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.
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.
Step one for preventing that is their schedule board and the dozens of hours they spend making and studying it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now, in a car and unable to move, emotions begin to run high. Some people get jittery and excited, others become quiet and introspective.
Even once at the border, Scout’s job isn’t done. Time now for another role he plays — documentary photographer.
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.