PCT Completion Hike – The First 11 Days

Resting today – a forced rest – in Sierra City, roughly 130 miles from our start at Chester. Little snafu with our resupply box getting sent to the Post Office instead of the general store where we could get it picked up today. But given it is Sunday, we’re here in Sierra Ciry until tomorrow when the PO reopens.

So far, the hike has been a venture of many hits and missess. Our first resupply, for instance, was scheduled for Belden. But when we arrived, we found our box never arrived. So we had to buy supplies there at premium prices and have our errant box bounced to a destination northward once it is found. And Belden was a bust at best as we found it less than hiker-friendly and would suggest to future hikers to bypass Belden altogether and visit Carribou Crossing instead. There, the staff is much friendlier and helpful. And prices were more reasonable, too. Just one more note on this: Belden does not receive USPS services. Resupply boxes must be sent UPS or FedEx. But in nearly all other cases, the hike this far has been an absolute dream.

Got dropped off at the trailhead at Highway 36 Wednesday afternoon, June 13, at 4:30. We walked three miles before knocking off for the night.

Packs were heavy. Patti started carrying about 23% of her body weight. I was carrying 27%.

Big climb out of the gates next morning. But we felt good. Climbed to 7200 feet before leveling out. Lots of ups and down. But realized in the end that we had done 2000 feet up. About altitude: we both needed some time to adjust – not unusual for us. We have since breeched 7000-feet elevation a number of times.

We have seen some wildlife, but many deer specifically. One night, while in our tent, we heard footsteps. I looked out to find a deer about 20 feet away. Then, a few minutes later that deer along with another passed by again. Beautiful animals. We saw yet another small buck another day while we were putting up our tent. Several others along the way.

We both have a few aches and pains to work out. But nothing serious.

Our equipment is holding up for the most part. But my backpack is starting to rip in several places so I’ll need to address that. Also our Sawyer Mini is filtering water but the water tastes bad. So, we will be replacing that soon. In the meantime, we will continue using our full sized Sawyer Squeeze.

We remain in great spirits and having a blast. Thrilled to be living out a dream we’ve dreamed for many years.

People have asked about the trail: the trail is most usually about 18-inches wide, sometimes narrower. It is at times soft with pine needles bedding. Sometimes nothing but rocks that are jagged and dangerous. The trail can be straight or crooked. Steep or flat. Uphill or downhill. Dirt or sand. Sunny or shady. Wet or dry. Or, all of these things inside of a single mile. But it is at all times beautifully awesome and inspiring. Along each side of the trail the holes left by trekking poles by hikers who have passed before us, become a track. I have imagined these as a train track. My poles fall lockstep into the groove, a rhythm forms, then I almost feel propelled by what only could be a metaphysical caboose. The hike becomes a glide, or a floating almost just chugging along.

We will continue providing updates as cell service and Wifi allows.

Thanks to all of you for following along.

I have found it very difficult to post pictures using WordPress. So, our photos will be on our Instagram page at Instagram.com/mcshap

Lynn Shapiro

What Takes 5 Years To Go 1100 Miles & 4 Months To Go 1500? How We Plan to Finish the PCT This Year

When we started hiking small sections of the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail back in 2012, we told people we were on the 10-year plan. We figured the most we could ever get done any given year would be only 150 miles on average. So, we weren’t really sure when we might actually get to the northern terminus at the Canadian Border.

Mt. Shasta at sunset

Mt. Shasta from the south on Castella to Chester hike, summer 2017.

One of the frustrations of being section hikers is the length of time we spend planning each segment. It’s not always cool to leave your car someplace for two weeks. So, we work hard to find good on and off access points to the trail. We also are captive to the clock, needing always to get back to our jobs. This, of course, plays a huge part in how many days we can stay on trail each outing. And all of this limits the number of miles we get in each year. Once we do get back on trail, we need three or four days to get into our groove, adjust to the altitude, etc. And by the time we start to really feel like we have finally connected with the trail, it’s time to chase off back to the “real world” – a reality, as I’ve written in the past, that is real only if we make it so.

Deer in meadow

Found this deer grazing in a meadow on our Castella to Chester hike last summer, 2017.

We are excited to announce…

…our decision to get back on trail in June. This time, instead of our usual two-weeks, we’ll be taking an extended leave to hike the remaining 1550 miles of the trail, taking us likely into October. We’ll soon start to share posts on our planning, preparation and schedule. We plan to keep up the blog during the hike, posting directly from the trail when possible.


