The gift of wilderness areas is a gift that keeps on giving, providing we give back. If city streets must be maintained, then so must trails. Even the mighty Pacific Crest Trail, that stretches over 2,000 miles through the Sierra and Cascade mountain ranges needs regular upkeep. Maintenance protects it as much from the forces of nature as the march of human feet.
Jack Haskel, trail information specialist for the Pacific Crest Trail Association, tells Well.org a recent clean-up was crucial to a stretch of trail heavily damaged by storms. But it was the work of mostly volunteers, people who regularly walked sections of the trail and had gained so much from it over time, who ultimately gave so much back.
“It was probably the largest effort to quickly clear a section of trail that has ever happened in the western United States, for all I know,” Haskel says. “Great example of all of these partner organizations coming together to help the Pacific Crest Trail and that’s kind of the work that the PCTA organizes.
“Nature comes through every single year and will destroy a section of the trail, but then you get all these people who go play with chainsaws and cross-cut saws, digging the dirt and hanging out with their friends. They’re excited to do it. That’s a fun thing to have the opportunity to go out and help a good cause like Pacific Crest Trail. It was a really neat year.”
But Haskel is quick to emphasize the power of volunteer passion in keeping the PCT vital. “It’s really easy to think that somebody else will do it,” he says. “There are a lot of threats to the Pacific Crest Trail. I mean, you imagine that it’s 2,650 miles long, there’s constant pressure to encroach on it and to degrade this experience. The experience is here not just for people. It also has the wonderful effect of protecting this wildlife corridor and protecting the top of our watershed up and down the West Coast and all of the other benefits that having this 2,600-mile corridor provides. That biodiversity and the purity of that is what really brings us back to connection with who we truly are.”
Haskel, who says he needs to get out for a hike and camp beneath the stars at least once a month, is quite clear what he gets out of his trail and what must be given back.
“True hiking is classic, simple living. Life very stripped down. It’s walk, eat, sleep. That opens people’s senses because we’re not distracted. Go out for the day. Go out for a night. Go out for a month. Whatever it is. Then, realize that these places need your support. Many men of the Forest Service, the National Park Services, they do a great job with really limited resources, but Washington, D.C. only supports projects where the people say: ‘We want this.’ We do. It’s obvious that PCT is a people project.”