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Fellow flip-floppers

June 11, 2016

Today I continued on toward Seiad Valley, and thankfully we encountered a lot less snow, although there are still a lot of obstacles from downed trees.  Mainly, however, I ran into hikers going the other direction.  One of the things that is different this year compared to 2014 is the much greater number of hikers I meet who are doing the same thing I am:  flip-flopping between sections in search of places that are free of snow.  In 2014 I got a lot of grief from people who seemed to think that a strategy that didn't involve going in a continuous uninterrupted manner from Mexico to Canada was somehow a form of "cheating."  I justified my choices that year on the tight timeframe of my ride (I had to complete it before starting grad school) and the greater difficulty of crossing snow for horses than hikers (who could glissade, or put on crampons and use an ice axe, or just hunker down in place for a few days and wait for the snow to dissipate). None of those options were available for me at that time.  But this year, due to the record snowfall in some places, a lot more hikers are also resorting to the same kind of jumping around that I am doing, and it feels good to have company and to meet people who completely understand and approve.  I'm also really enjoying making the acquaintance of many foreign hikers on the PCT, people who are here from other countries, whether for a section hike or a thru-hike, and who share my constant wonder at the beauty of the trail. I met a really cool guy from Germany named Tom who told me that even though he had seen a lot of beautiful mountains throughout Europe, part of what made the PCT so special was the sense of vast open space that you can only find in a place like this, where it feels as if you are on the edge of an unexplored wilderness (even if you're actually sharing it with lots of other people!).

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