SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Backpacker Magazine – May 2005

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being Scott Williamson

To hike from Mexico to Canada and back, a man needs strength and speed and luck. He needs something else, too. If only he knew what it was.

by: Steve Friedman


©Michael Darter

Campo, CA, Nov. 18, 2004 Yesterday long-distance hiker Scott Williamson, 32, stepped off the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at California's border with Mexico, completing the first-ever continuous "yo-yo," or round-trip of the 2,560-mile trail that stretches from the Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. This was Williamson's sixth bid to yo-yo the PCT.

Your father and the man known as Mr. Beer find the deaf girl at a store in town and they learn that she's been chasing you for 700 miles.

When they bring her to your campsite, you don't know it, but that's the moment your grief finally starts to lift. That's when you find what you need, what you have always needed. It's a year ago, May 14, and maybe that's where your story begins.

But starting there leaves out too much. It leaves out the crazy man with the gun and the miracle of the corned beef hash and that sad day on the river when the magic ducks honor the dead boy. It doesn't even mention Hobo Joe and Walking Carrot and The Wall and The Abominable Slow Man and Real Fat. And what about the nightmares? What about the years of failure? What about the autumn of loss, the seasons of mourning?

To understand those things, it's better to begin with the day searchers find a bear feeding on your best friend's body. Or the afternoon you lose the deaf woman. Too grim? It's your story, and it's filled with the strangest and most unexpected gifts, so maybe it's best to begin on the rock in the snowfield where you find her again. But that's too happy. It's misleading. What about in a spot you know all too well, where you have spent way too much time: under sodden skies and sneering peaks during an early winter blizzard, as you sink to your thighs and know that you are--once again--doomed to defeat?

 

You've always struggled with beginnings and endings. How can anyone expect you to say when you started, when you finished? Might as well ask when you decided to start living.

Still, an epic journey--and if your journey is anything, it's definitely epic--must begin somewhere. The first step, the first time, out of Mexico? That's accurate, but inadequate. The victorious stroll last November into the crowd of photographers and friends? Touching, but incomplete. No, better to begin in the midst of setback, struggling. Better to start with what you know. Better to start with isolation and pain.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Anonymous
Jul 04, 2014

Star Star Star Star Star
Anonymous
Jun 22, 2014

Kenny was a very good friend of mine, this was a great read. Brought back memories of hiking a small portion of the PCT with him his first time doing it. It made me sad as well. Brought on a good cry. I miss my friend.

Star Star Star Star Star
Anonymous
Apr 06, 2014

Star Star Star Star Star
Reinhold Metzger
Apr 06, 2014

Scott is my "HERO" and my friend.

Over the years, since Scott and I met, I must have read this article more than a dozen times and yet, it still always leaves me all mushy inside.

I finally feel compelled to add a comment to this great, tragic, heart warming and exhilarating story.

Scott is an American Hiking Legend.
With 14 PCT "thru-hikes", including 2 "YO-YO" and
3 speed records, he is the unquestionable, the undeniable, the indisputable "KING" of the PCT.

All records, sooner or later, get broken, as his
PCT speed record was broken last year.
But his accomplishments on the PCT and his legacy
will last forever.

I have been a avid backpacker since 1968 and made many backpacking friends.
But, as Scott pointed out,....every once in a while somebody comes into your life that stands out.

Scott is that somebody,...that will stand out in your life.

JMT Reinhold

Star
Dogwood
Jul 11, 2013

I've read this article again for about the 10th time trying hard to convince myself of it's worthiness to Scott's outstanding accomplishment yet again feel let down by it. It reads like a cheap novel and misses connecting with the Backpacker readership in general and certainly the long distance hiking community. I feel I gained so much more by meeting Scott and having briefly spoke with him in 2008 while also thru-hiking the PCT than in the multiple pages of the article. I expected more from the article.

Star Star Star Star Star
opio
Mar 28, 2013

http://www.coach-storeonline2013.com/ coach store online
http://www.monsterobeats.com/ monster beats outlet beats by dre custom
http://www.guccishoesoutletfactory.com/ gucci shoes outlet
http://www.newmichaelkorspurses.com/ michael kors purses michael kors outlet online
http://www.mk-mmichaelkorsoutlet.com/ michael kors outlet
http://www.northfacesoutletonline.net/ north face jacket outlet north face outlet
http://www.coachbagsjoy.com/ coach outlet coach outlet online

Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com
Mar 20, 2013

cheap china nfl jerseys online sale http://www.yourjerseyhome.com Nike San Francisco 49ers jerseys,Nike Baltimore Ravens Jerseys all kinds sports jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124.html Nike NFL Jerseys http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94.html cool base mlb jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77.html Revolution 30 nba jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NFL-T-Shirt-c126.html wholesale NFL T-Shirt,
throwback M&N Jerseys, limited nfl jerseys, elite nfl jerseys

