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Following a path where man is just a visitor

Grassroots Tehachapi

 

Photo provided

Trail Angels Christopher and Carol Rush have years of collected notes and comments in their Pacific Coast Trail Logbook.

Our little mountain town has a lot of unique features. One of my favorites is its connection to the beautiful Pacific Crest Trail.

Downtown Tehachapi is just about 9-miles from two PCT Trailheads, which brings more than a thousand hikers to our town each year between April and August. I love hiking, but have never ventured out on the PCT, which runs from Mexico to Canada. Seeing the hikers and hearing their stories from the trail is exciting and full of mystery.

Tehachapi has more than 40 volunteers that help these hikers with a variety of needs when they take a breather in town. The aptly named Trail Angels provide transportation from the trailheads to local amenities, desperately needed by the hikers. Mostly, they bring them to the local post office to pick up supplies hikers mailed to themselves before the start of their journey. Occasionally, doctors will be needed or a local market.

The Tehachapi Trail Angels was formed about 20 years ago by Anne Marie and George Novinger. As owners of the Apple Shed they noticed a steady flow of hikers coming through town, though not nearly the numbers seen now. They recognized their needs and started gathering "angels".

"We now have a whole community movement to help the hikers," Anne Marie said.

The Novingers are stepping down this year as Trail Angel co-chairs and leaving the volunteer coordinator duties to Georgette Theotig, Kathi Hinkle and Christopher Rush.

"We owe Anne Marie and George a huge debt of gratitude for organizing the Trail Angels. They've given Tehachapi a really good reputation," Theotig said.

The three new coordinators have been volunteer angels for many years and have collected many memories and stories from the trail.

"I like that our town is a layover town where the hikers can rest and see some neat things," Hinkle said.

Christopher and his wife Carol Rush, who also volunteers, mostly help with transportation, but occasionally open their house up to the hikers. They provide showers, beds and food for the tired adventurers.

Between 2007-2016, Christopher walked the entire 2,659-mile trail. He is what PCT folks call a section hiker, walking the trail bits at a time. He hiked with some people he met within the PCT community. He fondly remembers the coldest night they spent on the trail - their very first night on the journey near Jawbone Canyon.

"It was windy and cold that spring, I shared a tent with a man I was hiking with. He had his German Shepherd with him. I like to say it was a three dog night with only one dog," Christopher said. "The dog got so cold outside he came in the tent with us."

Theotig, an avid backpacker herself though she's never hiked the PCT, is encouraged by the growing number of hikers she sees come through Tehachapi every year. Especially in our current political climate, she thinks it's important for more people to see and experience the natural beauty of the trail.

"In these areas, man is just a visitor," Theotig said. "These public lands are treasures. We should take care of them."

Robert Siciliani of Tehachapi, Charlie Willard of Sacramento and Christopher Rush of Tehachapi at the northern terminus of Pacific Crest Trail at Canadian Border.

The PCT goes through 48 designated wilderness areas, meaning you can only travel by foot or on the back of a horse, 25 National Forests and seven National Parks. That is incredibly special and something that should be preserved. There is not a precise tally of annual trail visitors, but the PCT Association says it could be more than a million hikers, both domestic and international, each year.

"This trail isn't just a national scenic trail, it's an international scenic trail," Christopher said.

Our Tehachapi Trail Angels take pride in sharing the town with visitors. I can't wait to see the new fellowship of hikers stopping by for a welcomed rest.

Do you know an inspirational group, individual or program that should be featured in an upcoming Grassroots Tehachapi? Email me at jcrisalli@gmail.com.

See you next time!

 
 

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