We’ve been having a lot of fun hanging out at the PCT Southern Terminus in Campo, CA, working on behalf of the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the US forest Service. We were selected from a batch of applicants to act as a last-minute resource for the thru-hikers beginning the annual hiker season starting right about now.
Our primary purpose is to conduct a short survey about the PCTA permitting system. The goal is to collect enough meaningful data to assess what might be done to improve the system. We have met roughly 20 hikers a day for the last week. We expect that number to grow to 50 or more by mid-April. Most hikers probably want to take off right around then. But because of the sheer number of permit applicants, the beginning dates have stretched further to include earlier dates on the front end and later on the back end. I learned that last year, there were roughly 5600 permits issued. That is a huge increase from years prior to 2012. That is the year, I believe, that the move “Wild” premiered. That created a lot of interest in the trail from a wider group of people and the numbers of people wanting to hike the trail grew accordingly.
We started the position with a 1-week training period. During that time, we hung out with staff members of the Forest Service. Two “Crest Runners,” whose role is to monitor the first section up to mile 110 showed us around and gave us a lot of input on what LEAVE NO TRACE principles we wanted to reinforce with the hikers. They helped hone down our “schpiel.” Their job is not easy. They cover a huge territory, hiking and maintaining Section A of the trail, while also educating the public. Unlike Patti and me (thankfully), the Crest Runners are authorized to enforce rules.
As a complete fluke of thought, I started taking photographs of the hikers at the terminus monument before they depart on their big adventures. And then posting them to Instagram and Facebook PCT pages at the end of each day. The response has been overwhelming. We’ve really enjoyed the comments. I’ll do the best I can to continue including as many hikers as possible.
We work 6 days a week from 7AM to Noon. Our day off floats week-to-week. With open afternoons, we hope to get some site-seeing done. Tomorrow, after our work at the terminus, we plan on visiting the desert to see the super bloom said to be taking place right now in the San Diego desert.
If you’d like to see the portraits I mentioned above, please visit our Instagram account McShap.