MY BOOK, “The Pacific Crest Trail: A Visual Compendium,” has been created from a northbound thru-hiker’s perspective and from the perspective of someone who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014. It was that year, two years after the publication of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed, that the PCT was really on its way to becoming a popular trail. If you are thru-hiking in 2021, your experience will be much different than mine, just as my experience might sound vastly different to someone who hiked the trail in 2007.
My experience is also that of a white male. All thru-hikers worry about the heat, lack of water or inclement weather. There are, however, a great number of worries that I was unburdened by during my hike. Worries that a woman or person of color carries with them on the trail. Worries that might surface when they meet a stranger, hitchhike or enter an unfamiliar town. When I walked past a Confederate flag in Sierra City, California, I took offense, yet continued on, feeling safe and unthreatened.
There are significant historical and systemic reasons people of color have been unable to establish a tradition of outdoor recreation, while Indigenous people have been forcibly removed from their land to create national parks and wilderness. As I recall, I met very few people of color on my entire thru-hike.
It is important that the trail community grow to reflect our greater society. To that end, let us all seek out and promote the stories of those who are not in the majority.
I hope this book inspires people to hike the PCT, whether for a day or an entire summer, but as the trail becomes increasingly crowded, it is imperative to preserve it for those who will feel inspired to hike it years down the road.
Respect the trail towns you visit and the people who call them home. Be a good ambassador for the trail. While hiking, leave those Sharpies in your pocket, and refrain from writing on signs. Take only photos, and leave behind the flowers, bird feathers and animal bones for others to enjoy. Respect wildlife, and forgo building a campfire. Bury your waste properly, and pack out your toilet paper. Camp only in established sites.
I regret falling short of these rules on a few occasions during my hike. I encourage you to educate yourself and follow Leave No Trace ethics. If not, we risk loving this trail to death.