Our Trek along the PCT… Peggy’s Perspective: Part I

I

Curt and I had just started down the PCT when we came across this sign near Mt. Ashland

In the beginning:  lots of questions!

When Curt first shared that he wanted to celebrate his 75thbirthday hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, I was not surprised. He has 50 years of backpacking experience and loves wandering in the woods. Then he added the 1000-mile goal. That surprised me! There were so many questions. Reading about the challenges faced by Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woodsand Cheryl Strayed in Wildadded more. Their combined ages when they started their adventures was less than Curt’s. The conversations and planning began.   

The first question was, can we (yes, we) physically do this? I had every intention of joining Curt on the trail whenever possible. He had introduced me to backpacking in 1980 and I, too, had fallen in love with the sport. But there was this age thing— for both of us. I’m 68, a child bride perhaps from Curt’s perspective, but not in the reality of miles traveled in life. Off we went for a week’s backpacking trial run on the 40-mile Rogue River Trail. Other than Curt falling down a cliff (well, only 20 feet head first) after his trekking pole collapsed, suffering minimal damage to his arm, and bouncing back on the trail, it was a beautiful adventure and a confirmation that we could still backpack longer distances with a bit of practice and preparation.

Here I am in the late 90s above Lake Tahoe. When Curt introduced me to backpacking by hiking through the Desolation Wilderness, he brought his 87 year old friend Orvis Agee along for inspiration. Plus, how could I complain?
Peggy Mekemson hiking along the Rogue River Trail.
We trained for our trip by backpacking along the Rogue River Trail in southern Oregon. Not 30 minutes after this Curt’s trekking pole collapsed and he went off the cliff. I thought he had a heart attack and charged over the edge myself. Ten minutes later we had washed the blood off his arm, slapped on antibiotic cream and were back on the trail.
Crossing over a creek on the Rogue River Trail.
Usually, our backpacking adventures have us wading across fast flowing streams or balancing precariously on logs. The Rogue River Trail provided beautiful bridges. My kind of river crossing!
Hiking down a steep, narrow trail covered with loose rock to reach camp at the end of a long day was not my idea of a picnic, however! (“You, want me to hike down there!?”)
A ranger cabin along the way provided a photo op for us.

The next question was how much could I backpack with Curt and still provide support along the way? I was to be his ‘trail angel’ in PCT lingo. I’d be driving our 22’ Pleasure Way RV/van as the support vehicle. We had been traveling in it for years sharing driving responsibilities, so I was confident I could manage. It was to be my first solo trip, however! My job included carrying three months of food and other backpacking necessities and resupplying Curt between trail segments. There was the fine print of course— and other duties as required (grin).One was that I’d greet Curt with a big smile, a hug, and a cold beer when he came off each segment. Given that my young/old husband had survived another 70 to 100 miles of backpacking through the wilderness over challenging terrain, the smiles and hugs were really easy! My presence would also offer a comfortable break from the trail and provide the flexibility of changing mileage, timelines, and length of breaks if needed. It was an advantage that few PCT hikers have. Curt is spoiled rotten, what can I say. 

We used our 22-foot RV Quivera for back up. (Quivera was a mysterious Native American city that was supposedly full of treasure but was always moving around so no one could find it.) I’ve had plenty of experience driving it. We always take turns, but there is more. When Curt and I retraced his 1989, 10,000 mile solo bike trip around North America a couple of years ago, I drove the whole way so he could take notes and photos.
A #10 can of Mountain House freeze dried food. The back of our van was packed to the brim with food when we began the trip. Each time Curt finished a segment of the trail, I would help him put his next resupply together.
This will give you an idea of what Curt looked liked when he came off the trail: Skinny, disheveled and sweaty! (Here, he had just covered 16 miles in a little over four hours.) And I was supposed to hug this guy and give him a cold beer? Yep.
Ah, the things that love will do to you.
In my role as ‘Trail Angel’ I provided many a through hiker with a cold beer, which Curt fully supported… as long as I saved one for him!

Realistically, I would not be able to backpack much of the way without someone moving the van from Point A to Point B. However, we could backpack the first segment together from Mt. Ashland to Seiad Valley which would be a great confidence builder for both of us. The rest we would figure out on the run! Once we hiked into Seiad Valley, 6 days and 60 miles later, I was assured Curt could do anything he put his mind to! (So could I.) Still, waving goodbye to him as he left Seiad Valley on his first solo segment up through the Marble Mountains was hard. “If you don’t come out, Curt, I am coming in after you,” I told him and meant it. He had looked nervous and said, “Call Tony first.” I am geographically challenged when it comes to finding my way around in the woods. Tony is our Coast Guard pilot son who has participated in numerous rescue operations.  

Our journey along the PCT from Mt. Ashland to the Seiad Valley brought us to the Oregon-California border. It is a major objective for the majority of through hikers who travel north. For Curt, it was just the beginning of his journey.
While we were only hiking 60 miles, there were plenty of challenges. Here, I am hiking up the back of the Red Buttes. We can see the other side of these mountains from our home.
A picture of the now snow-covered Red Buttes taken from our patio this morning.
Of course there were occasional breaks. I couldn’t resist this convenient chair.
Here we are celebrating at the small campground where we had left our RV in Seiad Valley. It appears that I was to get one beer and Curt five. Not.
My emotions were mixed as Curt turned to wave goodbye before heading up into the Marble Mountains. For one, I was proud of him, proud of both of us, for undertaking this fantastic adventure. On the other hand, this was the first section of the trail he was hiking by himself. So many things could go wrong out there. He was no longer the 20, 30, 40, 50, or even 60-year old of his earlier backpacking days. Would he come out of the mountains at the place and time he had planned? I smiled bravely and waved goodbye.

