My First Five Hikes

It’s been a handful of years since I first stepped onto the trail, and many friends have been curious about my hikes. So here they are, in one convenient location. You can watch me grow as a hiker, see what I’ve learned not to do, and hopefully experience the beauty that is the PCT. Welcome to my world!

Why the Pacific Crest Trail?

2014: Cascade Locks to Mt. Adams

2015: Mt. Adams to Glacier Peak

2016: Willamette Pass to Cascade Locks, and Glacier Peak to Manning Park, BC

2017: Willamette Pass to Southern Oregon

2018: Crater Lake, and Southern Oregon to the Klamath River Basin

Taking Care of Yourself On the Trail (or Giving Your Loved Ones Peace of Mind)

NPR posted an article about hikers leaving the trailhead utterly unprepared. If things go south, could you take care of things? Would you need help, or could you deal with problems on your own?

I am seeing this more and more frequently: one or two people, heading up the trail, with a tiny pack, carrying only what they’d need for a long walk in the county park. It’s okay if you don’t carry high end backpacking gear. But you absolutely have to be prepared to spend an uncomfortable night in the woods.

The NPR article also assumes that a hiker can use a cell phone from the trail. That’s not always the case out here in the West. For example, if you start a hike off of I-90, you can easily climb a ridge and then descend to the other side, to eat your lunch by a lake. But at that point, you’ll most likely be out of cell range. Consider a personal locator beacon, such as the SPOT. This is used when a person is in danger…broken leg, completely lost, hypothermia, etc….after a person has exhausted other options. But try your cellphone first.

Besides communication (consider it the 11th essential), make sure you have the 10 essentials. I am *more* than happy to consult on these…the last thing I want is my friends to get into trouble in the backcountry!

Here are some inexpensive ways to fill out your Ten Essentials kit. Once you get them, just leave them in your pack (well, except for the food and water).

  1. Navigation (map and compass…bringing a GPS app is fine too, and you won’t need cell signal, but have the map and compass as backup)
    1. Maps: Get them for free at Caltopo.
    2. Compass and loud whistle: Coghlans Four Function Whistle is very simple, but it will get the job done. $4
    3. Also ***make sure*** you leave your hiking plans with a friend or loved one
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing, AND a warm hat, AND a raincoat…this is the Northwest)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight AND extra batteries)
    1. Headlamp, if you don’t already have one: Energizer Headlamp $15
    2. Batteries: Carry one extra set, in a ziploc bag.
  5. First-aid supplies (that you know how to use)
    1. This Lifeline model is a good one. I’d only add a small bag of Benadryl, in case of sudden allergic reaction. If you’ve got this stuff at home, just put it in a ziploc bag and you’re good. $10
  6. Fire (Lighter AND stormproof matches AND a firestarter)
    1. Lighter: Grab a Mini bic at the grocery store checkout stand, for a couple of bucks
    2. Stormproof matches: This Stormproof Match Kit comes in a case and last forever. $9
    3. Firestarter: Murphy’s Law says it will be raining. Use InstaFire to get the fire going. $8
    4. ***Don’t forget to put it out…dead, cold out…when you leave.***
  7. Repair kit and tools (like a pocket knife)
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter (this large size space blanket can fit two people) $8
  11. Communication
    1. For day/weekend hiking, the SPOT is fine. It’s on sale at Cabela’s now, for $90. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s an insurance policy. If you hike once per month, that’s only $7.50 per month, plus the $20 monthly subscription fee…less than you’ll spend on gas and an after-hike meal.
    2. For better coverage, better communication with Search and Rescue, and lower overall cost (with a larger up front cost), I strongly recommend the Garmin inReach. This is my go-to when I’m doing long distance hikes. Search and Rescue prefers this device.
    3. Cellphone…try this first
    4. The compass/whistle above

Please be safe out there.

Keeping My Journal

Most of the time, I have no signal at all when I’m on the trail. I do have a Delorme inReach satellite communicator, which I can use for brief texts, communication with the family, and Search and Rescue. But, at least for me, there’s no good way to do a daily writeup.

As a 50-something year old hiker, my thumbs just aren’t nimble enough to crank out several paragraphs every day. What I did last year, and which I’ll continue this year, is to record voice memos. I can share far more detail this way, and it’s fun to listen to when I’m back at home. I can hear the rain on the tent, and the rustle of me getting ready for bed.

