‘It was beau­ti­ful, but tough’

Si­mon Irv­ing re­flects on epic Pa­cific Crest Trail ad­ven­ture


Si­mon Irv­ing of Wolfville set him­self a 4,270-km chal­lenge re­cently - to walk the Pa­cific Crest Na­tional Scenic Trail (PCT) in less than four months.

The trail is a path­way through some of the most scenic ter­rain in the United States. It be­gins in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia at the Mex­i­can bor­der, trav­els through Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, and Washington end­ing up at the Cana­dian bor­der.

Irv­ing first started re­search­ing the trail about three years ago. As a 2016 ge­ol­ogy grad, how­ever, he didn’t have the funds to head out un­til this spring.

“I knew I was go­ing,” he says, “but I looked at var­i­ous trips.”

Once he was de­ter­mined, Irv­ing had to get in line be­cause the PCT uti­lizes a per­mit­ting sys­tem. Ini­tially all the pop­u­lar start­ing dates were snapped up.

“I got mine on Jan. 30, that’s when a space opened up.” It was May 11. Then he had to start pre­par­ing and gath­er­ing his gear while work­ing at a gold mine on the eastern shore.

Hik­ers have to de­ter­mine their re­sup­ply points among the 32 com­mu­ni­ties ad­ja­cent to the trail. Most hitch­hike back and forth, Irv­ing said.

“It’s such a unique ence,” he re­flected.

“When the weather is unique, noth­ing pre­pares you for it.”

The path­way goes through 25 ex­peri- na­tional forests and seven na­tional parks. Con­di­tions vary from desert to snow cover.

At Forester Pass in the Sierra Ne­vadas, the trail reaches a height of 13,150 feet. In north­ern Cal­i­for­nia he re­mem­bers the smoke from some bru­tal fires, as well as wild­flower sea­son.

Irv­ing re­calls 700 miles of desert pop­u­lated by an end­less wind farm, which took three and a half days to walk through at 40C. He re­mem­bers the itch of mos­quito sea­son when he walked with a bug net over his face.

“You couldn’t eat out­side,” he said, but some breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful views more than made up for the in­sects with what Irv­ing called cathe­drals of stone.

The PCT through Ore­gon was pretty flat.

“I blazed through it do­ing 35 or 36 miles a day,” he said, adding he only had one more state to cross.

“Washington was my per­sonal favourite state,” he said, not­ing it was there he and his bud­dies faced rain for seven days straight.

“You had wet socks, wet clothes and a wet tent. It was a suf­fer fest,” Irv­ing chuck­led. “Tem­per­a­tures went down to zero overnight and there was sleet. It was beau­ti­ful, but tough. It re­ally chal­lenged you.”

For­tu­nately, he often hiked with strangers of dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties who be­came friends. “We had a good group morale. I think that’s why we ended up friends be­cause we got through it to­gether.”

Ac­cord­ing to Irv­ing, the trail was well marked, but some­times they had to take de­tours to avoid fires. Ac­knowl­edg­ing that he is still pro­cess­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, he knows it taught him men­tal tough­ness.

“You have to hike. I found I could be adapt­able over six or seven cli­mate zones. You hike your own hike. I’m happy with what I did.”

Most hik­ers take about five months to fin­ish the PCT, but Irv­ing pushed through about 30 days faster by stop­ping less often and tak­ing fewer off days. He avoided in­juries like stress frac­tures, but sol­diered on through a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion and the loss of 30 pounds.

He also got to meet some ‘trail an­gels,’ lo­cal res­i­dents who went out of their way to as­sist hik­ers. Once need­ing new shoes, he en­coun­tered a man who drove him 90 min­utes each way to the store.

“He was a su­per gen­er­ous man, just gen­eros­ity from start to fin­ish. I never ex­pected that.”

Irv­ing took the nick­name ‘ Rawhide’ while on the PCT. He en­coun­tered rat­tlesnakes, a black bear and a moun­tain lion, while his par­ents fol­lowed him from across the coun­try on Google Earth.

In the end reach­ing the Cana­dian bor­der was a bit dis­ori­ent­ing.

“It took me a long time to get back in the swing of things, wear­ing real clothes and hav­ing show­ers af­ter be­ing thrown back into the real world.”

“I en­joyed all of it,” he con­cluded. “It was such a long ad­ven­ture. There were some awe­some places and I have sto­ries from ev­ery part of the trail.”


Wolfville res­i­dent Si­mon Irv­ing em­barked on a 4,270-km chal­lenge in hik­ing the Pa­cific Crest Na­tional Scenic Trail (PCT) ear­lier this year.

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