Hiker takes on Pacific Crest Trail: 'Don't be afraid to try'

Alex Hinkle as seen on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail this past summer.  - Courtesy photo
Alex Hinkle as seen on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail this past summer.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Alex Hinkle undertook an epic hike this past summer when he attempted to traverse the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the U.S.-Mexico border to the U.S.-Canada border.

Starting in Southern California, Hinkle and a few friends he made along the way reached Stehekin, Wash., 84 miles short of the Canadian border, before they were stopped by inclement weather.

Hinkle, a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and the University of Washington, explained the inspiration for his trip, saying hiking has always been a favorite hobby.

“I enjoyed backpacking as a hobby. I wanted to find some sort of activity that I could do over the summer,” he said. “I just wanted to stay on the West Coast and do something close to home and get into the back country and kind of see the West Coast in a different way than I’m used to.”

“I’ve lived in the city my whole life,” he added.

Hinkle was a lifelong resident of Federal Way until 2007, when he began attending the University of Washington and living in Seattle. Hinkle, 23, attended Valhalla Elementary and Totem Middle School and then graduated from TJ in 2007. He received a degree in earth and space sciences from UW last year.

At the start of his journey, Hinkle went to San Diego and began the hike by himself.

“I went solo to San Diego. I did meet some guys, two Canadians and a guy from North Dakota…in Big Bear, California. We hiked the whole thing together from there,” he said.

The most difficult thing for Hinkle during his trip came at the beginning.

“Getting over the aches and pains and the blisters and all that stuff. Getting over the fact that tomorrow, you’re going to wake up sore, and still have to walk to town,” he said with a chuckle. “Once I was able to get over that, it was really easy.”

Hinkle said he knew his conditioning had finally got to the right place when he and his three companions took a side trip to summit California’s Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states of the U.S.

“As I was going up there, I felt so good. We were basically jogging and moving past all the people who were day hikers who were going up there. I just felt like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m in the best shape in my life, and this is easy,’” he said. “That was the epiphany for me that I could do this.”

One of the comforts Hinkle received on the trail was getting regular care packages from his girlfriend, Sydney Barloon. Those care packages would include sports pages from local papers, and delicious items like candy bars, Hinkle said. Even though the hike meant he would be gone from Barloon for an entire summer, Hinkle said she was supportive.

“She’d always been supportive of it. She was a little nervous about me being gone for so long,” he said.

Hinkle also credited his parents, Lisa and Greg, for making his trip possible.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them and their help,” he said.

The end of the journey came when Hinkle and his companions ran into snowstorms just short of the Canadian border.

“We woke up to about six inches of snow around our tent. The wind had been gusting all night long…in the middle of the night, when the wind was gusting, one of my tent poles poked through the top of my tent and ripped a six-inch hole down the side of my tent,” Hinkle said. “We had four straight days where we were walking through snow so I had to bunk up with one of my buddies in a single person tent, so we basically had to cuddle for four days.”

Hinkle said he’d like to try a similar trip in the future, but would want to try and traverse the Continental Divide Trail. It may not be for some time, though, as the 23-year-old now finds himself trying to find a job and make money, he said. His advice to anyone who finds such outdoor activities enticing is simple.

“If you have the opportunity to do something like this,” he said, “don’t be afraid to try and do it.”


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