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Date Published: Feb 23th, 2023 / Length: 2Hours 27Min / Hosts: Dan Deveau & Chantal Deveau / Guests: Doug Laher /
Topic/Summary: In this episode, we have Doug Laher on our episode to reinforce the aspect of safety when planning an early start on the Pacific Crest Trail heading NOBO. His Son Trevor headed out from the Mexican border in early March 2020. His goal was to hike north to Crater Lake and complete 1,800 miles of the PCT before starting a job at Microsoft in July. He fast-tracked school to graduate early to accomplish hiking on this illustrious trail. 11 days into his hike, while hiking with two other hikers, he slipped on a steep slope with ice that was covered by snow. He only made it 169 miles of the 1,800. He was about 17 miles away from the town where he would pick up his safety gear… an ice axe and microspikes he would use for the next section of the trail heading up towards Mt. San Jacinto.
Since his accident, Doug has shifted his focus on making Trevor’s legacy a reminder to hikers to understand the conditions early into the PCT, understanding when and where you can take the alternative option when assessing the conditions of the trail against one’s experience, preparation and gear to help protect themselves against the risk of serious injury and maybe even death.
Doug’s safety advocacy not only to focuses on this section where Trevor was 11 days into his hike but also along the entire PCT.
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- 0:20 / Podcast Violin Theme Song: Artist – Trampled By Turtles / Song: Wait So Long
- 1:00 / Dan’s opening intro that there is a new update segment from Doug recorded Feb 2023 before we replay our episode 9 that starts at the 27-minute marker.
- 4:00 / Doug talks about how he and his family were in California and they ended up standing on the trail at the trailhead near Paradise Cafe. The audio clips you will hear are from Trevor’s 100-day Trek Facebook page.
- 16:30 / Dan asks Doug to tell the story of Russell who hiked in Trevor’s year and had to stop his hike due to Covid breaking out. He hiked the PCT in 2022 and after his hike… he went to spend some time at the Laher’s home in Texas before returning to Europe. I pulled some audio from YouTube from this video. His YouTube channel is excellent.
- 27:00 / Before the show “banter” – Dan explains to Doug that Chantal needs 15 more minutes and she just got home. Hung up on Doug and called my daughter and found you she has to leave the house in 10 minutes to pick up my Son 20 mins from when we are recording.
- 28:00 / Opening intro with Dan about the outline of the podcast
- Dan talks about his own fears. In a past podcast episode… Dan & Chantal discuss our fears in the second half of episode 3 on the podcast.
- We have made our own trail notes covering past the Sierra as of this episode dropping. Here are the California Section of those notes that cover the first 5 legs that Trevor hiked.
- Dan mentions the Guthook App (now known as Far Out). After the accident, Doug reached out to them asking if they could put a warning. They did immediately and Doug was so thankful to them. Here are the screenshots showing the listed hazard below:
We will talk more about this area later in the podcast
- Dan briefly highlights two of the three summits they hope to get to attempt with favourable conditions. Mt. San Jacinto & Mt. Baden Powell
- Dan talks about watching Corey on the PCT in 2019 and how he was scared to cross this section of trail at Apache Peak. I’ve embedded episode 32 below so it will start after the 6-minute mark coming up to this section of the trail.
- Dan mentions how Jon King meets up with Corey to make a little video about that area and also covers how to use an ice axe. Later in the podcast, we will talk about Jon and I’ll provide links to the excellent work that he does when we are talking about that area of trail where Trevor had his accident. That video is embedded below:
- Corey slipped and fell in his episode 73 and it’s covered in those three episodes. You can hit his PCT playlist and scroll down to these episodes to watch.
- Dan talks about the article Doug wrote after he and his wife wanted people to understand who the hiker that slipped and fell on the PCT. It was posted four days after the accident on the Trek. It’s called Trevor’s Eternal Trail. You can find it here.
- 34:30 / Episode starts with Dan and Doug
- 35:09 / Doug talks about some background information about the family moving from the Cleveland, Ohio area. We recorded this as the NBA All-Star Game was playing in Cleveland. I taped it and watched it the next day but I forgot to mention to Doug that I appreciated him taking the time while it was on. Lebron won the game on a last-second jumper. Doug talks about them moving to Texas when Trevor was 12 and digging into video games and focusing on school. Dan comments about Trevor focusing on fitness… but this will be a little bit later while at Ohio State University. Like my Son at 12, Trevor was a skinny boy with lots of hair like his Dad in his early years.
