembered that conversation with Dana as I signed up for my PCT permit. I thought of Dana as I stood at the Southern Terminus of the PCT in Campo and I thought of Dana again when I got to Canada. Dana, if you feel mischaracterized by my retelling of this story: sorry about that. It’s what I remember. Thanks for everything anyway. Really, that was what compelled me to finally go through with it. Oddly enough, I helped someone with the same headlamp issue more than half way through Washington while taking an alternate to Goldmeyer Hot Springs. I thought of you there and laughed a little when the person I was helping admitted feeling embarrassed about their finnicky headlamp that was shorting out in the rain.
And thanks a bunch to everyone that helps make the trails in Big Sur what they are. I know Sykes receives more traffic than it can sustain but it’s simple, near enough trails that lead to hot springs that get some folks on the Pacific Crest Trail.
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