PCT 2016 Gear List

At the point the decision was made to hike the PCT neither Conrad or I owned a single piece of the kit that we required.  Fully unqualified as backpackers – that none of our family took seriously – we therefore had to discover from Google searches and fellow blogs what lays inside the ‘average’ pack these days.  It wasn’t easy.  As most of the crazy thru-hikers who take on the trail and blog about it do so with far more hiking experience, the trend of research seemed to lean towards the bare necessities and full into the ‘ultralight’ philosophy.  A lightweight backpacker (LW) carries a base weight under 20 pounds (9.1kg). An ultralight backpacker (UL) carries a base weight under 10 pounds (4.5kg).

Conrad and I struggled to find a balance between ‘light-enough’ to carry a long distance, and the ‘comfort’ factor, knowing that we would need to adjust to living night-after-night in the wild.  I knew our bags were never going to fit into any ultra-light range!  The one thing we did have going in our favour was that despite some cold nights, we only hiked during the summer months. Had the hike extended into the fall our weight would have been higher, as our tent and sleeping bags were designed for only 3-seasons.

My colourful gaiters + useful silver tape & band-aids

Below is our list of kit.  It is a slightly complicated by the fact there were two of us, meaning some items we split between bags, or we decided to share just one collectively.  The overall base weight of our packs fluctuated as some kit was actually added along the way – after deeming the item worth the extra weight trade-off (see green coding).  Every single item was painstakingly researched.  Without the luxury of time to test kit extensively beforehand, we simply went with the reviews on most items, and brought the bulk in our first 2-weeks in the US.  Much of this stuff didn’t come cheap – we spent somewhere in the region of $3500-$3700 US – despite doing everything we could to buy items on sale.

Base Weight (kit without food/ water/ fuel) therefore averaged around:

Me: 9.3 kg (20.5lb)

Conrad: 9.5 kg (21lb)

[Maybe this is obvious – but it wasn’t to us – food and water is very heavy! Water weighs 1kg per litre. Most of the time we carried 2 litres each & started out with 5 days of food after each resupply stop!]

Kit all laid out in Ashland ready to be packed for the first time!

My Kit List

Shelter + Pack + Sleep System

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Tent Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 3-season, 3-person tent, but really only big enough for 2 people with pads. Lightweight + simple = did the job! [1496g total]

I carried poles & pegs only 574g

Pack Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (S with hip belt) Loved this pack for large hip pockets & many external pockets. Comfortable up to 16kg, not really designed to hold more than that! 870g
Sleeping Bag Nemo Nocturne 15 (Reg) Chosen for the spoon-shape design because I’m claustrophobic. It’s a good bag, but I didn’t LOVE it – my feet tended to get a bit cold with so much space, & the ‘blanket fold’ bit stuck to face. Definitely only 3-season! 1060g
Sleeping Pad Nemo Astro Insulated Air Lite (Reg) Good for insulation, & lasted well, but could be less noisy! 590g
Pillow Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight (Reg) I needed this to support my heavy head! Good non-sticky material. 56g

What I Wore

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Hiking Shoes Merrell Moab Ventilators Loved these shoes! I started the hike with La Sportiva trail runners, which were in pieces after less than 400 miles! The Merrells offer good cushioning & breathability. [NOT WATERPROOF] 726g
Insoles Superfeet Orange Replaced standard shoe insoles with these for added support. Highly recommend. 136g
Gaiters Dirty Girl gaiters Great for keeping small stones/ dirt/ sand, out of shoes, & colourful design got lots of compliments! 40g
Trekking Poles Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Used them everyday – so practically ‘wore’ them. Helped with stability & my back so much. I liked the adjustable flip-clip design & cork handles. 510g
Socks Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Hiker (2 pairs) Great socks & have lasted beyond the hike. 65g (per pair)
Top Nike Dri-Fit Knit short-sleeved top Stayed pretty cool & dry + still looks brand new! 200g
Hiking Skirt Purple Rain Adventure Skirt (black with grey waist-band) I had never hiked in a skirt before, but this was recommended by a friend who hiked the PCT in 2015. I loved it for the practical pockets, light-weight & ease for a quick bush toilet break! Always looked clean too. 127g
Bra Patagonia Barely Sports Bra Super comfy. Non-wired, but sportive. I’m still wearing it! 57g
Undies Exofficio bikini briefs (X2) Tip: Buy black underwear for the trail! Great pants. 35g (per pair)

Clothing I Carried

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Camp leggings Patagonia Capilene thermal weight leggings A bit see-through & thin, but warm & light-weight. Put my skirt over the top to walk around if other people were about! 140g
Camp top Icebreaker Oasis long sleeve crewe Great wool top, non-itchy, but has shrunk in the wash. 193g
Warm jacket Rab Alpine microlight down jacket (hoodless) Good choice for weight:warmth. 330g
Waterproof jacket Mammut Methow Jacket Not the lightest waterproof on the market, but I was happy with it for the cost & large hood. 476g
Waterproof trousers Outdoor Research Aspire pants Great product! Not the lightest choice but the Gore-tex fabric is quite tough, & has zippers all the way up leg, making them easy to pull on mid-hike. 277g
Long-sleeved top Nike Element half-zip running top I feel the cold, so had this polyester half-zip as an extra hiking layer. Often wore it first-thing as I preferred to sweat in this than my down jacket. I’ve worn this top so much, on & off the PCT = good value! 198g
Hiking leggings REI base-layer leggings [Not sure about exact details, as emergency end-of-line purchase from REI Medford when I felt cold in Oregon! Kept them until Washington] 200g
Camp shoes Teva Verra sandals Comfortable, great in-town & for water-crossings, but a bit heavy 453g
Camp socks REI Merino Wool Hiking Socks Another ‘luxury’ item, but I especially hate having cold feet! Slept in them too. 85g
Sun hat Brooks Sherpa hat Really great light-weight cap. Have purchased another one since. 25g
Gloves Outdoor Research Outdry mittens Keeps cold wind off & water-proof. 28g
Warm hat Arc’Teryx Rho LTW beanie Love this. Light, warm, & non-itchy wool. 30g

Conrad’s Kit List

Shelter + Pack + Sleep System

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Tent Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3 [See above] [1496g total]

Conrad carried fly sheet & inner tent parts:


