We Are MPR even when we're miles away! MPR Supporter Bob Johnson dedicates his 2017 hike to MPR in honor of our 50th Anniversary. As he travels the Pacific Crest Trail you'll be able to follow updates in his own words (and photos!) here.
By Bob Johnson
With a desire to help promote support and awareness of the great programing generated every single day by Minnesota Public Radio, Team Minnesota is going to share its August to October, 800-mile hike of a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern California. We'll journal photos, video and text here so that you can follow us on this adventure.
Stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, the Trail is a national treasure that winds its way 2,660 miles through national parks, wilderness areas and private lands. On its journey, it climbs mountains, descends deep valleys and fords countless streams and rivers. Referred by the equestrian and hiking community as "the PCT," it is classified as a wilderness endurance trail.
While the Trail has existed for decades, not many people know about it. It became better known after the "Wild" book and movie by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl hiked 1,100 miles of the Trail in 1996. Not long ago, 300 people a year might attempt to thru-hike the entire Trail in one season. Last year, 5,300 hikers set out, some setting out in the south, some in the north. A one-season thru-hike of the PCT involves 5.5 months of continual motion by foot, often on an established path, sometimes on hard rock scramble. Hikers need to average 17 miles a day to finish before snow closes the mountain passes. In 2016, only 11% of those who started managed to finish. Although anyone who is in reasonably good shape can make the hike - after all, it's just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other 6,650,000 times - it's still not for the faint of heart. The southern section in the California high desert, where most hikers begin, can be challenging. One woman hiker wrote: "During the day it's blistering hot. At night it's freezing. You are hiking for 12 to 14 hours every day and sleeping on the ground every night. You are constantly exhausted, hungry and dirty. And, then there are rattlesnakes."
Team Minnesota will initially consist of three women (Paula Tillett, Stephanie Wallisch, Jamie Zeimann) and one man, Bob Johnson, all of whom work in downtown St Paul. Miriam Buckman, a young woman from Israel who hiked across all of Oregon with Bob in 2015, is also joining the Team. We will step onto the Trail August 14 at the Tuolumne Meadows trail head in the northern section of Yosemite National Park. The three ladies will exit the trail after completing the first 50 miles. Then, two men, one from Minnesota and one from Nebraska, will join Miriam and me for the next 65 miles, to Truckee, California. From there, I plan to continue on to Ashland, Oregon with a trail partner from Monterrey, Mexico.
We've spent the past six months buying and testing gear, planning menus and food drops, climbing flights of stairs in our office building to strengthen our legs and practicing trail skills such as: How to operate cans of bear spray when confronted by one of those boys. And, I completed a three-day medical first responder course offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). As our departure day - our jumping off date? - approaches, we've finalized our equipment selections, arranged ground transportation where needed, and our two trail bosses, Becky Johnson and Dianna Jurand, are busy in the office packing the resupply boxes that they will mail to select drop points on the Trail ahead of us.
We are excited about our hike. Everyone is ready to go! And we are proud that MPR will share updates from our journey. I will be on the Trail for up to nine weeks. There will be good times and there will be some not-so-good times. Hopefully, the bears and cougars will stay away. Cell phone service will be largely non-existent in mountain. So, I will update our MPR - PCT Hiking blog whenever a cell phone tower is near enough to provide email service. Whatever does come our way, we all invite you to "hike along" as we experience the Trail.