Monday, April 28, 2008

The Adze Picket Co. (I Love the PCT)

Me at the Border

I spent the weekend at the ADZPCTKO with Nitro, Tatu Joe, Ducky (the Wise), Tomato, BearCan't, Mattress, Love Barge, Nano, Sly, Disco, WeatherCarrot, Too Obtuse, Nacho, Tall Paul, Mags, and Wildflower (AKA Icognito Cheeto Bandito). I got a ride down with Firefly.

I'm tempted to just end my post there, as it would seem like complete gibberish to many of you. But I won't. The ADZPCTKO is the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff, held the last weekend in April (also known as NFL Draft weekend, where, miracle of miracles, the Redskins, despite Dan Snyder's best attempts to screw it up, actually managed to avoid throwing away multiple draft picks on Chad Johnson and instead traded for more picks. Hallelujah!) at Lake Morena campground, 20 miles north by trail from the Mexican border near Campo, CA. Conventional wisdom says that the weather window on the PCT is such that there's not much point to starting earlier thanks to snow in the Sierras, and starting late might not get you to Canada before snow in the fall, so a lot of people start at the same time in late April. There are those that oppose the Kickoff because they think it creates a herd of hikers that overwhelm small resupply towns, but I won't get into that.

I went to the PCTA's TrailFest last month, but that's more of a convention, and Kickoff is more of a party for thru-hikers. I don't hike with other people or hang out with other hikers very often, so this was new and a ton of fun. I got a ride down from Georgi (Firefly) the trail angel from Old Station, CA. Friday I ran on the trail for a couple hours, but mostly I just spent the weekend chilling with friends, watching slideshows, drinking beer while commenting on how hot it was, and making jokes about a several-pound phallic statue that people were going to plant in an unsuspecting hiker's pack. Best. Weekend. Ever.

Perhaps the best part was seeing Eric Ryback's presentations. In 1970, Eric became the first person to thru-hike the PCT. He did the AT in 1969 between his junior and senior year of high school, and at age 18, skipped his high school graduation to start the PCT. He did two presentations: one with several other older folks that have been doing long-distance backpacking for decades or did the PCT in the 70's, and one show of his photos from 1970. In the roundtable discussion, some of the older hikers had slightly negative "you young whipper-snappers with your cell-phones and your GPS and your running shoes...when I hiked we carried wooden ice-axes and 7-pound boots" attitudes, but Eric was totally upbeat. There was a lawsuit and a falling out back in the day (we backpackers seem to enjoy getting in arguments about the minutia of our mutually held passion, probably like any other slightly obsessive sub-culture) and he had no idea what had happened with the trail since. His nephews happened to hike the PCT last year, and they basically told him, "There's this huge awesome community and they want you to be part of the party." They gave his info to the ADZ director (Strider, PCT '77) who'd been trying to track Eric down for years, and Strider got Eric to come.

His slides were great. He did the trail in four months with a 75-pound pack, and only 5 food resupplies the entire time, which is pretty amazing. He was doing something so new that the Forest Service actually sent a ranger out to hike with him for the last week to make sure he could get through some forest fires. Instead of telling us we were all doing it wrong these days, he said, "I'm tempted to call my wife and tell her 'Honey, I'll see you in five months; I'm going hiking.'"
PCT Thru-Hikers from the 70's (Eric third from right, front row)

I feel the same way. Two of my friends are going for the PCT speed record this year, hoping to do it in 70-something days and they told me I should come along. This year was an average snow year in the Sierras, so they're not starting until Mid-June, and they'll be done in two months, so it's conceivable that I could do the hike and take the Law & Econ field exam in August. If I did that, however, having not studied for the exam a single day, I would most certainly fail, get kicked out of grad school, and move to Alaska. I can't seem to remember which part of that sentence was supposed to be the bad part. Just kidding. Sort of. This would be an awesome opportunity to actually hike with some other people, but I guess I did hike 1/3 of the AT with my good buddy Fillmore, so that will have to do. I've probably got enough cash to do it, but I have a bunch of student loans that I don't want to have to start paying back any time soon, so it's not going to happen. Enough trail-pining/whining for now, I have some midterms to grade.
PCT Class of '04

Me & Tatu Joe

Here's an article from the San Diego Union Tribune about the kickoff.


  1. hey Onion.. err The Onion.. err Onion the Great.. just thought I'd hunt you down in bloggerville! How's reintegration going for you?


  2. Very neat experience to meet Eric and all those folks...

  3. Beckie9:32 PM

    It was great to read about Eric and his taking part in this event! I went to high school with Eric and remember him preparing for both the AT and PCT hikes. He was a very down to earth guy back then and pretty modest about his accomplishments. He and his brothers had some crazy times though! Lost track of him after it's nice to know that he's still around somewhere :)