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Update from the 2,665 mile Bird Walk

Editor's Note: Birding Associate Editor Noah Strycker checks in with this dispatch from his 2,665 mile bird hike up the Pacific Crest Trail.  His trek leaves him little time for writing, but we at the ABA Blog are happy to include his latest report, composed entirely on his smartphone.  I hope your legs, and your thumbs, are holding up, Noah.

–=====–

Strycker After walking 1,325 miles, I’m halfway there: a small, concrete post in the woods marks the precise midpoint between Mexico and Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, near the town of Chester in northern California. I’ve been hiking continuously north on the trail for more than two months.

It’s been an unpredictable adventure so far. I walked through 700 miles of hot desert followed by 400 miles of snow in the High Sierra, waded several waist-deep rivers, climbed Mount Whitney, spooked a mountain lion, ate 3,000 calories in one sitting at McDonald’s, witnessed an assault and the aftermath of a fatal motorcycle accident, and trashed three pairs of running shoes. But perhaps the most defining point of this hike so far came when I lost my binoculars.

I carried a pair of 8×32 Leicas, acquired years ago as a prize in the ABA/Leica Young Birder of the Year competition, around my neck for the first 800 miles. It was great! Birding kept me going through tedious stretches of trail so that, unlike most other long-distance hikers, I haven’t resorted to headphones while walking, even during 14-hour days. In the desert in late May, migrant warblers filled every riparian area while sparrows sang from the sage; in June, the mountains echoed with choruses of territorial songbirds. Even atop Mount Whitney, the highest point in the U.S. outside Alaska, I watched Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches vying for attention with a fat marmot. And then, near a frozen Sierra lake in an impending snowstorm, I set my binocs on a rock while putting on a jacket, walked off, and never saw them again.

Of course I searched. The next morning, after discovering the loss, I rose at 4:30 a.m. and backtracked five miles of trail in the dark, up 2,000 feet, in subfreezing snow, across two scary stream crossings, but the binocs were gone. So, for the last 500 miles, I’ve been 1.4 pounds lighter.

What’s it mean, a bird man without his binoculars? Those things were basically an appendage attached at the neck. But, over the past weeks, I’ve found that technology really does not make the birder; with naked eyes and open ears I continue to boost my trip list, most recently adding a Pine Grosbeak and a Black-backed Woodpecker at its nest. Spirit counts more than anything in the backcountry, and I’ll never lose the avian vibe.

Birds will help keep me going for the next 1,325 miles. I hope to reach Canada in mid-September, averaging 25-30 miles per day without breaks through northern California, Oregon, and Washington. The best part of this trail is that you never really know what to expect from it. Bring it on!

*You can follow the rest of Noah’s hike at noahstrycker.com/latest.

–=====–

Update: In response to this post, Noah is happy to report that Leica generously sent him a pair of demo binoculars to replace the ones he lost.  Noah writes "there are few comforts on the trail, and after hundreds of miles it feels great to have binocs around my neck once again, just in time for seeing the birds in my home state of Oregon".

You can check out his latest blog post for details (www.noahstrycker.com/latest).

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Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker

Noah Strycker, Associate Editor of Birding magazine, is author of Among Penguins: A Bird Man in Antarctica (2011) and The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human (2014). In 2015, Noah completed the ultimate big year, traveling through 41 countries to see 6,042 species of birds between January and December.
Noah Strycker

Latest posts by Noah Strycker (see all)

  • I REALLY enjoyed this dispatch from your hike, Noah. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Good luck with the rest of your journey.

  • Liz Deluna

    Maybe somewhere out there birding is diversifing into the bear community. Nice find for a bear-even better realization that birding is more than the tools of the trade or the trapping. It is a way to fill day after day with delight.

    Thanks for taking us on your adventure.

    May your soles be slow to become holey.

  • And for those of you who may not be aware of it: Even while on the trail, Noah is still carrying out his duties–excellently so, I note–as Associate Editor of Birding.

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