Pack Osprey Exos 58 (size L) Conrad struggled in choosing a backpack. He got on OK with this one, but it frustrated him that the hip belt pockets were so small, & because it was designed to be light-weight like my pack, when fully loaded the bag didn’t offer much in the way of cushioning. 1050g
Sleeping Bag Nemo Salsa 15 (L) Not as warm as the Nocturne. Conrad complained it often felt cold in foot box & got condensation on the material. 1190g
Sleeping Pad Nemo Astro Insulated Air Lite Sleeping Pad (L) [As above] 652g
Pillow Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight (L) [As above] 74g
Ground Sheet Gossamer Gear polycro footprint (L) Looks & sounds like walking on thin plastic, but didn’t rip! 45g

What Conrad Wore

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Hiking Shoes La Sportiva Wildcat Trail-Runners Lasted about 800 miles. Non-waterproof. Not overly cushioned, but wider in the toe-box. Would try another brand next time. 709g
Gaiters Dirty Girl gaiters [As above but more ‘manly’ design!] 42g
Trekking Poles Black Diamond Alpine Ergo Trekking Poles  Would recommend for tall-frames. 567g
Socks Darn Tough Quarter Cushion Hiker (2 pairs) Also liked these socks, but occasionally added a pair of liners for extra comfort under-foot. 70g (per pair)
Toe Liners Injinji Run 2.0 Lightweight no-show socks Conrad used these as a thin liner when we got blisters between 2 toes. 50g
Hiking Trousers Columbia ‘shants’ [Old pair, details unknown]. Light-weight, fast-drying & convenient to have convertible shorts / full length 400g
Top Nike Dri-Fit Knit short-sleeved top Good choice. 200g
Underwear Jockey Microfibre Active Trunk (X2) Switched to these after the ExOfficio Give-N-Go boxers started coming apart. Loved them, but apparently don’t sell same ones anymore?  65g (per pair)

Clothing Conrad Carried

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Camp trousers Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight bottoms Found these warm & light, but they are easy to snag, so not good for sitting along on logs in! 129g
Camp top Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Crew Same as above – warm/ light, but see-through & easy to pull. Designed as an under-layer though, so work well to just sleep in, or under a jacket. 129g
Warm jacket Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket (hooded) A good choice weight-wise, as very light, but the compromise was a thin filling & a fabric that sounded like garbage bags. Did the job for a long-hike, but haven’t worn since. 221g
Waterproof trousers Outdoor Research Helium Pants Very light-weight, & neatly fold into their own pocket for storage. Good choice. Very thin fabric. 160g
Waterproof jacket

Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket

Not the lightest jacket, but great hood, and under-arm zippers. Stood up well. 312g
Long-sleeved top Nike Element half-zip running top [As above] 226g
Camp shoes Xero Shoes Barefoot-inspired Sport Sandals Light-weight, but fell apart quite quickly. Would not use again. 312g
Gloves Outdoor Research Gripper Gloves Quite thick choice for a thru-hike, but Conrad wanted extra-warm! More wind-stopping, than waterproof though 88g
Sun hat Columbia Bora Bora Hat Wide brim and SPF50 protection, with neck toggle (good in wind). So the sensible choice – as opposed to the stylish one! 80g
Neck Buff Buffwear – original buff Instead of a warm hat Conrad packed this last-minute. Can be used around the neck, or on head. Ended up shedding it from our pack after realising his down jacket hood was sufficient. 35g

Additional Kit We Carried Between Us
Camp Kitchen

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Stove MSR Pocket Rocket Replaced our alcohol stove with this one a week into the hike! Compact & easy to use. 85g
Cook Pan Snow Peak Titanium Trek 1400 Good enough size for 2 people. Could have done with rubber gripper as burnt myself on the handles, but otherwise good choice, & lid serves as extra pan. 210g
Spork Snow Peak Titanium Spork Good, but if buying again I would have chosen a longer handle for eating out of foil packets. We started with one each, then ended up sharing as only had one pot anyway! 17g (each)
Mug Snow Peak Titanium Single 450 Cup (X2) Decent mug, with foldable handle so easier to store. [Had one each as made cooking oatmeal easier] 68g (each)
Fire lighting Lighter and waterproof matches Disposable lighter; a few waterproof matches in plastic ziplock (for back-up); some homemade firelighters – cottonwool dipped in Vaseline.
Food Sacks Ursack Minor Critter food bags (X2) Made with Kevlar, so very strong. A bit on the heavy-side, but as we didn’t have bear canisters, used these to carry food & hang from trees, (Had one each – one for camp food, & other for daytime snack food) 150g (each)
Water filter Sawyer Squeeze original (X2) Used standard size (instead of mini) & by far the most popular filter on the trail. Needs looking after, but good choice. Started sharing one, but due to time added another. 85g (each)
[Dirty] Water reservoir Evernew 2L water bladder (X2) Did LOADS of research on this & had to buy online. Great because the threads screw directly onto the Sawyer Squeeze & can be hung up (with help of some cord) to create a drip gravity filter. 42g (each)
[Clean] Water bottles Smartwater 1L plastic bottles  (X4) Added the sports cap push-top lid from smaller Smartwater bottles. Threads also compatible with the Sawyer. Did the job. 42g (each)


Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
 Headlight (me) Petzl E+Lite headlamp The elastic pinged me in the face a few times as it quickly retracted, but super light & compact. Would not recommend for night hiking, but for getting around camp in the dark/ in the tent it worked fine. 27g
Headlight (Conrad) Black Diamond Storm headlamp Much heavier, but brighter light & more comfortable to wear. We really just relied on this light most of the time. 110g
Camera Canon PowerShot G7 X Digital Camera Really great piece of kit for a compact camera. Large sensor, 4.2X zoom. Spent ages researching a decent camera and glad we chose this one. 278g
Phone (me) iPhone 6S with Lifeproof FRE case This was a newish phone so I wanted to protect it, hence the relatively heavy case. It did keep it protected – both from being dropped & dirt! 143g + 100g
Phone (Conrad) iPhone 5 Old phone, so he didn’t bother with a case! The camera wasn’t so good on it, so Conrad generally used the Canon. 112g
Headphones Bose in-ear (X2) [Just took the headphones we already had.] Wireless would have been better, but due to battery life, probably wouldn’t have practically worked! 18g
Camera Mounting Clip StickPic Nifty piece of kit, that acts like a monopod, by utilising your trekking pole for selfie shots! 18g
Battery Pack Anker PowerCore+ 13400 Provided enough charge for 2 phones & our camera in-between stops. Heavy for 1 person! [Also required a micro USB cable] 306g
Extra Cables Lightening cable + Lightening memory card + Adaptor for camera’s battery (annoying) + USB wall plug Approx 150g

