All posts tagged: Pacific Crest Trail

A Korean Flashback #3: At Peace Among the Korean War Dead

The Korean War of 1950-1953 is probably more obscure for most non-Koreans — especially younger ones — than the older but far crazier, bigger, badder war of 1939-1945, and definitely than the more recent and oft-Hollywoodised Vietnam conflict. And what many westerners do “know” about Korea, they probably gleaned from eternal repeats of the M.A.S.H. sitcom. I never liked M.A.S.H. and anyway, it always seemed to me to be more about the Vietnam War than the Korean — I would even guess that many viewers thought they were watching yet another Vietnam show. The only time during my stint in Korea (as a teacher, not a soldier, although there were similarities) I was reminded of the sitcom war was one hot afternoon midway through my 13-day “Goat Killer Trail” death march up the roads of the Korean east coast. Passing this beautiful little ridge beyond some paddies as the sun-baked road hooked mercifully back towards the sea… ..I was reminded of those scrubby, arid hills stretching away beneath the dusty bubbles of those M.A.S.H. helicopters. In other words, it looked like a …

Unexpectedly Spring: Some Snowmelt Reflections

Well, the snow is starting to melt and the air smells like spring…  That’s how Kate’s email began this morning (yesterday afternoon New York time). I was at once overcome with envy and nostalgia for that revivifying time when you feel the change in the air like the scent of hope and you know you’ve made it through the harshest of seasons. Pretty soon the first bulbs will be pushing through the melt-sodden earth. Here in Brisbane the harshest season is Summer, and we’re not through it yet; it seems to have saved its heaviest artillery for one bloody last stand. I don’t know if it’s age, my general malaise, or if all those southern summers I missed while living overseas made me soft, but I’ve really struggled with this latest one. Over in Upstate New York, of course, it’s been, by all accounts, an even harsher Winter than the one I lived through in 2014. That was the most consistently cold I’ve ever been, but it wasn’t just the temperatures, it was the grey, the gloom, the oppressive monotony of the …

An Eerie Encounter in the Mangroves

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever bedded down in the outdoors? (Don’t answer if you’d be incriminating yourself.) I’ve laid down my bedroll in some pretty cool spots, not even counting the multitude of stealth-camps on or along the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails. Here’s a few that come to mind: Under bridges, foot-, local and highway, in Japan and Korea Numerous beaches and river banks Atop a rickety New Hampshire fire-tower Two Korean roadside bus shelters In the bushes in a Tokyo park A complete stranger’s front driveway (oops) in southern California A roadside shrine in Shikoku, Japan Second-highest summit in mainland Korea A hammock hung over a gushing stream near a Queensland mountain top A derelict bikers’ guesthouse in central Hokkaido, Japan A WWII bunker on Moreton Island A closed-for-Winter tourist park next to a frozen Hokkaido lake, underneath a giant fibreglass tyrannosaurus A building site on the steep side of a gorge in central Shikoku So when the chance came to add another interesting locale to the list, I was pretty excited. If …

High Peakin’: A Killer Day in the Adirondacks

The headlights swooped into Kate’s front yard and with them the first of many pleasant surprises that day: Dude & Trouble are not famed in hiker circles for their early starts. Kate and I are morning people. I’d never had a girlfriend who could function at 4:30am, and here she was making sandwiches — big sandwiches. Both of us were raring to go; in fact I’d hardly slept with the excitement. Apart from that short-but-spectacular New Year’s hike in the snow on my first visit, the Adirondacks for me were an open book. Now the plan was to meet Pouch & Nemo at the trailhead upstate and plough through my first four chapters in one hit.

Dude Walks into a Wedding; Trouble Follows

Yesterday I did my first hike of the year in Korea, a fun climb up a boulder field that spills down one of Bulmo-San’s numerous ridges. It was sunny and unseasonably warm; the frozen arteries of the Daecheongcheon, the poor blighted stream that trickles through Jangyu on its concrete-bound journey to liberation, were melting into the previous day’s bounty of rain. Just before the stream leaves the mountains, in one last desperate gasp of river-ness, the Jangyu Cascades churned with more power than I’ve seen in my year here. It was a good hike.

American Woman

Hey, all, and a Happy 2013 to my fellow bloggers and readers! My American adventure started brilliantly and just gets better and better. I was met at JFK by Kate, sister of Dude and close pal of Trouble, the couple whose wedding I flew over to attend. Kate and I had never met but she was a fan of this here blog. We immediately set forth on an erratic but always entertaining journey north to the girls’ camp in the Adirondacks where the wedding rehearsals were in progress. We were technically lost for several hours and I saw much more of the state of New York than I had anticipated. It was a totally engrossing drive, however; we talked non-stop and learned a lot about each other. I started the journey intrigued and finished it six hours later utterly infatuated. We missed the rehearsals.