- You can see in the photo below of Trevor with his Girlfriend the great shape he was in just weeks before the trip with his arms and shoulders. Thailand and Vietnam is where I want to take my kids one day (see embedded video above) and this looks like an incredible rooftop bar in Thailand where they both went weeks before his PCT start since he has an opportunity to follow her along a trip there.
- At 16 Trevor went with a classmate and his Father to Yosemite for a 3-day trip. They covered 50 miles in those three days. This was the point where he fell in love with the outdoors. Here is the tunnel photo of Yosemite below and who could not fall in love with such a majestic and incredibly beautiful place.
- After getting back from Yosemite he wanted to get out more and started to plan some overnight trips. Doug talks about Trevor and a friend who planned a 30-mile section of the AT to do. At the last minute, Trevor’s friend had the flu and Doug stepped in to make sure the trip happened.
- Dan mentions that he has listened to Doug’s other podcasts that he has been invited to try to spread awareness to hikers about Trevor’s story and tips for them to consider and research more. Here is a link to those episodes: June 2020 / A couple of months after the accident, Doug has his first podcast and reads the article he wrote for the Trek on the Trek’s Backpacker Radio episode #73 which is very raw. You can find it here. In the second part of the episode, the show interviews someone from the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit and that is also worthwhile listening to. Doug was on Erin’s Hiking Thru podcast a month later. Feb of 2021 he was on Trail Tales podcast / in March of 2021 he was on “The By Land Podcast / then he was on Russ’s The Trail Creators Podcast and I really enjoyed that one since Russ was also hiking at the same time as Trevor and he talks about what that hike was like with Covid starting and the issues with hiking on the trail at that time. Russ remembers walking with Trevor during a 20 min stint and how they kept leap-frogging each other on trail as one would stop to get a drink or marvel at the surroundings. Russ also talks about them getting a hitch off trail where they would spend the night at a Market and camp outside. Russ had his microspikes and an ice axe but noticed many of the hikers did not have one yet. He briefly tried to show them how to use it for when they get theirs up ahead. As you will learn farther into the podcast Trevor… was to get his ice axe and microspikes 17 more miles up trail from where his accident was in town when he resupplied.
- Doug talks about Trevor attending Ohio State University. He joined the Trekking Team at school and that’s when he got really involved with physical fitness. The Trekking Team took off to do the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire and he and his buddies would go play in the Great Smoky Mountains.
- I ask Doug what got Trevor into wanting to hike the PCT and he talks about Trevor telling his parents that he wants to hike it since he worked out how he could finish school a semester early by fast-tracking so that is what he wanted to do before starting a job after graduating at Microsoft near the end of July. This gave him enough time to go from Mexico to Crater Lake which is 1,800 miles. He didn’t have enough time to get to Canada since he has to report to work.
- Doug told Trevor that he would be his trail manager and they would plan the logistics together. Doug went down the “rabbit hole” of learning about gear and then being sucked into the PCT hole of YouTube. This opened his mind more to the trail and they both were hooked.
- The trips that Trevor and Doug would take together are some of the best trails and memories together. Big Bend National Park 30 mile loop hike & the Eagle Rock Loop at Ouachita National Forest.
- I ask Doug how Trevor met his Girlfriend Elise. He talks about how she is such a blessing after the tragedy and she is like another daughter and also a sister to Trevor’s younger sister Oliva. He talks about her and Trevor’s story and her grieving after the accident.
- Dan talk about being the trail manager just like he is with Chantal. He talks about being scared of the Sierras and Foresters Pass which is the highest point of the PCT above sea level and you can see the famous path that people nervously walk across high up. Here is the post where we will post our trail notes of the passes and rivers to cross (have not entered the details of some of the passes) Dan also talks about how the river crossings scare him.
- Doug talk about Trevor had a low snow year in his PCT year. He also talks about how Apache Peak was recently reopened after being closed for a couple of years due to a fire closure. We also talk about Mt. San Jacinto. Here is our trail notes about this mountain as well as the trail to go around if conditions are not good for trying to summit it. Doug also talks about the early hikers that are inexperienced that don’t have their trail legs that are expecting the desert start to be a somewhat flat hot hike are quick to find out that there are cold temperatures at elevation and the elevation two weeks into the hike goes up to 7,000 ft when heading towards Apache Peak and Fuller Ridge and Mt. San Jacinto then Mt. Baden Powell after going past Big Bear.