NEXT POST: When the unexpected happens along the PCT. Peggy’s perspective: Part 2.

39 thoughts on “Our Trek along the PCT… Peggy’s Perspective: Part I

  1. Terrific post, Peggy. It’s good to hear the other sides of the stories for a change. (No offense Curt…) But one question, How come you don’t pal around with Bone as much as Curt does?

  2. Thank you Peggy, it is really great to hear your side of the story too. You two are
    a wonderful looking couple and it is inspiring to hear and see ( from photos ) how
    positive you are.
    That sort of trekking is a sport only for those who know how but it must be stunning.
    As to hugging this sweaty and smiling guy … well, you seem quite happy with it. 😊 .
    Wishing you all luck on this trip.

    Miriam

    • It was an inspiring trip in many ways for us and for others who have shared their stories with us. I found day hiking the areas where I dropped off Curt or waited for him allowed me to get a sense of the beauty for each segment of the trail….and I never got lost…grin!

  3. You two are inspirational! I have not been a hiker in this life so I am enjoying following your stories to get a feel for the sport. Age is only a quantitative measure of our time on earth but the qualitative data counts double as it describes what you did with that time. I am turning 55 this May and your stories and achievements help me to look forward to my 60’s and beyond! Your first PleasureWay trip around the USA in the late 1990’s planted a seed in me and I cannot wait to start our 72 degree trip around this continent in our van!

    • Thanks, Michelle. We have always enjoyed sharing our adventures. For one thing, it let’s us relive them— both when we write them and add photos, and later when we go back and visit old posts. But we also love the fact that they encourage others to think, “Hey, I can do that!” We very much appreciate your feed back. –Curt and Peggy

  4. You two are adorable.

    Btw, Curt, I wanted to let you know my blog is now private. You’ll need to ask for permission so I can grant you access, that is if you want to read me. It’s easy, you’ll see.
    Hope to see you there.

    • Peggy says thanks, Andrew. And yes, that shirt is light weight, takes up minimal space, and maintains its warmth when wet. Perfect for backpacking! I was carrying two and would wash out one each night. It also dries fast! –Curt

  5. Love, love, love this post! Peggy truly is an angel! It was nice to read about the hike from her perspective. I think she’s a little more cautious than you, Curt, as I would be, too. Having her be the “angel” and meet you after each segment sounds like a great way to hike the trail.Can’t wait to read more.

    • Peggy is laughing about the “more cautious” comment and shaking her head yes, Juliann. I would add, however, I have never suggested an adventure that she wasn’t up for! 🙂 Thanks. –Curt

  6. Curt, Peggy is a natural writer! 😀 I loved reading her side of this humongous adventure and she paints a vivid picture of the trails / trials ahead, her concerns. The fun between you both is palpable and I’m laughing at her sense of humour! So many throughout the piece – hope she snagged some beers back! Peggy looks so relaxed and at ease in the photos, are you sure she was hiking?! More a model! The tree stump chair looks brilliant!

    I’m in awe of you both … looking forward to the next instalment! 😀

    • “laughing at her sense of humor!” Many of our friends claim she has to have a sense of humor to hang out with me. 🙂 Laughing. I avoid taking pictures of her when she is grumpy, Annika. It would only get me in more trouble. And yes, we do have fun together. Laughing, teasing in a fun way, and sharing are all important to our relationship. Thanks. –Curt

    • ….and where would Peggy be without Curt? We are a good team, so lucky to have crossed paths. Yes, we laugh a lot….it seems natural! And, no, Curt is not allowed to take “grumpy” photos….of course, that would make us laugh too! Peggy

    • I love that this post inspired you to keep walking! Thank you for sharing that. It is amazing what one can see on daily walks in familiar places. Peggy

  7. My wife and I were so inspired by this post we hiked tonight. A mile or two, and back again. On flat sidewalks. To a restaurant.

    Guess we have a ways to go before we catch up with you two.

  8. Peggy what a delight to hear your perspective! You really deserve the best wife ever in my opinion.A testament to the love for each other and the love of adventure you share. Wonderful!

    • Thank you! We are pretty fortunate to have found each other. Sharing my perspective reminded me of how difficult it is to write with a focus although I do keep a journal for our adventures. I appreciated the encouragement from Curt’s followers. Peggy

  9. Peggy, you have the sweetest smile around! No wonder Curt kept moving; he had to get back to you! What a great experience this was for both of you, and we all know you could have done lots more of the backpacking yourself – very selfless and supportive of you to be the trail angel instead of the hiker this time.

    • Thank you…..grin! I did miss being on the trail with Curt but we intend to make up for that this summer. it was an eyeopener to experience the trail support and community support along the way. it was a reminder of how many good, caring people are out there. Peggy

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