For thousands around the world, the Pacific Crest Trail is a highlight of a life well-lived. Weeks or months spent in nature is good for body and soul. It’s a magical experience. You’ll meet countless wonderful people and join them in the PCT community.
Stunning scenery is the rule.
Long-distance hiking on the PCT should not be underestimated. Especially amongst thru-hikers, the failure rate is high. Injuries are unfortunately common. Substantial dangers present themselves; you meet the wilderness on its terms. We, in Idyllwild, welcome the PCT Hikers every season as they pass through our beautiful community, and honor their remarkable physical achievements.
I first met Roland Gaebert, at his home in Idyllwild. He began to tell me how he and several other PCT trail angels would answer the call to pick up hikers as they arrived to take a zero (non-hiking) day. These angels would also pass on several relevant
pieces of information: where the post office is, good places to eat and sleep, and where the hikers could get new supplies. When they were ready they’d call an angel and get a lift back to the PCT. The next day as I was getting in my car outside of the Village Market, I saw a guy with a backpack on, leaning against the wall. He was on his cell phone. “Are you calling Roland”, I asked, “Yeah, how’d you know? “Can I give you a lift”? And so we headed down toward the Black Mountain trailhead”
His trail name was Dirt Bag. He had been through two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He had PTSD and said that hiking helped him with his symptoms. One reason Dirt Bag and men and women just like him were hiking the PCT was to get away from it all. “The dualistic world,” he called it. “Out here no one cares what you do or what your history is or how much money you make. You’re just another hiker out in nature“.
Second Chance was another unique trekker. Five-foot ten, weighing four hundred pounds. “I thought I was super close to death, he says. “This hike has restored my faith in humanity. I want to lose two hundred pounds.” When he first started it took him two hours to set up his tent. “ Just bending over was exhausting.” After sixty days on trial, it took him five minutes. It wasn’t all sunsets and butterflies though. I watched this man photographing himself climbing through fog, snow, wind, and rain, even crying being blown off-trail. The huge internal fortitude it took just to keep going, was inspirational.
Mary Mansfield, alias Tinkerbell is a UK native. After reading the book “Wild,” she decided to hike the PCT solo. Being vegan also required specific planning. I thought I’d be fine by myself, she said. “But when I was deep into the journey I realized how much I needed other people. Practicing at home with an ice ax and microspikes, really saved my life. I was high up on a narrow edge near a sheer drop at Glenn Pass in the Sierras when my feet went out from under me. Slipping on the ice and hitting
rocks, I started falling toward a steep cliff, carrying 40 lbs of the backpack. As I swung my ax into the ice, it grabbed. The two guys I happened to be hiking with, threw down their packs and dove after me. I would have fallen several hundred feet and probably been killed without my ice ax and that practice back in the UK. It’s not the most expensive equipment I’ve bought, but it’s what I needed to save my life, along with those two trail
friends who pulled me up. Calvin Weibel shot a forty-five-minute film that should be in a festival somewhere. When he was at Kennedy Meadows, Calvin told us, a group of experienced hikers had to bale the Sierras ‘cause of bad weather. “I met four guys a few days later who wanted to do the hike anyway he said. Hiking the Sierras at the end of March? Yes, ‘School bus’ from the Yukon, ‘Thrush’ from California, ‘Shredder’ from Germany, ‘Road Runner’ from Alaska, and Myself. We crashed across rivers, slid down Icey hills, climbed up, over and around edges of mountains, pushing through every ounce of what we enjoyed doing most”.
Trail angels Joe and Terrie Anderson have fed and watered over ten thousand people in twenty-one years at Casa De Luna, near Green Valley, California. While there, the hikers were encouraged to do a little slate and wood painting. The bushes and trees are filled with magical moments on the way back to the trail. “These aren’t your normal people”, Joe says, “Normal people don’t put on a backpack at the Mexican border, look north and say,” “Yeah, I’m goin’ to hike 2650 miles to Canada”.