- We comment about how the heat is also a danger. Dan talks about people hitting Mt. Laguna on day 3-5 you can easily hit snow when you have an early PCT start. Doug talks about Trevor calling Doug on his Day 3 and how Trevor was hitting bad weather in Mt. Laguna. He bunkered down with a group of 7-8 hikers but they only had one night booked. Other hikers booked all the rooms for night two and he was forced to have to keep going and leave in the snow and hike north.
- Dan and Doug talk about the Covid situation that was happening on trail at the same time as Trevor was starting and the struggle Doug had with Trevor, since Doug wanted Trevor to come off the trail. With the PCT class of 2022 being told to get off trail there was a great divide with where people stood. Hikers were not near people but the risk going into towns was there to affect the hikers or the people who live and work in the village. Dan talks about his daughter not really worried about the virus and would still hang out with friends after work.
- Dan and Doug talk about his buddies being with him. Some of those were international hikers who really had nowhere to go and wait it out. Remember… this is when Covid was hitting the fan here in North America. This was the middle of March 2020.
- Doug talks about Trevor finally agreeing to come off trail and Doug would get on the phone and ask his parents if they could go pick him up in Scissors Crossings. An hour later… Trevor would call Doug and say that he changed his mind and that being on the trail is not illegal and the rest of the group he was with was going to keep moving north.
- Doug talks about how he had to accept Trevor’s decision and he was willing to help him as his trail manager and organized ways to do longer time in between resupply to try and stay away from town days as much as possible.
- Chantal arrives into the episode after picking up my Son. I talk to Chantal with Doug on the line and I catch her up on what we have talked about and where we are in Trevor’s timeline since Doug is about to talk about Trevor coming up to the day of the accident.
- Dan is finishing up catching up Chantal that they were coming up to the famous Burgers at the Paradise Cafe. Our trail notes on this leg.
- Doug talks about them stopping for breakfast and heading up in the elevation and they were hitting snow
- Trevor has cell reception and he talked to his parents. He was in his tent. Tired from the snow and climb. 14 miles away from Idyllwild where he would take 2 zeros and resupply and pick up his ice axe and microspikes for the next section. He was hiking for the last 8 days in a row doing 20 miles per day.
- This was Thursday and the post office in Idyllwild closes at 5pm on Friday. They got off the phone and that was the last time they would hear from him.
- Doug talk for a moment about the family behind an accident. “Bad things happen to good people”.
- Doug then talks about the morning of the accident.
- Fresh snow and they started heading north. They passed the Spitler Peak Trail around the 168-mile marker which is the last trail to take a detour if the conditions up ahead is not safe after individually assessing the risk based on your experience and gear.
- They continued to around the 169.5-mile marker and Doug talks about the accident with Trevor slipping and falling down a 600 ft ice chute and what happened after that with the 2 hikers with Trevor that pushed the S.O.S. button on their emergency beacon. 24 search and rescue volunteers and two helicopters were dispatched to rescue Trevor’s two hiking companions. and one helicopter was trying to locate Trevor and get help down to him where he came to a rest.
- I won’t type the details… I’ll let Doug talk about it as well as how he found out about the news about a death on the PCT from a friend. He talks about his level of concern was being raised by the hour and how he ultimately discovered it his family’s Trevor.
- There is a great article from Louise Farr from AltaOnline that talks about the accident and also after invited Doug and Cameron on a Zoom call that is hosted on YouTube.
- / Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit is the incredible volunteers that go out on every mission when people are hurt or missing in and around a large area that they cover. Please check out the website and feel free to donate to help them. Doug will explain later how much they raised
- Dan breaks the podcast to remind people about the show notes before we move into the last segment where we cover some safety tips and suggestions and some wonderful programs to help hikers.
- Last segment starts and Chantal asks Doug how he and his family are doing after the accident.
- Dan talks about this time of year when Doug and his family are struggling with the anniversaries of Trevor’s birthday in Feb and the anniversary of him starting his hike and the sad anniversary of March 27th. But with those anniversaries is also the spring of a new PCT Class getting ready to start in March and April… helps Doug get out of bed each day and helps with hiker safety awareness to help hikers with Trevor’s legacy.
- 1:29:00 / Doug talks about the Trevor Spikes Program which is a partnership with the Laher Family and a collaboration between the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation and Nomad Adventures in Idyllwild. Second-year running is a great way for hikers to get the much-needed Microspikes at a time when they are needed. Hikers can get Microspikes at a discount but more importantly, have them delivered to Paradise Cafe at mile marker 151 on the PCT before hikers leave heading north the same stretch that Trevor hiked up at 7,000 feet.
