Stop and Smell the Flowers: Part 1… Along the PCT

Penstemon. One of at least a hundred beautiful flowers I photographed on my 750- mile hike down the PCT two summers ago.

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is serious business for those who decide to backpack the 2650 miles from Mexico to Canada in one season. Think of it as hiking a 26-mile-marathon each day while carrying your food, water and camping gear on your back over mountains, across deserts, through snow, and every imaginable kind of weather. As such, it is not an exercise in wilderness appreciation; it’s an exercise in human endurance. It is one of the toughest, most grueling physical challenges in the world. People involved in can be forgiven if they don’t have time to stop and smell the flowers.

This isn’t to say they don’t have an appreciation for the incredibly beautiful country they are hiking through. It’s impossible not to. But this appreciation is limited. When Peggy and I were backpacking through the Three Sisters Wilderness of Oregon as part of my 750 mile trip, we met Big Red, a giant of a man who summarized it well. “I’ll camp on a beautiful lake,” he said, “and I’ll think, ‘Wow! I would love to spend a few days here.’ But I can’t. I have to get up the next morning in the dark and be on the trail by dawn. Otherwise I’ll never finish.”

I felt the pressure myself, even though I was moving along at around 15 miles a day. At 75, my shorter days were the equivalent of the longer days being hiked by the 20-40 year olds. I was glad I had my camera along and was committed to recording my journey with digital photos. It forced me to stop and smell the flowers— and to admire the beauty of my surroundings. Plus it was one hell of an excuse for a break even though I rarely allowed myself more than a minute or so to capture a subject and had mastered taking my camera out and putting it away while walking. (Okay, some subjects required 15-30 minutes!)

The flowers along the trail were gorgeous. I shared some of these when I blogged about the journey. I’ll be sharing more over the next few weeks as I use my photo-essay Wednesdays to feature pictures from the PCT. Enjoy.

Yellow leafed iris
Wild hollyhock
Western bleeding heart
Close up of Western bleeding heart flower.
Washington lily
Close up of Washington lily.
Wallflower
Siskiyou lewisia
Shooting star flower
Rein orchid
Phlox
Paintbrush
Monkshood
Monkey flowers
Azaleas

FRIDAY’S POST: My final rock art post for now featuring petroglyphs from Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Petrified Forest National Park and northern Nevada.