So what I’ll be doing is posting frequent texts to Facebook, via my inReach. When I have signal, I’ll be able to share a few pictures. But most of my story will be written up at home.

Because my 2016 hike is split into two parts, I’ll be able to share at least some of my entries in mid-August. I don’t know if that’s tantalizing or not, but it will be pretty awesome to write it up and share it with you all.

Two more days and I’ll be on a train…


As many of you know, I’ve had my nose to the proverbial grindstone since January. I’m enrolled in a professional certification program at Cascadia College, north of Seattle. I’ve been working on the finer points of mobile app design, web app design, UI, and a lot of programming. I’ve been doing pretty well, and am looking forward to jumping back into the software field in a year and change.

But! Spring quarter has just ended! And I have a total of four weeks in which to prepare, almost from scratch, my 2016 Pacific Crest Trail section hike!

This year my hike will be in two parts. The third week of July will see Steve and I head to Willamette Pass, right about the halfway point on the Oregon PCT. I’ll hike north 240 miles, to Cascade Locks, where I started in 2014. I love connecting the dots!

Then I’ll head home for about ten days, while Steve is away on business. When he returns, I’m heading back to where I left off last summer, just south of Glacier Peak. And from there, it’s off to Manning Park, BC: 175 miles, to the northernmost point on the trail.

The tests are taken, the projects presented, and the books are neatly stacked to one side. Rest Step is in the house!!!

The Girl Who Goes Alone

I recently discovered this incredible poem from Elizabeth Austen, read by her at Hedgebrook Rises! in 2013. The poem was published as part of her collection EVERY DRESS A DECISION (Blue Begonia Press, 2011). Elizabeth Austen is the Washington State Poet Laureate, 2014-2016.

I dedicate this to the Mighty Hiker Women of the world, especially those who are unsure, and perhaps fearful, but who feel the inexorable pull of the wild places.

Hiking at Ninety…and Beyond

Photo credit: Craig Romano (

When I grow up, I want to be like Bronka Sundstrom and her hiking partner. They are 90 and 92, respectively, and are still avid hikers. Did I mention she’s a Holocaust survivor as well? Check out this article from Craig Romano, a local guidebook author.

And check out his website,, for more articles and photographs of Our Fair State (aka Washington).

Becoming Hikers

2013 Philmont 439
Liz, Anna, Julieanne, and Jennifer, on top of the Tooth of Time at Philmont Scout Ranch

When my son was in early elementary school, he asked us if he could join Cub Scouts. It was a no-brainer for us, and in that moment we became a Scouting family.

Fast forward several years, through Cubs, and into Boy Scouts. By this time, I had helped organize several campouts, day hikes, and backpacking trips; frankly, I was getting a bit jealous. I started leading trips myself. But the question in the back of my mind was, “what about the girls?” Long story short, in 2010 we formed a Venturing Crew, and my friend Jennifer and I signed up as advisors.

Venturing is an arm of the BSA. It’s designed for older teens, and is coed. Our crew was always predominately girls, and our focus was on hiking, backpacking, and going to Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico for two eleven-day backpacking trips in the Sangre de Cristos.

Prior to our time at Philmont, none of the girls had much experience on the trail. We worked with the entire crew on basic backpacking skills: cooking, first aid, navigation, you name it. When we got to Philmont for our 2011 trek, our Ranger was impressed with how much our crew already knew.

Even with all the skills in place, several of the crew members didn’t have a lot of miles under their boots. But they persevered, through heat, challenging weather and rough terrain.

We were given the opportunity to return to Philmont two years later.  By now, our girls were experienced backpackers, and one of them, Julieanne, was chosen to be the crew leader for the trip. The crew leader is in charge of everything, from navigation to conflict resolution. The adult advisors are there to backstop the crew leader, but only as a last resort.

Julieanne and Anna were veterans of our 2011 trek, and their experience was invaluable in 2013. For the advisors, it was great to be able to rely on them.

I love seeing women adopt the backcountry as their own. For Julieanne and Anna, they earned the moniker Mighty Hiker Women of Philmont. I’d happily go hiking with them any day.