By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
DARRINGTON — A snow-stranded Japanese hiker rescued near Glacier Peak earlier this month hopes to finish his California-to-Canada trek along the Pacific Crest Trail some day.
For now, he’s just thankful that he will have that chance.
“Honestly, I was ready for death,” Takahisa Nezu wrote in an email answering The Herald’s questions about his experience.
The freelance writer, 37, was several days overdue on what was supposed to be a five-day solo trek along a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail around Glacier Peak when he was spotted by a Snohomish County Volunteer Search and Rescue helicopter crew Oct. 4.
He was caught off guard by an early fall snowstorm. His trail disappeared. He set up camp under some trees after realizing it was futile to continue.
He rationed his food but had little left, just one packet of ramen noodles and a half-package of mashed potatoes.
He also was down to the last of his fuel and had resorted to eating snow without melting it for drinking water.
His rescue early this month marked Nezu’s second attempt to hike the mountainous spine of the western U.S.
Nezu intended to hike the entire 2,633-mile Pacific Crest Trail last year. The journey stretches along mountain ranges from Mexico to the Canadian border.
His 2012 adventure ended at Trout Lake in Washington’s Klickitat County when he learned that his father was sick and his condition was getting worse. He returned to Japan.
Nezu resumed his hike this summer, intent on finishing. He’d been on and off for 27 days when the snows hit.
After climbing mountains, Nezu said he became interested in long hikes that can take months to complete. Japan’s terrain doesn’t offer the opportunity he has found along the Pacific Crest Trail.
“I do not necessarily want to go to a summit,” he wrote. “I like walking.”
Nezu also said he’d like to introduce “the U.S. long-trail culture to Japan.”
Nezu said he feels bad that he made “many people trouble this time” and is grateful to the rescue crews, fellow hikers and others who looked out for him in his time of need.
There was, for instance, a retired Baring couple who routinely take in Pacific Crest Trail hikers looking for a place to rest. They insisted Nezu take more food before he resumed his journey and alerted authorities when he was overdue in Stehekin. Hikers familiar with the trail provided their best guesses to searchers where Nezu most likely would be.
There also were teams of volunteers from the Everett Mountain Rescue Unit who were being deployed along the trail by helicopter when Nezu was spotted waving a makeshift flag tied to a stick.
In his email Nezu wrote he would like express his gratitude to his rescuers: “Thanks to you, I am alive.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.