Iceland Calling

Ha! Hope that got your attention! I was going to do a nice sunshiny post this time to reward readers who stuck with me through that sorry — and rather chilly — Jeju saga. I’ve done 16 hikes or prolonged rambles (the lines are blurring) in my five weeks in Korea and I’ve only been bone-chillingly, pre-gangrenously cold on a couple of them, so I have a lot of more temperate tales to choose from and a lot of catching up to do. But I’m being spontaneous here, tonight, sitting on my heated floor in my lovely little apartment, thinking about Iceland.

I Hated Boy Scouts

I hated Boy Scouts. The organisation, the activity, not the people. Joining the Cubs wasn’t my idea, as I recall. My parents probably thought it would be good for me, get me mixing with other boys, toughen me up. I jumped at the idea: camping, knives, a cool uniform. But once I was in, I was trapped, my Saturday afternoons lost forever.

I Shouldn’t Be Alive: A PCT Breakfast Sampler

Of all the hazards faced by Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers on their 2,650-plus-mile  journey between the Mexican and Canadian borders — long waterless sections in rugged southern California, treacherous high passes and swollen creek crossings in the Sierra, the potential for early storms in alpine Washington — perhaps none is more dangerous than the American Breakfast.

Skinny Legs & Aqua-Hiking & All

I was cursed with skinny chicken-bone legs, which presented no problems in my pre-hiking life as a sport-loathing, book-reading, tight-black-jeans-wearing, rock’n’rolling kinda fellow. Since my discovery of the pleasures to be found in mountains, forests and on long, rambling perambulations, however, I have often wished I had sturdier, more reliable limbs which would follow orders without complaint.

The Suburbs Come to Deep Creek

This was my 22nd day on the Pacific Crest Trail. I was around 300 miles into my journey, still feeling strong, and stomping out a few big-mile days just to see if I could. I did 27.5 miles on this day, but it’s memorable for me also for the amazing scenery, my total independence, and a brush with the uglier side of the world hikers are usually happy to leave behind. MAY 2010 I woke among the broken boughs of fallen pines high above Deep Creek, best camp I could find in the fading light after just scraping a 30-miler the evening before. The creek bank was the prize, but it was claimed by some rowdy people in a car, and you can’t be too careful. I felt good, free and light and alone; yesterday I’d busted free of the little trickle of hikers around me, said, “No offence, but I wanna try hiking alone for a bit,” and cruised on, reclaiming my independence, a long, fast day out of Big Bear through mile upon …

Finding My Feet in Blogland

It’s hot. I’m counting down the days till Autumn. Queensland in the Summer is no place or time to be an obsessive walker. Not for me. And I don’t have a car, don’t want a car, and this is a big country — a big, hot country, with most of the good hikes a fair distance from Club Mountaingoat. I walked 2,155 miles last year, April to September, from the Mexican border… ..to the Washington border on the PCT: It’s the hardest thing I’ve done. I earned a reputation for quitting, in fact. Some days it was only the thought of reaching somewhere convenient to quit that kept me going. From about mid-California north, I realised I wasn’t having fun — not consistently anyway. But what is that oft-quoted Mark Twight line about it not having to be fun to be fun? Exactly. So on I trudged, till I ran out of time and quit one state early. Washington will keep. After that, I came back to Australia for two weeks. I didn’t walk much …

Lament for a Lost Lead Weight

A landscape, like a man or woman, acquires character through time and endurance ~ Edward Abbey, ‘A Voice Crying in the Wilderness’ Walking to the station today, enjoying the blazing morning sun, I happened to glance into a local’s cactus garden. And that got me thinking about deserts, and old Edward ‘Cactus Ed’ Abbey, and cacti, which transported me back to the first days on the Pacific Crest Trail last year.

On Becoming a Goat, and Why We Walkers Walk

I had no further depths to plummet in the summer of 1999/2000, or so I thought. Unemployed, depressed, I’d fled Melbourne – where I’d thrown in my job, my sessions with a kindly Tim Robbins-lookalike shrink, and the two scripts of experimental antidepressants he’d prescribed, unsuccessfully, to set me right – and flown up to the hippy heartland of northern New South Wales to try to mend things. There was a woman there, you see, and a young child… It didn’t work out the way the prescription-fantasies had promised, and I lay low for a while in a rented caravan on a 600-acre backwoods block used by a certain sect of Hindu cultists. My landlord was a little Indian in orange robes who answered to Dada. I carved a vegetable garden into the hillside, and spent my spare time breaking as many of Dada’s commandments as I could manage. Things deteriorated even further with the woman; I bailed to my parents’ place in Brisbane. Bleak times. Then I saw an ad for English teachers in …