This year, I volunteered for duty at the 2021 Pacific Crest Trail Days, an event held in Cascade Locks Oregon on the Columbia River. As we all are experiencing a world pandemic, I inquired about the protocols to insure the safety of volunteers and attendees.
Across most of educated America and the rest of the world, masks are mandated, strongly suggested and required if not vaccinated. The local and Oregon state health offered free vaccinations with volunteers wearing neon yellow vest walking around the event for two days handing out free masks.
It was anticipated the event would attract a smaller gathering of hikers which allowed me to feel comfortable helping to setup fencing the day before the event, and managing and monitoring campers staying on Thunder Island from behind a table with a bottle of hand sanitizer.
The 15 port a-potties, nearby provided a unique and funny sight of clean hands and forearms on the dirtiest of long-distance trail hikers.
Because of the smaller than expected number of people, I enjoyed the opportunity to win a pair of “Leki,” Micro Vario TA hiking poles pictured above. The aluminum and robust all purpose poles will be my featured companion.
Of course beer was sold by Thunder Island Brewery Co, and food was sold from four food trucks, with 90-95-% of the vendors and food workers wearing masks. I maintained my distance of 6-8, feet asking everyone I spoke to if they had their vaccination. Only two had not and were not planning to get the vaccination, and they were older attendees who were not hiking the trail.
Many hikers sleep “cowboy-camping,” style, where one sleeps on the ground with a Ultralight shelter above staked to the ground and their trekking poles positioned across from one another to give height to sleep under. Because of the lack of rain recently, it’s a great idea until it rains. Many of the hikers carry between 15-30 pounds of gear on the backs including food.
Many of the backpackers have covered over two thousand miles, and the word comfort becomes an essential part of their life on and off the trail. So many of the hikers upgraded their sleep systems to full-size tents, sleeping bags or a sleeping mattress. Many took public transportation or hitched ride into Portland OR to buy comfortable boots and simple items like, pillows and socks.
One of the volunteers, a travel nurse from Utah who is taking 2-1/2 months off before returning to work, will hike portions of the Pacific Crest Trail towards Mount Hood in OR. He was born and raised in Tennessee and was excited to learn everything about the Pacific Crest Trail, including the gear he needed and decided to purchase. The comfort idea I spoke of became an influencer instead of carrying the lightest allowing him to enjoy the trail during his brief vacation. I’m sure he had suffered enough in his job and did not want the same on the trail.
I’m not a ultralight, enthusiasts because I’m not in a hurry and I love certain weighted comforts like a backpacking chair to end my day relaxing comfortably to enjoy a great night sleep. My Big Agnes sleep system pictured above and tent below provide shelter and comfort. Ultralight backpacking are for those in a hurry to cover many miles in a day.
After, the Pacific Crest Trail days, I will return to Mount Rainer for day hikes and maybe an over nighter or two before moving on to Olympia National Park.