Throw everything away, forget about it all! You are learning too much, trying too hard. . .relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the river’s flow.Mooji
It’s official, and if you have been sitting on the edge of your chair waiting for the statistics, here they are. Pacific Northwest Trail hikers and followers will already have this information, but for my other readers, here goes: Nick Fowler completed an FKT of the PNT on the 19th of this month, completing the entire route EABO in twenty-seven days, thirteen hours, and thirty-two minutes, averaging 45.3 miles per day.
“What?” you may be asking. “What does all this mean?” Since many of my readers are not members of the “hiking community,” you may be wondering what all the abbreviations are about. Here goes for starters: FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, and it is a thing that many thru hikers strive to achieve, but only a very elite few will ever accomplish.
But now it seems that I need to define yet another term, thru hiker. A thru hiker is someone who completes or at least strives to complete an entire trail, whatever its length. That can mean the entire 3100 mile length of, for example, the Continental Divide Trail that goes from New Mexico to the Canadian border in Montana. Or it can mean a trail as “short” as Mt. Rainier’s Wonderland Trail that goes around the mountain, a little over a hundred miles. Importantly, in order to be a real thru hiker, the route must be accomplished all in one attempt. If you break the route up into smaller segments, you are a section hiker, which is what I am. Even better, I am a LASH hiker, which stands for “long ass section hiker.” That means my “sections” are rather long ones. Three years ago I completed a 320 mile LASH of the Pacific Northwest Trail across eastern Washington. As to when an ordinary section hike becomes a LASH, I cannot possibly say. This is getting a bit complicated, as you can see.
But I have left out some definitions. Nick Fowler completed his hike EABO, meaning he did the hike east bound, starting on the Olympic coast and finishing at the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park. This is important because most PNT hikers do the trail WEBO. . .yes, figure it out. You are probably getting the hang of it by now.
Let’s get back though to Nick Fowler’s amazing accomplishment. Nick averaged over forty-five miles a day on that challenging trail. Unlike other National Scenic Trails, like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest, instead of staying on the crest for a couple of thousand miles, the PNT climbs up and over seven different mountain ranges on its journey to the northwestern tip of the continental United States, with an elevation gain of more than 205,000 feet, equivalent to ascending Mt. Everest eight times. It achieves these high points in less than half the distance of the PCT. As if these figures are not sufficiently worthy of respect, these challenges occur on a trail that regularly demands skillful route finding. Sometimes the trail is not a trail at all.
I admit that I have great admiration for those heroes who set records, though I have never aspired to become one of them. I prefer instead to be a hero of my own life. It is enough that I have carried a sixty pound pack for a hundred miles in mountain terrain, or that I have weathered blizzards, or that I have scaled peaks. I am proud of these accomplishments, but it is no longer the kind of hike I want to pursue. I am too old to carry a sixty pound pack. Heavy packs are the enemy of aging hikers. And blizzards are simply not fun. Neither are long, exhausting treks that set mileage records. I want to have fun when I am on the trail.
There will never be an FKT next to my name. I started hiking as a very young child when there were no abbreviations, no titles, no records to be set, certainly no social media.
Instead I have this, though it will never make for a clever abbreviation by my name. I have sat on the grass by the stream and cupped my hands in its cold water, lifting it to my face. I have leaned against my pack with my journal in my lap so that I can write about the display of wildflowers that spreads out before me. I have made camp early, not because I am tired, but because I have found an especially beautiful place, and I want to feel the softness of the alpenglow before I climb into my tent at night. I have done all of these things and more. And if there is a word or abbreviation to describe these accomplishments it is simply this: hallelujah.