This is a long overdue post that I have wanted to write for a friend and mentor, Ed Anderson.
Ed Anderson completed a true thru-ride of the Pacific Crest Trail on his horses, Primo amd Neekalos. It took him 4 years to ride all 2660 miles. He began expecting to do the trail in one season but obstacles prevented him from accomplishing it. Ed persevered and was eventually able to finish the entire trail.
Ed heard I was attempting a thru-ride in 2013 and found me at The Saufley’s when I zeroed there. He was SO supportive and encouraging of my ride, and he gave me some contacts that had helped him during his ride.
I only had the pleasure of knowing Ed for a short time. He was such an amazingly kind and generous person. Ed was very involved with the PCT community and helped anyone thinking about riding on the Pacific Crest Trail. I respected and looked up to Ed because he approached the trail the same way I did. He was thoughtful and meticulous and always put the safety of his horse first. Before my ride, I had read about countless accidents on the trail where riders lost their horses. It was very refreshing to meet someone in the PCT community who was not only an accomplished equestrian but also felt that the safety of the horses was more important than any goal of a section or thru ride.
Ed passed away in the summer of 2013. I was shocked and heartbroken to hear the news. He will forever be missed.
Here is a link to his obituary: http://obituaries.mendocinobeacon.com/obituaries/mendocinobeacon/obituary.aspx?pid=167661647
The kindness and generosity of strangers along the PCT is amazing. There are a number of people who go above and beyond to help hikers and open up their homes every year. Hikers call these people trail angels. Last year, we only had the opportunity to stay at one trail angel house, The Saufley’s. Donna and Jeff were so supportive of my ride. I couldn’t believe how amazingly generous trail angels were to hikers. At Echo Lake, we met a family who insisted on having us for dinner. They let us stay in their spare bedroom and fed us dinner and breakfast the next morning. We kept my horse in his corral in their yard. They are not regular trail angels but they were for us.
This year, I was able to stay with multiple trail angels and they were all so supportive and accommodating. In the desert, Larry and Mary Lou went out of their way to help us after we got caught in a storm. They picked us up, kept my horse at their place while I went into town to exchange my tent, and they also fed me and let me stay in their spare bedroom. Larry has been keeping the water cache at Scissors Crossing for many years. Hikers depend on this cache to make it through a very long, dry stretch of desert. I also had the pleasure of staying with Ziggy and The Bear. They have been hosting hikers at their home for 15 years. They allowed me to use their place as a base as I jumped around and rode multiple sections in that area. The Saufley’s Hiker Heaven is at mile 455 in Agua Dulce. 2014 was their 18th year hosting hikers. Donna has horses at her house and let me keep my horse in one of her paddocks. It is so wonderful to come in off the trail and have a home away from home to regroup. I also received tremendous support and encouragement from all the feed stores I stopped at along the way. Thank you to everyone!! I thoroughly appreciate all the help I received from trail angels and I know the hikers are equally appreciative of everything these angels do for them.
Valentino and I headed out for our final 148 miles. We rode from mile 2007 at Santiam Pass to Cascade Locks. We rode a half day Thursday afternoon, a VERY long day Friday, and then got to Barlow Pass late morning on Saturday, where my rig was waiting. I had planned to ride 5 more miles up to Timberline Lodge to have lunch but it had been pouring on us for the last few hours, so I decided to call it a day and drove up to Timberline for lunch. I had heard a lot of stories about how good the food was and it did not disappoint. After lunch, I drove hay and water to Lolo Pass for the next night – my last night on the trail. I camped at my truck that night. The next day was foggy and cold but no rain. We rode 23 miles to Lolo Pass. It turned out to be a beautiful day. We also ran into three people we’d met in the desert but had not seen in 2500 miles and another guy we met in Washington last year. Todd and Cara had spent the morning in the bathroom with us at Sunrise Trailhead. It was great to see them again, and we hiked with them most of the day.
We got to our campsite super early. Valentino roamed around and grazed while I set up camp. Then I stuck him on his highline with some hay and had a relaxing dinner. It was a nice last night. I wanted to get up early because we had 30 miles to do and then had to drive home, but I couldn’t do it on my last day. We didn’t get on the trail until 7am. We had a great last day picking huckleberries as we went along, and we took a long lunch break at Wahtum Lake. We got to Cascade Locks about 7pm and we stopped for a snack before heading across the bridge.
The Bridge of the Gods is an open bridge, meaning it’s like a big grate so you can see all the way down to the water. The woman at the toll booth was very skeptical about me taking my horse across the bridge. I explained to her that we were on the PCT and that I had ridden him across last year. She was very concerned that he was going to “freak out” but agreed to let us cross. We stopped many times to take pictures on our way across. Cars passed us going both directions. Valentino didn’t even blink an eye. He is fine with traffic and was not at all worried about the bridge. We crossed in the dark and rain last year so it was wonderful to see the views and get the full experience of that awesome bridge. We pulled off into a turnout on the other side and waited to be picked up. That was the end of our thru-ride. This year was very challenging. I questioned my reasons for doing it again multiple times, but, at the end of the day, it was all worth it. I have ridden my horse 6000 miles in 18 months and he looks amazing. I am so proud of him.
