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Trail Talk

Q&A With PCT Hiker Bypass Barber

By on January 12, 2017
Robert “Bypass” Barber, of Wilsonville, OR, has backpacked for most of his life. He spent his early backpacking years roaming around Yosemite and California’s Sierra Nevada. He especially enjoyed his time in the wilderness with his kids when they were young. After some time away from the outdoors, and following a significant health scare, he’s been seeking more opportunities to get reacquainted with the outdoors. Last year, he hiked an 86-mile stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon, from Santiam Pass (Hwy 20) to Barlow Pass (Hwy 26), and now has plans on going back for more.
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Bypass began his hike in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness, approaching Three Fingered Jack. Photo by Robert Barber.

What inspired you to start section-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?

Before moving to Oregon in 2012, I had my own auto parts business in Jamestown, CA. The Recession was hard on my business and eventually took it down. This brought on tons of stress and I wound up having an emergency heart operation in 2009. Following that, I needed to make some life changes to get healthier. One of those changes was moving to the Northwest. Another was to get more exercise. This got me back outdoors. I started walking 6 to 8 miles a day, and I got as fit as I had been in many years. I decided to use that fitness to get back into backpacking.

How did getting back on the trail help improve your health?

It’s a definite recharge being out there. I feel very at home in the backcountry. I love seeing things very few people see and capturing them in pictures. When I get away on a trip it feels like a cleansing of all the day-to-day drudgery of life.

How would you describe your ideal hiking day?

My typical routine is to get up early, have my coffee and breakfast, then hit the trail. I like to make a big push in the morning hours to get the bulk of the miles in, then spend the afternoon cruising along. I stop a lot to take photographs. To me, the views and photography are what it’s all about. I like to hike solo so I can go at my own pace and stop whenever I like. I usually average between 15 to 20 miles a day, which is plenty.

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Robert “Bypass” Barber taking a break on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. Photo by Robert Barber.

How did you get the trail name “Bypass?”

Near the end of my trek, I stopped at Timothy Lake for lunch and sat down with three PCT thru-hikers. We chatted for awhile and I finally asked their names. They shot back their trail names. They asked mine and I thought a minute and came up with “Bypass,” in honor of my heart surgery. They laughed and said it was a great name.

What resources did you use to help plan your Pacific Crest Trail journey?

I used mostly online resources, like Hikeoregon.netPCTPlanner.com, and BearfootTheory.com for mileages and elevations. This also helped me upgrade my equipment to the latest and lightest available. I bought a tent, bear sack and water filter all based on the info they recommended. On the trail, I used Halfmile’s Map App. This was great as a motivator and planning tool. I could plan for climbs, water and campsites.

What piece of gear do you never hike without?

Definitely my camera. After much research I bought a Panasonic ZS50. It’s rugged, has a quality lens, a great zoom and fits in my pocket—much better than lugging a full-size DSLR. I especially enjoy taking landscape photos and try to frame them to be interesting to the viewer. This way, the viewer can see the whole scene as I get to see it, so good framing is essential. I also carry a small tripod and a few extra batteries.

What piece of advice do you have for hikers considering a long-distance trek on the PCT?

Plan, plan and plan more. The lighter the pack, the better, proper clothes for warmth, and good rain protection. Shoes are a big deal. A bad blister can kill a trip. I had always been a boot guy, but after researching PCT thru-hiker info, I bought some trail runners and love them—no blisters at all! My advice is go online and research everything and be open to new ideas.

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Near his finish line, Bypass paused for a big look at Mount Hood. Photo by Robert Barber.

This year, “Bypass” Barber will be back on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon. He has his sights set on the Three Sisters region in August, from Elk Lake to Santiam Pass. If you spot Bypass on the trail, look for his signature bright orange hat and be sure to say hello.


Would you like to share your own experiences, insights and helpful tips with your fellow PCT and Oregon hikers? Take the PCT: Oregon Hiker Survey and join the Trail Talk conversation.

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