I double-checked my hiking bag for signs of water in my bladder pouch, my lunch, a second lunch, and lots of snacks. I grabbed my hiking shoes and headed out of my apartment and into the early morning darkness. It was still cool when I hopped out of my car at Vincent Gap. The sun was barely rising over the mountain that we were about to summit, and the moon was gently sinking behind the adjacent rocks. I let out an occasional yawn as I readied my hiking poles and greeted the group of friends who decided to climb to the top of Mount Baden-Powell with me.
We passed signposts with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) logo on them letting us know that the path we were on was a part of the 2,653 mi (4,270 km) hike from the base of California at the Mexico border through Oregon, Washington, and up to the base of British Columbia, Canada.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges have been a feat for long-distant hikers worldwide and has appeared in such media as “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” a 2012 memoir by American author Cheryl Strayed and the film based on the book starring Reese Witherspoon. I wouldn’t be a PCT through hiker that day, but I planned on reaching the top of Baden Powell no matter what occurred on the trail.
The first couple of miles of the hike were felt fairly cool. Although there was a swift increase in elevation, I felt confident that I could get to the top. After moving in a tiring zig-zagging pattern through 45 switchbacks I dug my poles into the hot dirt at the top. There were slips and falls, moments of panic, and several bathroom breaks in the wooded areas along the way. However, after literal sweat but no tears, we were able to take our bags off of our backs and rest for a moment. Several small groups of hikers were also there signing their name in the registry book, examining the monument dedicated to the founder of the Boy Scouts, Baden-Powell, and snapping selfies with the summit sign next to the American flag flowing gently in the occasional breeze.
I thought about the steep switchback-laden four and a half miles to the top as I took a bite of my first lunch under the summer sun. I marveled at the fact that I had climbed to the top of a mountain for the second time. I still had my eyes on other peaks but being able to freely trek to the top of Baden-Powell with friends that day was satisfying, and it was an amazing experience in itself.