Dave Rice 11:30 a.m., Dec. 9
My idea was to collect a series of individual stories from hikers who have undertaken the 2640-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico (on the edge of Campo) to Canada.The official kick-off was a few weeks ago and hundreds began the trek.
In Julian, where I live, we are at the 80-mile point on the trail. We are between Scissors Crossing and Warner Springs so hikers usually start showing up in town at the end of their fourth day. They are easy to spot in town with their gear.
I expected to find people on a vision quest, or some journey of transformation like climbing Mount Everest. Nope. The number one reason I have found for being on this trail is homelessness! These are our upper class poor trying to manage with some dignity. These people had jobs and homes and lives. I can tell. I've talked to dozens of them now.
The first thing I noticed that seemed odd was seeing how many of them paid for their groceries with a food stamp card. I suppose I thought that only financially strong people had the time and resources to take up to six months off work to do this trail.
Then I start visiting with them one-on-one. Those weren't hikers' eyes. They were very tired eyes. Far too tired for this early in the journey I thought. Their stories grabbed my heart. I ended up praying with many of them. Yes, there were a few on a vision quest. One man even brought two valets with him to do all the work. He had many gadgets to help him along.
These people are the ones who didn't have family and wouldn't go to the streets and shelters or suffer the indignity of begging for food, clothes and shelter. Abraham Maslow would be setting off flares at the potential for human loss. He was an early psychologist who felt like people had the inner resources to heal themselves and actualize but their basic needs had to be met. He described a ladder of needs and if the basics-food, air, water weren't met, actualizing as a human may not occur.
If so many of us are scrambling for survival, how can we expect to advance as a society? We're going backwards here. The PCT and other trails are not the answer to homelessness, joblessness and the massive recession our country is shuddering from.
Instead of caving under the stress or falling for the false relief of the many addictions that plague us, these trekkers-many solo- decided to spend months, not of finding themselves, but of finding the strength to carry on. At the end of this trail lies an even harder trail of uncertainty and despair if the world doesn't change while they are on the PCT.
God I hope it does. Please let it happen that the shift occurs-be it economic or spiritual. Whatever it takes should be done to create room in our society for everyone who wants to work. I pray for homes, jobs and resources for all these brave, determined walkers if that's what they need. We can't lose people with this much spirit. We need them and they really need us NOW!
Peace Be With You, SherryD