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

The fifth and final part of my interview with Sam Haraldson about his ultralight thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail. Here’s part one, part two, part three and part four.

Sam is giving a presentation titled Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail,” tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. at the Midwest Mountaineering Winter Expo. Rosie and I will be there, as will some other folks. Let me know if you’re planning to attend and we can say ‘hi.’

Hikers on the Pacific Northwest TrailMy last question for the solo-hiking Sam was about other people. Though he spent days hiking in perfect solitude, Sam inevitably met some interesting folks on the trail.

He says the first half of his hike, through western Montana, Idaho and eastern Washington, differed greatly from the second half, through western Washington.

As I followed the trail across Montana, Idaho and Eastern Washington – places where population density is intrinsically low – I met the least number of people. Making my way into Western Washington where population density is higher I began to encounter significant numbers of people.

Up until I entered North Cascades National Park I had kept a tally of the number of backpackers I met in each of the recreation areas I’d passed and this number was in the dozens. Upon entering North Cascades and moving westward the number of people sharing the backcountry with me as backpackers became great enough that counting them became tedious and I quit keeping tally.

Fellow hikers on the Pacific Northwest TrailOf all those people, Sam encountered a few characters that have stuck with him, from an older gentleman practicing a very minimalist form of backpacking (from the miles per day to the simplicity of his food), to a guy who seemed to emulate The Big Lebowski in more ways than one.

Let’s begin with Bob whom was backpacking outside of Bonner’s Ferry, ID. Bob is in his 60s and had been hiking these loops of trails or some decades previous. He practiced Tai Chi and subsisted while backpacking off whey protein and raw olive oil. He knew his limits, moved at a slow pace and truly savored the sights and sounds of his surroundings.

Todd, an individual whom I met early on in my hike while I was in Glacier National Park was driving his truck on the backest-of-back roads along a route nearly identical, yet reverse of the hike I was making. He had started at Neah Bay in Washington (a few dozen miles North of where I was to end) and had worked his way Eastward to the Continental Divide at Glacier National Park (where my hike began). Todd wore a bathrobe all the time, had very interesting theories on modern physics and was an individual like few I’ve ever met.

Some kind folks who fed Sam dinner on the Olympic National Park section of the Pacific Northwest TrailClifford, Steve and Andrea all hail from Northport, WA. Cliff is the town librarian and music teacher while Steve and Andrea own and operate Northern Ales Brewery and Organic Grocery. Clifford met me one warm morning as the library was opening and let me in to check my e-mail and sit for a chat as the temps outside rose to 100 deg F. His son gave me excellent advice as to the best swimming in the Columbia River and in a visit back to the library later that day soothed my ears with some delectable acoustic guitar picking. That evening while Andrea poured us quality brews, Cliff and Steve had an excellent jam session at Northern Ales.

I met many a good conversationalist along the trail. From small talk about the weather at a local deli counter in Oroville, WA to an in-depth ultralight gear chat in the alpine country of Olympic National Park the people along the way were a highlight of the trip providing an excellent balance to the beauties of the scenery and sounds of the wilderness solitude.

So that concludes the interview. I hope you enjoyed it and found it informative. Many thanks to Sam for his great tales and insights, it was a pleasure to do the interview and post it here.

And don’t forget about the talk tomorrow morning and to let me know if you’re going to be there!

Old-growth log in Olympic National Park

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

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

  1. Tony

    Particularly liked the article in the series on gear, although I have never felt able to reduce everything on a trip to less than 35 lbs – things you take “just in case” mentality.

    thanks, Tony

  2. samh

    To Mike:

    The Wilderness areas I traversed were (and I hope I remember them all) Salmo-Priest, Paysaten, Buckhorn and Baker.

    To Tony:

    There’s lots of great resources for honing your gearlist and realizing what things you need, and what things you want. Check out for excellent gearlist suggestions and to find out some good tips on multiple-use gear.

    Thanks for the comments!

  3. Pingback: Esker » Blog Archive » Introducing “Esker: Tales of Woods and Water”

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