リズ・トーマスのハイキング・アズ・ア・ウーマン＃23 / ALDHA-West Gathering 〜ハイキング・コミュニティのビッグイベント〜 (前編)
Each year, long distance hikers from across the world meet at the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West Gathering. It’s held annually at a camp in the mountains at the end of September and is designed as a three-day event to celebrate adventures on long trails. Attendees hear presentations on long distance hikes as well as participate in fun events like Hiker Olympics. There’s plenty of time to catch up with friends and learn about new trails. This year, the 2019 Gathering was in Nevada City, California, not far from the Pacific Crest Trail and Tahoe Rim Trail. I attended the 2019 Gathering and interviewed the speakers about their presentations.
On Friday afternoon, hikers started trickling in from near and far. TarpTent and Six Moon Designs set up dozens of tents on the grounds for hikers to “test” for a night or two. The Gathering is a great place to try gear, swap and exchange used gear, and even buy a few items at the end of the season. In the evening, the band Jacob and the Ghost Train played. Their cellist, Joshua “Bobcat” Stacey, is a Triple Crowner and has been part of the distance hiking community for many years.
The next morning started with Ras and Kathy Vaughan, a husband-wife couple known as “Team Ultrapedestrian.”
They hiked and developed a 2,600-mile long through the Inland Northwest of the U.S. Called the UP North Loop. It links the Pacific Crest Trail, Oregon Desert Trail, Idaho Centennial Trail, and Pacific Northwest Trail. The route required research to find a way to connect established trails with routes. On the ground, it required creativity and navigation. The Oregon Desert Trail and Idaho Centennial Trail sections in particular are mostly cross-country and bushwhacking and have many alternate routes without an established line.
Both Ras and Kathy hope others will follow their route, but want it to always remain a route. Unlike the PCT, they don’t want there to be an app or just “one way” to do it. The cross-country and alternates and many ways of hiking the UP North Loop is what makes it an adventure they hope others may repeat.
Steve “OG” Queen thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail at age 18 in 1981. Then, he hiked it again 35 years later in 2016. His talk reflected on the experience of walking the PCT at different ages. He also reflected about how the trail and trail culture has changed over the years.
Steve Queen was in the first class of Triple Crowners. After his dirtbag thru-hiking years were over, he still engaged in the hiking community as a career-oriented professional. He formed and was President of the Pacific Crest Trail Association Mt. Hood Chapter, a volunteer trail maintenance group for the PCT.
Steve has been engaged in the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West since its very first meeting. There were 11 people at the first Gathering held at Ray Jardine’s house in La Pine, Oregon. Steve told me how the organization changed from the early 1990s to the much bigger and well-organized group that it is today.
Steve was an early board member of ALDHA-West and is partially responsible for keeping the Triple Crown award alive: “I noticed the Triple Crown was petering out and that people didn’t even think too much about it. And I thought it was such an important thing to me. And I thought it was important to me to make sure that other people got the chance to realize how important it was to them.”
Steve first learned about the PCT as a teenager when a friend took him to Zigzag Canyon near Mt. Hood in Oregon. He said, “If you walk that way, you’ll go all the way to Canada and if you walk that way you go all the way to Mexico.” For Steve, this was a transformative moment. “It was one of those things in your life. You have certain moments in your life. And you totally know that those particular moments change the entire course of your life.”
At 18, Steve Queen showed up at the Mexican border not knowing what to expect. Only 42 miles into the hike, he dumped 17 pounds of gear at Mt. Laguna, including a 7-pound hatchet. “I couldn’t process what I was going to go through because I hadn’t gone through it,” he explained.
When he hiked the PCT 35 years later, he knew exactly what he was getting into. In 2016, as he started the PCT, he described himself as “giddy to the point where I was dancing.” He thought to himself, “I can’t believe I’m back here.” He had hiked many other long distance trails. There weren’t unknowns. He knew he could do it.
But it had been a while since Steve last thru-hiked. Before 2016, Steve’s last long walk was in 1991. But in 2001, he thought about hiking the PCT again. At the time, he had two small children. He planned that when his youngest child graduated high school, he would be able to thru-hike again. That year would be 2016.
On his second thru-hike, Steve realized that hiking the trail at 18 and hiking at 53 years old have differences. Years before his second hike of the PCT, Steve had back surgery. During his 2016 thru-hike, his back especially hurt in Northern California. But he told himself he could push through the pain. “I was going to stay [on trail] unless I absolutely physically could not do whatever I needed to do,” he told me.
Unsurprisingly, the PCT that Steve hiked in 1981 and then in 2016 was different. When he hiked in 1981, “the Forest Service was right in the heavy hot and heavy process of building Trail.” A lot of trail had not even been completed yet. On his second hike, Steve told me that 50% of the trail in Southern California and 50% of trail in Northern California were new to him.
Nowadays, the PCT is on the Crest, where getting water can be tricky. But in 1981, many of the roadwalks and alternate trails that Steve used actually had better access to water. Still, even in 2016, Steve refused to use the water caches in the desert to stay true to his 1981 trail experience. As a result, for one haul during his 2016 hike, he carried 8.5 liters of water and passed up three water caches.
These days, it’s easier to stay in touch with family and friends on a thru-hike. In 1981, Steve used payphones. Today’s cell phones also make navigating the PCT much easier, especially with the popular Guthook App. “It’s freaking awesome,” he said. “But sometimes I would find myself on automatic walking through my environment. I’m a big believer in paper maps. So sometimes I would tell myself ‘no app today.’”
When Steve originally hiked the Triple Crown, there were so few hikers that he went by his given name. No trail name ever stuck.
But in 2016, the trails were more crowded. In 1981, there were 35 people who completed the PCT. In 2016, it’s likely that 35 people started on the same day as Steve.
Still, Steve had a hard time connecting with other hikers in 2016. He was much older than many hikers. He found the 2016 thru-hikers to be clique-y. It was hard for him to become part of a group. He felt like he was hiking the trail alone, even though there were so many other people on trail. In all of Southern California, Steve only felt like he had connected to two other hikers, Savannah and Mia. But as happens on trail, they parted ways. He thought he would never see them again.
But when he got to Kennedy Meadows after hundreds of miles of not seeing them, there they were! Savannah and Mia called out to him. Steve was already just happy just to be at Kennedy Meadows, a major milestone for PCT hikers. But now he was even happier to see his old friends.
“I want to give you a trailname,” Savannah says. Steve had explained that over tens of thousands of miles of hiking, nothing had ever stuck. “You’re OG,” she said. It’s short for Original Gangster. Steve wasn’t sure what she meant.
“You were one of the first people to hike the PCT and now you’re hiking the PCT like an OG,” she said.
Steve reflects: “I had never thought that I would ever have a trail name but this particular way that I got the trail name was like the best possible scenario. That was the best day of my trip.”
リズ・トーマスのハイキング・アズ・ア・ウーマン＃18 / アメリカにおけるロング・ディスタンス・ハイカーのイベント
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