An Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail, The Interview

Sam Haraldson on the Pacific Northwest TrailAs I’ve previously blogged, my friend Sam Haraldson thru-hiked the Pacific Northwest Trail in July and August of this year. The 1,100 mile hike took him from the Continental Divide in Glacier National Park to the Pacific coast in Olympic National Park.

Sam will be giving a presentation on his hike, titled “Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail,” at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis this Saturday at 11 a.m. I’ll be attending and I’d encourage anyone who can to come hear what he has to say about long-distance hiking, ultralight backpacking, and the experience of such a great trek.

As his occasional e-mail dispatches and batches of photos filtered in this summer, I found myself with lots of questions I wanted to ask Sam about his trip. When he returned, we commenced an e-mail interview, which I thought you all might enjoy. I had lots of questions and he had lots of answers, so I’ll split it up into a few parts this week.

Sam Haraldson's ultralight backpacking gear carried while hiking the Pacific Northwest TrailSam says he chose the Pacific Northwest Trail (rather than the more popular Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail) for a multitude of reasons.

“I originally began planning for the Pacific Crest Trail which would have been a five or six month hike and I didn’t feel I could successfully generate enough income for a five or six month hiatus. Also, the PCT would have been a far different social experience as I would have been hiking alongside a few hundred other thru hikers. [Sam told me that there were six other thru-hikers of the PNT this year, none of which he ran into on trail.] The PNT begins in Montana – particularly in Glacier National Park, a place I called lived and worked for a number of years and this personal connection played a big part in my decision.”

The hike was 1136.30 miles by Sam’s apparently very exact records. His total elevation gain was 157,000 feet. He was on trail for 61 days, of which he hiked 57. Those numbers combine to figure that he averaged 19.64 miles/day, not counting days off. He had one epic day in which he hiked 37.90 miles. Yes, I know. That’s crazy.

Trail signage on the Pacific Northwest TrailOver the course of the trek, Sam crossed Glacier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks. The trail also passed through Flathead, Kootenai, Kaniksu, Colville, Okanogan, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Olympic National Forests and the Salmo-Priest, Paysaten, Mt. Baker and Buckhorn Wilderness Areas. He hiked over four mountain ranges, the Rocky, Selkirk, North Cascade and Olympics.

Coming up: Sam’s best and worst days on trail, notes on the ultralight gear he used, and some thoughts on what it all meant.

An Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail, The Interview:

7 thoughts on “An Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail, The Interview

  1. rosie

    every time i hear about sam’s hike, it makes me think about how much more walking i could be doing. i think that’s a great side-benefit of his journey, maybe something he didn’t anticipate. i’d like to know for what reasons he was hiking. thanks, sam and greg!

  2. samh

    Thanks for checking it out, y’all. And thanks to the gergs for the interview. It provided me a good excuse to contemplate the trip again.

    Get outside and walk! One of the beauties of this activity is that you don’t need to be anyplace special. A road, a local part or creek trail is all you need to get out and get yourself moving and breathing.

    - Sam

  3. dharma bum Post author

    thanks for the comments, you three.

    rosie – I’d say our daily walks with the pooch are an improvement, but you’re right we could always be doing more. lots more. :) I think when I visited Sam in Duluth a month or so after his return and we walked up and down and up and down those hills in the course of the night, that’s when I really realized how great it is to walk so much… even when driving might be more tempting. quite the workout though! good question about the “why” of sam’s walking and his hike. maybe that will get answered in the posts to come… maybe… :)

    scott – well… these are the sacrifices one must make when spending a few days laying on a beach in mexico. :)

    sam – what can I say, thank you for great responses to my questions. it’s been fun. you’re right about walking. all you need is your feet, really. its simplicity is matched only by its positive effect on the soul.

  4. samh

    I went for a two hour walk all around Duluth the night before last. I look at my computer all day and sit on my ass so it feels good to get out and move. I bring along my camera and take random pictures of stuff. It’s relaxing and gets me to breathing and meditating.

    - Sam

  5. Forrest

    I wish I could have been there to hear the talk! Sam hiked from one of my favorite places ( Glacier National Park, aka Heaven ) to another favorite place, and where I live. It must have been an amazing adventure.

    I would love to do a hike like this myself, although I have to admit cycling 40 miles in a day is pretty intense … I can’t believe a person hiked that far, and then presumably got up and marched on the next day. Incredible!
    .-= Forrest´s last blog ..Granite Mountain Lookout =-.

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