The many times I’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail I was always hosted by Barney “Scout” and Sandy “Frodo” Mann. They open their home to hundreds of hikers every year, providing not just a place to crash for the night but also a pickup, dinner, a ride to the border and plenty of information and other aid. Having stayed there in some years as a helper, I spent some time documenting the process a hiker goes through from pickup to their first footstep north on the Pacific Crest Trail.

PCT Hiker Waiting in Train Station

A Hiker Awaits Pickup at Union Station

Coordinating pickups is one of the hardest jobs for Scout and Frodo. They live in constant fear that they’ll “forget” someone and leave them stranded at the airport for hours.

Sandy Mann Studies The Schedule

Sandy Mann, also known as Frodo, studies the complex web of pickups and dropoffs for the day.

Step one for preventing that is their schedule board and the dozens of hours they spend making and studying it.

Barney "Scout" Mann Writing

Barney Mann, AKA Scout, emailing and coordinating with the hundreds of hikers they host.

Scout does his part. Much of the coordination work happens on a computer, especially since many of the hikers that stay with them will be from outside the United States. Email is the easiest communication tool.

PCT Hiker Shakedown

A PCT hiker begins the deep introspective process that starts with realizing they have way too much stuff.

Much of the time that is spent at Scout and Frodo’s home is spent on a process of reduction and shakedown. Most Hikers have been scrambling to get the PCT process complete — subletting apartments, selling or storing cars and other possessions and much more. Once they get to San Diego they have to attend to the details of actually backpacking.

PCT Hikers Packing by Headlamp

PCT Hikers stuff their packs by the light of their headlamps. Today is the day of their departure.

The day of departure can be a stressful time. PCT Hikers at Scout and Frodo’s typically sleep in their gear — which means the first operation in the morning is getting it all back in their packs and making sure nothing is forgotten. Some hikers, having been taking care of small details to the last minute, haven’t even yet packed their backpacks with all their gear until this moment.

PCT Hikers Final Breakfast

Some are exuberant and others tense during breakfast on the morning of departure.

Once ready to go, hikers settle in for a breakfast provided by the Manns. Many don’t eat much, despite the fact that they will walk 20 miles this day. The start of their hike begins to seem very real and some people can become anxious.

PCT Hikers loading into cars.

Hikers stream out the door in an orchestrated loading process. As many as 25-30 hikers will leave this house for the border each morning. They load into 5 or more cars in under 10 minutes.

Between 5:30 and 5:40 hikers must load their gear and themselves into the fleet of vehicles ready to take them to the US – Mexican border.

PCT Hikers and Drivers Loading to drive to the border.

PCT Hikers and drivers wait amidst the process of loading cars on the way to the border.

PCT Hikers shuttling to the border.

The last car loaded with hikers departs for the border from Scout and Frodo’s San Diego home.

It’s a rare occasion where this event doesn’t go as scheduled. Scout and Frodo provide excellent guidance and information the night before and the day of that often has the last car leaving right on schedule.

PCT Hikers Ride to Border

PCT Hikers, strapped into Barney and Sandy Mann’s minivan, go through a variety of emotional states on the hour long drive to the start of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Now, in a car and unable to move, emotions begin to run high. Some people get jittery and excited, others become quiet and introspective.

Dawn drive to the PCT monument.

Dawn begins soon after leaving Scout and Frodo’s home in San Diego. These palms will soon be traded for Yucca.

Barney "Scout" Mann at the border.

There is often a long queue each morning of hikers starting their trek with a photo of themselves at the monument. Every driver is enlisted to help shoot photos.

Even once at the border, Scout’s job isn’t done. Time now for another role he plays — documentary photographer.

Looking north from the border monument of the PCT.

Looking north from the monument. This eroded dirt road is the first few hundred feet of the PCT.

From this spot hikers begin their 2650 mile trek. At least half will quit within the first 1100 miles, either becoming disinterested by a journey that takes half a year or falling to injury or some other malady. Six months in the wilderness is very hard to conceptualize for those who haven’t done it.