This summer, my friend Heather “Anish” Anderson completed the new un-supported speed record on the PCT. While she was traveling through Oregon I was tracking her progress on Facebook and some local hiking forums and knew she would be in my area over a weekend in July. I figured after walking 2000+ miles in under 50 days she could use a little trail magic, so I rallied our good mutual friend Freefall and him and I set out south on the PCT from Cascade Locks to try to run into Anish on her way to Washington.
Before heading out we knew we needed to bring some yummy food and drink for Anish to help feed her hiker hunger with something besides the standard trail food. Anish used to be a vegan but I knew she was eating fish, so I loaded up my Mariposa backpack with some homemade smoked salmon, a vegetarian sub, some bars, Oreos and a sports drink. Freefall had some snickers, a kale salad, and some other treats for Anish.
We arrived at Bridge of the Gods trailhead, the lowest point on the PCT, at about 10am. We got my trusty dog Karluk out of the back of my rig and got him geared up with his pack and his Ruffwear approach booties. His pads were still a little sore from our previous hike a few weeks ago on the Timberline Trail, and booties were the best hope to keep his pads in good shape. After getting him ready and comfortable with his booties we strapped on our packs and the three of us started up the trail.
The hike started out nice, following a creek for the first few miles, and only gained a bit of elevation. About 3.5 miles into the hike, the trail started to climb steeply up Benson Plateau. The weather was particularly warm as we climbed even though we were in the shade. We kept pushing up the trail, I forgot just how much climbing there was on this hike. At about 6 1/2 miles, we finally gained the first lookout from the plateau. We were graced with great views of Mt St Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Rainier. The three sentinels to the north showed the recent snow melt and are always a welcome sight when hiking in the Cascades. We stopped for a quick photo and then continued our push up to Tea Kettle Springs.
Tea Kettle Springs is one of the most reliable water sources on this hike and for hikers heading south from Cascade Locks ,this is the only water source you will encounter for many miles. We decided we had hiked far enough, so we settled in to wait and see if Anish would cross our path. We enjoyed a nice lunch of subs we had packed in, some kale salad, chips and Oreos-nothing like some healthy trail food. The shade we were in plus the wind started to cool us off quickly. I put on the only layer I had brought my GoLite Trinity Jacket, and tried to conserve whatever body heat I had. We met a really nice couple out section hiking Oregon and asked if they had seen Anish. No they told us haven’t seen anyone all day. We told them about her speed attempt and chatted about hiking before they took off down the trail.
The short break turned into a long one, Freefall, Karluk, and I decided to pass the time with a nice nap. We lounged around sleeping quietly as we waited for Anish. I stirred at about 3:30and due to being chilly, I got up and started moving around. I thought, well maybe she won’t be through here today after all. About then I heard some rustling up in the woods and Karluk popped up and let out his warning growl that something was approaching.
A few switchbacks up we saw a person and yelled out “Hiker Trash” which was met with a hoop and holler of pleasure. Karluk took off up the trail wiggling with excitement to see Anish come down the trail. They had bonded one cold wintry weekend when we went snow camping on Mt Hood, and Karluk instantly recognized her. The two of them came bounding back to Freefall and me as we cheered her on.
We immediately said hello and set about stuffing Anish with all the goodies we had brought. She wolfed down half a sub, chips, cookies, salad and a Gatorade in about 7 minutes. Then as quickly as she stopped she said, “I got to get moving, I am at my maximum break time and need to get to Cascade Locks to resupply and make it into Washington”. We threw our gear back into our packs and told her we would try to keep up with her.
The next 7 miles flew by, I can not remember a faster descent in my entire hiking career. We flew down the trail and Anish filled us in about her hike so far, the mutual friends she had run into, and her time spent hiking for a few days with our good friend Lint, who has completed the “Triple Crown” twice and was on his third thru-hike of the PCT. I was shocked at how focused she was, her eyes had that 1000 mile stare and I could tell that nothing was going to stop this girl from reaching Canada in record time. We got down the steep descent and when we got to the bridge that crossed the creek, the couple we met earlier were there with cameras ready, taking pictures of Anish as she flew by.
Anish then told us about how weird it was to be a trail celebrity this year. She told us stories about complete strangers coming up to her on trail and wanting to take a photo with her, and giving her trail magic. She said at one point an entire scout troop said, “Hey it’s Anish!” and all at once 12 cameras went off as she went hiking by. I told her about everything on the web about her, and how she was inspiring so many people with her hike. She told us she struggled with that notoriety because she was only out there to prove to herself she could i., I reassured her though that for all us stuck in a cube working away, her adventure was inspiration and an amazing feat.
We finally got into Cascade Locks and walked to Shrek’s hostel where her resupply box was. I got Karluk settled in with is dinner and some water and left him with Freefall and Anish while I went and retrieved my rig. I stopped in town and bough a few pounds of fresh organic cherries to share and headed back to the hostel. When I got back Anish was freshly showered and in the midst of resupplying. I gave her some more homemade smoked salmon to take with her on trail, and we kept her company, while she waited for her laundry and finished up repacking her gear. Finally it was time for us to head back to Portland and Anish to head back out on trail to get in her last 8 miles for the day. We all hugged goodbye and we wished her luck, pumping her up with our confidence that she would crush Washington in no time at all. Karluk gave her a few good bye dog kisses and we drove away happy to know we gave our friend a great visit and some good treats to help her on her way.
Heather “Anish” Anderson completed her self supported FKT for the PCT in 60 days. She is now back in the PNW getting back in the groove of daily life, and answering questions about her hike. Anish will be one of the featured speaker at this years ALDHA-West Gathering in Nevada City, CA Sept 27-29. You can come to the event and get to hear the story of her hike in her own words for the first time.
Update: Event date expired – read more what it means to train for a speed hike
This post was written by Trail Ambassador Whitney LaRuffa.