PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Happy Feet


Backpacking Experience
Section hiked Oregon PCT ‘15

Walked 5-10 miles a day for three months. Would do way more hill training

Hart’s Pass headed north to border with 1 friend - July 6th. Reached border on July 8th and started south

So. Kennedy Meadows Oct. 8th

Hike Result
Made it to the US/Mexico border


After hiking the Oregon PCT in 2015, Happy Feet was determined to take a career break and attempt an entire thru-hike. Once main reason was the wonderful people he had met during the '15 section hike. He also felt that long distance backpacking was like nothing he had ever experienced. It seemed like the ultimate challenge and adventure. Because he was working at a university and was on contract until July 1st, southbound was the only possible choice. He started with a friend for the Hart’s Pass up and back, but was alone for week 2 through Glacier Peak Wildnerness, one of the hardest parts of the trail. 


“The Oregon PCT was not a great preparation for the challenges of Northern Washington. I couldn’t believe how much harder it was up there. The rain, the fog, the blown down trees, the constant wetness, the dangerous snow crossings, and most of all the severe uphill and downhill. And I was decently experienced and in pretty good shape.”

“I wanted to quit in the middle of Glacier Peak Wilderness, Section K of Halfmile’s maps. I was alone, hurt, low on food, and miserable. There was no way out other than continuing to walk. The next four days and 90 miles were a blur, but I made it. I was so unprepared for that level of difficulty. But this was my only chance to do the PCT, and I wasn't going to throw away my shot. Mentally I realized the only way to make it through was to dramatically change my expectations of the trail. I wasn't out there to have a good time. I was out there to experience whatever the trail offered. And in Northern Washington that meant rain, snow, blowdowns, and steep climbs. Later that attitude helped me deal with the mosquitoes in Oregon, the heat in Nor Cal, and the cold in the Sierras. ”


"It was pretty challenging mentally to hike the same portion of trail again. I'd done the Oregon section of trail the previous year and I knew what to expect. Luckily this time I was going southbound,  which actually made quite a difference in terms of scenery. It sounds obvious, but you don't look backwards a lot while hiking, so going a different direction meant a lot of different views. It was also nice to be able to be a bit of a guide for hikers who hadn't been through Oregon before. Still, I was really excited to get to Northern California and try out new towns and explore new parts of the trail." 


"Along the way I took a photo to mark the passage of every 100 miles, and included whoever I was hiking with at the point. I also kept a list on my phone of all of the southbounders I had met or heard about. This was useful both during and after the trail to keep track of people and have an idea of how many people were on trail at any time. If I could do it again I also would've taken a picture with all of the SOBOs I met. 

I also kept a daily journal, and have read through it a couple times since finishing the trail. It's fascinating to look back on a daily record of my journey, especially because I'd forgotten a lot of the little details from months before. I also kept a list of hilarious events/stories for each section, like "bear in camp near Ross Lake." 


“There is always going to be something wrong. Blisters, mosquitoes, a bum knee, bad food, etc. Don't let yourself get lost focusing on the negatives. Accept that something will always be wrong and be happy anyway.  

Don't believe the SOBO haters. People in towns in Northern California will try and tell you that you're too late and you won't make it through the Sierra. Trust the forecast, not the locals. 

Cowboy camp (sleep outside without your tent) when you can. Especially in Oregon, Nor Cal, and So Cal. It’s fun and saves setting up the tent.

Stretch often on the trail. Preferably every time you stop. Massage your feet at night in the tent and stretch before bed. And work on leg, hip and back flexibility before the trail"

Be thoughtful and judicious if you choose to listen to music, audio books, or podcasts. About halfway through the hike I'd set up the pattern of listening to content for 1/3 of the day, talking to my hiking buddies for 1/3 of the day, and walking in silence for the other 1/3. The days where I spent the entire time listening to an audio book (namely, the fantastic "Dune") were exciting, but I felt like I'd missed out on actually experiencing the trail. "