Miscellaneous Kit

Item Details Comments Weight (grams)
Stuff sacks Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Nano Dry Sack (2L) Probably a luxury item, as used to compartmentalise our packs – 1 for clothes & another (below) for sleeping bag. Some hikers just throw everything into pack, but liked to keep things easy to access & ‘clean’ separate from dirty. 16g
Stuff sacks Exped Ultralite Waterproof Compression Bags (13L) Used for our sleeping bags – maybe excessive, but helped create space in our bags! I liked them, & have used them since. 40g
Multi-tool Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool We ended up returning this because the scissors were not very good. 41g
Pocket Knife Gerber STL 2.5 pocket knife I carried this (unnecessarily) as it made me feel safer! Great light-weight, 2-inch knife. Never used it though… 42g
Head Net Coghlan’s Mosquito Head Net (X2) These were relatively cheap, simple nets, that did the job, but did have a habit of sticking to faces because they didn’t have a structure/rim. Still, I’m glad we decided to buy them! 20g
Waterproof Pack Cover Osprey Ultralight Raincover Large & Extra Large. A bit expensive, but good light-weight rain cover, with easy to fit elastic, & most importantly, kept water out. 90g
Paracute Cord REI PMI 3mm Utility Cord (50 ft.) Used this bright orange cord for hanging our food (and a bit for making a gravity water filter). Strong stuff. 113g
Seat pad Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat Pad Totally a luxury item! Added these after finding camping with no seat so uncomfortable! Doubled as a porch mat for the tent, & inside tent when kneeing to do things like get dressed! Not much weight really for the practical uses! 57g
Carabinas Gossamer Gear mini (X2) Small & handy for hanging things (like wet washing) on the outside of my pack.
Shoulder Pouch Zpacks Backpack Shoulder Pouch Added to the shoulder strap of my pack. Very handy for keeping things like phone & sunglasses. Weighed next to nothing.
First Aid Kit Misc. Zip-lock containing selection of dressings, band-aids, antihistamines, ibuprofen, silver tape etc. Approx 80g
Water Purification Katadyn Micropur MP1 Purification Tablets Emergency back-up in case filters failed. Never used these, but last a long time! 20g
Towels  PackTowl Ultralite Towel (L) I added this after realising I had nothing to use when I reached a shower. Luxury item.  99g 
Towel PackTowl Ultralite Towel (S) (X2) Handkerchief-sized. Used as my ‘piss cloth’ & Conrad used his to wash with. Ultra-light & super-super-absorbant. 14g
Soap  Dr Bronner’s Peppermint Liquid Soap (2oz)  Recommended this bio-degradable, natural soap on-trail. Loved the tingling, fresh feeling – only needed a drop to feel ‘clean’ again.  57g 
Hand Sanitiser Purell Advanced Naturals 2oz pump bottle Both carried these in hip pockets & used religiously before eating/ water filtering & after bush toilet duties. Fragrance-free, so bear-friendly! 57g
Moisturiser/ Sunscreen Neutrogena Healthy Defence Daily Moisturiser with SPF 50 Non-greasy & did the job. Decanted into smaller bottles & posted into re-supply packages. 28g
DEET bug spray  Ben’s 100 Max Tick & Insect Repellent 3.4oz  Potent stuff, but much needed. Made plastic & rubber melt, but worth it for any mosquito respite.  96g 
Toilet Paper & Sanitary items [Posted in each box, or whenever needed] 
Pack Liner Waste Compactor Bags [+ lots of Zip-locks for carrying food items] 
Passports/ Permits/ Maps [We carried paper HalfMile maps as back-up, posted for each section]
Credit cards/ cash
Sharpie pen [Useful for writing signs when hitch-hiking] 
Sunglasses Cheap polarised ones! Essential kit. Brought ours from Walmart. Mine unsurprisingly broke towards the end.

Travelling offbeat: Rapa Nui aka ‘Easter Island’

When: Nov 2012

I associated it with the Moai stone figures and knew it was pretty off grid, so in an attempt to go somewhere ‘different’ whilst travelling through South America, we booked flights on a whim over two-thousand miles across the Pacific ocean.

Image Credit: WorldAtlas.com

Easter Island is tiny – just 15-miles at its widest point – with a single shabby, but charming town called Hanga Roa located on the south-western shore. The pace of life here is certainly different. On Sundays the entire isle seems to sit still. It’s a place of contrasts between old and new: at one end you can feel part of the wider world thanks to wi-fi connections in many spots (albeit a slow satellite speed), yet it’s common to see locals riding horses down the street to do their shopping, and no underground drainage system means toilet paper gets disposed of in waste bins. The island was annexed by Chile in 1888, yet practically Rapa Nui has maintained a lot of its heritage, and the native clans still weald a great deal of authority. All the local people we met during our stay were spirited and friendly, and we received great kindness when our luggage failed to arrive on our flight!

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Luggage reunion at the airport four days into the trip

A volcanic landscape framed by dark rugged coastline, where wild horses and stray dogs roam freely, Easter Island is no Hawaii. The flora and fauna is rather barren thanks to a historical deforestation hundreds of years ago. Efforts are being made now to promote a more diverse ecosystem, but these kind of ventures can take many years to come into fruition. And unlike many other Pacific islands, Rapa Nui can’t really be considered as a ‘beach destination’ either.  There are only a couple of beaches scattered across the entire island, and they have little to no facilities.  But what draws visitors here is the mysterious remnants of ancient times.  Stone-carved Ahu (ceremonial platforms) and caves offer glimpses into the island’s past, and can be enjoyed in relatively tranquil settings compared to more ‘mainstay’ tourist traps.

