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Stories that Inspire

The Pacific Crest Trail: 6 Months of Simple Living

April 6, 2015
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Royal Robbins ambassador Mark Gallo takes us on his trek down the Pacific Crest Trail. Check out his first post here.

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Preparing my tarp for the snowfall.

As I continued down the PCT, the Sierra Nevada greeted Michael and I with a little surprise. Five miles north of Sonora pass, we were welcomed with the first snowfall of the season. This was exciting because at the beginning of the hike in the Cascade Range, we experienced the last snowfall of the season.

It began less than an hour after we arrived at camp; luckily we’d set our tarps up before it began to accumulate. That night I awoke hourly to brush the snow off the top of the tarp and prevent it from sagging on top of me. The work paid off as I woke up dry, toasty, and excited to follow a crisp, untraveled snow path. The path was already trodden by a small herd of early morning does, but not enough to keep my feet out of the snow. My shoes quickly became saturated with water, taking me back to the beginning of the walk in wet, snowy Washington.

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A lake view along the PCT, where it joins the John Muir Trail.

In the Sierra Nevada, the PCT joins up with the John Muir Trail, which is typically a hiker highway in the summer months. I walked this section in October, which made it a little colder but brought many benefits. The fall months have drastically reduced traffic, and I had ample camping opportunities at night. Best of all, it allowed me to appreciate the beautiful fall colors. The numerous crystal clear lakes, jagged granite peaks and plush meadows were stunning.

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Taking a moment to enjoy the tranquility of a stream.

When I walked down the trail into a vibrant aspen grove, I felt blessed to be immersed by such a magnificent organism. A creek flowed through the grove and my senses became inebriated with the sights and sounds of nature. It is simple to sit in such an area and clear the mind of all thought, instead just listening to the sounds – wind blowing through tree tops, rustling water – and feeling the warm sun on your skin.

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Adventures downstream in our Craigslist-purchased boat.

Not everything that happens along the PCT involves walking. Outside of Ashland, Oregon multiple forest fires had forced trail closures farther south. My companions and I had the option to road walk around the fires or hitchhike and complete the sections in the future. Another option was to scope the local Craigslist, purchase a canoe and attempt to float around the fires! After the above photo was taken, we floated approximately 2 miles before a large rock gashed a hole in the stern of our boat. This was nothing that a quick hitch to town for some fiberglass cloth and epoxy couldn’t fix. The next morning, after some solid curing time, we set out once again, only to make it another 2 miles. The river was simply too shallow, so we headed back to the trail.

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The view from Mt. Bernardino, looking out towards the Pacific Ocean and Los Angeles, shows a marine inversion layer, which is caused by a temperature inversion, where the air closer to the ground is colder, rather than warmer. The warm air above then presses down upon the cool air preventing it from dissipating. Later on, I walked into this fog and slept in its dank depths.

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The PCT meets McDonalds at this unique point along the trail.

I have never felt healthier than while on the PCT. Besides a diet of mostly dehydrated food, bars, and trail mix, the constant walking made my body strong. However, when I stopped moving, all my muscles would seize up. After sitting or lying for an extended period, my feet were not happy to be stood upon.

Desert Sunset

A remarkable desert sunset.

The desert can be tough on hikers. The lack of water and excess of sand wears many people out quickly. Personally, I loved every moment of the desert. A few of the luxuries included the opportunity to see the sunrise and sunset every day, the ability to walk at night under a full moon, and the chance to observe the stars as they float across the night sky. I was able to look past the rigid vegetation and the drastic temperature variations between night and day and simply enjoy what is.

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A storm rolling in over the desert.

The views in the desert are simply stellar. There are no large trees to block the sky or the environment surrounding you. When it rains, the smell of the desert emanated, invigorating my every step. As I brushed against the desert sage, it acted like a sweet perfume. It is significantly easier to keep track of the weather as it can see it blowing in from afar. In contrast, the forest gave me the feeling that I was in a green tunnel, and my focus became set on set on smaller things in my immediate surroundings.

Hiker Family

My hiking family in Sierra City, California. From top left around: Minky, Duffy, Pearl (me), Circle, Loohoo, The Duke, Alaska Joe, Chaga.

I am so thankful for the beautiful people along the trail that kept my morale soaring and a BIG smile on my face! Complete strangers took me in and gave me supplies and food.  My friends along the way gave me my trail name, Pearl. I will miss these folks very much!

Smaller Hiking Family

Friends from the trail. From the left: Circle, Pearl (me), Mrs. Anderson, Eskimo boy and Ju Lion

A huge thanks to all of the following and everyone else who made me smile and kept me dancing all the way to Mexico!

• Anderson’s
• Saufley’s
• The Boys at Jive Coulis Productions, Eric Leadbetter
• Barbara in California city
Mountain Valley Retreat
• Duffy
• Awesome family in Tehachapi whose information I lost
• Ziggy and The Bear
• The Marshall Family
• Grandma & Pop Pop
• Everyone who read the book “Wild” and decided I was starving and gave me food
• All who picked me up off the side of the road with my thumb out
• Water cachers
• Teresa Martinez – CDTC Director
Royal Robbins – couldn’t have done it without clothes

Parents

My wonderful parents

Last but definitely not least, my beautiful parents. There is absolutely no way I could have hiked the entire PCT without them. Before I left on this journey, I packed up 15 resupply packages ranging from 5-10 days that had to be sent out one after another. I generally knew how much food I needed in each, but not much more than that. My mom was always on it, whether I needed extra brown sugar for my oatmeal, extra water purification tablets, or even a new pair of shoes (went through 3 pairs). I could not be more grateful to my parents. Some people asked what I missed most while on this trail, hands down my answers was my parents.

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The beginning of my journey in Canada – June 14, 2014.

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The end of my journey in Mexico – December 4, 2014.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply Hanson Reynolds April 7, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    I loved the blog and the splendid pictures. Is Mark considering a book, a paperback, an e-book? I’m ready to send my order today.

    Thanks Pearl for a real tale of the trail,

    Hanson

  • Reply Laurie Vaggalis April 7, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Great to hear about your travels through your terrific blog. Let us know when you’re in town again so we can hear about them in person.

  • Reply Suzanne Gallo April 22, 2015 at 3:26 am

    So proud of you Mark! Was exciting to follow your adventure as you headed south! Love you lots!

    Mom

  • Reply Cindy April 29, 2015 at 2:32 am

    Damn good job, Mark. So proud of you – great photos, super writing!

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