We are also very excited to introduce Sweet Dreams Outdoors. We’ve partnered with Sweet Dreams to bring you reviews of new products and provide discounts on select gear  offered exclusively to our readers. Stay tuned for more details. Patti and I are both very excited to be part of the Sweet Dreams Outdoors team. Most of what they offer is recommended by staff members. The site features a lot of innovative products and the prices are really fair. It will be a blast to test and review new items as they become available.

As Long As You Are At Peace With Your Experience – aka: Hike Your Own Hike

The further away the stopping place on the trail is, the harder it is to get to. About two years ago it started to require more planning, more time off to hike. (A nine hour drive for a couple days isn’t worth it.) This also means more time between our major hikes. While we were doing at least two or three hikes a year when were hiking closer to home (Southern California), we’re now able to do only one. Our most recent big outing was our hike between Tuolumne Meadows and Taboose Pass.


Clearly, we lose our hiking legs between our hikes. Not only do we need to readjust to the higher altitude, but also to the pains and blisters and sleeping on the ground. Bottom line, it makes us very slow at first. It’s really not until around day ten before we started feeling a better rhythm to our hiking mojo.

On this last trip, we found ourselves frequently comparing ourselves to our hikers. Many hikers we passed claimed, “I’m a fast hiker.” And indeed, everyone was faster than us. We noted though that in spite of their speed, we all usually ended up within a quarter to half mile of each other. Our response became, “We are slow, but we are steady.”

That said, there was a bit in us that wished we were a little faster. It would be nice to be done a little earlier in the day to just sit and watch the sky. One drawback of section hiking, while still trying to work and pay the mortgage, is that even though we are getting away from time obligations, time still rules us and we can’t lallygag too much to get back in time to go to work.

I’m not sure why we sometimes focused on our speed and compared ourselves to others on the trail. Was this the trail version of keeping up with the Joneses?

It is often said ‘Hike your own hike.” (HYOH) This phrase even came up between the two of us, as Lynn reminded me, again, to “Use your poles!” There are times I like to use the poles and there are times I don’t. And I fall either way. In talking about HYOH, I gently reminded Lynn that I read somewhere, in that definition, it included to use your poles as you wish.


We started one day early to get over Selden Pass. I hadn’t finished my coffee in my water bottle yet. Anyone that knows me at all knows I am NOT a morning person. Never have been. There was a young man coming up behind us. I could hear him talking to Lynn first behind me. I couldn’t hear what was said but the young hiker sounded chipper. You know those kind of people (George..are you reading this?) that are ridiculously happy in the morning. They wake up that way, whistling, smiling, just too happy, if that is possible to be too happy. This guy was like that. As he passed me he said, “What’s shaking?” I couldn’t help but smile back as I replied, “This hill.”

He responded, “As long as you have that smile on your face!” And he scampered off. By now, Lynn had caught up to hear this and he rolled his eyes. “Good grief!”

We called him the Happy Hiker.

We finally got to the top of Selden Pass. In spite of an elevation of 10,910 feet, it wasn’t that hard of a pass considering other challenging passes like Glen, Forrester or Mather. It was less than a four mile hike to the top. Marie Lake sits to the north side. This lake was just beautiful, and large. It seemed to just keep going and going. Unbelievably clear water. It makes you realize how pristine and virginal these waters are with so little population comparatively near these waters. The view from Selden Pass was of even more lakes. Heart Lake, named so because of the shape was the first lake we saw. Smaller and it’s hard to see the shape from the top. Sallie Keyes Lake is close by which is where we stopped for lunch.


At the top, we took a pause to take in the scenery. Leaning his back against a large boulder, facing north was Happy Hiker. He gave me a Hang Loose hand sign and had in his other hand, what I am sure of, was a tightly rolled joint he then proceeded to light. As he did he smiled again and said “ As long as you are at peace with your own experience.”


Words of wisdom from the Happy Hiker that, timely, set the tone for the rest of the hike. Who cares if we’re slow, fast, stop early or hike on to darkness? This was better than HYOH which can sound confrontational at times. Good advice for trail and non-trail, alike.

Road Trip: Then & Now

Road Trip: Then & Now

This is off topic from our usual posts. Hopefully, you’ll find it as interesting as I do. It’s a comparison of roughly the same road trip taken 27-years apart. Wow, how things have progressed!

