I have hiked three sections (70-100 miles) of the PCT solo. It has become my preferred option. Though on the PCT in midsummer one is rarely alone. Day hikers, overnight backpackers, and other section hikers were encountered each day. The most intriguing of fellow travelers are the thru-hikers.
I probably encountered twenty of so thru-hikers during my recent trip. They started at the Mexican border and now 2600 miles later they were approaching the Canadian border. William (trail name “So Done”) was the first I met. He was from Belgium and had started in early May. He was a college graduate student who would go back to school when he returned to Belgium. I hiked with him for about thirty minutes until his pace was too fast for me.
Many of the thru-hikers I met were from Europe: Sweden, UK, Austria, and Germany. Most were young males in their twenties. You could quickly identify them by their beards, light packs and thin, thin physiques.
Two in particular stood out for me. One was the morning of my day hike to the border and back (25 miles total). I was up early and on the trail by 5:15 am. It was a beautiful morning with the western North Cascade glowing in golden light. I passed a sleeping bag by the side of the trail and a head poked out to greet me. The young man’s accented English and scruffy beard hinted that he was thru-hiker. I asked where he was from and he said France. I asked if he would finished today and he cheerfully said yes and went back to sleep. I hiked on.
About four hours later I was at the trail monument on the Canadian border, talking with some other section hikers. I turned to see the young French man again, briskly moving down the trail, wearing only his pack and hiking shoes. Nothing else! I had read about nude hiking before, but this was my first encounter. As he approached he said, “Oh, I guess I better put some clothes on.” I decided nude hiking will not be my choice to lighten the pack.
As I turned back from the monument, a thru-hiker actually touched my soul. He was older with some gray in his beard. He stopped to tell me that he was from Prague in the Czech Republic. He wanted to tell me how excited and grateful he was for our nation preserving the PCT. “There is no trail like this in Europe. I am so happy that your country shares it with the world!” He was so exuberant in his praise for our country’s wilderness that I could only nod my head in agreement. His joy was so contagious that it carried me the next few miles.
Being at our border for a short time allowed me to reflect a bit on being American and the gift our nation is to so many. I pray that I might be as grateful as the hiker from Prague.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2