All flights to the island are hosted by LAN airlines and leave from either Santiago (most frequent and technically ‘domestic’), or Lima in Peru. Alternatively there is a weekly flight connecting to Pape’ete, Tahiti, but this was really expensive when we looked into it!  Due to travelling via Peru, we had a long stay of 8 days on the island (which at the time operated just two flights), so arrived early on a Sunday after the 4.5 hour flight, and left on the same flight in the evening a week later. Most flights to the island seem to land, reload, and then return the same day.

10 Tips for visiting Rapa Nui

A long way from anywhere!

1. Set your expectations

Firstly remember you are visiting a remote island, so the choice and price of food and basic commodities are high. The food was nothing to write home about, with limited ingredients, but fresh fish such as mahi mahi and tuna.  In one restaurant we paid $12US for a local beer! For an average meal in town expect to pay somewhere near $25-30 for a main course and $4 for a soft drink.  It may have been a wise move to have brought a few snacks with us.

2. Hire a local guide

It’s a great idea to start your trip with a local tour. We took a semi-private tour with Peter, our Swiss B&B host, and another couple who were also guests. The tour provided an excellent insight into island life, as well as setting the historical background to the Maui, and also gave us pointers for other places to explore. There are hotels that offer larger minibus group tours but these seemed less personal / flexible.

The only ones at Ahu Tongariki – and I’m wearing Conrad’s shorts due to lost luggage!

3. Hire some wheels

If you have more than a couple of days it’s a good idea to rent some wheels.  A handful of places in town rent out bikes, but be warned that the roads are ‘rustic’, and when it rains a bike isn’t so great!  On the advice of Peter we hired an SUV – which was a very informal arrangement involving an on-the-spot exchange of cash for keys – but Insular Rent A Car now have a website where they take reservations for cars, ATVs, and dirt bikes.  The car gave us the means to reach the main Anakana beach, which is 12 miles from town on the north shore, and to drive up the Rano Kau volcano – which could also have been reached by a tough day-hike if we had been less lazy!  We hired the car for 3 days at a cost of $60 per day, plus fuel.

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Our squeaky jeep rental
Traffic jam

4. Stay in boutique or homestay accommodation

It’s probably obvious to say, but not only are there no Four Seasons in Rapa Nui, there wasn’t even any chain hotels last time I checked.  Personally I think this very fact is part of the charm. There are some hostels dotted around town for the budget-friendly, and on the other end of the spectrum, a handful of hotels which seem crazy-expensive for what they offer.  I recommend looking for independent b&bs, or self-cattering arrangements, many of which come with detached bungalows. We choose Hare Swiss, located down a dirt track of a road, approx 20-25mins walk out of town. Our experience there was excellent – a fairly simple, but clean and spacious room, with a sea view, and very helpful local hosts. More and more hotels are opening all the time though – a new 5-star ‘eco resort’ recently opened, which charges over $800 per night!  Hotels offer packages with tours and possibly meals included (for which you will likely pay a high premium), but what’s the point of travelling all the way to Easter Island to choose the ‘easy’ option?!

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Hare Swiss holiday suites

5. Sightseeing the Moai

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Rano Raraku Quarry

Not everyone realises this before they arrive, but the Rapa Nui had toppled all the original Moai figures by the mid-nineteenth century due to internal rebellions. This means that the statues you see today are either reconfigured, or in some cases rubble. The largest standing are at Ahu Tongariki, and are quite a sight! It is best to go in the later afternoon after the main tours have passed through for a better photo, or at sunrise to capture their majestical qualities. Other must-sees are the quarry where the Moai were mostly carved from at Rano Raraku, and Orongo where you will learn about the Birdman cult practised until the 1860s. If you like caves there are many dotted around open to explore, but be warned there is no safety equipment provided so be careful – Ana Te Pahu was fairly vast. You will be requested to show a Rapa Nui National park pass to enter Rano Raraku and Orongo. These are easiest to purchase in the airport arrivals, and cost $80 US for adults and $40 for children (valid for 10 days).

6. Remember that Easter Island isn’t really a ‘Beach holiday’

Anakana beach

There are technically just three beaches on the island, and water access elsewhere is extremely difficult due to the jagged coastline. In reality there is only really one main beach at Anakana, and you may still have to pay to use the rest rooms. There are a few food stalls that open at lunchtime. There is another smaller but charming beach at Ovahe a few minutes away, which requires a short climb over rocks to access (not great in flip flops). These are really the only options as the beach in town is tiny and not more than a playground for small local kids, I wouldn’t plan on spending a day there.

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Ovahe beach

7. Evening entertainment is on the light-side

Apart from eating out, the only other evening entertainment on offer during our stay was offered by a couple of companies that hosted dance shows. Not typically our thing, we went along more to support the local industry, but ended up enjoying it much more than expected. Kari Kari in the centre of town provides a 1-hour native dance show which felt like a highly energetic cross between the Hawaiian Hola and the New Zealand Haka. It doesn’t take place every night, and is a good idea to book in advance. Our tickets cost $20pp.  There is another company that collects you from your hotel and provides food and a show for around $70pp. on alternative days. Both companies receive very good reviews on Trip Advisor. Other than these options, perhaps pack some evening entertainment of your own!

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Yes they pulled Conrad up on the stage TWICE!
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Kari Kari ballet

8. Pack for all weather!

A word of warning here – it rained A LOT during our time on the island, at least 3 days were full of torrential rain.  Therefore when packing remember to bring some waterproofs, sensible outdoor shoes (as the coastline is largely rough terrain), and a sun hat for when it’s hot and exposed. Note that basics such as sunscreen and toiletries are pricy to buy locally (there is a pharmacy in town but closes on Sundays and for siesta). A small flashlight or head torch would be useful if you plan on walking outside the main strip of road at night.  Add to all that a good book, and some ‘back-up’ entertainment such as already-downloaded pod-casts – just in case the weather lets you down – and you should be good!

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Exploring Te Pahu cave

9. Don’t rely on a credit card

The local currency is Chilean pesos. Generally it is cheaper to pay for goods in pesos due to shops offering varying exchange rates, but US dollars are also widely accepted. There are three cash machines – one at the airport, and two attached to banks that dispense pesos, but two of these were out of service at different points of our stay, and one only accepts Mastercard. Some hotels and restaurants accept credit cards, but not everywhere, so bring some cash as a reserve. The tipping etiquette in restaurants seemed to be a standard 10%.

