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[pct-l] Thru-hikers, 1997

I hiked from Echo Summit on Hwy 50 to Tuolomne Meadows the last two weeks or
so of July.  I'll post a trip report later.

I met a number of thru-hikers on this hike most of whom were in good
spirits.  Two fellows who started near Walker Pass in early June were not in
such good spirits.  They seemed to be dreading the section I'd just walked,
taking the "Guides" statement that there seemed to be more vertical than
horizontal hiking in the north boundary country of Yosemite, to heart.  They
were trying to decide what section to skip to get to the Gorge by their
planned date.  

I met a group of five young adults hiking together high above kennedy
canyon.  One woman was wearing a "Mexico to Canada - 1997" billed hat.  We
talked for a bit, but not for long as they were anxious to get their miles.  

What awed and enraptured me was I met a fellow, Steve Scott of Arlington,
Washington, who was using the complete Jardine system.  I'm sitting by Falls
Creek above Grace Meadow rigging a rope replacement for the little arm on my
Jansport D-3 pack which had sheared off as I walked.  I noticed someone
hiking by on the trail not ten feet away and hailed out to him.  

he stopped, a little surprised to have missed me, smiled and headed over to
me.  As he approached I noticed he was wearing a billed cap supporting
mostquito netting.  He had on a short sleeve, white polyester shirt with
long sleeves safety-pinned to it.  His pants were white rip-stop nylong.
His boots were Asics running shoes.  "A Jardineite", I called out.  

He smiled and we got to talking.  He'd run across Jardine's book in
February after deciding to thru-hike.  He said it all  made too much sense
to him so he "built" Jardine's system to the letter.  he had the modified
space-blanket umbrella, a two liter seven-up bottle, the plastic bottle
filled with mueslix he ate as we talked.  He talked about having "stealth
camped" throughout the Sierra, and how his quilt was just a little on the
thin side, of being hypervigilant to noise and the possibility of park
bears, which he didn't encounter.  I assured him that once he left Yosemite,
bears were even less of a presence as they were hunted.  

The day before it had rained intensely for three hours and while I'd been
near Dorothy Lake Pass and decided to bail, put up the tent, nap, read and
write, he'd put up his umbrella and walked through it.  

But the most amazing part of this story, was he was a day behind the group
of five mentioned above, who left Campo on May 1.  he left Campo on June 12. 
He was on a schedule to finish in three months and three weeks, shooting to
arrive at Manning at the end of September.  He said he didn't walk any
faster than anyone else.  He "just" walked 12 hours a day, and slept the
rest.  I definitely was his cheerleader, as the group of five were all in
their mid-early 20's, and he was my age, 45.

As I jerked my pack in one smooth motion to my back, muscling it's 35
pounds, I asked if I could pick his up.  I did, and it was under 20 pounds,
well under.  I got the sense that he wasn't a backpacker in his other life,
and that my questions and obvious awe were something he wasn't used to.  I
got the sense most people thought his use of the Jardine system was a little
strange, and hence, so was he.  But being able to hold up that pack with one
hand, with so little effort, struck home how his "Trip" very well might be
so much more enjoyable than the two fellows worried about hiking "Yosemite's
Canyons", or the group of five and what might have been a kind of group will
and motivation to continue.  I sensed from them a recognitioni that they
very well might not be able to hike the whole trail that year.

I'd been on the trail eight days or so and was just beginning to feel the
filters of civilization dissapate.  I sensed from him a feeling of what I
called "The Trip" at a nonverbal level that I was weeks away from feeling.
As I prepared to continue my own solo journey I could feel a sense of loss
that I shared with him.  The group of five had banded together to stave off
what he was well into, and I only beginning, being alone.  The loss came
from having made contact, if only briefly, in realization I was alone, and
that being social with someone of like mind, is ultimately desireable.  To
find it and then break it off so suddenly is a powerful experience.

He said he was nursing a knee that threatened to get chronic on him.  I gave
him a bunch of Ibuprofen and some liner socks I hadn't used.  We'd traded
addresses and I'm anticipating a good long evening of his story telling once
his "Trip" is over.  

Jeffrey Olson
Seattle, Washington...where the rain does fall.  

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