Pacific Crest Trails No Longer Wild

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    May 18, 2015 3:45 AM GMT
    NYT: The Pacific Crest Trail is a triumph of serenity and solitude, but, these days, the solitude is getting crowded.
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    May 31, 2015 5:02 AM GMT
    I worried about this too, as I've always thought that it would be a great experience to hike the entire PCT (I've just incidentally hiked sections of it in the High Sierra, including Forester Pass). My profile picture is actually in a lake on the PCT near Bishop, CA.

    That was before the damn book (which is a good read)! Now I'm sure it will be more crowded. But one commenter makes a great point that the more people that escape to the wilderness, the more determined they will be to protect it.

    But this reminds me of another thing that I have noticed out in the backcountry lately - the trails are disappearing. Way back in the day, the CCC built a lot of trails, and for decades they were diligently cleared and maintained by trail crews early in the season.

    But lately, it seems that other than the big tourist trails like the PCT, JMT, and High Sierra Trail, and those other trails that are profitable for pack companies*, trails just aren't being maintained anymore. Several times, I figure out some cool route and then once I get to the trail, it's impossible to follow.

    Not a huge problem if you're above treeline, but below treeline, it can be pretty frustrating to try to figure out where you're going, and bushwhack along long-abandoned routes.

    Kind of sad, I think. There's magic in figuring out a route on a map and then watching it come alive as you hike the twists and turns on your own.

    *Also, trails designed for stock animals are obnoxious. Far too many switchbacks
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    Jun 01, 2015 12:25 AM GMT
    In the 70's, it was often possible to "loose" the PCT. People stole all those neat triangular trail markers, so you had to look up high in the trees for old trail blazes. (e.g. if the actual trail was covered with snow, but sometimes even dry, it disappeared.)


    One thing they should never have done was build all those footbridges in the wilderness areas in the 80's. For one thing, they're probably against the law. But when people had to actually ford or swim the rivers, it cut way down on the city crowds in the back country.

    LOL. This tree hates hikers and is trying to swallow up the old trail marker:
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    Jun 01, 2015 3:07 AM GMT
    City guy in the backcountry checking in icon_razz.gif

    Really though, my view is that if you love wilderness, don't live in it.

    I've never seen such a large marker though. Where is that? In my experience, you always know you're on the JMT/PCT because it's the widest trail around...
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    Jun 06, 2015 3:09 AM GMT
    I wish I could get enough time off work to hike few weeks on that trail. Self-employment is nice, but the drawback is there are no paid vacations.
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    Jun 11, 2015 5:32 AM GMT
    Paul, there are a number of ways to enjoy some really scenic parts of the JMT/PCT over the course of a weekend (or especially a long weekend).

    Rae Lakes Loop - start from Roads End trailhead in Kings Canyon National Park. Hike up Paradise Valley until you catch the JMT. Follow the JMT through Rae Lakes, up over Glenn Pass, and loop back to Roads End. 44 miles and maybe 7,000' of elevation gain - I did it in two very hard days, though most people take much more time than that. This can also be done from Onion Valley trailhead on the east side, and it's shorter.

    Evolution Basin - My buddy and I did this over 4 days (it was roughly 65 miles). Drive to Bishop, drive up to South Lake, hike over Bishop Pass and drop down to the JMT, then hike along the JMT until you hit the Piute Canyon Trail. Hike over Piute Pass back to North Lake, then hitchhike from North Lake to South Lake (or maybe stow a mountain bike at one trailhead?). Alternatively, you can do a shorter loop starting and ending at North lake that involves travel over Lamarck Col, but do your research, as this is an off-trail pass that can be challenging to follow. Best done in September.

    Lake Thomas Edison - this lake on the west side is very close to the JMT and a number of short loop hikes are possible from there, including the beautiful Silver Pass area.

    Mono Divide - a gorgeous way to access the Lake Thomas Edison area from the East. It involves either climbing up from Pine Creek Canyon over Italy Pass (5,000' of gain and not much of a trail) or go in at Mosquito Flat and take an off-trail route known as Cox Col. - Not easy! I actually had a surprising amount of trouble descending to Lake Italy once up over the pass (bear north - if you head directly for the lake it cliffs out)

    Lyell Canyon - this is a hike from Tuolumne Meadows. A 2-day loop is possible with Rafferty Creek. I have been trying to do it for the past month, but the first time, Highway 120 closed due to snow and the second time there were thunderstorms so I opted for the Trinity Alps instead.

    Agnew Meadows, near Mammoth Lakes - haven't done it yet, but I'd like to take a short weekend trip from there sometime this summer. Let me know if you wanna come icon_razz.gif