20121125-081336.jpgL TO R: NATALIE, LIEF, KRISTIAN

I know a thing or two about hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. I hiked it in the summer of 2011. So take my word for it that when Natalie Fisher stepped out of the snowbound forest in Manning Park, British Columbia on November 18, she had much to be proud of.

I worked with Natalie on a Forest Service trail crew in the summer of 2010. The above photo was taken when we were doing maintenance along Agnes Creek near Lake Chelan. When I heard from mutual friends that Natalie was thru-hiking the PCT this past (2012) summer I checked in sporadically to see how she was doing. She certainly had an unusual strategy that was apparent in the name she and her hiking partners adopted: Team No Hurries. And lollygag they did. By late October, Natalie was still in southern Washington. Hearing that someone is still on the trail in late October is something that will make veteran thru-hikers turn their heads and take notice. Most thru-hikers try to finish the trail by late September to avoid the snow that is likely to fall in October.

Natalie made a point of not hurrying. A lot of thru-hikers pay lip service to the idea of not hurrying and just enjoying the hiking experience but nearly all of them, in the final analysis, hurry. The pressure to do so is enormous. In order to complete the 2650-mile trail you have to average twenty miles per day for five months. And five months is all the hiker has in most years because the previous winter’s snow is too deep before late April and the coming winter’s snow starts falling in October. Unless, of course, you are Natalie Fisher and you’re willing to hike through several feet of snow as you approach the Canadian border.

But true to her Team No Hurries designation, Natalie seemed unconcerned by the approaching winter weather. Since the PCT follows a route that winds among the highest peaks in the Cascades, winter comes early there. When Natalie came out of the mountains at Stevens Pass on October 24 I fully expected her to abandon her quest to finish the trail. When I heard that she got back on I genuinely feared for her survival. Anyone who has ever ventured into the mountains in winter knows that trails disappear under snow, landmarks disappear in the clouds, progress through deep snow is painfully slow. I, for one, would think long and hard about hiking hundreds of miles along the crest in winter.

But she did it! She and her hiking partner, Brr, walked into a parking lot in Manning Provincial Park at 11:30 at night on November 18. I’m very impressed.

20121125-090356.jpgNATALIE REACHES THE BORDER

Not only is Natalie one hell of an outdoorswoman, she writes well too. Click on this link to go to her blog and read her account of her last few days in the wilderness: http://wildernessdancer.com/attitude-layers/

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