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The crater of Rano Kau Volcano

10. What’s the ideal length of stay?

This depends on the amount of activities you want to do. If you are limited for time and have a car or tour you could see the most significant sights in 1-2 days. If you prefer to spend time hiking, on the water, or just adjusting to the slower pace of life I would recommend 5 days – that way if bad weather hits you don’t miss out!


I’m glad we made the trip to this quaint, mysterious island. It took a few days to adjust to ‘island time’, and I did find some amenities and choices limited, but we were in one of the remotest inhabited islands on earth, and I appreciated the unique ‘unspoilt’ experience.

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Parliament building
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The intricate stone Holy Cross Church

2 Days in Yosemite

Where: Yosemite National Park, CA

When: Late May 2011

We unexpectedly arrived in Yosemite in complete darkness after a monster drive from Vegas.  What should have taken 6-hours in our shiny red convertible, ended up more than double that – pulling up at our motel in pieces at 1:30am!  We learnt a key lesson that day: Always check ahead with US Highways Department for road closures.  Our intended route into the park through the west entrance was still closed in late May due to snow.  We only discovered that key information mid-afternoon once at Mono Lake.  The diversion?  Well the Sierras are not overly navigable in snow, so we had no choice but to head hours north, up nearly as far as Lake Tahoe, circling far beyond the park’s borders to get west.  Having left Vegas that morning in t-shirts and sunglasses, our surroundings changed dramatically, and taking it in turns behind the wheel we completed the journey with windows open in the frigid night air, filled with gas station coffees fighting to stay awake.  It wasn’t a good start.

I knew that two days in Yosemite wouldn’t do the park justice; an area roughly the size of the US state of Rhode Island!  It was to be a whirl-wind tour, and hopefully a place we could return to in the future to discover the back-country trails.  Due to the weather conditions of prevailing snow, the northern Tuolumne Meadows section of the park was off-limits, accessed by the main Tioga Road (Highway-120).  We therefore decided to split our two brief days accordingly.


Day 1: Yosemite Valley Highlights

Due to the cost of staying in the park over-night we based ourselves at Yosemite View Lodge, a simple but adequate motel a couple of miles outside the eastern Arch Rock entrance.  From there it was a slow, windy drive into the main valley area, passing through the famous narrow passageway that gives the entrance station its name…

Arch Rock

Yosemite valley is renowned for spectacular waterfalls, dramatic rock formations, and crowds of people!  In late May, due to rapidly melting snow, the waterfalls really were in their full glory.  If only I had been more skilful/ patient with the camera I could have perhaps captured their ethereal quality better.  Only a short (and accessible) half a mile wander from a car park, took us to Bridalveil Fall.  One of the most-viewed of Yosemite’s wonders, the fall plunges 620-feet, famously wafting a mist in the breeze that resembles a bridal veil.

Bridalveil Fall

Given to the ever-increasing number of visitors to Yosemite, the main road through the valley is one-way.  Slowly making our way along it headed west, we were struck with the monolith El Capitan granite peak, which looms prominently into the valley.  A world-renowned hot-spot for rock-climbers, we peered up bewildered at the very idea that people could climb such a vertical rock-face.

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El Capitan

At the Happy Isles trailhead we joined the Mist trail – Yosemite’s signature hike.  Our intention was to make the 2.4-mile round trip to the top of Vernal Fall, and then if feeling fit, continue onto Nevada Fall (5.4-mile round trip), OR even take the intersecting John Muir trail back to the trailhead to make a 6.5-mile loop.  This did not pan out.  I blame the crowds.  But the constant up-hill climb up the ever-increasingly slippery trail didn’t help!  What we covered of the Mist trail did offer spectacular, up-close views of Vernal Fall, following along the scenic Merced River.  Most people turned around after reaching the footbridge 0.8 miles in.  Probably a good move because that was a great ‘photo point’.  But we didn’t take much pause, eager to reach the top.

Vernal Fall
The Mist Trail

The trail soon became a steep granite stairway, with little to no place to hold on, and living up to its name, spraying us with a fine – but very wet – mist.  After a slow couple of hundred feet past the footbridge I chickened out (lame I know), and retreated.  I was feeling uneasy with the slow, precarious footing, with people squeezing past.  I didn’t know this at the time, but according to the Park’s website, more people die on the Mist trail than anywhere else in Yosemite.  Statistically this is probably something to do with it being so well-trafficked, but ultimately the deaths were due to the often deceptively strong currents.  Less than two months after we walked that very trail three people in their twenties fell to their deaths together in the cascade of Vernal Fall. The group had disregarded safety fences and signs to cool off, before two slipped into the water and a third tried to save them.

Half Dome from the Valley floor

Feeling hungry we headed to Yosemite Village, where a group of deer were roaming the parking lot.  The place is not exactly what I would call a ‘village’; the site is home to the park’s headquarters/ visitor centre, residences for park workers, a post office and a few concessions.   After a deli sandwich lunch, we gave the exhibits in the visitor centre a quick browse, then  watched the short Spirit of Yosemite film in the auditorium.  It proved a good introduction to the park, and more importantly, a nice little post-lunch rest stop.

Completing our tour of the village, we popped into The Ansel Adams Gallery to look at the collection of photographs – old and modern, then headed across the street to Yosemite Cemetery.  Home to the Pioneer graves that were originally scattered across the Yosemite Valley before the national park was formed in 1864, Native Americans – including a tombstone that simply read’s “A Boy” – and more recent park visitors and dignitaries.   Cemeteries hold a certain morbid curiosity for me.  I always wonder what the lives of those whose remains rest there held.  Good or bad, they certainly ended their time in a tranquil, natural place.

It was late afternoon by the time we reached Yosemite Falls, one of the world’s tallest cascades.  The falls are made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet).  Short of time, we took the 1-mile loop trail that took us to the base of the lower fall.  The ‘strenuous’ all-day hike to the top would have to wait for another trip!

Yosemite Falls

We ended our visit to the park that day with a drink in the Ahwahnee Hotel (now renamed The Majestic).  The grand, historical hotel is famous for providing interior inspiration for the sets of the fictional Overlook Hotel in the horror film The Shining.  The giant Grand Hall fireplace and huge tree-truck vaulted ceiling definitely felt familiar!  Having spent a decent amount of the evening (after a few drinks) posing for predictable tourist photos around the place the unthinkable happened… we lost the camera!  Many of our Yosemite shots were therefore never seen again, including all those from that evening in the hotel.  It wasn’t an overly expensive camera – a simple point-and-shot – but the loss of so many memories is something that still kicks me today!


