Zero days, for those not familiar with the trail, are days in which no miles are hiked on the PCT.
It’s interesting partaking in this hike, it is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Sure I’ve hiked, adventured and misadventured all over the world but the the extreme emotional and physical ups and downs are for lack of a better word, insane.
Some days I’m filled with euphoria, felling strong, free and invincible and then there are the few other days where the rain pours down, pain shoots up from your feet, you’re cold, alone and your pack feels like it’s filled with boulders. That my friend, is when you jones for town and a zero day….
My first set of zero days were taken outside of Stevens Pass, WA. It was after hiking three long days in the pouring rain. I was cold, wet, sore, miserable and wanting to just stop and leave the trail for good. I hitched to Leavenworth and checked into a hotel to start drying out my soaking, heavy, wet gear.
I explored the touristy Main Street and found something fatty goodies to eat before calling my brother.
My brother lives in Washington and I wanted to visit him before leaving the state. I was planning on catching a bus at Cascade Locks but the weather was “not favorable” and my ankles were swollen, so it was easy to rationalize a visit sooner than later. I needed a zero even though I hated myself for everyday that I went easy on myself. However, if I wanted to finish the trail and not die, I’d have to take a rest when my body is obviously punching me in the face.
In that regard, I took a bus that next day out to Spokane, then Pullman, WA to where my brother teaches at the University.
He and I caught up and devised a mini-adventure/road-trip to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. Not completely an opportunity for me to rest but a good break from pounding out trail miles…
We started early in the morning and headed west to Lewiston, ID, hit 95 South then took the Scenic Byway towards the Sawtooth Mountain National Recreation Area.
We encountered many unexpected diversions, for one, the hot springs that dot the area. We made a stop at a roadside hot spring that weeped into the ice cold Salmon River – and if you adjusted it right you could achieve that perfect temperature water that would accompany your ice cold beer ;)….
Idaho is covered in public land, so it was easy to find a place to camp. We found a great dispersed camping site in the old flood plains of Decker Flats. It yielded 360 degree views of the mountains and unobstructed sun rises and sun sets, over all a great find.
We spent the next few days exploring the area, stopping at lakes, springs, overlooks or anything that caught our interest...
Along the way we encountered many ghost towns, grave yards and mining equipment that sat as a silent historical reminder of the excitement and hostility this now quite land once hosted.
After a few days in the mountains we headed South to Twin Falls to see the famous Shoshone Falls.
We also visited the unique geological wonder of the Bruneau Dunes:
Finally on the way back, heading North we stopped at Hells Canyon.
After our return to Pullman, WA, I stayed with my brother one more day to procure supplies then returned to the trail….
My second set of zero days came after Timberline Lodge in Oregon. It was easy to take a bus from the lodge down to Portland and on to Seattle where I would fly out back to Wisconsin. These zero days I took to tend to my Mom who was having surgery. Trail return to be determined upon her recovery.