If there is a short list of the things that have brought us together as friends, it would be:
"Ben! We found out who our suitemates are. One of them looks ridiculous! Go to the white pages (aka, stalker net)...look at this guy's picture!"
Low and behold, "this guy", i.e., Mr. Christopher Berry, was moving in across the hallway. Not only was he friendly, hilarious, and crazy, but he also played ultimate frisbee in high school, which was a favorite activity of Ben and Stuart's. As soon as school started, all three could be found playing ultimate on SPU's Wallace field 4 nights a week.
Later that year, Ben took Chris for his first hike in the Seattle area. Even though he had grown up in Bend, Chris was a total hiking n00b, as you can tell in the photo below from his choice to wear jeans.
As Chris walked towards the edge of Rattlesnake Ledge, he turned to Ben and stated, "I just realized I'm afraid of heights." Fortunately, Ben bullied Chris enough to convince him his fear could not stand in the way of a sic pic. Ben still believes it was the power obtained from that epic hip thrust (and not the dozens of other hikes Chris did that year) that changed something deep inside Chris and turned him into a true child of the mountains.
Having just moved to Seattle from Chicago, Nick connected with his long-time friend Mike, who captained the ultimate frisbee team Deadliest Catch. A few years earlier, Ben and Chris had helped start the ultimate team Bad Pull?, whose roster had grown as the team members constantly invited more friends to join. As playing time dwindled, Mike took the half of the team (including Chris) interested in focusing their skills and sharpening their competitive edge, and started Deadliest; Nick joined Deadliest while Ben stayed with Bad Pull?. The two teams created a fun rivalry, and the players continue to be friends to this day.
Just like Ben took Chris on his first hike in Seattle, Chris took Nick on his first hike in the PNW. That day they headed to Goat Flats, off the Mountain Loop highway. After rocketing down 18 miles of terrible gravel roads (and passing a creepily abandoned utility truck with shattered windows and missing doors) the crew climbed out of Chris's '97 Audi into the rain. Upon arriving at the Saddle Lake, they were greeted by a meager 6" of standing water. They slogged through the "lake" to the hiker's hut on the other side. Though they tried to continue farther towards 3 Fingers after the morale boost that came from finding a bag of jerky hidden in the shelter, the fog rolled in, turning the landscape into an indistinguishable greyout. By the time they made it back to the lake, the trail had turned into a river, and they were forced to hike the remaining 2 ½ hours to the car down the muddy "waterfall." Shutting the door behind him, Nick remarked, "so THIS is what it's like to hike in Seattle..."
Since those first adventures, Ben & Chris have traveled the world, and Chris & Nick have conquered some of the tallest, craziest peaks in Washington state. We've already had more opportunities for fun, excitement, and thrills than most people get in a lifetime.
And here we stand, staring at the greatest adventure to date. The PCT started as Chris's dream but each of us has embraced it as his own, and we have collectively made it OUR adventure—an adventure for three friends to play in the woods as boys and discover who we are as men.
NICK can only write in the first person.
I'm the kind of guy that you might pass on the street or glimpse across the room at a bar and think, "That right there, is a normal dude." And you'd probably be right most of the time. But put me on a trail in the backcountry with Chris and Ben and that thought goes right out the window! Hiking alongside my friends, THAT is my element. That is where the authentic, wacky, and energetic side of me comes out. That is where I want to be.
So, I like friends and I like hiking but why put myself through 5 months of non-stop hiking-insanity you ask? Well, as George Mallory replied when asked why he wanted to climb Everest, "Because it's there." The PCT is an opportunity to do something I've never done. Most of you will know that I've spent the last three years since I arrived in Seattle hiking and climbing much of the time. I've slowly been ticking off the big peaks of the northwest one by one. The PCT is something different though. You don't "crush" the PCT, you thoroughly steep yourself in it. You reengineer your life to fit what works best, what's lightest, what gives you the most calories. I've been doing sprints and this is an ultra-marathon.
Beyond just a physical feat though I hope to make this 5 months into a bit of a soul searching mission, a vision quest if you will. I had a similar experience on my NOLS trip in 2005. I spent 3 months abroad, hiking and kayaking in the wilderness of Patagonia, Chile. During this time I was able to step back from the day-to-day mindset and look more thoughtfully at my life and the decisions I was making. I'm at another turning point now. I'm leaving my job to hike the trail and when I return I'll have some big-picture decisions to make. My time on the PCT will help mold the ethereal thoughts about what's important to me and what to do next into a resolute mission which I can execute when I return.
age: 28 (will turn 29 on the trail!)
post-PCT weight: TBD
pre-PCT shoe size:
post-PCT shoe size: TBD
years in Seattle:
CHRIS is an expert "gangler."