Day 2: Mariposa Grove

The next day we were destined for the Park’s southern borders.  According to Google Maps this was a simple 1 hour-15 minute drive into the valley, before turning south along the Wawona Road.  In reality it was a painfully slow drive that involved lots of single-track sections where construction workers patched up the winter-beaten road.  Over 2-hours later we arrived in the parking lot of Mariposa Grove, and instantly felt like we had left the sun in the valley behind us!

The Grove is home to about 500 mature giant sequoia trees, which by total volume are the largest known living things on earth!  The parking lot was much less busy than those in the valley, but with a handful of families – and carrying very little by way of supplies – we hit the shaded Lower Grove trail.

KB_Blog_Yosemite (13 of 16)
The California Tunnel Tree

As the trail slowly progressed in elevation, the number of fellow visitors dwindled, to the point that Conrad and I found ourselves completely alone.  Aside from the truly monstrous trees – including ‘Grizzly Giant’ – the thing that struck us was the ever-increasing amount of snow!  By the time we reached the [closed] museum 2 miles and 1000 feet in, the air was biting.  We sat on a wooden fence (because the picnic tables were buried under snow) and ate some crisps and Pop Tarts in eery silence.

The Wawona Tunnel tree which collapsed in 1969 due to a record snowfall that took down its weakened base

We continued uphill towards the Wawona Point Vista, which I think we got to, but am not certain due to the amount of snow on the ground.  Regardless, the trail got steeper as we switch-backed our way upward and I couldn’t help but feel very alone.  I was on high-alert for any sounds that could possibly have indicated bears!  Yosemite is famous for its Black Bear population, thought to be around 300-500 strong.  Signs throughout the park warn campers and hikers to be vigilant with food and disposing of rubbish safely, but sadly people can be stupid and not follow rules.  This can led to bears becoming conditioned to associate humans with food.  When this happens and the bears get a little too ‘friendly’, rangers have no choice but to follow protocol and kill the animal for public safety.  So hiking that day, we made sure to take all rubbish with us, and kept talking so we didn’t startle any animals going about their business.  We didn’t see a single bear in Yosemite, but from our other [limited] experiences so far we have found black bears to be curious but skittish.

I came away from Yosemite wanting more time.  It is spectacular, and despite a few closures, we felt lucky to visit during the less busy season.  Yosemite is notorious for being the most frequented park in the Summer months, and I prefer to enjoy nature with minimal reminders of humanity.

PCT Resupply Strategy

The very factor that makes the PCT so special, also makes it tricky to hike – the isolation.  Unlike parts of the Appalachian Trail, hiking along the PCT we will go for days without meeting civilization.  This therefore requires some forward-planning regarding food and basic supplies.  People approach resupply strategy differently – some buy everything along the way, some send themselves resupply boxes, and other do a combination of both.  We are mostly sending boxes, as I admit to being a fussy eater, but we will also be picking up certain things.

Research indicated that we should not attempt to carry more than around 5 days of food at any given time due to the weight.  Therefore I used Craig’s PCT Planner website to work out how long it would take us to hike between the potential resupply stops, and then consulted Plan Your Hike for further information.  Note:   It is a good idea to contact any chosen resupply location to confirm their online information is accurate.

Below is a copy of the resupply schedule that I originally left with The Marshmeier’s in order to post our boxes.  A couple of the postal dates changed along the way – including a urgent text request to ‘HOLD ALL BOXES’ sent in our first week after experiencing so much snow we didn’t think we’d last – but generally everything arrived well-ahead of us.

For most thru-hikers who average 25-35 miles a day, our number of resupply stops would seem excessive, but it was designed around our lower mileage expectations.  In a nutshell, we stopped at every possible resupply location in Washington (because the trail is more isolated there), and then selected most, but not all points in Oregon.  The only change I would have made with hindsight?  I would have omitted Timberline Lodge for sending a package to, purely because we could have done a full grocery shop two days later in Cascade Locks.

Word of warning – boxes take A LOT longer to pack than expected! We numbered them and kept open in case we needed extra items added/ removed before posting.

A Week On: Post Hike Reflections

Saturday 3rd September

We finished hiking a week ago today.  It is amazing how quickly the time has passed.  Since then we have been to Vancouver, then south to Portland, and are now on an overnight train back to California.  But not much has happened.  We have mainly eaten, rested and felt, well, just lost.

The city is a world away from the trail.  I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I miss it.  I miss the daily exhilaration.  Being physically challenged, but then rewarded by nature.  I miss the simplicity of the daily routine.  I miss the fresh air.  We obviously got complacent on the trail.  I also now appreciate how having endless choices (like what to eat) in a city is stressful.  And there are far too many people around!

Having had some time to reflect on the experience, there are some basic things I’m taking away:

  1. There are some very kind people in the world who want nothing in return for their helping hand.
  2. Being fearful is a waste of time.  I learnt this after the first couple of nights sleeping in dark forests fretting every single sound.
  3. Hiking as a couple really tests a relationship to its limits – there are times I could easily have pushed Conrad off a mountain, and I know he felt the same – but I also appreciate what teamwork we achieved and the experience we shared.
  4. Because we survived 48 nights of camping I no longer need to feel like a novice in REI.
  5. I have a new-found appreciation of simple things I used to take for granted, such as: a bed, hot water, and carb-based foods.
  6. Camping for days on end is tiresome, but I do see how it allowed us to discover special places a car wouldn’t allow us to reach.
  7. Modern life has made me too precious.  It is OK to be a bit dirty and to just get on with it.
  8. I really like oatmeal.  Maybe I should eat it in real life?

So who knows what’s next.  I know that this experience has left a lasting impression on us. And I know that when we do return to London the mountains will be calling.  Some images with my partner in crime…

Day 69: Canada

Saturday 27th August

Start: Bushcamp, mile 2635

End: Manning Park, Canada, off mile 2659

Miles: 23.5

We enjoyed our last trail coffee and oatmeal sat in the dark.  Both of us were contemplative.  I am aware that during this trip we have both complained incessantly, but it still felt bittersweet.  We agreed that we will miss being out here.  The sense of freedom, and daily exhilaration cannot be matched.  We have craved amenities like a bed so often, but stripped of modern choices does make life simple.


