The National Trails System act was created in 1968 by President Johnson, thereby defining both the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The PCT had been previously scouted by the YMCA from 1935-1938 and the final trail closely followed it.
At present, it is 2,663 miles long and connects Mexico to Canada. It's an amazing trail and the stories that come from it's crossing are equally inspiring. Many lives are forever changed (or saved) deep in those mountains and it doesn't take one long to understand that it's a special journey, while browsing through the videos, blogs, and even movies that document it.
Today, I saw a man with a large hiking pack standing on the sidewalk on Burlington Blvd (in Burlington, WA). As I approached him from the North, I saw that he was holding a sign that read "HWY 20...PCT...trail head". Even though this is a well-known trail, I was concerned that most people passing by wouldn't know what the sign meant. Or think that he was trying to go to PCN (Pioneer Center North), which houses one of the few detox centers around. While stopped at a light, I asked him how far he was trying to get, and he said to the trail head at Rainy Pass, which is about two hours East. I suggested he go up a few blocks so that he was actually on hwy 20, so he'd have better luck finding a ride.
After completing my brief shopping, I decided that if he were still out there, I would offer him a ride as far as East of Sedro Woolley. I wasn't able to go further than that today, due to other obligations. I found him a few blocks out on Hwy 20, and since there was a driveway I could pull into, I went ahead and stopped. Turns out that someone else had just offered him a ride, but would be back in an hour. (he hoped!) I chatted with him a bit more, and then asked if I could share his story, which he was happy to do. Here it is!
Meet Jason, a mid 30's Army vet from Queens, New York. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005 and had heard in the past that hiking was a good way for soldiers to decompress. About nine months ago, he saw the movie, 'Wild', staring Reese Witherspoon, which is based on Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir. Jason knew of the Appalachian trail, but it was the first time he had heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, and it was the beginning of what has turned into a life changing quest.
For the past nine months, Jason thought about and planned his hike, which will start at Rainy Pass (hwy 20) and end around 900 miles south in Ashland, Oregon. Last night he flew into Seattle from New York, and was going to take Amtrak into Mount Vernon. But while at an REI in Seattle, he got to talking with another hiker, who offered to give him a ride to Burlington. He stayed at a local hotel last night and his goal today is to make it to the Rainy Pass trail head, which is about a two hour drive East from where I found him.
For those of us that are avid hikers, the PCT is a often a dream or a goal that we fantasize about. To make the trek a reality is something few of us see. Why do people even want to submerse themselves so deeply into nature, that they are completely isolated from the rest of the world? I can't speak for everyone, but I know that for me, it's all about stripping yourself down to what's really at the center, and then examining what you find. You can then use the calm and healing presence of nature to build and restore, leaving a clear sense of what is truly important in this life. As Jason said, he expects to be humbled, and to experience extreme highs and lows, which he hopes to grow from.
I wish Jason a safe and fulfilling journey, and I ask that if you are traveling East this weekend, and see a man in clean fatigues with a large, green pack and a cardboard sign asking for help to begin his trek...that you consider extending a hand. He's a nice guy, and if it is within your comfort zone (and ability), maybe you can become a part of his story.
"Pacific crest trail route overview" by w:USFS and EncMstr - Adapted from http://web.archive.org/web/20060624223438/http://www.fs.fed.us/pct/pdf/Large_PCT_Map.pdf
(looking for more info on the PCT? Find it here , at the official organization site)