Walking tall

Spring’s here, put your hiking boots on. We won’t all stroll the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 65 days, but Adam Bradley and Scott Williamson did

On July 27, approximately 2,000 miles into the trip, Scott Williamson makes his way through lava flows in the Cascades, near Mackenzie Pass on Highway 242.

On July 27, approximately 2,000 miles into the trip, Scott Williamson makes his way through lava flows in the Cascades, near Mackenzie Pass on Highway 242.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

On June 2, 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., Adam Bradley will be showing a documentary of the 2009 PCT Speed Record at REI Reno, 2225 Harvard Way.
The SWIP Trip kicks off April 22, Earth Day, photos and video will be posted daily at www.wildnevada.org.
Adam Bradley’s blog is called FSTPKR and can be read at http://krudmeister.blogspot.com.

You could call it the walk of a lifetime. Think about it: Beginning June 8 last year, Adam Bradley and Scott Williamson walked 2,665 miles from Mexico to Canada over some of the West’s most rugged territory in 65 days 9 hours 58 minutes and 47 seconds.

On June 8, from left, Scott Williamson, Garrett Christensen, and Adam Bradley stand near the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Christensen aborted his trip on the fourth day.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

It was a speed record. The previous record was held by endurance runner Dr. David Horton who ran the Pacific Crest Trail in 66 days, 7 hours and 16 minutes, another amazing achievement. But Horton ran the trail with a support team of cars to carry food and water from contact point to contact point. Bradley and Williamson did it with careful planning by which they sent food by mail carriers to arrive on certain dates at certain locations.

Williamson is a legendary thru-hiker who has even yo-yoed the PCT, which means he started at one end of the trail, walked to the other, and then turned around and walked back. It’s a race against the elements, as a hiker must wait until much of the snow is melted off the trail to begin, and winter is beginning as he or she turns around and returns south.

On June 13, Scott Williamson looks back at Mount San Jacinto, 10,804 feet elevation, near Idyllwild in Southern California. It was about 240 miles into the Pacific Crest Trail. The pair took two days to make it across the range. “That about killed me, right there, coming across that ridge,” said Adam.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

Adam Bradley, 38, works in customer service at Patagonia. He exudes a refreshing aura of healthiness and integrity. He’s got long, straight brown hair, glasses and that rangy feel of an athlete. He lives with his partner, Shelly, in a comfortable and tidy home on Forest Street in Reno’s Old Southwest.

He’s kind of a new phenom in the world of hiking. He’s not a runner, although plainly he can best runners at long distances. He calls his style of long-distance hiking, “fast-packing.”

On Aug. 4, at roughly 2,300 miles, Adam hikes Egg Butte leaving Goat Rocks Wilderness. That’s Mount Rainier in the distance.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail begins in a little town called Campo, outside of San Diego, adjacent to Baja California. It’s a desolate beginning, nothing there but the Tortilla Curtain and a thru-hiker-built monument. The trail winds through California, Oregon and Washington and finishes on the Canadian border, outside Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia.

He developed his love of hiking when he lived in Vermont in 2004. America’s oldest long-distance trail, the Long Trail, was right out his back door. He started with backpacking, and “being a goal-oriented person,” decided to walk the length of Vermont on the Long Trail (about 220 miles). The Long Trail is part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, which at 2,178 miles, is the nation’s longest marked footpath. (There are still about 300 miles of the PCT in private hands.)

On July 2, approximately 950 miles into the trip, Scott Williamson looks north from Donahue Pass, at over 10,000 feet in elevation, peering down Lyell Canyon into North Yosemite.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

Bradley was intrigued by hikers on the AT who traveled light and long. That was the beginning. His record-breaking PCT trip was his third thru-hiking the trail. He failed on his second, coming down with a bacterial infection.

“My base pack weight, not including water and consumables like food, starting out was probably five and a half pounds,” he said. That’s an extremely light pack. “And then going through the Sierras, I picked up some extra warm clothes, and then finally I picked up my tarp, so it was probably six or six and a half. Then coming out of the Sierras, I shed a lot of that and went back to, like, five pounds.”

Adam Bradley, left, is kind of wild-eyed at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail at 10 p.m. on Aug. 12. It was the end of a 51-mile day, the longest day of the trip. The pair pushed on to break the record with the largest margin possible.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

Since, from the very beginning, the pair knew they were going for record speed, they also knew their techniques would be documented.

“I wanted to be very clear as to what I meant by unsupported,” he said. “That meant never riding in a vehicle, so our feet never left the earth the entire way; walking to all our resupplies.” (“Trail magic” like a cooler of food or pop left out for hikers, or handouts from “trail angels” was fair game.)

On Aug. 13, the day after completing the trip, Adam Bradley is freshly showered and glowing with accomplishment.

PHOTO Courtesy of Adam Bradley

The itinerary was partly designed by that refusal to ride to resupply spots, so pickup spots had to be close to the trail. Bradley plans down to minute details, using Excel spreadsheets that show things like distance to next stop, cumulative miles, miles per section. When all was said and done, the pair finished within hours of the planned finish.

And while this sort of hiking is incredibly arduous, hard on the whole body but expecially the knees—Bradley went through eight pairs of shoes—it wasn’t a crash diet for the pair.

“We lost each about a half-pound per day,” Bradley said. “I had gone from 173 pounds down to 158 [at the Carson Pass], which was exactly a half pound per day that we were on trail. That was the lowest I weighed, but by the time we got into the North Cascades, the day we finished, I had gained five pounds back. So I know I have my food down to a ‘T’.”

Not surprisingly to those who spend long days on hiking trails through the Sierra anyway, Bradley receives as much as he gives from his time in nature. Plainly, he’s making good time, but there’s plenty of time to soak it all in.

“It’s very peaceful on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “The trail has had a profound effect on me, and I feel indebted to each long-distance trail I’ve walked. No one trail is better than another, they’ve all got their own thing. And I hope to walk them all someday.”

Bradley’s next big thing is a 500-mile hike sponsored by the Nevada Wilderness Project called the SWIP (Southwest Intertie Project) Trip beginning Earth Day, April 22, which will show the environment before a green energy power line is installed. NWP will post photos and videos of the trip at www.wildnevada.org.