As we left camp with Mark the sun had yet to rise and it felt cold in the wind.  For the first time I was hiking in the thermal bottoms I sleep in.  We winded up to Rock Pass with pink hues above us.  After descending down a scree slope we had another longer climb up the valley wall to Woody Pass.  Once we mounted it we stopped and looked out at the new range of mountains ahead.  They must be Canadian!  Our first sight of Canada.  Also visible was an increasing number of clouds; surely it wasn’t going to rain on our last day?!



We hiked on through a path of noble fir trees, which made me think of Christmas.  A ranger (the only person we had seen on the whole hike), passed and asked to see our wilderness permits.  Luckily Mark had bothered to fill one in!

Conrad, Mark, and Ranger Ian

Woody Pass – Canada is now visible!

From being on a pinnacle with 360 views at Hopkins Pass, we began to descend and enter forest cover.  The next miles felt slow as I was eagerly awaiting arriving at the border.  The closer we got, the more excited I felt.  I thought the forest was rather unremarkable, but Mark pointed out how rare it is to see pine, Douglas Fir, cedar, and blue spruce all growing together.  So I will take his word that it was amazing.  Instead I was caught up dealing with around a dozen blow-downs, one of which scrapped up my knee.  A parting gift from the US.

It’s real windy on Hopkins Pass

Hopkins Lake

Getting even closer
Oh come on guys!!!

Finally, after some switchbacks down, we could hear voices, and as the monument came into sight a small group of hikers were gathered there.  The border was not what I was expecting – where were the Mounties to greet us, or a fence or something?  Instead, a PCT monument stood next to a silver American-Canadian goodwill obelisk called Monument 78.  Probably the most striking part was the impact of a missing row of trees running up the hillside in both directions, enabling the physical border to be seen by air.

No way! KBCN hiked how far?!
The border can be seen in the line of missing trees

We took some photos whilst being awkwardly observed by the other hikers.  They told us that we looked far too clean to have walked all the way from Oregon!  I just smiled, inwardly acknowledging some pride over having personal hygiene standards.  They eventually left, having to turn around and walk back the same way they’d come – I didn’t get the full story, but for whatever reason they didn’t have permission to enter Canada.  If I had to guess, it was probably something to do with the pound of pot in their bags!

I didn’t even have to show my passport!

Reaching the monument – the effective end of the PCT – soon felt anti-climatic.  We had nearly 9 miles further to hike just to get back into the world.  Why couldn’t there be an air-lift service at this point?  We sat and had some food at a nearby river.  It was a beautiful spot.  From there we were on a mission to Manning Park, and didn’t really stop.  The sky had cleared and it now felt hot and humid.  Conrad was popping painkillers for his feet like they were going out of fashion.  I was stumbling a lot due to tree roots, crumbling trail, and mostly because I was tired.  The last 4 miles led us down a stony jeep road.

Two last cookies from the Stehekin bakery to mark the occasion

At around 5:30pm we resurfaced back into civilisation.  Well, it was a paved road at least.  We started walking along the road towards the lodge when a car pulled up with a smiling lady in it.  It took us a few seconds to recognise Roberta sat in the driver’s seat – I think we were all just zoned out.  I have never felt so happy to see someone!  As we piled into the car and finally took a seat it dawned on me that we were done.  The hike was officially over.

Over dinner in the lodge it still hadn’t fully sunk in.  I was grateful for Mark’s company in this last section, it was amazing how our little chance reunion happened.  I also felt a little sad at Dan’s absence from the group.  I had been half expecting to see him sat at the monument waiting for us, our hiking buddy from Kentucky.  Would we ever see him again?  He had kept us entertained with his stories and road-walking escapades since southern Oregon.

Look who we found in the bar! This is Dan smiling
Yay! Poutine!

Tonight we will get a bed and a shower.  I think I need some time to decompress and to let it all sink in.  I do feel a sense of achievement and triumph, but mostly right now I feel loss.  The trail had become our daily routine, and I will miss the wonderful people out there who enhanced the experience so much.  I am so thankful to the many who supported our efforts along the way.  Oh, and I should probably now think about monitoring what I eat!

Day 68: Nearly there

Friday 26th August

Start: Bushcamp, mile 2613.8

End: Rock Pass bushcamp, mile 2635

Miles: 21.7

As I go to bed tonight I am overwhelmed by the huge day we have had.  We are close to Canada and the end of our journey.  We are exhausted, but exhilarated, and camping-aside I think I will miss being in the wild.

Dan’s tent and Mark’s body-bag/ bivy!

In our meadow camp this morning we woke to a perfectly pink sunrise.  It warmed me and made me think that today would be a good day.  I was happy to finally capture a picture of a pika.  We had completed the hardest part of the climb to Harts Pass yesterday, so the initial miles were largely skimming along a ridge with views of the sun slowly hitting the mountains.

A pika

At Harts Pass Conrad and I took a wrong turn and hiked the wrong way for 10 minutes (uphill) before realising.  Thanks goes out to the GPS for that mishap.  This meant that we were separated from Mark, who probably thought that we had ditched him.  It took us a long time to catch up with him, but the trail on that section was incredible – skirting along and over a number of passes, and a section called the Devils Backbone.  We could see for miles, wide valleys below and changing foliage with the elevations.

For most of the afternoon we have been inside the Pasayten Wilderness area.  Each time we went over another pass I half expected to ‘see Canada’.  Will it have a giant maple leaf flag to welcome us?  The hike got tougher in the afternoon due to tiredness and another late climb to camp.  This one was only about 2.5 miles long from Holman Pass, but felt much steeper than yesterday.  Mark has been suffering with his back, and Conrad with his toe blisters.  I popped some ibuprofen to feel part of their gang – that and because my feet were cramping up.

Because of the miles we have made today and yesterday, it should be possible to finish tomorrow, half a day ahead of schedule.  And more importantly with one less night in a tent!  I am trying to keep cautiously optimistic though, as to achieve this will mean a near-record day.

Our (hopefully) last camp is situated near a small spring surrounded by a large open meadow.  We are sandwiched by Holman Peak and Powder Mountain towering above us.  I am disappointed that Dan didn’t join us here for a final campfire, instead deciding to hike on.  Mark lit the fire which had a mesmerizing effect on all around.  He then generously proceeded to give away his camp stove to a couple of [not entirely friendly] south-bound hikers.