I kept Valentino in a corral at the lodge in Manning Park and camped overnight in Canada. The next day, I headed back to Oregon to do a few more days of riding before I had to be home. Valentino and I did 93 miles of the 241 we skipped in northern Oregon. We just had 4 wonderful days off. We have 148 miles to complete our thru-ride and plan to be done by the end of the month.
Even though we were only 30 miles from Canada, we still had to make it through a bunch of significant washouts. I had heard stories ranging from sidewalk cracks to the Grand Canyon, so I had no idea what we were heading towards. I was going to take two days to get to the monument so I wasn’t hitting the washouts at dark. I talked to a hiker who was also an experienced horse person and she said we could make it through all but the last one. It was impassable to stock. She also said that a forest service crew was out camping in the area and planned to repair the washouts. We only went 15 miles the first day and camped at the same spot we had last year.
The next morning we headed out toward the washouts that were only two miles in front of us. I had yet to see any trail people. We turned the corner at the saddle by Rock Pass and headed down the north face. It felt great and strange to be walking down a section of trail that we had been trudging through 3-4 feet of snow on last year. Then we arrived at the infamous washouts. I had recently been told that a dog could not walk through them and that hikers were barely making it. I was thoroughly disappointed. The first washouts were mere dips in the trail. I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if it wasn’t for all the hype. The final three were the huge, bad ones but at no point did I wonder if we’d be able to do it or not. They were just big ditches. It was no big deal walking down one side and up the other. The first one was no problem at all. I ran ahead of my horse with my pack on. The second one was slightly more challenging only because I could not keep up with my horse in the loose scree so he passed me and followed the route up the hikers had taken. I expected the trail to be there but it wasn’t. Thankfully, my horse turned around and stopped so I had time to catch my breath and look for the trail. It was 10 feet below us. It was at that second the first trail crew guy showed up. He shouted over that we had no choice but to come back through the washout and do it again. I said no way! And, instead, led my horse 10 feet down the scree slope onto the trail. I told him someone should put a rock pile next to the trail because obviously all the hikers were going across and up and then cutting down after locating the trail. It was deceiving and unnecessary when they could cut straight across. He said they planned to build trails through all the washouts. Nice but too late for us! We continued on to the third and final washout. It didn’t seem like too much of a problem. I tied Valentino to a rock, hiked through and left my pack on the other side. It’s hard to run with a pack on. Since I had a shovel, I decided to dig out a little path to make it easier for me to run ahead of my horse. Then I went back for Valentino. He followed me down into the washout no problem. We stopped at the bottom so I could prepare myself for the run/scramble up the other side. I held him back and got as far ahead as I could. Then I ran for it and he hopped up onto the trail right behind me. They were no big deal. Nothing! They were actually awesome. I love trail challenges that are fun and not dangerous. I am very glad that we squeaked through before the trail crew could do any work. I would not want anyone to say that the only reason we made it through was because a trail crew fixed them.
Well, that put us on the other side of every obstacle between us and Canada and 12 miles from the monument! The next 12 miles were gorgeous! So amazing! After the washouts, we climbed up to Woody Pass. Then we traversed along a ridge for the next 4 miles. This stretch tied, if not beat, Goat Rocks. It was incredible. 7 miles before the monument we dropped down to Hopkins Lake. I tied up Valentino and ran over to get him a bucket of water. The biting flies were horrendous. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Then we just tra la la’ed along for 7 miles to the monument! About a mile and a half from the monument, a bear and cub plopped out onto the trail about 100 feet from us. It was so awesome. The mom stared at me for probably 10 seconds and then they jumped off the other side and were gone. When we arrived, it was about 1pm and the weather was beautiful. What a drastically different ending than last year!
I signed the trail register and we took lots of pictures. Then we hiked 8 miles out to the truck. Whew! What an amazing feeling! I still had 240 of Oregon to complete but getting to the monument was a great accomplishment.
My horse got a few scrapes going over hundreds of trees but has not bled or had one injury on the trail. He held his weight even better this year and looks awesome. I am incredibly proud of him.
The next morning I drove down to Geoff’s house and set up Valentino’s corral. I went to the local gear shop in Mazama to get a collapsible shovel. One of the washouts last year was very eroded leading up to it so I was planning to dig it out to make it safer. Then we went to the feed store. This was the same feed store we had gotten the grain shovels from last year that we used to dig out the snow to get my horse through. Katrina was so supportive and helpful. She donated leg wraps and 15 pounds of dry cob to our cause. Thank you so much Twisp Feed!
That evening Gillian called. She had made it through all her side trails and up to the highway by Ross Lake. I was disappointed that she wouldn’t get to see the monument at the Canadian Border but grad school wouldn’t wait. She was heading back to pick up her other horse in Ellensburg and then down to start on the Sierra, which she’d skipped previously. I met her in town to give her some stuff she’d stored in my trailer and I borrowed her collapsible shovel.