National Geographic : 1971 Jun
ITS SOUTHERN TERMINUS lies upon a hill, a lonely, sun-scorched lump of chaparral and rock astride the border between California and Mexico. In the north it arcs across Oregon and Washington, touching Canada on a grassy slope where lavender asters race the autumn snows. A 2,400-mile footpath, two-thirds com plete, the Pacific Crest Trail keeps faith with its name. It seeks out, in the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades, and lesser ranges, the remote meeting places of stony spire and brilliant sky. But lest the hiker tire of heights and breathtaking vistas-an unlikely event-the trail also plunges down like a runaway roller coaster to nooks of wood and water. On a warm day in May I first walked on this stairway to the heavens at a point 20 miles southeast of San Diego, California. As the wind shook the aroma of sage from the chaparral, I climbed the hill where the route begins (or ends, depending on your direction) and ceremonially set foot into Mexico (map, next page). I remember, too, the September day when I reached the other end, tramping alone among the craggy peaks that hang over the border between Washington and Canada. That day the wind bore sullen clouds and slushy snow; in the gray gloom I felt an unexpected surge of fear. Just ahead, a bear cub wandered across the trail. A city man, I have limited knowledge of bears, but I assumed that the cub's mother must be near too. Through my mind raced the warning printed on my U. S. Forest Ser vice map: "Avoid a she-bear with cubs." I walked on-warily. Suddenly my backpack was yanked hard from behind. The she-bear! I leaped around, certain I'd find her snarling at my shoulder. But all I found was one of my own tent ropes trailing from my pack. Snagged on a limb, it had jerked taut as I walked past. "I'm careful to give a she-bear plenty of room," Jake Pederson told me later. He's one of my favorite people in the rugged country the trail traverses. Just a stub of a man, five feet six-most of that concealed by boots, it seems-Jake shelters his wind-worn face beneath a big Western hat. Its brim curls up like the wings of an upside-down gull; I often thought he might blow away in a breeze. For 35 years with the Forest Service, he has fought fire and cleared trail in the northern Cascades. For me, he expressed best the appeal of the peaks on the Pacific Crest. DATADAL THE NATIONALGEOGRAPHICMAGAZINEVOL.139, NO. 6 COPYRIGHT© 1971 BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,WASHINGTON,D. C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED June 1971 Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail By MIKE W. EDWARDS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STAFF PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVID HISER Badge of scenic beauty marks the Nation's longest footpath, threading 2,400 miles from border to border.