“I’ve always been into writing, nature, and some form of carpentry,” writes Ashland, Oregon-based John Riha. Wooden you know, he saw trees aplenty when he and one of his sons, 17-year-old Nick, spent several days hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of Northern California.
“Gloaming” means “dusk,” and the pair—well, mostly John—were pretty much in the dark on the trek, John convincing himself they would be lost forever, mauled by bears or eaten by cougars or devoured by mosquitoes or fall off a cliff or twist their legs. John managed to do the leg twist while Nick remained laconic most of the time, but in a father-son bonding sort of way.
The first third of the book is the story of the hike’s preparation. It’s a hilarious romp through sporting goods stores as John buys up enough equipment to hike the entire 2650-mile PCT. A compulsive worrier, he buys the finest, whether it’s bear spray or backpacks. After all, he’s 56, “past the warranty period. I was wearing out, and my time horizon shortening.”
Fear of big cats drives him on. He even fishes out the old Buck hunting knife purchased long ago. “Basically unused for two decades, I had kept it around partly out of nostalgia and partly on the premise it might come in handy if intruders should enter the house in search of mismatched pieces of furniture, which we had in abundance.”
Losing his job as a journalist actually left John with more time to buy more stuff, like tents and trekking poles, and so one fine day he and Nick drove the rented Ford Explorer up Forest Highway 93 to where it crosses the PCT. The adventure had begun.
There are serious sections, like chapters on Douglas-fir and another couple’s cougar encounter, but self-deprecation runs amok (along with a raft of good-natured expletives) to make for a laugh-out-loud tale. Riha’s a talented writer, and his hiking days are not yet over.