I enjoy a different aspect of the great outdoors than most. Sure, my heart palpitates with excitement when standing on top of a mountain or arriving at a pristine alpine lake, but I also really enjoy the effort it takes to find those backcountry gems. Hiking up talus fields with my legs screaming at me to stop and trudging through fresh snow as the winds whips icy sleet across my face awakens something in me. I once read that John Muir would climb to the top of the tallest tree he could during a maelstrom of wind, rain and lightning to “truly experience the storm.” I get it Johnny.
I was born in Fortuna, CA where I spent my childhood exploring the Trinity Alps and fishing in the Trinity River just down the hill from my house. We moved to Bend, OR when I was 11, so enjoying the outdoors is in my blood.
It wasn't until I came to Seattle for college, though, that I truly fell in love with hiking. I got the itch and headed to the mountains as often as I could to climb as many Cascade peaks as possible.
In 2009, I heard about the PCT for the first time and it became an obsession. It is the ultimate test of my commitment to experiencing the rough edges of nature. Sure I’ve been out in snowstorms for a couple days, experienced 80 mph winds on summits, and trudged along flooded trails for hours on end, but we’re talking 127 days of it! Rest will be rare, mosquitos will be infinite, and the trail won’t stop for 2,600 miles.
When Ben said he would go with me if we did it in the summer of 2015, it became the perfect opportunity to accomplish this dream that will require more of me than any other trip I've taken.
So I do see it as a challenge and a test, but I also see it as a moment of freedom. Don’t get me wrong; I am not escaping from anything in Seattle. I love my girlfriend, job, friends, and family. But when one walks into the backcountry one starts to feel a sense of rising capability and self-sufficiency that can’t be found in a modern urban environment.
So there you have it. My motivation. Oh yeah, and I get to spend 4 months hiking with two of the most kind, funny, and enthusiastic people I know.
post-PCT Weight: TBD
pre-PCT shoe size:
post-PCT shoe size: TBD
BEN can't tie his own shoes. And doesn't know what pants are.
My heart doesn't really sing unless I'm near the mountains.
I was born in CO and raised in rural MT, so I've known the wild places longer than any others. It was in the shadows of mountains that I explored the outdoors through hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and skiing. There wasn't a season that didn't have an enticing reason to spend as much time in the woods as I could.
When I came to Seattle, WA, 10 years ago for college, I came with the intention of familiarizing myself with the peaks of the PNW, which I've done in the company of like-minded friends by chasing placid lakes, cold rivers, rocky crags, and dark forests in search for adventure, adrenaline, serenity, and wonder.
After college, I stayed in Seattle because I couldn't imagine a better place to be. In the process of attempting to discern what I'm supposed to "do with my life," I decided grad school was my future, so I began looking for options.
I was living with Chris at the time, and was very familiar with his dream to walk from Mexico to Canada. One day, sometime in 2012, while staring at the PCT map in his room, I told him that I would go with him under two conditions:
1) I got into grad school, and
2) we did it in the summer of 2015 when I graduated
When his eyes lit up, and he started cheering (a slight exaggeration, but not far from reality), I immediately wondered what I had done...
Well, almost 3 years later, June marks the completion of my MBA from UW's Foster School of Business. Staying true to my word, I have committed myself to joining Chris and Nick on this crazy adventure that will undoubtedly change us in ways we cannot predict.
I'm looking forward to the simplicity the trail offers—each day, I have one goal, and that is to walk 21 miles. If I can do that every day, then every day is a success.
I also have to admit that this trip terrifies me—I am afraid I don't have the mental strength to complete it, that I'll throw up my hands in defeat after only a few weeks. Strangely enough, this terror actually inspires me. I have a deep seeded need to test myself against the chaos of the elements and see what I'm made of.
Hopefully I pass.
And in case you're wondering, yes–I'm missing graduation and the last few weeks of school, no–I don't know what I'm doing after we finish, and 3) sour patch fruits are my favorite candy, hint hint.