Hikers have set out to tackle the multi country, 2,650 mile hike beginning in the small border town of Campo, Mexico and ending many months later in Canada. The hike, taking several months to complete by only a select few that begin it, takes its travelers along the famous Pacific Crest Trail.
The trail, designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968, allows the walkers the opportunity to experience six out of seven of North America’s ecozones as hikers walk through high and low deserts, old growth forest as well as alpine country. The trail passes through seven national parks, including Yosemite, several mountain ranges, the volcanoes of the Cascades, and the Russian Wilderness in Northern California.
Many a hiker has been known to give up along the way as many years; more people reach the top of Mount Everest than complete the Pacific Crest Trail. Yet this challenge does not deter the roughly 700 participants planning to take the 5.3 million steps to Canada this year.
One participant, Ray Lenihan, a 67 year old retired Navy corpsman, has already started and believes that although the trek may be tough, he’s faced tougher obstacles. After serving in Vietnam, working with the Coast Guard and successfully raising two children on his own, he plans to finish the hike and enjoys hanging out with his younger fellow hikers who help him “forget his age.” “I love this so much. It’s an incredible feeling you get,” he said.
Other hikers attempting this daunting trail include a variety of ages and backgrounds. Stephanie Studebaker, a 25 year old woman from Davis, California, finished a book about the trail and was hooked. Jeanna Voellmer and her husband, George, come from Arizona and love the outdoors, yet plan to take some ‘breaks’ at local pubs and bed and breakfasts along the way.
Greg Hummel of Diamond Bar, who completed the trail in 1977, believes it’s more of a mental fight than a physical one. “When you come down to it, it’s what’s in your heart and in your head that gets you to Canada,” he said. Hummel is the annual organizer of a kickoff party at Lake Morena to mark the start of the hike.
The hike has gained more publicity after the recent success of Cheryl Strayed’s new memoir, “Wild,” retelling the story of her 1,100 miles along the trail.
Although many participants are still hiking and plan to arrive in Canada, many will not complete the trail. In April a 37 year old man was airlifted out of Hauser Canyon seeking treatment for heat exhaustion.