PCT Days 2023 a Big Success Despite Wildfire Smoke

Crowds explore the Gear Expo and Marketplace at PCT Days 2023. PCTA photo.

On August 17-18 thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and hundreds of PCT thru-hikers gathered at the beautiful Cascade Locks Marine Park in the Columbia River Gorge for the 16th annual PCT Days—a celebration of hiking, backpacking, and outdoor stewardship. This year’s event was bigger than ever and featured over 100 exhibiting sponsors (including the PCTA) featuring the latest outdoor products and information.

Despite a thick layer of wildfire smoke that blew into the gorge on the second day, spirits remained high and attendance was great. In what has been one of the most unusual years for the PCT—with thru-hikers skipping and flipping all over the trail—people either timed their hikes to arrive in Cascade Locks for the weekend or left the trail and carpooled hundreds of miles to be there. The joy of connecting (and reconnecting) with so many other hikers in one place was visible everywhere.

Kudos to event founder and owner Jason Waicunas and his team for making PCT Days the extraordinary event it is today! Thanks also to the Port of Cascade Locks for the fantastic location, Thunder Island Brewing Company and all the other food and beverage vendors, the wonderful trail community of Cascade Locks, and a big thank-you to the sponsoring exhibitors and everyone who attended this year’s event.

For the PCTA, the event is a valuable opportunity to meet and talk with the trail community, volunteers, and the public. We also caught up with our partners and supporters, gained new members, and provided information to hikers and the public about trail conditions, how to get involved, and more. Many PCTA staff members attended the event, some for the first time, and everyone talked about what a great time it was.

The PCTA staff and volunteer team at PCT Days. Photo by Shonda Feather.

Philanthropy Assistant Elizabeth Jones said “As a new staff member I thought it was a great event that brought all kinds of people together with one common love: the trail. It was really cool to see so many people from different backgrounds come together like this when they probably wouldn’t have all met otherwise.”

I really appreciated the opportunity to embrace community in a collective forum with people who revel in the same joys and passion for outdoor spaces,” said Social Media Manager Alyssa Orozco. “I think the event serves as a sort of ‘homecoming’ for the hiking community and appreciating that togetherness was very memorable. I’m also glad I was able to take my camera around and walk booth to booth capturing those moments.”

Alyssa edited the following short video that captures the spirit of the weekend…

Jeanine Russell, our Columbia-Cascades Regional Representative, said “From a personal perspective, I loved the opportunity to see so many PCTA staff and volunteers together for a weekend! From a larger perspective, I think it’s cool that we can tell the story of trail maintenance and trail information in this region with so many organizations and groups gathered in one spot. It’s great that all the folks who make this happen can be together to talk about their work and connect people with opportunities to engage through volunteering and more.”

Next year’s event will happen on August 16-17 in Cascade Locks. For more information, visit the PCT Days website. Here are more photos of the event, most by volunteer photographer Shonda Feather. (Thank you Shonda for your great photos!)

Photo by Shonda Feather.

Photo by Shonda Feather.

Photo by Shonda Feather.

Photo by Shonda Feather.

Wildfire smoke hung over the Columbia River Gorge on the second day. Photo by PCTA.


Author: Scott Wilkinson

Scott Wilkinson is the PCTA’s Content Development Director. A former professional musician, Scott has 20+ years of experience in almost every marketing role. Before joining the PCTA he was a marketing/creative director at West Virginia University and the University of Oregon. A serious outdoor addict, Scott is an experienced whitewater paddler, hang glider pilot, flyfisher, mountain biker, and (of course) hiker and backpacker.