Snowboarding and thru-hiking

I met Nacho here at USASA Snowboard Nationals in Colorado for the first time last year.  He’s a snowboard coach for the USASA Unbound Series of contests and I’m the Big Alaska Series Director and here as a snowboard official working on the boardercross course.  Nacho is a Triple Crowner and you may know his name from the photo credits of Trauma and Pepper’s historic first winter PCT trek from Canada to Mexico.  They stayed with Nacho in Mammoth and he hiked the last 20 miles to the Mexican border with them.

Nacho and I chat in the start area of the boardercross course and talk hiking while he waits with his athletes for their call to drop out of the four-across race gates onto a wild and crazy course with wutangs and bank turns while music blasts and race officials call commands on headsets and radios, ski patrollers stand by with sleds for injured riders and adrenaline and fear are nearly tangible.  I talk while managing course marshals strung out down the course and a slip crew whose task is to try to smooth out the ruts and rubble as best as possible.  It’s a gorgeous sunny day on the snow but we’re all covered up to protect us from the glare at 12,000′–hats, face masks, goggles, just noses showing.  It’s really hard to recognize people later in the day down in the village when you see their actual faces.

Nacho is so excited for my hike and shared, not advice or encouragement, but insight.  I’ll paraphrase:  “You’re going to love it!  Every day is different, some days the scenery is less interesting than others, some days will be harder than others, but you’ll keep going, it’s beautiful and amazing and you’ll get so strong.  Maybe you’ll get blisters or sore or tired, but you’ll keep going. You’ll see things you’ve never seen and you’ll keep going.  You’ll have really hard days and bad weather and really good days and you’ll keep going.  And when you get to the end, you’ll have such a feeling of confidence in yourself and accomplishment, you can’t describe it.  It’s going to be great, you’re going to love it.”

How weird is it when subcultures connect or collide?  Thru-hiking and snowboarding, what do they have in common?

Getting Ready

Gear lists, resupply, training: there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of us getting ready for thru-hiking the PCT this year. Just check out the blogs linked through the Trail Journals page on the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) website.

I’ve been reading PCT blogs and books since 2012, dozens of which pretty much sounded the same and included similar images (mile 100 written in white stones and gnarly bleeding and/or blistered feet). I’d quit following when the blogger got too whiny, too wordy, or just sounded too much like a dozen others. The blogs I stuck with last year were unique–Loveline’s humor, Carrot Quinn’s writing, Captains of Us photos and positive attitude, and SlowBro’s daily, brief, matter of fact journal.  I hope the stories I tell will add texture and color to all the other stories out there this year about hiking the PCT, while maybe revealing why my unimpressed grownup kids describe me as either bad ass or crazy.

I intend to update this blog every week or two, and I hope my readers explore other PCT Class of 2015 blogs. Unless I develop an irresistible compulsion to share the details of my gear, food and resupply information, don’t expect to find it here.  Really the trip is about walking, a lot of walking, for a really long time. I can’t wait.

My start date is April 12.

Meanwhile I’ve got some snowboarding to attend to.

Ten Lakes, Yosemite National Park

We camped next to one of the lakes, our down bags side by side on the ground cloth.  Mine was army green, or maybe khaki, with snaps.  I’d watched my parents in the garage the night before, cutting it down to fit my ten-year-old self.  Now I slept, my face cold at 10,000′, stomach queasy with altitude and the liquid red jello my Dad fed me.  The next morning, we hiked back up the switchbacks and I puked at every turn.  By the time we got to the top and started heading down the trail to the Tioga Road, I felt great, like I’d never been sick.  My first backpacking trip, although I’d been day hiking with my Dad since I learned to walk.  This is what my Dad taught me: to love wilderness and walking.