By Lillian Cox
ENCINITAS — Jack Ross admits to having difficulty adjusting to civilization following a 2,660-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. The trek took him from the Mexican to Canadian borders, leaving Campo on April 18 with his wife, Barb Bolton, and arriving at Manning Park, British Columbia, on Sept. 27 by himself.
“Life is very simple on the trail,” he said. “I came home to all kinds of hassles like the handle on the toilet being loose and the virus protection on the computer needing updating.”
The solitude and peacefulness on the trail also resulted in sensory overload upon his return.
“On my second day home, Barb had a party and it grew out of control,” he said. “We have a tile floor which made the noise reverberate. I had to go outside for 10 minutes to get my thoughts together.”
There were other things Ross needed to acclimate to, simple things like opening his closet to find a selection of 15 shirts. For five months he’d worn only the clothes on his back.
“I couldn’t imagine wearing all my shirts unless I changed them every half hour,” he said.
Eventually, he got used to the idea of living in Encinitas again.
“It’s great to be back,” he said smiling. “The weather in Canada really sucked. The second to the last day I got caught in the snow.”
Bolton left with Ross in April but on June 24 was forced to return home after being injured.
“In the Sierras, conditions were difficult due to ice, snow and raging rivers,” she said. “Over the 10 days I slipped and fell numerous times, fracturing some ribs and causing injury to my back. When I reached Mammoth Lakes, I realized I could no longer continue.”
Ross joined a New Zealand couple they met along the way. The three hiked from Northern California to the Oregon border. Afterward, Ross backtracked to Mammoth to pick up the section he previously missed that included mountains and dangerous river crossings.
“Barb met up with me twice, once in Northern California and the other (time) in Oregon,” he said. “She wanted to hike another 97 miles to be able to say that she walked at least 1,000 miles along the PCT in one season.”
The couple confronted perils during their travels, including the fact that there was record snow in the Sierras making 2011 one of the most dangerous and difficult years for PCT hikers in history.
“The rivers for me were the scariest,” Bolton said. “The trail ran through a river next to a waterfall in the Sierras which was so powerful that it moved a boulder that we had to step on.”
She added, “I thought, ‘How am I going to cross it?’ I started crying and thought I was going to die. Fortunately, four guys came by who were more experienced with the river and they showed us how.”
Ross and Bolton, along with friends, also encountered a 400-pound black bear in Etna, Calif. “When he saw us, he took off,” Ross said. Another hiker they met had a more chilling story.
“He told me he was in a tent when he saw a mountain lion on a knoll about 15 feet away, and eight feet above him,” Ross said. “The only thing he could think of was to press different ringtones in his cell phone. After trying five different tunes, circus music scared the lion off.”
When Ross arrived at the Manning Park Resort at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 27, he signed the register, using their hiking nicknames: “Tequila Kid (Jack) — Boo Boo (Barb), wish you were here with me (sad face). Sir Edmund Hillary said, ‘It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.’ For me, on the PCT — so true. This 65-year-old was determined and persistent and despite the creaky old body, made it to Canada. Yahoo! JnB — Love ya!”
Since returning, Ross has been able to cross the PCT off his bucket list, where it’s been since 1977.
For more information, see “Local couple embarks on epic journey” dated April 22, 2011, in The Coast News’ archives, or visit their blog at postholer.com/jackandbarb.