The 8th annual Pacific Crest Trail Days, or PCT Days was held last weekend (9/6- 9/8/14), and by chance The North Face store I work at here in Portland is one of the sponsors for the event, so I got to work at our tent, see some hiker-trash friends I made this summer, and enjoy the warm and breezy weather on the Columbia River. There were vendors talking about their latest and greatest technologies and products, and also some gear that hadn’t been released yet or would soon be available in the US. Alongside the vendor tents was a pop-up stage, where throughout the day the organizers hosted raffles and giveaways, classes and movie screenings. I arrived early on Friday after hiking roughly 55 miles in 2 days from my house in Southeast, out of the city and into the Columbia River Gorge through its extensive network of trails.
In the morning, I went back up to Sherrard Point to see how the mountains looked under the sun and it was like nothing I had ever seen. Each of the 5 peaks (St Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were prominent over the landscape. Mount Rainier is 92.5 miles away as the crow flies, and is just as dominant as Mount St Helens only 47 miles away.
When I arrived, vendors had just begun to set up, and to my delight there were already a few tents set up too! Some of these folks were just here for the event, but I was sure that at least one of two were owned by thru-hikers that happened to be passing through at the right time. I set my tent up on the far side of the island in a strong wind, then sat on the edge of the Columbia river as the sun set over the top of the gorge.
In the morning, the PCT Days had officially begun, and people slowly started filling the parking lot and wandering around the vendor stands.
Part of the schedule for PCT Days includes an opportunity to walk across the bridge at Cascade Locks, which is normally closed to pedestrians all year round.
The entire event takes place on a man-made barrier island within the Columbia River, just off the banks of Cascade Locks.
The first day was a blast! I got to meet a ton of gear reps, talk trail with some of the thru-hikers, meet some of the folks from ALDHA-West who gave me a bunch of sweet stickers, and of course, got to get a candid photo with Smokey the Bear. Once I had done a lap or two, my coworkers from The North Face in Portland showed up and we set up a vendor stand of our own.
When I wasn’t wandering around the other vendor stands, I was working at the North Face stand, talking about some of the gear we had on display (including my own MICA FL1 that I slept in the night before!) and running our raffle for a $100 gift card, which could be entered by providing us the name of the 5 mountains our manager had brought pictures of from when he section-hiked the PCT back in the day.
Along with the tents on display, I hung my backpack that I had just carried all the way from downtown Portland on the canopy we set up, and played cornhole on our promotional cornhole boards.
As I always do on any backpacking trip, big or small, I brought my guitar with me and jammed out when we had down time.
When the winners of the raffles had been announced (and there were a lot of winners, most of whom got some really legit gear like a brand new granite gear backpack), and most of the people had left, the vendors began to pack up their equipment and the guy who had been selling camp chairs next to us gave each of us a beer. All in all, it was a stellar weekend. It was really exciting to still be involved with the trail, even though I wasn’t hiking on the PCT anymore, and I felt fortunate to have a job that gave me these kinds of opportunities. The best part, however, was the chance to scope out what all these other brands were working with. I made a ton of connections with the other vendors, getting phone numbers and business cards, and maybe all this will come in handy next time I get back onto the PCT and am looking for some new sponsors 🙂