Our Podcast | Episode 9 | Doug Laher | Keep Hiking My Son | Get Outside – Embrace The Trail – Be Prepared | Show Notes | Pacific Crest Trail Podcast

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Date Published: Feb 23th, 2022 / Length: 2Hours / 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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Show Notes:

  • 0:00 / Opening commercial from one of our sponsors for this show Thru-r
  • 0:40 / Before the show “banter” – Dan explaining 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 min’s from when we are recording.
  • 1:25 / Podcast Violin Theme Song: Artist – Trampled By Turtles / Song: Wait So Long
  • 2:18 / Opening intro with Dan about the outline of the podcast
  • 3:27 / 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.
  • 3:50 / 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 covers the first 5 legs that Trevor hiked.
  • 4:20 / 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 imediately and Doug was so thankful to them. Here are the screen shots showing the listed hazzard below:
This first screenshot highlights the danger ahead at the Spitler Peak Trail (mile-marker 168.6) which is a detour for those needing to skip the difficult section ahead if the trail conditions are poor factoring the hiker’s experience and proper safety gear
The App also put a memorial about Trevor at the approximate location of the accident and also highlights to hikers where there was snow and slippery ice underneath. Kudos to the Far Out App for including this.

We will talk more about this area later in the podcast

  • 5:35 / 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 embeded episode 32 below so it will start after the 6 minute mark coming up to this section of the trail.

  • 6:00 / Dan mentions how Jon King meets up with Corey to make a little video about that area and also covering how to use a ice axe. Later in the podcast we will talk about Jon and I’ll provide links to the excellent work that he does whe 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.
  • 6:50 / Dan talks about the article Doug wrote after him 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.
  • 8:20 / Segway song… Only The Wild Ones by Dispatch
  • 8:50 / Episode starts with Dan and Doug / Chantal will arrive late just after the 49 min mark.
  • 9:35 / 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 a 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.
  • 11:12 / 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.
  • 12:45 / 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 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.
Doug and Trevor.
  • 13:26 / Dan mentions that he has listened to Doug’s other podcasts that he has been invited to with trying 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 epiosde #73 which is very raw. You can find it here. The second part of the episode the show interviews someone from the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit and that is also worthwile to listen to. Doug was on Erin’s Hiking Thru podcast a month later. Feb of 2021 he was on Trail Tales podcast / 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 a ice axe but noticed many of the hikers that did not have one yet. He breifly tried to show them how to use it for when they get theirs up ahead. As you will learn farther into the podcast that Trevor… he 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 the Ohio State Universitiy. 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 him and his buddies would go play in the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • 22:19 / 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 finsih 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 about 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 of 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.
  • 28:30 to 32:00 / 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 talk about her and Trevor’s story and her greiving after the accident.
  • 32:00 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 in the details of some of the passes) Dan also talks about how the river crossings scare him.
  • 33:00 / 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 quickly to find out that there is 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.
Trevor dropped off at the trail start for the Pacific Crest Trail

  • 37:30 / We comment the heat is also a danger. Dan talk about people hitting Mt. Laguna on day 3-5 you can easily hit snow when you have a 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.
The bubble Trevor was hiking in going through the snow.
Trevor and other hikers in or near Mt. Laguna in the snow
  • 41:45 / 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.
  • 46:00 / Dan and Doug talk about his buddies being with him. Some of those were international hikers who really had no where to go and wait it out. Remember… this is when Covid was hitting the fan here in North America. This was 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 Sissors Crossings. A hour later… Trevor would call Doug and say that he changed his mind 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.
Dan’s Notes: He made these to understand the trail better and what towns are close by to resupply.

  • 49:45 / 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.
  • 51:00 / 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 micro spikes 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.
  • 54:00 / 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
(photo from Alta Online)
  • 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.
Doug sent me this photo taken by the search and rescue team took to show the snow where the accident happened.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 1:12:00 / 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
Erik on the left and Cameron on the right helped Doug afterwards go back and hike down to the site to look for Trevor’s belongings that were on the outside of his pack that fell off/out. Doug is not only thankful for them but all the people who go out on these calls as they did for Trevor. After the accident his family, their employers, Trevor’s girlfriend helped raised a great amount of money to help them buy much-needed equipment for missions and other expenses. (credit Alta Online Journal from an excellent article regarding the accident.)
  • 1:19:00 / 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.
  • 1:21:00 / Last segment starts and Chantal asks Doug how he and his family are doing after the accident.
  • 1:24:30 / Dan talks about this time of year when Doug and his family are struggling with 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 help with hiker safety awareness to help hikers with Trevor’s legacy.
  • 1:29:00 / Doug talks about the Trevor Spikes Program that 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.
  • 1:32:30 / 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 honor Trevor’s love of hiking this group will share in that passion and enjoyment of getting out and walking, running, enjoying nature. It starts on March 16th… on Trevor’s anniversary of his PCT Start Date.

(I had to list this for Chantal. Boo… eat something! The second podcast that I can hear noises which is your tummy rumbling when we record. LOL Listen at 1:34:00)

  • 1:36:00 / Before getting into the safety reminders… Dan asks Doug if he is interested in hiking on the PCT one day in the future.
  • 1:38:00 / First tip to comment 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 in 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.
  • 1:42:00 / 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.
  • 1:45:00 / 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.
  • 1:45:30 / 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 in your skills but you keep going just to “save face” with the others.
  • 1:46:30 / 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.
  • 1:48:00 / 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. Like Doug says… Jon says exactly how it is up there giving advice if people should stay away.
  • 1:50:00 / 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 that 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.
  • 1:53:00 / Dan is wrapping it up. He asks Doug if he has any further advice. He does… so listen πŸ˜‰

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.

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