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Friday, November 4, 2016

Highlands Grad Hikes the Pacific Crest Trail

Will is a 2011 graduate of Highlands High School and in May 2016 he graduated from University of Louisville with a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering. This was taken at the northern terminus of the PCT on August 20, 2016, the day that Will completed his 2,650 mile trek.

This summer Will “Diesel” Modrall completed a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Will graduated with a B.S.C.E in May of 2015 and a Masters of Civil Engineering in May of this year. Will is no stranger to long distance hiking, having completed the 2,198.2 mile Appalachian Trail in 2015, where he earned the nickname “Diesel”, because he hikes like a machine.

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650.1 miles long, starting in Campo, California, at the US/Mexican border and ending at the US/Canadian border near Mazama, Washington. Although the trail ends in the US, many hikers elect to go into Canada to visit Manning Provincial Park. The trail traverses 3 states and passes through the Mojave Desert, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the Cascade mountain range.
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Like his Appalachian Trail hike, Will completed the trail solo. The PCT is less traveled and more remote than the AT. Will met other hikers along the trail, but his nearly 29 mile per day pace often wore out other hikers who couldn’t keep up. Will’s longest day on the trail was nearly 45 miles.

Will’s experience from the Appalachian Trail proved valuable on this trail. His gear was even more refined, and weighed less than 10 pounds. This was important because at times, Will had to carry more than 2 gallons of water, adding over 16 pounds of weight to his pack.  Unlike the Appalachian Trail, where water was abundant, The Pacific Crest Trail is quite dry. Typically, there were 10 to 15 miles between water sources. The longest distance between water sources was 42 miles, through the Mojave Desert, where temperatures were in excess of 110 degrees.

The distance between resupply locations increased on the Pacific Crest Trail as well. With the trail being so remote, Will often had to plan for an extra day, simply to hike out to the resupply point, adding miles to the trek. On this hike Will did not carry a stove in order to reduce his pack weight, and to mitigate the risk of forest fires. Will ate mainly dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, “cooking” them by soaking them in cold water.  Will learned a lot about nutrition and diet while on the Appalachian Trail, so despite burning 10,000+ calories a day, he only lost 40 pounds on the PCT journey.

The Pacific Crest Trail had a wide range of climates and environments. Only 100 miles after leaving the heat of the Mojave Desert, Will summited Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States at 14,505 feet. At the summit, the temperature was well below freezing.

Will hopes that his list of adventures continues growing. Will is making plans to hike the Continental Divide Trail, a 3,100 mile trail through the Rocky Mountains. If Will completes the Continental Divide Trail, he will have completed the “Triple Crown” of hiking.

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