After spending four months traversing through the deserts, forests, mountains and valleys of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, Trevor Schissler of Roseburg has found he’s stronger than when he began.
“My life had opened up. I was engaged and things changed, and I had an opportunity to step back from life and re-evaluate where I was going,” said Schissler, 24. He spent six months researching the journey and gathering the supplies he’d need before setting out May 1 from Campo, California.
The Pacific Crest Trail winds its way through mountain ranges from southern California to the Washington Canadian border. Schissler decided he’d stop in 33 towns along the way, a third of which where he could pick up boxes of food he’d prepared and sent ahead of himself.
Candy, chips and anything with a high amount of calories were highlights, though Schissler often found himself drinking diluted cold instant mashed potatoes.
He started by hiking about 15 miles per day, but by the end he had grown stronger and left some heavier gear behind for other hikers, so he was averaging about 25 miles in one day.
Hikers of the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT, can leave gear behind in boxes along the trail for others to use. By the third day, Schissler traded his shoes for a new pair someone had left behind, to save his aching, blister-covered feet.
Schissler began the hike alone, but met many fellow hikers on his way, including a group he tagged along with on the treacherous trek through the Sierra Nevadas.
“It was the most dangerous and most beautiful part of the trail,” Schissler said of the Sierras. The deep snow covering the steep slopes slowed the group down and built up their endurance, although they were aware of hikers who had gone through the path before and had not made it out alive.
By the time Schissler reached South Lake Tahoe, he was relieved to be out of the snow and was able to pick up his pace to 25 miles per day.
“I realized my body was way stronger than when I had gone into the Sierras,” Schissler said. “My feet hurt everyday and I just didn’t know if I was going to recover at the beginning of the next day, but I kept recovering.”
By the time he was half-way through the PCT, he realized he was sick of walking. So he decided to push himself even harder and walk 25 to 30 miles per day.
“I just kept finding I could do more and more,” he said. “It hurt more and more, but I could do more.”
Laurie Schissler, his mother, said her son’s journey tested her own faith.
“Sometimes he had to go for two weeks without checking in, and when you’re hiking alone things can happen,” she said. She said Trevor would text her when he could, sometimes just sending the cryptic text, ‘I’m alive.”
Trevor Schissler said he witnessed acts of kindness from strangers along the way. At some camps he stayed in, he’d find someone had set up food and beverages for the hikers who would come by. Others would meet hikers at trail heads to send them along with snacks and words of encouragement.
Though the Oregon portion of the PCT was flatter than the California or Washington sections, his friend and brother hiked with him for about 40 or 50 miles to help him get through. Some parts of the trail in Oregon were closed due to wildfires, so Schissler and a few fellow hikers plan to travel through those burned areas in the future to officially complete the trail.
Washington was the hardest part of the trail for Schissler, with its steep inclines and even more difficult declines, but he reached the end of the trail Sept. 8.
“It was a surreal moment. There were four other people and it was just silent, nobody was saying a word,” Schissler said. “It was peaceful and I was just so happy to be finished.” Because he couldn’t cross into Canada, Schissler had to hike 30 miles back in a victory march to the closest town, completing 38 miles in one day.
“I was tested really hard mentally, spiritually and physically, and I think I will definitely come away a stronger man,” he said.