Ballard and Walker: PCT Thru-Hikers

Embracing the Alternative

September 1, 2000

Eagle Creek is a hydrophile's delight, and if we'd stuck to the PCT we would have missed it. That's right, we're trail sluts: We tasted the fruit of another and loved it. While we were down by the creek, the PCT was high—and dry—above us, plodding through the same pine-forest terrain we'd seen a lot of in Oregon. Heck, even the guidebook says "The hike from Wahtum Lake down to the Columbia River is far more scenic along the Eagle Creek than along the PCT."

There are those among the PCT hiking community who would not dream of defiling their trekking shoes with an alternate route, whether it be trail or road. There are also those who believe a true thruhike can only be accomplished by walking from Mexico to Canada (or the other way around) via the PCT and only the PCT. We are not among them.

Unfortunately, the PCT is not always the most scenic route to Canada. Don't get me wrong: We love it. But there are times when another trail tempts us, and there are times when we would most definitely recommend that others stray as well. Eagle Creek is a great example. So is Crater Lake. Perhaps most aptly described as a water-filled Grand Canyon, Crater Lake is not to be missed. The PCT goes so close—but not close enough to actually catch a view.

Why does the PCT skip such spectacular sights as Eagle Creek, Crater Lake, and others while running nearly alongside them? Perhaps because the Pacific Crest Trail Association had been in bed with equestrians since the trail's inception. Since horses are "welcome" on the PCT and unwelcome elsewhere, the trail is often forced away from major sites. Rightly so: Heavy hooves can damage trails, and hikers and horses are often skittish around one another. Injuries a distinct possibility, and of course there's the mess stock can make. I am certainly weary of stepping over piles and piles of manure and slogging through hoof-churned muck.

I'm not suggesting the PCT be re-routed, just that hikers consider their surroundings and their options. As the popular saying goes, "hike your own hike."


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