Post-PCT bits and bobs

It's now been 11 days since I finished, and in the meantime I've gone back home to Oregon and resumed normal domestic life with my girlfriend--running to the store to pick up milk, vacuuming the living-room carpet, drinking beer with the geology grad students, etc., etc. But the trail experience isn't quite over yet. For instance:

- I've managed to upload some, but not all, photos that were not available to put on the blog because they were taken with other cameras. The best one came from the day I was stung by the scorpion (Day 9: Monday, May 13) and I actually got a picture of that little bugger crawling on my sleeping back before I flicked it into oblivion. I added that image to the blog post retroactively. Once I get all pictures from all cameras/phones into one place on my computer, I will make a big photo album somewhere and share it on this blog.

- Also from that same day's entry came my first encounter with Rocket Llama, who as of this writing is missing, presumed somewhere before White Pass in Washington. She was supposed to check in with her dad on Monday (but whether this means she was supposed to reach White Pass then, I'm not sure), and it is now Friday. Search and rescue operations have been active for the past few days, and reports started to come in this afternoon that footprints were spotted in the snow leading to a stand of trees somewhere "south of the Goat Rocks." She was hiking alone into the hellacious storm that hit the Northwest last weekend (leading to the wettest September on record in some places), and might not have been outfitted with much winter gear, not that it would help a lot in such historically bad conditions. Two other hikers, whom I also met briefly in the desert, were rescued by a helicopter three days ago and another one was rescued today in another area farther north.

As is typical these days, you're missing out on the most up-to-date information (and sometimes misinformation, like "Rocket Llama was spotted by a hotel clerk in Packwood on Thursday") if you're not on facebook. There have been virtually live updates for the last two days about the activities and findings of the SAR effort, and now the PCT 2013 facebook group is being used to mobilize a ground search team made up of PCT hikers in the area with winter backcountry and mountain rescue experience. Over on, where people usually love to speculate upon and criticize all search-and-rescue situations involving long-distance hikers, the farthest this story has gotten is someone who wrote a blurb, in Comic Sans, accidentally on the Pinhoti Trail forum instead of the PCT forum. WhiteBlaze ftw again.

I wrote a comment to the following effect on the facebook page: with no disrespect to Rocket Llama, PCT hikers have an undeserved feeling of invincibility by the time they get to Washington, when in truth all we've done is hike in near-perfect weather on an impossible-to-lose trail for a few months. Nothing from hiking the PCT in the summer of 2013 would prepare anyone to head out into winter conditions in the Northwest high country; they would have to have experience with those sorts of conditions from some previous adventure before they could responsibly go forward.

- Many people in different parts of northern Washington wisely did not head out into the bad weather last week, and others did but turned around before they got themselves in a pickle. My old pal Spit Walker sent me an e-mail saying he hiked 50 miles southbound to get out of the Glacier Peak Wilderness; he said it was "the best decision of my life" and "I was about an hour away from big trouble." Very few hikers are going to end up finishing at the monument after October 1, and some that do will have road-walked around the mountains (as Andy and Cream Tea, whom I knew back in the desert, are currently doing, according to their posts in the facebook group). Muk-Muk and Myla from Carleton are hiking/snowshoeing either together or very close to each other on the PCT proper, along with maybe 10 other hikers, between Stehekin and the finish at the moment.

- Finally, I updated the FAQ page to include some new questions and better answers to the old ones, now that I've actually finished the hike (all the previous answers were written in March and were based off my AT hike and things I'd read about the PCT).

- Scrub