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Hitting the trail

It’s not every day that one decides to put their life on hold to “take a hike.” Perhaps in the movies, in a documentary or in the name of raising awareness for a certain cause one might learn of such an act.

For Oakdale’s James Evans, however, that day did indeed come, but it did require a bit of thought, consideration and even a bit of planning. Evans, along with childhood friend Anthony Trujillo of Monterey, placed their lives on hold to take on the challenge of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, PCT.

The feat took them a total of 2,650 miles on foot from Campo, California to Manning Park, Canada. It’s estimated to hike the PCT can take between four to six months. The Oakdale High School Class of 2010 graduates completed the journey just a day short of five months.

“This was by far the longest trip,” Evans, an avid hiker and outdoorsman said of the excursion, noting Trujillo first approached him with the idea in late summer of 2017.

After a month of consideration and weighing the pros and cons, Evans was all in. The hiker shared that the two spent about six months to plan the trip and get their affairs in order.

“You can kind of prepare yourself for things but nothing really prepares you for the things you encounter,” he said.

One such thing which came early into the trek was blisters. Evans shared conditioning and/or training for a distance of such epic proportion is really mute. The first three weeks were spent enduring desert heat and dry terrain and as result – blisters.

“The first three weeks was brutal,” he said, “but after three weeks I became an expert in blister care.”

Following 30 to 35 days in the desert, the duo hit Kennedy Meadows feeling not only as if their bodies had adapted, but also as if it experienced an unconventional training. 

In order to survive the five-month adventure comfortably, Evans was outfitted with a backpack complete with all the essentials: food, clothes, mat, sleeping bag and supplies including a tent.

Initially the duo set a goal of 20 miles per day. They utilized their smart phones and apps to aid with planning and navigating the trail. The days are relatively simple according to Evans; that is, once he convinced himself to get out of bed.

“The work day starts when you wake up,” he said. “People think it’s a vacation; it’s work. You are working at it every day. You’re always trying to get as far as you can … most days.”

Contrary to what one might expect of anything that takes five months of continued dedication, Evans shared he never doubted his decision or his ability to complete the trail with Trujillo.

In fact, as days went by, the two adapted to love the trail and the people they came to not only meet, but regard as their Trail Family.

“You meet so many people on the trail,” Evans said. “It was awesome. That’s the thing I can say about the trail, the community on that trail is … it’s unbelievable.”

But it wasn’t all hike and no play for the 20-something adventurers. The Pacific Crest Trail allows hikers the ability to pop in and out of area towns as they follow the trail’s path. Something the hikers took advantage of throughout their travels. Evans shared they clocked a total of over 30 days of “zeroes,” a notation which would indicate down days or days of living as locals in varying towns. Those days normally included hearty breakfasts, hotel stays, showers and cold beers.

“We were racing winter,” Evans said of their May to October trek. He noted only a few rain days during the hike. “We were trying to beat winter the whole time, but still enjoy ourselves.”

Life on the trail is very simplistic and it gives you perspective. We put so much investment on things and stuff. The quality of life was never higher than when I was on the trail and I had as little as I could possibly have.
­James Evans

And enjoying themselves is precisely how it all panned out. Now months removed from the experience, Evans’ eyes light up as he tells stories of fellow hikers with trail names such as Fish and Chips, a couple they met along the trail, as well as others with colorful stories and histories.

“Life on the trail is very simplistic and it gives you perspective,” he said. “We put so much investment on things and stuff. The quality of life was never higher than when I was on the trail and I had as little as I could possibly have.”

When Evans speaks of “the trail” it’s almost as if he visited another world. Phrases like trail magic, the trail provides and trail angels weave in and out of his recollections. As he travels down memory lane of the trail it becomes apparent, it was another world. A world he shared they chose to call the ‘real world’ versus the world the rest of us wake up to each day – what they called the ‘synthetic world.’

“It was just a different appreciation for the world in general,” he said. “Things are precious. Life is precious. People just don’t get it. You know you do have a huge impact on the things around you.

“People are very good,” he shared. “It definitely restores your faith a little in humanity.”

As for sharing his story about a journey he chose to take quietly with one of his best friends, his motivation is simple.

“You are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for,” Evans said of the lesson learned from his excursion. “I didn’t have a doubt I was going to do it, but who knows how it’s going to go. I think too often people get discouraged and they take themselves out of things. Stay focused. You have way more control over a situation than you might think.” ■