“Even though it’s our 42nd year of marriage, in this hiking together all day and living in our small tent together, 24/7 for four weeks, we have actually gotten to know one another better.”— Boni Deal
Thirty-six years ago, Dave and Boni Deal hiked across Washington State on the Pacific Crest Trail with their toddler son, an adventure full of perilous moments and beauty.
There were no cell phones, ultralight hiking gear or modern trail shoes. The Deals wore leather boots, carried heavy backpacks and relied on family members to drop off food resupply boxes every 75 to 100 miles.
“Gabriel must have liked it, because now, he has completed the entire PCT, as well as the Continental Divide Trail through the Rockies,” said Boni.
Both trails begin in Canada and end in Mexico.
Recently, the Deals decided to take on the challenge of the PCT once again, this time across Oregon. They began in Cascade Locks and ended some 480 miles later in Ashland, after backtracking from the Oregon-California border.
Some things have changed a lot since 1979: Dave and Boni wore lightweight trail shoes, had a cell phone for emergencies, carried backpacks less than half the weight of the previous hike and their son, now 40, helped arrange the logistics.
Hiking 18 to 20 miles a day, every day for four weeks, across the Cascade Mountain Range, is not for the faint of heart. But Dave, 66, and Boni, 62, have always been up for adventure. The couple met 45 years ago in a local mountaineering club at Hamilton Mountain and have lived in a Fern Prairie cabin without electricity since 1977.
The Raku ceramics artists share a love of climbing, hiking, the outdoors and art.
After Gabriel encouraged them to tackle the PCT once again, Boni spent last winter researching ultralight hiking and planning the trip. The couple prepared physically for their upcoming journey with hikes at Table Mountain every weekend. During the past few years, they have also completed a 100 mile hike and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
When they left Cascade Locks on Aug. 21, Dave’s backpack weighed 40 pounds and Boni’s was 25. It is quite the change from the 125 pounds he carried on his back in 1979.
“I am definitely not as strong now so the lighter weight helped,” he said. “But I felt good during this trip, and didn’t have any leg cramps.”
Other than blisters, Boni didn’t experience any physical ailments.
“I felt great,” she said. “We really got into shape to go and the lighter pack felt great. There was a major weight difference and it was wonderful.”
She added with a smile, “Dave has not transitioned into it yet.”
Dave noted that he did bring along a lighter ceramic coffee cup on their latest adventure.
“I’m easing into it gradually,” he said.
The couple mainly ate dehydrated and lightweight high calorie foods, such as soups, potatoes, nuts, chips, jerky, energy bars and dried fruit.
“It was a good diet, but we both agreed if we did something like this again we’d try for more variety,” Dave said.
Instead of clunky leather hiking boots, the couple wore Brooks Cascadia shoes, which are lightweight but grip the trails well.
“The shoes are the biggest difference for me from last time we hiked the PCT,” Dave said. “Even after they ripped across the top, the were fine. That’s the way to go.”
Boni noted their tent weighed just 2.5 pounds, but was roomy and comfortable.
“It was great, she said. “It was just a single wall but had two entries and exits, and you could sit comfortably in it.”
During the four-week hike, a highlight for Boni was the alpine environment.
“Crater Lake was one favorite,” she said. “It was incredibly beautiful. And even though it’s our 42nd year of marriage, in this hiking together all day and living in our small tent together, 24/7 for four weeks, we have actually gotten to know one another better.”
Dave noted that he enjoyed exploring new places the most.
“My preconceived ideas were surprised by unexpected beauty,” he said. “Another highlight is when you’re really tired at the end of the day, having coffee and cookies at camp.”
The two artists will use inspiration from the trip to create new pieces for an exhibit of their Raku ceramics at the Second Story Gallery at the Camas Public Library in the spring. Their work will also be on display at the Wild Arts Festival in Portland from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21 and 22.
Dave noted that the trip through wilderness areas, forest and national parks gave the couple inspiration for future pieces.
“This trip inspired me to get back to work on our ceramic art; like seeing rocky spires of variegated volcanic layers, and flowing patterns in obsidian-laced rocks,” he said.
Boni hopes to incorporate some of the gnarly timberline trees and plants into their Batik Raku pieces.
“Our goal has always been to try to reflect the beauty of God’s creations,” she said.