Words by: Jeremy McAllistar
Greetings hikers, backpackers, and friends of all ages. My name is Jeremy and I just got back from an epic (for me anyway) 33 mile overnight trek on the Pacific Crest Trail with ultra-light backpacking titan Glen Van Peski. It was one of the best hikes of my life and I just wanted to take a few words to report on the trip (part 1), and share the lessons learned and give my reactions to gear (part 2).
This trip started out largely by accident. I was emailing Glen about an unreleased piece of Gossamer Gear. As we were chatting back and forth we figured out that we lived pretty close and before I knew it Glen had invited me on a trip he had planned.
On the day of the hike (at zero dark thirty) we met at the ”finish-line” for this hike, off of the I-10 at Morongo. After we dropped off a car we loaded up and drove to our put in point at the Heart Bar campground (in the north east corner of the San Gorgonio Wilderness). It was an adventure just finding the trailhead. The fog, freezing rain and the “map” we were using (tiny pages torn out of a PCT guidebook) led to a little backtracking, but we eventually found the trail, loaded up and headed out around a little after sunrise.
I was raining on us at the start of the hike, but it was a beautiful rain. It was the kind of rain that made the greens greener, the browns browner, and the trail slipperier. It wasn’t long before one of us slipped and fell—Glen drew the cosmic short straw and fell as we were crossing a small streambed. He was ok, but he broke one of his trekking poles and had to carry it for the rest of the trip.
After the early mishap, we recovered and really began to find our stride. The rain cleared up and we began chewing up miles and dropping elevation. We crossed from pine forest, through oak wood, past large brush, before hitting the desert canyons that made up most of this trip. We stopped for lunch by a beautiful stream and besides the occasional foot-care problem or potty stop we were simply walking. Not fast, just walking.
We stopped for dinner on the crest of a hillside at sunset and it was stunning. After dinner we picked up and hiked through dusk and on into the night. Night hiking a well-trodden trail like the PCT is wonderful unless you have to cross an expansive riverbed. We found said riverbed (and river) well after dark and we spent the next hour or so playing a fun game I like to call “Is that the trail over there.” We eventually found the trail on the other side and decided to bed down for the night on the sandy beaches of the Whitewater River.
Sand is super comfortable to lay on, but it doesn’t hold stakes very well. When a midnight mini storm came in, both of our shelters threw stakes and fell on us. After securing everything a little bit better in the middle of the night we both settled in to the pitter patter sounds of a light rain which led to a rather restful nights sleep.
We woke at sunrise and got off to a fast start. We climbed out of the canyon we were in through a cow patty minefield and ate breakfast on the crest of the hill overlooking the windmills of Palm Springs. From there it was several miles of windswept desert hiking back to the car. We had just finished 33 miles in a little under 28 hours, but the mileage pales in comparison to everything else I learned on this trip.