Feeling the "Canada Crunch": PCT Hikers' Race to the Border

Hikers on the Pacific Crest are starting to feel the squeeze—and our correspondent is no exception.
sierra city

Jameson and her good friend, Raging Pineapple. Photo by Amanda Jameson

It's go time here on the PCT. We're finally out of the Sierra, and we're all feeling what my friend Raging Pineapple calls the "Canada Crunch": the tick-tocking of the clock as it eats away at our summer on trail. It's all people can talk about in town, and it doesn't make for fun conversation. Some people, as we learn on Facebook, are already done with the trail; some people here, feeling the crunch, are flipping ahead. Some, tired of walking day in and day out, are throwing in the towel.

I've heard anecdotal reports that most people who quit the trail do so in Northern California. After the epic scenery in the Sierra, the trail retreats into the forest, emerging only along ridgelines and in high places. It's still beautiful, but the beauty is more subdued, more monotonous. Especially since everything's all hazy with the smoke from distant fires, dulling the clarity of lakes barely two miles away. When the next big landmark you're looking forward to is Oregon—over 400 miles away—it's hard to keep your head in the game, especially with the daunting prospect of big miles looming in front of you every morning.

That prospect looks even less appetizing after a day like today—the climb out of Sierra City this afternoon was eight unrelenting miles long. To make matters worse, the trail was mostly talus, which has a tendency to shift and roll underfoot, not to mention stab upwards any chance it gets. Combine this with the overgrown bushes concealing the occasional out of place rattlesnake, and it made for slow going.

We persevered, but for our trouble, we've got another long day ahead of us tomorrow. It's definitely a mental game we're playing now, where the winners get to Canada. With all the uncertainty in the air, I hope I see as many hikers as possible there.