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Andy and the PCT

November 27, 2018

Andrew Martin, he is a fine young lad.  He is also absent from social media, thus will probably only see this as I am pretty sure it does follow my blog.  Anyhow this past summer, he did a pretty amazing trip and accomplished something that is truly remarkable.  He thru-hiked the PCT.  The PCT covers 2,653 miles from Mexico to Canada and features 420,880 of elevation change.  He went North, hiking through California, Oregon and Washington.  What is even more impressive is that he had a Go-Pro camera and documented the entire trip.  He has tons of great video clips of his journey, some beautiful scenery, some funny moments, some showing the struggles he faced.  It’s some really compelling and unique stuff.  I think that it should be shared with people.  It’s all been uploaded to You Tube, but since he won’t be broadcasting the links anytime soon, I am not sure how many people will actually find it.  I decided that I would do just that – share it, at least to my little footprint of people.  He might be annoyed at me for sharing some of this, but I really think that some of the footage he took is too cool not to be shared.  And he did post it to his You Tube channel, so it’s meant to be viewed, I am just bringing it out through other social media avenues.

Andy Finish

Andy “Knoxville” – Suns out Guns Out at the US/Canadian Border:  aka the finish.

We have known each other since before kindergarten, so basically our whole lives.  He was the High School ASB president our senior year as well as the president and founder of the Unexplained Phenomenon Club.  We watched the X-Files and talked about the power of the pyramid once a month.  We made a potato gun launcher for a school science project and had visions of a great class period, having the class watch us shoot potatoes all period.  We were advised that a potato gun launcher is really a weapon and should not be on campus, meaning they would call the Duvall Police if school knew it was on campus at all. Our teacher asked if it was on campus of course we said “no sir, we would never bring a weapon to school. (Truth be told it was sitting is his truck ready for action!)   We had figured out that we could shoot golf balls through plywood with the “Velocitator.  I could go on and on about things like the “Coyote”, the Bearcat sign, a nice porcelain toilet, a “real one”, a Courier, Moss Lake, missing keys, the senior wall,  a rock meant to pee off of, Getting the red ass, red devil eyes, the stories are endless.  Lots of great memories and fun adventures.

CA Picture

A very unique cloud formation taken by Andy on the trail in CA.

We have been through the highs and lows of life and I would say have both been resources for each other during both the good and the bad.  Our first outdoor adventures occurred just off I-90, near Snoqualmie Pass at a beautiful lake called Mirror Lake.  The PCT actually crosses directly by Mirror Lake.  We would pack in an outrageous amount of gear and live like kings.  We had music, huge 8 person tents, rafts, and lots of soda.  We would hike up towards Tinkham Peak to find leftover patches of snow, which we would “harvest” snow to make slushies with our soda. We would have backpacks and have both arms full of gear.  Looking back we would be shocked at the amount of gear we carried and the weight, considering how efficient and lightweight we travel now.   For quite some time we have always gotten out for at least one outdoor adventure per year.  From climbs of Mt. Rainier, Mt Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Baker, a cool camping trip to Spider Meadows, to lava tube caving in Bend.

Chill

Jared and Andy Chilling at camp.

We always do something fun.  Over a year ago now, Andy told me that he was going to thru-hike the PCT.  I was equally parts pumped for him and honestly jealous of that amazing journey that would await him.  As mentioned above, for those that do not know much about the PCT, it is a trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada, it’s 2652.6 miles long and takes most people about 5 months to complete.  Yes that is hiking for 5 months straight, living in a tent, finding your own water sources, carrying your own food.  Averaging 15-20 miles of hiking per day.

His permit had him starting his journey towards the end of March.  Jared Hanley and I had planned to meet him in the High Sierras.  Typically this is one of the most demanding stretches of the trail as the Sierra’s will still have a fair amount of snow, meaning lots of snow travel, it’s cold and everything gets wet.  The path can also be hard to follow as the snow covers the way.  Our original plan was to hike from Reds Meadow (mile 907) to Sonora pass (Mile 1018) with him.  We both had a window during May to join him.  Andy was equipped with a GPS tracker, so we were following him each day during his progress on the trail.  We soon started to realize that we had overestimated his speed and he was not going to be near the area we were hoping during our proposed window.  Thus our plan to help him in the cold and snows of the High Sierra was not going to happen.  So we pushed back the timing.  The next plan was the Trinity Alps near Mt. Shasta.  However as some of you many have seen in the news, the area around Redding went up in flames this summer.  Thus we pushed our meeting point further north to Central Oregon – just north of all the bad fires.

Rap

Setting up to rappel down from Mt. Washington

Andy had already met up with Jared, when I got there, they spent a “zero” day for Andy, (a zero day is just a rest day – no miles on the PCT, but it sounds cooler to say zero day, versus rest day) at Smith Rock doing some climbing.   Although I am not sure a rest day means going rock climbing at Smith for most thru-hikers.  We met up super late near the Hoodoo Ski Area, where the PCT passes by.  We dropped a car there and then headed to Bend for some sleep.  We set off the next day.  Our path took us to the summit of the South Sister, where we camped for night one.  The South Sister’s summit is at around 10,300 ft.  We found an awesome pre-built shelter area to pitch our tent.  Andy just decided to cowboy camp it.  From there we descended a different side of the mountain, down to Green Lakes, then headed towards Camp Lake.  Andy had to add some miles as he left his Nalgene Bottle at a rest spot and decided he need to hike back to retrieve it.  Can’t be losing that with more than half or Oregon and all of Washington still to go!  This brought up some interesting conversations about the quirks of thru-hiking.  First off everyone gets a trail name.  That is how you are known the rest of the trip.  Andy’s trail name is “Knoxville”.  Most through-hikers will hike solo, then meet up at camp with others to have some company.  One of the cardinal rules is that you are not supposed to take even once step off the PCT once you start.  The valid theory being that over the course of 5 months those steps here and there add up to miles and miles over the course of the trip.  If you walk an extra quarter of a mile each day, that can add up to 50 miles and really 2 extra days on the trail over the course of the PCT.

Mt. Wa Summit

Summit Selfie on Mt. Washington

Andy really never followed this rule.  Which I thought was fantastic.  He decided the adventure was more important than the trail.    Meaning he took side trips to enjoy, soak in the beautiful scenery and landscape.  He figured that he would never again go to some of the areas, so might as well enjoy the journey.  He climbed Mt. Whitney, The South Sister, Mt. Washington, McGregor Mountain, Mt. Daniel and the Golden Horn, none of which is on the PCT and all include lots of extra hard elevation gains.    When he would take a video, he would  start out saying with the day of his trip and “on the PCT”.  However when he was with Jared and I, it turned into “just off the PCT”, then it was “nowhere near the PCT”.  It was a running joke during our time together.  We took a lot of steps off the PCT.

So far on our trip, we had not set a foot on the PCT and we were now at night 2 camping at Camp Lake, which is a beautiful lake nestle in between the South and Middle Sisters.  From Camp Lake we set off on some climber’s trails and then descending back towards the PCT.  In the meantime, we had just about circumnavigated the South sister from our starting point to the junction in which we met up with the PCT.  From there we had a fairly long mileage day as we cruised by the Sisters, through the Obsidian trail area.  We made some stops to take a dip in a small Lake, enjoy the obsidian rock, watched Jared try to help Andy with some IT Band issues.  It was comical watching him “roll” out the kinks (there is video of that!”)   So far most of the time on the trail Jared and I were moving faster than Andy.  We looked at each other, both surprised, as we thought he would smoke us desk jockeys after all the time on the trail, we figured that he would be a machine.  So we asked him point blank about it.  His response:  “Honestly, I have been hiking for some many days now, I really love all the parts of this trip, except for the hiking part.”  We cracked up about it.  It made sense, the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds all were amazing, but after so many days on the trail moving North, it made sense, that the hiking was getting a bit stale.

tree

Lone tree in a sea of lava rocks – near Belknap Crater, OR

We camped at a small lake that had limited camping areas.  It was crowded, but we found some fellow through hikers that Andy knew and then let us pitch tents on their marked camping site.  A crazy lady was there and told them that it was one tent per campsite.  The through hikers (Pony Express and Leg Day) were chill and said they read the sign as one group per campsite and if the was a ranger present who disagreed, then they would pay the fine.  She got the “red-ass” and was hollering and making a ruckus.  The next day we cruised through some amazing landscape that was marked with lava rocks and trees. We learned these are called “Kipukas”.   We summited Little Bellknap Crater (not on the PCT) and had a great time, hiking catching up and just relaxing.   We watched Mt. Washington as the PCT wrapped around the mountain.  We all knew that it was for sure going to the our next objective.  It was eye candy all day as we saw it from various vantage points on the PCT.  We finished our trip at my car where the PCT hits Highway 20.  We then headed back to Bend for the night.  We cleaned up and decided to take a zero day.  So we went bouldering in Bend and then inter-tubed the Deschutes river through the man-made rapids near downtown Bend.  It was lots of fun.  The next morning we headed back to just about the same point we ended on the PCT and hiked the PCT south (Yes for Andy that is going the wrong direction and hiking a section twice – things thru-hikers just don’t do) to the Mt. Washington climbers trail.  We followed that up to the base of the rock climb.  Mt. Washington features a 4 pitches of low 5th, mostly fourth class climbing.  Almost all of which is on loose crappy rock.  The first pitch, which is the most fun and hardest has really no good places to place any protection in the rock.  Basically it’s just a “hook em’ horns” section, where you place webbing over a rock “horn” and then hope it doesn’t break-off if someone falls.    We had a great climb, a picturesque summit and an uneventful rappel back to the rock base, which is how you like a rappel.  Then we scree skied down the west side of the peak, back to the PCT.  The scree skiing was some of the best you will ever find.  Some great stuff.

After the climb, we spent a few more days doing some local hikes, we hit Tumalo Falls, we took the Paulina Plunge (a natural water slide) and hit the Big Obsidian Flow trail (which is really the place to go to see obsidian rock – way better than the Obsidian Trail -IMO).  After hanging out with the fellas.  Andy reminded me of one of the reasons I do the outdoor stuff.  “You go to the mountains to learn how to live in the valleys.”  I had written about it many years ago, but sometimes I lose track of that myself.  It was a great reminder, to me that I need to make sure to keep myself centered.

Jared had to head back to work, I dropped Andy back off at the PCT, were we had finished and he was back on the trail.  He hammered through the next sections of Oregon to the Bridge of the Gods and Washington.  Then about a month later he ended up in Canada.  It was quite the trip.  Granted he does have a section of trail in Far Northern California and Southern Oregon to hike to finish the trail as fires forced him off the trail in that section.  But a really epic journey.  He is a stud!

Here are some more great clips of some cool points on his journey:

Knife-edge Ridge, WA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXfGwd7YbWQ

The Golden Horn, WA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4j5PS925JU

Scree Skiing down from Mt. Washington, OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkzf3yOvssE

Summit of Mt. Washington

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMMBjX7FGDo

The Paulina Plunge, OR

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOA8cQJlgO4

Snow at Kearsage Pass, CA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjVC6BuK7XI

Mt. Whitney, CA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BLa51zlxIg

 

Here is his You Tube Channel:  Andrew Travels

 

It was a trip for the ages and I am glad I got to be a part of his journey

DG

DEH

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Tony Marble permalink
    November 28, 2018 12:02 pm

    Awesome post Dave. I need to connect with Andy and you sometime soon.

  2. Andy Martin permalink
    November 29, 2018 8:19 pm

    This is the best post you’ve ever written.

  3. Knoxville permalink
    November 29, 2018 8:52 pm

    Seriously Dave, thank you for this amazing and thoughtful tribute. Thank you for decades of amazing friendship. I think everyone who reads your blog will agree that YOU are the best. 🙂

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