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Ray Riches talks on Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

To adequately talk about a 2,600 mile walk would perhaps take up more hours than the Ring cycle. It was for this reason that Heptonstall resident Ray Riches paid a second visit to a Todmorden U3A general meeting to relate the second part of his walk of the Pacific Crest Trail at the August meeting.

The trail follows the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascade Range between Mexico and the Canadian border. Ray started by giving a précis of his first talk for those who had not heard it. He then went on to say that for the second stage, he was now experienced and had cut down the weight he carried from 40lbs. to 15lbs. His starting point was the middle of the trail, where he had left off on his first trip and his American friend and support, Ron Moake, aka Falling Water, was to walk the first stage to Ashland, with him. After that, Ray was on his own and at first he had a great sense of freedom – he could choose his own pace and eat when he wished. After the second day, loneliness crept in unexpectedly. Ray had thought it would not be a problem. He camped next to a couple, the only other people at the camp ground but they were not for socialising.

Ray continued to walk tree-covered country, covering 35 miles each day as there was nothing else to do. After four days he met some people. Human contact at last! Walkers of the trail send food supplies to the staging posts along the way. Ray arrived at his next post to find his box was not there. At this point, Ray told his audience that he did "forlorn" very well, going about the camp site dropping the word that he was walking the trail and his food hadn't turned up. Food came his way from all points. Ray set off the next day and it rained throughout. Daylight revealed that it had snowed in the night, obscuring the trail. He followed some footsteps only to realise after a while that he was going up the mountain, evidently following a climber rather than a fellow walker of the trail. He was forced to go down into the valley and walk seven miles in order to go through a pass before rising again to find the trail.

Ray hobbled into the next camp, Odell Lake, in some pain due to split shins. He was fortunate in encountering Jolene, who plied him with Ibuprofen and treated his legs. One Dave Wilson offered another style of pain killer in the form of a bottle of whiskey, which Ray gratefully accepted. Recovered, after a fashion, Ray set off for his next stop, Shelter Cove, two days later. He arrived there too early to receive his food box but set off again without waiting. Arriving at a parking spot, he was able to garner some food in the same fashion as before. Likewise two miles on, when he encountered some boy scouts who had completed their walk and had food left over which they donated to Ray.

After leaving his next stop at Timberline Lodge where he had a bed for the night, the trail was disappearing once again under snow. He was due to meet Ron Moake in four days time. Would he make it? It poured with rain, sleet and snow for four days and Ray slept in wet clothes. Then, sunshine, and the opportunity to dry out. Ray met Ron Moake in Portland and was driven by him to the Washington State line. Ray was met by a friend, John, who walked with him the four hundred miles to the Canadian border. By this time Ray's food was all at the appointed places, so no more begging needed.

One night they scared by strange noises but dare not look outside their tents. They were told the following morning that they had heard the mating calls of elk. Ray also encountered a black bear, a species afraid of humans and which will not attack, and sure enough, as Ray slowly approached, it ran off. Close to the border Ray encountered some not so wildlife, in the form of two llamas. They were not alone, having been brought by their owner for a holiday, the mountains being similar to their natural habitat in the Andes.

Finally Ray got to the border where he signed a register to say he'd completed the trail. He set off on the six mile walk to the road to Vancouver, having expected to meet Ron, but who was not there. Two miles further on, there was Ron, walking towards him. As Ray recounted it, they continued to walk towards each other like two gunfighters in a western, before embracing. Ron had brought all the kinds of food that Ray had missed and was craving, plus a bottle of champagne to complete the celebration.

Ray generated much laughter in the telling of his story, much of it situation comedy and enhanced by his impeccable timing.


The University of the Third Age meets at 1.45 at Central Methodists in Todmorden on the third Thursday of every month - find out about all of its activities at www.u3atod.org.uk

Many thanks to John Bouttell for this report


Previous U3A reports on the HebWeb

HebWeb News: Pitch and Pythagoras - Pulse and Prison (July 2012)

HebWeb News - Lord Shutt explains the workings of the House of Lords (May 2012)

HebWeb News - Claire Benedict talks acting to Todmorden U3A (April 2012)

HebWeb News - Kate Moreton-Deakin spoke about her day job as Associate Director - Corporate Social Responsibility with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust. (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fair Trade Movement (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Fancy a cruise to the Antarctic? (Feb 2012)

HebWeb News - Gail Allaby, U3A's Queen of the Underworld (Dec 2011)

HebWeb News - September meeting report - Report of meeting about Walking the Pacific Crest Trail

HebWeb News - August meeting report - Bolton Abbey

HebWeb News - May and June meeting report - Keep Learning: Live long and prosper and the role of the Lord-Lieutenant

HebWeb News - April meeting report - Belt and Braces - An Everyday Guide to Risk and Chance

HebWeb News - March meeting report - Growing Old in the Twenty-First Century

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