Star Star Star Star Star
http://www.3cjerseys.com
Feb 25, 2013

http://www.3cjerseys.com is an online store . Here , you can buy all kinds of cheap nfl jerseys with wholesale price, just like NFL Jerseys,Football Jerseys, Basketball Jerseys,NHL Jerseys,We also provide Customized NFL jerseys. All the products in our website are from china with wholesale price , so you can buy cheap products wiht high quality ! Now ,you can choose different payment in our website ,just as paypal , western union and VISA credit card .more information please visit http://www.3cjerseys.com
http://www.21elitenfljerseys.com

NIKE NFL jerseys
Oct 17, 2012

Welcome to our jerseys shop http://www.yourjerseyhome.com we would off you the best jerseys and best servise. We are professional jerseys manufacturer from china,wholesal.cheap nike nfl jerseys, mlb jerseys, nhl jerseys,nba jerseys and shoes. we offer the latest 2012 nike jersey, with the best quality and the cheapest price,
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/Nike-NFL-Jerseys-c124.html Cheap Nike NFL Jerseys, the perfect jersey to let you enjoy the sport, to make you crazy for sports.
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/MLB-Jerseys-c94.html cool base mlb jerseys and throwback mlb jerseys.
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NBA-Jerseys-c77.html Revolution 30 swing nba jerseys
http://www.yourjerseyhome.com/NFL-T-Shirt-c126.html wholesale NFL T-Shirt,
All Our Jerseys Are Sewn On and Directly From Chinese Jerseys Factory, hope to do longtime business with you.

Bryan
Feb 01, 2012

Still the best Backpacker article I've ever read. Way to go Friedman.

Brad
Nov 29, 2011

I'm neither a hiker. nor backpacker. I came to this story byway of searching for someone.
This tale brought out much in the way of emotion in me. I feel better off for reading it. Scott is a hero. A man any person would do well to try and be like. Kenny, is a hero. Heroes too, can be haunted.
He battled and fought as hard as he possibly could to win over his demons.
Scott, Kenny, Silent Running and many of the others featured in this writing, are the true spirit and heart of what humanity is meant to be. I wish them all happiness and success in all they seek to achieve.

Otto
Aug 15, 2011

I read this every year (paper copy I tore from a Drs office mag and now have stuffed in desk drawer) and enjoy the story and mood every time.

N. Taylor
Oct 19, 2010

Shame on you, Mr. Friedman, for portraying this very decent man with such wanton speculation. If you are going to remain in the first person thoughout, how about letting Scott take the writing duties? Your willingness to distort and inflate what few facts you received probably in a phone interview illustrates your self-serving desire for a National Magazine Award without regard to how your subject will be wrongly perceived by readers. I had the fortune of meeting Scott during a 2008 PCT thruhike, and if I may set the record straight, he was easily one of the most genuine, humble, intelligent and considerate people I met that summer. Sure, everyone has their personal demons to exorcise, and people exorcise them each in different ways, but my issue is with Scott coming off as being only damaged goods rather than the world-class athlete (and exceptional person) that he is. It is painfully obvious the author did not meet him while on a PCT thruhike.

D. Saufley
Oct 12, 2010

The man Scott Williamson defies all of the odds to complete a hike of over 5,200 miles on the Pacific Crest, becoming the first ever to yo-yo the trail (Mex-Can-Mex), and all you write is about are his extremely personal and painful memories. Why? There is so much more to this story. Like, how about reward and recognition of one of the greatest athletic accomplishments in the hiking world, then or now? Somehow you chose to skip mentioning the strength, training, discipline, techniques, or fortitude required to do a PCT yo-yo. In doing this, not only did you do Scott a great disservice by putting his personal motivations under the microscope and using his friends suicide to make your article interesting, you did a disservice to hikers who would like to learn from what he accomplished. I thought this was Backpacker, not "Days of Our Lives." Perhaps the author should be writing Hollywood screen plays.

sj
Oct 07, 2010

this is my all-time favorite backpacker article. hands-down.

Tricia
Oct 06, 2010

I like how it meanders mimicing the trail and how it jumps around, mirroring one's memories. Absolutely beautiful!

Micah
Oct 06, 2010

That story was written like you must have hiked the PCT. It's driven, forceful, not sure if it will open up, finally, into a new landscape of revelation, or even if it will end. It teeters when it slows down, but this story hardly ever does that.
One driving sentence after another, stride after stride.

K. Brown
Nov 18, 2008

This story was interesting. Overall I liked it, but it jumped around alot and it took a while to get used to it. It is deep and I did learn something from the story so I definently appreciated it.

diane
Aug 20, 2008

I had to get up and stop reading for a 5 minute break three times in reading this article, because of being on the edge of tears. When you've lost someone, the author is right, it distills down to being about the now, and sometimes remembering about then, and how they are always with you, joy and pain co-exist, side by side, in this life on earth.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Stop me if you've heard this...
Posted On: Jul 25, 2014
Submitted By: desert dweller
Gear
Do you use a PLB?
Posted On: Jul 25, 2014
Submitted By: High_Sierra_Fan

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions