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May 26, 2020

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‘Wild’ film spurs new interest in Pacific Crest Trail

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
Published:
6 Photos
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail through Goat Rocks is popular, but many locations in the wilderness are hard to reach due to roads lacking maintenance.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail through Goat Rocks is popular, but many locations in the wilderness are hard to reach due to roads lacking maintenance. (Files/ The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Did you know?

• While the origins of the Pacific Crest Trail go back decades, a completion ceremony was held in 1993. The trail stretches 2,650 miles through Washington, Oregon and California.

On the Web

Find information about the Pacific Crest Trail through the Pacific Crest Trail Association at www.pcta.org

Cheryl Strayed never ventured into Washington during the hike depicted in her best-selling memoir “Wild.”

But the 2012 book drew widespread attention to the entire Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,650 miles between Mexico and Canada. The movie version of “Wild” — which opened in a limited release Friday — figures to brighten the spotlight even more.

“It’s really unprecedented,” Jack Haskel, trail information specialist with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, said of the attention. “Primarily, we’re seeing lots of people get excited about the Pacific Crest Trail.”

Did you know?

• While the origins of the Pacific Crest Trail go back decades, a completion ceremony was held in 1993. The trail stretches 2,650 miles through Washington, Oregon and California.

That means more hikers on the trail in California, Oregon and Washington. Locally, managers are expecting an uptick in the coming weeks and months as people learn about the trail and perhaps become inspired by Strayed’s journey, which ended at the Oregon-Washington border.

“We’re anticipating a general increase in activity on the trail,” said Stan Hinatsu, a federal recreation program manager in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. “I think it would generate a lot of interest overall.”

From the south, the Pacific Crest Trail enters Washington in Skamania County, crossing the Bridge of the Gods near Stevenson. From there, the trail meanders into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and beyond.

The trail mostly passes through a patchwork of public lands. Much of it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, though volunteers with the Pacific Crest Trail Association do a lot of the on-the-ground maintenance and preservation work, Hinatsu said.

Parts of the trail, including the portions that pass through the Columbia River Gorge, are passable year-round. Others are blanketed in snow during the winter. But managers and advocates urge anyone considering a hike on any part of the trail to do some homework and know what they’re getting into.

“Be prepared for any kind of weather, especially on a long-distance hike, and make sure you have the supplies you need to do it,” Hinatsu said. “And a good map.”

Many people hike the trail seeking solitude or a wilderness experience, Haskel said. While overcrowding on such an expansive trail is unlikely, newcomers should be mindful of the trail and other hikers, he said.

“With more and more people going out there, it’s important that people leave no trace, and that includes respecting other visitors,” Haskel said.

A small percentage of Pacific Crest Trail hikers set out to traverse the entire 2,650 miles. Haskel did just that in 2006, completing the journey in five months and four days, he said.

Haskel said he’s seen “Wild,” parts of which were filmed in Vancouver, and called it “fantastic.” The story of Strayed’s healing journey amid personal turmoil resonates strongly, he said.

On the Web

Find information about the Pacific Crest Trail through the Pacific Crest Trail Association at <a href="http://www.pcta.org">www.pcta.org</a>

“The idea of personal growth through the Pacific Crest Trail is something I know very personally,” Haskel said.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association, for its part, has welcomed the attention brought by “Wild.” The nonprofit’s website prominently features Reese Witherspoon, who stars in the movie. A dedicated “Wild” page encourages people to donate to the organization and share their own stories.

“We need people to use and love our public lands so that they can be protected,” Haskel said.

Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter
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