In 1988, before we celebrated our first anniversary, Lynn and I quit our full time jobs, left our apartment in the Los Angeles area, and camped across America for six months. By far, this adventure tops most of our experiences together. It was a time we commonly think back on with wistfulness to do it again, some day.

We travelled frequently with the kids as they grew up. That travel bug has bit our daughter, Alexa. She has become quite adventurous and independent. While her friends were planning trips to Europe to celebrate college graduation, she planned a road trip across the United States. It was exciting to hear about her plans. She and her boyfriend, Evan were planning to do this together. Evan’s parents were very nervous about the trip. I couldn’t help but smile as we had the same experience. My Dad said “whatever makes you happy.” My Mom said, “OK, how about just giving me your license plate number just in case something goes wrong.” Lynn’s parents were very nervous. Not only did they worry about an accident, or something going wrong, but they also worried if, as newlyweds, we could get along while being that close to each other every day.

Comparing our trip with Alexa’s trip, there are obvious differences and similarities.  Evan was starting law school in the fall. Their time was limited to six weeks. Both trips were, with few exceptions, relatively unplanned. Both trips started out in small white cars; ours a 1986 VW Golf, and Alexa’s, a 2014 Honda Fit.

Alexa’s first concern was about money. How much would she need? Lynn and I saved $10,000 hoping it would last six months. This seemed like a lot to her. She was nowhere near that. I pointed out that she wouldn’t need as much because they were only planning for 6 weeks. But also, that our money paid all expenses, insurances, film for photos. “Photos?” she says. Our daughter grew up in the digital age. It didn’t occur to her we had to spend money, twice, to get the pictures. We had to buy the film and then pay to process the film for prints. And we didn’t have the luxury of reviewing and then tossing bad ones out before printing. Another financial concern Alexa mentioned was insurance. We paid for our own health and car insurance. We were already working regular jobs. Alexa, however, was not so that was not an issue for her, only for us.

As Alexa was asking specific questions about logistics, it occurred to me the differences, and similarities, would be interesting to compare.

For example, besides the cost of getting thousands of photos printed, is all the space it took in our car. Alexa’s photos, music, books, address book, maps, her journal and a camera are all on her phone. Our space requirements were much different. For us, each of those items was a physical thing we had to find a nook for. Oh, and music!! We didn’t have MP3 players back then. CDs just came out. We had a tape player. We brought along two wooden tape racks, enough for a total of 100 cassettes. We had to take out the back seat of the VW Golf to fit everything. We buried a huge wicker trunk in the well where the back seat was and the top of that was where we stored all our music. For Alexa, everything fit in her Fit with relative ease. The cost of gas we figured may be a wash. Although her mpg was much better than ours, we paid under $2 a gallon.

Speaking of cell phones, they weren’t around either. That was one expense we did not have. If we wanted to call someone we used a pay phone.

our mapOur route (1988) above, and Alexa’s route below in 2014.

map AX

car golf backcar back of fit

monterey P

monterey AX

Monterey, CA above. San Francisco below.

san fran P

san fran ax

oregon  P

Oregon waterfalls.

Oregon A

Our friend, Philip in Portland, OR, back in 1988.

Alexa met up with Philip in 2014.Our friend, Philip, (above) in Portland, Oregon, 1988 vs 2014. Nothing really changed.
He’s still a nice guy. We both stayed with him.

monolith ys p

monilth ys ax

of ys p

of ys ax

Old Faithful, above, in Yellowstone National Park. Faithful then and Faithful now.

Mt rush PMt Rush Ax

Mount Rushmore above. Badlands National Monument in South Dakota below.

badlands Pbadlands ax

dbq 4th st P

DBQ 4th st AX

4th Street Elevator, Dubuque, Iowa

dbq elf exit P

dbq elf exit AX

We both found the elf exit!

dbq star brewery  Pdbq star brewery ax

Dubuque Star Brewery is still there.

chi water Pchi water


dc wash ax dc wash P

Cameras and video cams then, smartphones now.

dc lin P

dc lincoln 1 ax

The Washington and Lincoln Memorials, Washington, DC

mes verde 1 Pmes verde 1 AXmesa ladder Pmesa ladder AX

Mesa Verde National Park

tongue p

tongue aLike mother like daughter.

All of this reminiscing has Lynn and me starting to think again, as we did 27 years ago on the shores of Maui, how can we do something like this again, and soon. Ideas are floating. We’ll see where they land.

To learn a bit about Alexa and to read her travel blog, please visit: thirtysixgoals.wordpress.com.