In 2017, Pete Zernia, thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail southbound in Bedrock Sandals. Thru desert heat, and High Sierra mountain snow, Peter writes this guest post about his PCT adventure from Canada all the way down to Mexico.
The first signs of the autumn have arrived: the turning leaves, dropping temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes and sepia-tone Instagram filters. You tried to hold out as long as you could. You pull on your calf-length wool Injinjis, coordinated with your favorite puffer jacket. You hope to make it past the first snowfall, but inevitably you start to lose energy. That post-work trail run begins to look less appealing. You can’t sleep. You’re irritable with your loved ones. What’s wrong with you? Then it happens--you put the sandals away for the winter.
For years, Sandal Affective Disorder has plagued my winters. I tried filling the sandal-shaped void in my heart with ski boots, snowshoes and insulated trail runners. It wasn’t until one fateful winter day, while dropping acid and playing with my pet lobster, I had a vision that would alter the course of my life. Never again would I succumb to the inadequacies of the modern pedal prison.
Down in the lab, armed with a table saw and Elmer's glue, I conjured a prototype pair of “Lobster Socks": waterproof socks designed for exclusive use with Bedrock Sandals. Excited to test out my fashionable AND functional new invention, I headed to my favorite combination bookstore and Kimchi Bistro to look for expedition ideas. While perusing the Roman á clef section, I stumbled upon a wayward copy of Wild. Wide-eyed, I opened what was to become my personal Bhagavad Gita. I had never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail but I felt called to walk its entire length, and I knew I had to do it in my Lobster Socks and Bedrocks.
From that day on, the Pacific Crest Trail became my life. I told every person I knew--unbidden, and multiple times when necessary. I was obsessed. Every breath I took, I took for the Pacific Crest Trail. I mentally prepared myself for this challenge by soaking my Lobster Socked feet in ice baths while meditating to Eye Of The Tiger.
Based on the fear mongering from my favorite thru-hiking forums, I believed this year would be the hike of all hikes. With record snow in both the Sierra and the Cascades, internet trolls proclaimed that prospective thru-hikers would either bail or die. Before I even began the trail southbound, northbounders had skipped the snowy Sierra or quit en masse.
What more could I ask for to test out the much-anticipated Lobster Socks? A quick run up Mt. St. Helens proved their mountaineering worth. Soon, my Etsy store had requests from the likes of Jimmy Chin and Conrad Anker.
On July 26th, I began walking south from the Canadian border toward Mexico on my second thru hike. The trail was bone dry, much to the dismay of Trump’s Climate Change Advisory Committee. My ice axe found its new calling as a trowel. My Lobster Socks found their new use as sock puppets, fending off my abject loneliness. The Cascades blew me away, but I still desperately wanted to use my Lobster Socks.
I continued grinding through Oregon and NorCal. As I neared Lake Tahoe and the start of the Sierra, the northbounders I passed and mocked reported a paucity of snow. Was this trip all for naught? Had I wasted the past 2 months wandering 1500 miles in search of a fabled white wonderland? Should I have gone with plan B, a self-supported hike to the South Pole?
As I left South Lake Tahoe, the pundits at the Apple Weather app began predicting freezing temps and precipitation: snow. I trekked onward, deeper into the mountains, comforted only by the thoughts of a white wasteland. Eight miles from Sonora Pass, the rains came. I set up camp early, having hiked forty miles during the previous diurnal cycle. I learned a tough lesson that night: I fucking hate snow.
Around 10:00PM, my ultralight, ultra-dumb tarp (it doesn’t rain on the West Coast, right?) began to flood. I immediately decided to night hike to Sonora Pass, hoping to catch an Uber to the nearest five-star resort and spa. My sandaled feet froze in the submerged trail. I tore my pack apart in search of my Lobster Socks in an attempt to save my little piggies. I donned the socks and started running up the ascent, over 10,500 feet to reach the road. The rains began to freeze and nearly a foot of snow had already accumulated on the trail when I reached the peak. With four miles left, I ran and sandal-skied down the the road, only to arrive at a closed Sonora Pass. Yike!
It began to look like a late night. The clock struck midnight. I now had another eight miles to the RV park at Kennedy Meadows North. Unwilling to waste any time, I commenced the descent. Thankfully for my knees, a rogue bus full of Washington stoners had made it past the barricade. Not only were they willing to give me a ride, but they too were headed to the nearest Grand Hyatt.
Storms raged on for the next two days, while I spent my time eating brunch and sipping appletinis by the poolside. The weather had finally shifted when I climbed back into the Sierra. Bluebird days and postholing became the norm. Drifts had accumulated up up to two feet but the snow quickly melted in the balmy forty degree highs. I found myself in the dreamiest of all sweater weather through the remaining Sierra.
Onward through the desert I pressed on with my Bedrocks. I no longer had any use of the Lobster Socks save companionship, but I carried them as a memento. While wearing my trusty Bedrocks, crushing 30+ mile days through the sandy Mojave was as easy as a stroll along the beach in Baja. The few remaining days on trail flew by as if in a Kafkaesque dream.
Minimalism is the new trend in the hiking world, from the 3 pound packs sans hipbelt to 1 inch seam running shorts. I, a more renowned Elon Musk, have created the perfect solution to allow all hikers use of minimalist footwear year-round. I look forward to seeing more and more thru-hikers crushing in ‘rocks and socks. For those about to Bedrock, we salute you.
All photos by and published with permission of Peter Zernia.
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