December 6, 2016
If I had to describe Ed in one word, I would choose humble. When I talked to him about his hiking and climbing achievements he downplayed everything. When we chatted about his favorite climbing accomplishment his response was, “the adventure you experience is a greater accomplishment than any grade you could climb.” I mean seriously? I didn’t realize that I was interviewing the next Dalai Lama. Especially, when I know that Ed has some pretty insane experiences: 5.12 trad, free soloed in Joshua Tree, he climbed Cathedral Peak in his tennis shoes, aid climbed, and he’s ticked off some hard sport routes in Potrero Chico. But there is an upside to interviewing a person with humility; they are honest. So when we dove into his experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), I got real answers.
Ed decided to hike the PCT about 5 months before he hit the trail, so his planning had to be accurate and efficient. In addition, Ed was determined to “do more with less,” or keep a tight budget of under $1 per mile ($2,700 total). In the end Ed was able to average about 50 cents per mile! The easiest expense for him to cut was frequent visits to towns, which directly affected how often he ate out (basically never) and omitted any luxurious nights in a motel. Without stopping in a bunch of towns for resupply he was forced to prep and ship 12 boxes of food. He focused on saving weight by packing food that was light and dense in calories and nutrition. However, one small error in measurement lead to be nearly fatal in the Sierra.
Ed was about two days out from his next resupply and found himself licking the crumbs from his last bag of trail mix. I can only imagine those last few hours; trees start looking delicious then they begin to turn edible. Suddenly, giant Mexican street corn is surrounding you as you hike. Somehow he made it without veering off trail, but he was 15 lbs lighter. Unfortunately, Ed still had a few major challenges ahead of him.
The only upside to being sick is laying in bed and watching endless amounts of TV without feeling guilty, but how do you manage to find the silver lining of being sick when you’re stuck in a tent on the PCT? For three days Ed had nothing but four tent walls and rest. The trail friends who he had bonded with were now days ahead of him and he knew it would be challenging to catch up, especially after recovering from what could have been food poisoning, bad water (let’s just say that Ed wasn’t purifying all of his water), or a bug going around. Even though being confined to your tent is a bummer, it wasn’t the most challenging part of the hike for Ed.
Remember when I told you that Ed wanted to “do more with less.” Well, he decided that it would be to his benefit if he forewent waterproof pants and shoes. Which was fine the majority of the hike, but when he got into Washington where it was wet, where he was so close to the Canadian border he could nearly taste it, he was tempted to quit. All because he was miserably wet and cold. But let’s be real, Ed’s not a quitter. He sucked it up and dealt with the discomforts and finished the hike… wet.
But Ed also had some great moments while on the trip: the Sierra was breathtakingly gorgeous, Northern Oregon’s beauty was unreal, he had some long days on the trail – he never hiked under 20 miles a day, he had a bunch of 40 mile days, several 50 mile days, and one 62 mile day.
Now that Ed has completed the second longest trail in the United States, he plans for the next two, the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, to complete the triple crown of hiking.
It may sound like one thing went wrong after another, but let’s think about it. Ed was on the trail for 127 days and he only hit 2 major obstacles. When we are at home, in the city or suburbs, how often do things go wrong? Some may say weekly, some monthly, some daily. With those odds maybe we should all move into the woods. At least when something goes wrong there, beauty surrounds you.