Being forced off the route reveals ‘silver lining’

By Jake Arnold, Communicator co-editor

Sarahmarie “Passport” Specht-Bird

Sarahmarie “Passport” Specht-Bird had to skip four PCT sections last year because of fires. Among her missed goals, she didn’t get to cross the California-Oregon border on foot and she didn’t get to touch the Northern Terminus.

Walking into Seiad Valley, California, on the morning of July 30, 2022. The air is hazy from the
McKinney Fire. Right after this, we were evacuated from Seiad Valley to Ashland, Oregon. Photo
by James “Jumbo” Tyler

This photo is also from the morning of July 30 near the Klamath River and Seiad Valley,
California, with the air hazy from the McKinney Fire. Photo by Sarahmarie “Passport” SpechtBird

“After some initial disappointment, I was able to see the silver lining,” she said. Her unplanned zero days became mini vacations that allowed her to catch up with and hang out with people she hadn’t seen in a while.

A hiker from England she was with was thinking about illegally entering a closed area because it was likely his one shot to do the trail. They persuaded him the danger wasn’t worth it.

“You don’t need to hit every mile,” Specht-Bird said. “That’s not the criteria for a successful hike.”

Her goal shifted to hiking every available mile, and she realized it’s good just to be out there.

“It’s totally fine to feel disappointed when you have something taken away from you that you dreamed about,” she said. “But the trail doesn’t necessarily care about your perfect thru-hike.”

Alternate finish at the Canada border monument at Ross Lake State Park, Washington. We
finished here instead of the PCT Northern Terminus because of the Parks Fire closure. September 16,
2022. Photo by James “Jumbo” Tyler.

Even though Sarahmarie’s original plans had to be scrapped, it was still very
possible to find joy in the alternate ending she made with others. Photo by James “Jumbo” Tyler.

Josh “Long Story” Murphy

Josh “Long Story” Murphy said the sections he missed because of fires in 2022 now give him something to look forward to. But it took some emotional struggle for him to reach his peace. He had it in his head that the hike “wouldn’t count” if he didn’t do it a certain way.

“I eventually came to recognize a PCT thru-hike is about so much more than arbitrary points on a map,” he said. “I got what I needed out of the experience.”

Looking out over the lava fields of Central Oregon. Photo by Josh Murphy.

Mount Rainier, Washington at sunrise, with wildfire smoke below. Photo by Josh Murphy.

Selden Pass in the Sierra Nevada, California. Photo by Josh Murphy.

↑ Back to top