- Chantal asks Doug to explain about “Trevor’s 100 Day Trek” on Facebook and what that has meant to his family. It’s a public group on FB to honour Trevor’s love of hiking this group will share in that passion and enjoyment of getting out and walking, running, and enjoying nature. It starts on March 16th… on Trevor’s anniversary of his PCT Start Date.
- Before getting into the safety reminders… Dan asks Doug if he is interested in hiking on the PCT one day in the future.
- The first tip to comment on is to carry an emergency beacon. This spurred me to think… does Chantal need one since I’ve purchased one already. While two years ago… I wasn’t sure yet about our planning. After Trevor’s accident, I changed my mind. I’ve decided now that we each have one. Here is Dan & Chantal’s Gear List.
- Learn how to navigate. Use paper maps. We will use the National Geographic Maps along with the Far Out App. We will also have a small compass with us. Doug talks about the bailouts and bypass trails and general talking points about navigation. Electronics and battery life are tough to deal with in colder weather. Lots of YouTube videos to help you deal with electronics and how to save battery life and tricks to keep your devices charged and keeping your phone charged better since lots of hikers use it for navigation.
- Tell Family & Friends where you are and where you will be. Use the settings on your emergency beacons. We are using the Garmin InReach Mini and it allows you to ping a group text to loved ones with simple messages letting them know where you are since it sends your GPS location.
- Hiking with others. Makes sense. Most PCT hikers entering the Sierras will gather in Kennedy Meadows and link up as a larger group and enter the Sierra to make it after. As you hike you will be in a bubble and leapfrogging hikers at the same pace. Some hikers like to hike alone and some like to gravitate to other people depending on their mood and section if they want or need that company. But with that… your group can gain experience if hiking with seasoned hikers with backpacking and mountaineering experience. The negative is falling under the peer pressure to keep going in a section where you don’t feel comfortable with your skills but you keep going just to “save face” with the others.
- Do your research on new routes due to fire closures that have changed trails to other trails to go around sections. Doug talks about Apache Peak being closed and just opened when the class of 2019 went through it. Doug recommends getting a wider research table to understand the conditions of the trail.
- Dan talks about Jon King AKA “SanJacJon” from his website SanJacJon.com / Doug talks about the effort that Jon puts into the area around Mt. San Jacinto. He has a YouTube Channel so every PCT hiker has to hit his website and surf around and do some research and hit some of his videos. This report was done a couple of days after Trevor fell. As Doug says… Jon says exactly how it is up there giving advice if people should stay away.
- Dan talks about being an international hiker… it’s hard for us to find someone to maybe help with our safety gear if we land in California with our gear in hand. Dan talks about all the different Facebook Groups for the different Class Years and also private groups like the Thru-R’s FB Community or Yogi’s and also the different Trail Angels that have groups to help hikers ask for help. We might do that. We might look for help for someone local in California to hold onto our ice axe and crampons and mail them to us for Paradise Cafe we will cover that cost ourselves. We might ask them if we can mail the gear back to them to bounce back to us for Kennedy Meadows and the Sierras.
- Dan is wrapping it up. He asks Doug if he has any further advice. He does… so listen 😉
We appreciate anyone taking the time to listen to this long podcast and we feel that the topic is important. Same for those reading these show notes.
Dan and Doug and Chantal wrap up the podcast over the next couple of minutes.
I’m excited to join Trevor’s 100 Day Trek and get my ass outside more this March. Get some miles in and listen to some other podcasts that I enjoy listening to.
Thanks again to Doug. You coming on our little podcast in a busy and also difficult time of year for you and your family. We appreciate you looking forward to following us and we are thankful to follow your efforts and also pass along the different safety advocacy you spread to the hiking community. It doesn’t go unnoticed.
Thank you for listening and if you listened on Apple or Spotify, please give us a rating if you can and remember.
- Trail Lingo
- Our own Trail Notes for the first 14 Sections
- Our Side Trips we plan to take
- Thru-R – The online community about new and alumni PCT hikers | Website
- Town Days On Trail
- YouTube Channels To Watch
- Our Gear List
- Pacific Crest Association’s Website
- Sponsors for this show are Triple Crown Coffee, Purple Rain Adventure Skirts, and Thru-r.
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