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DailyTidings.com
  • REST FOR THE WEARY

    They're coming

    A record number of long-distance hikers are now reaching Pacific Crest Trail trailheads near Callahan's and in the Greensprings
  • Cam Honan arrived at Callahan's Lodge late after a long, wet day. Hungry and in need of a shower and sleep, he learned that all the rooms were booked for a wedding.
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    • MORE ONLINE: This story is part of a series on ...
      The Pacific Crest Trail Association, which protects, preserves and promotes the trail, needs more trail maintenance volunteers in this region. Training is provided, so no previous experience is req...
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      MORE ONLINE: This story is part of a series on the record number of Pacific Crest Trail hikers this year.
      The Pacific Crest Trail Association, which protects, preserves and promotes the trail, needs more trail maintenance volunteers in this region. Training is provided, so no previous experience is required. Email volunteer@pcta.org for more information.
  • Cam Honan arrived at Callahan's Lodge late after a long, wet day. Hungry and in need of a shower and sleep, he learned that all the rooms were booked for a wedding.
    No problem, said the 42-year-old Australian. He'll just crash on the lawn.
    And he did, as thousands of other endurance hikers traversing the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail have done over the years.
    "I will sleep where the wedding reception will be held tomorrow," says Honan, after finishing a beer and a few plates of spaghetti on the lodge's veranda on June 29. "If they need an extra best man and there's a free meal, I'll do it."
    Honan, whose trail name is "Swami," pointed to his backpack, an efficient, 7-pound toolbox that holds everything he needs to rip through 40 miles of trail a day for his months-long trip from Mexico to Canada. Right now, his pack is empty of dried beans and other lightweight food.
    But also in front of him is a box of provisions he had shipped to Callahan's. Consuming 21/2 pounds of food a day, the lanky hiker will make it to Crater Lake in less than three days, about twice the speed of the average PCT hiker.
    In the next few weeks, Ashland will be seeing more "thru hikers," as they are called, arriving in town with scruffy hair, a spare backpack and trekking poles. They will be in need of a computer, washing machine and place to flop. And typically, a cold beer.
    The number of hikers has increased each year since the trail was completed in 1993, says Jack Haskel of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. But because of low snow levels this year, a record number of hikers left the Mexico-U.S. border in April and are heading this way.
    "It's the busiest year ever on the trail," he says.
    So far this year, his organization has issued 835 thru-hiker permits, an increase of 181 over last year. In addition, 578 permits have been granted to long-distance section hikers. Some of the permits cover couples or a small group of people.
    Haskel keeps tabs on the progress of the hiking herd by talking to the trekkers, business owners along the route and trail angels, who give walkers lifts to town, shelter and a hot meal.
    He says the hikers are fairly well spread out this year. Leaders such as Honan are arriving now, and Haskel estimates that most of the group will pour into Ashland from July 20 through Aug. 10 or so.
    Some hikers are taking their first trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, considered one of the Triple Crown of American routes along with the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail. They are college students on a gap year or retirees who finally have the time to cross the grueling trip off their bucket list.
    A few women now challenged by mountain crests were inspired by Portland-author Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir, "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail," in which an unprepared 26-year-old escapes the pain of losing her mother by walking through California, Oregon and Washington.
    Haskel, whose trail name is "Found," says that by the time hikers cross over the Greensprings Highway or near Callahan's Lodge off Highway 66, they are seasoned veterans who have endured the scorching Mojave desert and a 13,153-foot-high snowy pass in the Sierra Nevada.
    Greeting them on the last third of their long journey is Ron Bergquist, who owns Callahan's. To help hikers navigate their way through the forest of conifers, he posted a directional sign that reads "First Beer Free."
    "They can't be day hikers to get the free beer," he says. "They don't get it unless they smell bad."
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