It’s surreal that this would be our last night out here.  I was emotional as the sky illuminated into an epic rose light show.  Looking around at the expansive grandeur of nature surrounding us all I could think was: How does one come back to real life from this?

Miles to Canada: 14.7

Miles to Finish: 23.5

Day 67: Baked Goods Thursday

Thursday 25th August

Start: Rainy Pass, mile 2589

End: Tatie Peak Bushcamp, mile 2613.8

Miles: 24.85

This morning I was sitting on a wall in the trailhead car park cooking oatmeal when a white car pulled up.  I felt conscious as I probably resembled a hobo trying to keep warm in front of a stove.  It was only 6am.  The car window went down and our old friend Mark who we’d last seen in Trout Lake appeared!  I do love a trail reunion.

First light

Mark was dropped off by his friend Roberta to join us for this section.  He came bearing the gift of raspberry pie, so he was instantly in!  It was good to have some fresh blood with us today, even if Mark was carrying a new ridiculous ultra lightweight kit – his bag is only 15 pounds with food and water.  My bag must currently be at least double that.

Cutthroat Pass

We timed it well because the early morning hours took us up to Cutthroat Pass.  The views were expansive and incredible, with dramatic sculpted peak surrounding us.  I love mounting a pass, because not only does it mean it’s finally time for some down-hill action, but once at the top a whole new set of mountains and vistas appear.  On the other side we descended down briefly through Granite Pass, then was on a steady climb once again to Methow Pass.  The trail was visible for a long way in front of us as we could trace it skirting up and around the mountain.

Not long before we stopped in a shaded forested area for lunch we passed a 2600 PCT sign.  OK, so we haven’t personally completed 2600 miles from Mexico, but it reminded me that we are on the final countdown.  The lunch of cinnamon rolls (ridiculously heavy but impossible to resist) was one of my trail favourites.  Less than a mile after we continued on and a frightened-looking French guy hurried past us.  He said a bear had caught him by surprise right next to the trail a few minutes ago.  I wonder if it was the cinnamon rolls that attracted it?!

I kept my eyes peeled but was glad not to see any bears.  By early afternoon some clouds had come over, providing the perfect hiking weather – warm but overcast.  Unfortunately, and what we in England would call ‘sod’s law’, by the time we started our long afternoon ascent the sun was beaming.  At already 18 miles in, we commenced a big 13-mile climb up towards Harts Pass.

Harts Pass is the last road that we will cross before Canada.  It is unpaved, but for many PCT hikers unable to cross the border, it is the exit point from the trail. We made it 7 miles up the mountain in the strong afternoon sun.  I don’t know how I made it, because with the exposure and the constant uphill I was really struggling.  It felt like it took an eternity to reach camp.  It was particularly tough because we had been told conflicting information about the reliability of the stream there, so was hauling litres of extra water.  It turned out the stream was flowing fine.



Tonight Conrad and I are camped in a meadow at 6500 feet, with imposing cliffs above us.  Both Dan and Mark are nearby.  We are surrounded by a landscape of scree and rocks, so the stream and small meadow is a little oasis.  The local deer are rather put out by our presence here, as they nervously watched us whilst trying to graze.  There is also a flurry of noisy critters in the rocks right behind us.  I saw a number of pika, which are a rare tiny mammal with round ears and no tail.  For the first time on the trail we rewarded a massive days hiking effort with 2 dinners – mac’n’cheese followed by chocolate oatmeal.  Well why not?!

Miles to Canada: 36.3

Miles to Finish: 45

Day 66: Let’s finish this

Wednesday 24th August

Start: Stehekin, off mile 2569

End: Rainy Pass trailhead, mile 2589

Miles: 19.5

Although Stehekin is a wonderfully charming place we were ready to get back onto the trail today.  This is our last section, and we want to finish it.  Canada is nearly within reach – something that I’m not sure I ever really imagined I would ever be saying!

Setting off near High Bridge with Dan

The bus made one final stop at the bakery where we piled out and stocked up.  Maybe we should have left the oatmeal and dehydrated food out of the bag completely and just brought cakes for this last stretch.  I was so happy for the last espresso.  Joining us on the bus was Dan, and our new friends from Portland Leslie and Denis (aka Cartwheel and Neander-Tall).  There was a really feeling of camaraderie as we all have the same goal in sight.

Pastries secured. With Denis & Leslie

Due to the bus schedule it was a relatively late start, so I think nearly 20 miles was not too shabby.  The day took us mostly through The Northern Cascades National Park, and predominately uphill.  The climb was not too steep, but relentless in the sun.  We wound up and through a valley on the verge of Fall, traversing around the base of Frisco Mountain.  The views were not very far-reaching, mostly looking down into a valley, or surrounded in trees.  Sadly, those pesky black flies were out in mass!

The leaves are changing

At Maple Creek we enjoyed a delicious lunch of turkey hoagie, crisps and cookies (all from the bakery of course).  Whilst sat virtually on the trail for lack of shade, we met the first two park rangers we have seen on the entire trail.  They asked where we intended on camping (the Park runs on a permit system), and seemed disappointed when we said we would be out of the boundary in time for bed.  They are on a 4-day ‘foot patrol’, out hiking and getting paid for it.  Seems like a sweet gig to me…

Lunchtime water filter

Upon reaching Rainy Pass trailhead I was sad to think how we had turned down probably the best offer of trail magic we had received.  Yesterday Loren, who we had met on the trail back in Oregon, had offered to meet us here and take us back to his house for a meal, shower and a bed.  It would have been amazing.  Sadly, we have just gotten back on the trail so couldn’t lose another day, as Loren and his wife Becky live over an hour away.  I hope we are able to see them again one day.

The side of the road that probably had picnic benches!
What a state.

Our camp for tonight is not a glamorous one – our tent is sitting behind the Highway 20 trailhead toilet block.  We did intend to hike on for a few miles.  But after we had cooked dinner we had lost momentum.  Dan is also camped next to us, so we had to keep him company.  I just hope we don’t have a load of trucks driving up and down with their air brakes on all night…

Miles to Canada: 61.2

Miles to Finish: 70