Sunday, May 3, 2009

PCT: Rick DeLong, the Thru-Hiker

I just spent two days with my nephew, Rick DeLong, doing two days and 34.4 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I met Rick at 5:30 a.m. (thank you Judy for waking up at 3:10 a.m. to drive me) at Scissors Crossing, at the Junction of the S2 and Hwy 78, east of Julian.
On Friday, May 1, we hiked 20.4 mile through the San Felipe Hills the first day, camping about 3.5 miles south of Montezuma Valley Road. On Saturday, we did an additional 14 miles, coming out at Hwy 79 northwest of Warner Springs.

Rick started a blog titled "Hiking the PCT on a Budget" ( and has spent much time reading and analyzing issues that relate to a thru-hike of the PCT, including light, low-cost equipment and clothing. I was amazed as Rick reviewed my equipment and contrasted it with his own: my Nalgene bottles weigh 7 ounces, a plastic Gatorade bottle (which he didn't have) is 1 ounce; my Camelback bladder is 7 ounces, his Platypus bladder is 2 ounces; my pack is approximately 3 1/2 pounds, his is 10 ounces; my Ridgerest sleeping pad is about 7 ounces, his sleeping pad is about 2 ounces; my pants are about 7 ounces, his pants are about 2 ounces. I have a 1 pound, goose down, 35 degree Marmont sleeping bag, he has a goose down sleeping bag that converts into a warm coat (performing a double function - see picture below).
I use a 1 1/2 pound North Face Gore-Tex bivvy bag, he uses a light tarp if he's not sleeping under the stars. I was probably carrying 15 pounds more weight in my pack than he was. He pointed out the difference when he picked up my bag, in addition to his own.
I was wearing a baseball style cap, a long-sleeve synthetic shirt, long-leg zip-off synthetic pants, silk liner socks, heavier merino wool outer socks and Merrill low-top shoes with Vibram soles. He was wearing a light-weight merino wool shirt which he says does not stink when it gets used, like synthetic shirts do. He was wearing short, synthetic shorts, one pair of synthetic socks (purchased off the shelf at Target) and light-weight athletic shoes. In direct sun, Rick used an umbrella.
He claims the umbrella lowers the temperature for him by about 15 degrees and that it helps him to sweat less, reducing the amount of dirt that accumulates on him. He also claims his tight-weave shirt and shorts collect less dirt than the usual synthetic fabrics. The umbrella allows him to go without sun block. When we got home and I took off my pants for a shower, I was amazed at the dirt that had accumulated on my legs despite wearing long pants. In contrast, Rick did not appear very dirty at all. He believes my sweat is the cause for the collection of dirt on my legs and I think he's probably right. Most impressively though, he had no blisters and I got horrible blisters. He believes that my feet were sweating more with the thicker socks which contributed to the blisters. Again, I believe he's right (the first day of the trip it got up to 90 degrees).
It was fun being with Rick and meeting other thru-hikers on this early portion of the PCT for those starting from Mexico. Because there is a 24 miles stretch without water, "trail angels" placed plastic one gallon bottles of water at about the 12.8 mile mark for the hikers to consume. There must have been 50 gallons of water, about half of it consumed when we got there. Several groups of hikers used the water-drop as a resting spot and it was fun to find out where the hikers were from (Florida and Ohio, among other places).
Best of all, however, was just spending some time with my nephew. Over the years I've been able to do some fun hiking with him and other family members: Telescope Peak in Death Valley; Mount San Bernardino; the Nine Peaks in the San Gorgonio Wilderness, including San Bernardino and San Gorgonio; most of the way up White Mountain (cut short by a blizzard); a Sierra trek including summits of Mt. Langley, Mt. Guyot and Mt. Whitney; and last summer, Longs Peak in Colorado.
I wish Rick the best of luck on his adventure this summer. I'll be following his blog and hope that at some point I may be able to do another segment with him.


  1. What a nice report! Rick's mom thanks you. :)
    And what an icky blister! Hope it heals without getting infected.

  2. Great report. I have many hikers stop off at my "Julian Country Inn" for a short rest before traveling on. We offer comfortable rooms at an afordable price, also laundry facilities. My latest hiker could'nt travel any further because of her severe blisters and had to be picked up in Julian by a friend.
    Marsha Sarkela