PCT Southbound

Go your own way

Karma Forward

Backpacking Experience
Before 2015 had never backpacked or camped alone. Spent three months northbounding the PCT in '15, gave him a  sense of preparedness for SOBOing 2016

Knocked out a hike or two in San Diego, but completed nothing over 10 miles. This was in large part due to an intensive work schedule -- the price of taking months off at a time.

July 7th at Harts Pass

Hike Result
Got off trail around mid-August. 


Karma Forward was born in Spain, the child of two US Navy personnel. Raised on military bases overseas, he finally moved back to the United states at the age of 17. After the usual rebelliousness and adolescent angst, he reconciled himself with his Americanism then immediately shipped himself off to Hawaii where studied Ethics and Philosophy Science and Religion.  

Ever the risk taker, Karma determined that bartending would be a swell career, and proceeded to make margaritas for the next dozen years or so, all the while burning through even less suitable jobs. Justin had done about half the PCT in 2015 nobo, and came back this year to try and complete the trail southbound. He stopped his thru-hike due to foot injures shortly after Stehekin, but stayed around the trail and continued hiking off and on until mid August. In total he’s now hiked 1,750 miles of the PCT.


"The difference between Campo and Harts Pass was extraordinary for me on several fronts.  Firstly the terrain could scarcely be more opposite in treacherousness, in amount of human contact, and in overall tone.  I liken SOBOing to immediately starting in the high sierras. Climb up 5000, go-down 4000.  Rinse and repeat.

The most dramatic difference for me however was that being so far removed from my home all at once had a deeply unsettling effect on my spirits.  The wind was cold and I was always wet it seemed. I felt far more alone SOBOing even though, in some cases I truly wasn't.  Suffice it to say, the effect was quite profound."


"I took many breaks while SOBOing. I spent almost a week and a half exploring eastern Washington and towns few people outside their scarce residents had ever heard of. Why? I like to explore.

I wasn't at all disturbed to have finished my hike shortly after Stehekin, for several reasons. Firstly, my feet truly were in very bad shape: The result of poor decisions on my part but some quite necessary ones also.  More importantly though, I didn't hike the PCT in 2016.  Not really you see. I just needed to escape my life. To feel the fear again. Of course I told people I was hiking south. SOBOing and all, and I did to an extant. But I have never been one of those people, which are most of them if you think about it, that HAD to finish the trail.  I just had to be alone and afraid and at my wits end.

I've been struggling with a great ideological demon for quite some time now. I'll be honest, I've been broken by this struggle in more ways than one. No one understands me much any longer. I’m a bit of an outcast even amongst outcasts I'm afraid. Just recently, I suffered another blow, where I was basically disavowed by my oldest friend.  I tried to write about this struggle but inevitably find myself doing so in parables and narrative. My story “A dragons tale” is the beginning of one such telling.  http://www.notthewaterreport.com/

In any case, my time SOBOing last year was an attempt to best the beast once and for all.  I was able to fight him to a standstill, and in doing so, found a reason to live. That's what happened in the Northern Cascades for me. Immediately after I had made my decision the universe indulged me with a thousand verifications of the choice."


"When I came back from the PCT (both times) I would go hiking with people and they would get into these paces and just go non stop clambering up mountains at ungodly speeds. They would be disappointed at my lack of any apparent desire to do the same. I would inevitably lag behind distracting myself with some clouds or odd rock formation. At first I thought perhaps they simply wanted to impress me or even compare themselves to me and thus prove to themselves that they too could have hiked the PCT (even though i freely admit to only having hiked about 1750 miles of it myself.) Anyway it wasn't long before they stopped hiking with me. Perhaps they think of my hiking at all as some sort of fluke or something.  

 I’ll tell you something: these people don't enjoy hiking I think. I think they would enjoy it more if they looked around once in a while. If they ventured off trail and explored some hidden nook, they might find an interest in it. I'm sure I represent a different perspective when I say that self-improvement while noble in its ends, is quite limiting in its means.  If all we know what to do with a mountain is climb it, then a sad and limited species we have become." 


"Venture off trail.

Look for interesting people.  

Don’t feel bound by anything but your own whims."