Eagle Scout completes 2,600 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail
It would be like winning the BSA 50-Miler Award 53 times – in just four and a half months.
In August, Nolan Ridgeway, an Eagle Scout from the Long Beach Area Council, completed a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Over the course of 138 days, from April 11 to August 26, Ridgeway completed the entire 2,653 mile course.
Along the way, he had to deal with a broken backpack that caused an emergency trip to REI, a forest fire near the trail, and 48 consecutive hours of heavy rain. He averaged 19 miles a day on a route that included multiple “zeros,” or days off, and a grueling day where he traveled 49 miles in 17 hours.
Reflecting on the accomplishment – and becoming one of less than 8,000 people who walked the entire distance of the Pacific Crest Trail – the 23-year-old sees how Scouting prepared him for the trip.
It takes extreme confidence in the outdoors to hike from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. Young people learn this in Scouting. It also takes mental courage. Young people also learn it in Scouting.
“This adventure gave me a lot of time to think back to a lot of good memories from my Scout adventures,” he says. “Being an Eagle Scout gave me the confidence to keep going, believe in myself, meet other hikers and have fun.”
Bryan on Scouting chatted with Ridgeway to learn more about his epic adventure.
Help others get started
As a Boy Scout for most of his childhood, Ridgeway says he was comfortable spending long periods of time outdoors, away from the comforts of modern life.
“I already knew the basics,” he says. “Being a Scout has helped me not to have to worry about learning these useful skills. “
But other hikers weren’t so prepared. For some, their attempt to hike the Pacific Crest Trail was their first long backpacking trip.
“They needed to learn how to pitch their tent, filter the water and cook with a backpacking stove,” Ridgeway explains.
As befits an Eagle Scout, Ridgeway was more than happy to share what he knew – all while remaining courteous, kind and friendly.
“There are a lot of people in the backpacking community who think you need to have the best gear or know everything about the outdoors,” he says. “But the Boy Scouts taught me to be friendly with everyone, regardless of their gear.”
A look in the pack
And what kind of equipment did Ridgeway have?
Each item has been carefully chosen according to its weight, its usefulness and the comfort it could provide. His target base weight, that is, the weight of his pack without food or water, was 15 to 20 pounds.
“Some people have their bags under 10 pounds, which is known as ultra-light,” he says. “In my opinion, it takes away valuable items that keep you more comfortable outside.”
Sleeping: Therm-a-Rest children’s mattress, Western Mountaineering 20-degree sleeping bag, GeerTop single tent
While drinking: Sawyer Squeeze water filter attached to the Smartwater bottle – the kind you’ll find at a gas station
Everyday clothes: Quick Dry REI T-Shirt, Running Shorts, Darn Tough Socks, Wide Brim Hat, Cuffs and Altra Trail Running Shoes
“As I quickly discovered, my feet were constantly hurting from walking for almost 10 hours a day,” he says. “In the end, I tested five pairs of Altra trail shoes.”
For camping shoes, Ridgeway wore Quiksilver-branded sandals. This wardrobe choice, along with her love of surfing, has earned Ridgeway the nickname “Silver Surfer”.
Fight the elements: Puffer jacket with hood, hat, rain pants, rain jacket and bag cover
Toiletries: Ultralight hiking shovel, first aid kit, toilet paper and hand sanitizer
Technology: Battery, headphones, Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator and mobile phone
“To be completely honest, the thing I couldn’t live without would be my phone,” he says. “My phone had my maps, a hiking app, and a GPS (even in airplane mode) to show how far I went and to the next water source.”
Dinner is still cold
As he prepared for the hike, Ridgeway attempted to pre-purchase all of his food and have it shipped to him on the trail.
“However, as I found out, I was extremely tired of pre-purchased food and wasted a lot of money,” he says. “I have found that buying your food as you go is the best way to go hiking. This way you can try something new in each city and never get tired of the food you brought.
Ridgeway brought a stove but was never able to develop a knack for fuel mileage. He was constantly running out of fuel before heading to the nearby town where cans were available.
“I ended up eating crunchy rice, ramen and pasta,” he says. “I gave up my stove and found the cold soaking to be amazing.”
Yes, Ridgeway was what is called a cold bath. He carried a jar of cleaned Talenti ice cream (the kind with the screw-on cap) filled with a dehydrated meal.
About 45 to 90 minutes before his overnight camping, Ridgeway poured cold water into the jar and began the rehydration process. When he arrived at the camp, dinner was ready.
“The science behind this is that the sun heats the pot slowly,” he says. “Over time, the water is soaked in the meal, making it edible and somewhat appetizing.”
The less good times
Never in the history of Scouting has there been a completely flawless Scout adventure. But as Scouts we learn to adapt, overcome and make the most of difficult situations.
And so, when Ridgeway encountered obstacles on the trail, he didn’t panic. He has answered.
Leaving the town of Belden, Calif., Ridgeway spotted a wildfire about a mile from the trail. He could see the smoke and hear the Cal Fire planes above. He used his Garmin inReach Mini to message his mom and determine it was safe to continue.
Later in Oregon, Ridgeway’s Deuter backpack, which he had bought three months earlier, made a deafening noise.
“The frame broke in two,” he says. “Fortunately, I was able to adapt by placing my mattress between my back and the frame so I wouldn’t hurt my back. “
Ridgeway walked like this for three days until he reached Cascade Locks, Ore., And took a bus to the REI from Portland to exchange packs.
Also in Oregon, Ridgeway put his rain gear to the test for 48 consecutive hours of rain.
“Everything got wet,” he says. “I was soaked and miserable.”
But those rough days made everything else, like the sunsets in the Waterfalls and treks in ancient forests, even sweeter.
“I am very grateful for all the Scouting experiences I had in my youth,” says Ridgeway. “They made me decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I hope other Scouts can also be inspired to try a hike.
Thanks to Marc Bonner of the Long Beach Area Council for the idea of the blog post.