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How about a Coast to Coast Hiking Trail?

Some years ago a few of us got together and had an idea that a hiking trail across America would provide an unequalled opportunity to slowly see our great nation in all its glory.
We got serious and put together a plan for a major event that would both publicize the idea and scout a route. We gave it the name Hikanation.
I had a magazine in which we could get the attention of hikers to see if we could interest enough of them to want to give it a try.
We had already founded a national hiking organization, AHS, the American Hiking Society.
We proposed the idea to the board and received overwhelming support. And we got just as resounding interest from my Backpacker magazine readers.
Thus, on April 12, 1980 a large group of hikers got together with us in a downtown church basement in San Francisco to get started on this 4200-mile adventure.


Off with a bang.

7,000 hikers crossing Oakland-Bay Bridge
Our enthusiastic hikers met still other local hikers at the shore of the Pacific Ocean, dipped their boots in the water, turned east, and headed out.
My good friend, JimKern, agreed to head up this undertaking. He managed to get assistance from a great number of influential people
Among the first, he enlisted Nobel Laureate, Glenn Seaborg, to organize things in California and map out a route across that state.
But, there was a huge obstacle to us on the second day of the hike. How do you get across San Francisco Bay?
Jim Kern Aug 2012

Jim Kern
While there is the long Oakland Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to Oakland, it is designed to only carry motorized traffic.
Well, Glenn and his chief lieutenant, Mike Reynolds, had to ask the State of California’s legislature to pass a bill to enable the closing of one lane of the bridge to allow our hikers to cross it on foot.
That got so much publicity that the second day of Hikanation attracted 7000 more hikers to cross the bridge on foot with us.
 Our first goal was thus already surpassed, for the event hit the front pages of newspapers, news magazines, and television programs from coast to coast.

The Long Hike

Now the more tedious part, keeping the 87 hikers committed to hike together for the next 13 months, across 14 states to dip their boots into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen, Delaware.
I mean how do you keep them out of each other’s hair, keep peace among them, and handle all the logistics of resupplying them and caring for emergencies they would encounter along the way?
Jim is a marvel of organization skills and developed a loosely knit organization of coordinators in each state to help with the route.
He found a retired gentleman, Monty Montgomery, to bring mail to the hikers, resupply their food and supplies, and handle emergencies.
Monty followed the hikers along their route, on adjacent highways, hauling his Airstream trailer.
Monty became more than simply a supporting arm of the hike; he became a comforter, confidant, nurse and mother to the hikers.
The 87 hikers who began the hike winnowed down substantially along the way for one reason or another.
One developed a serious bowel condition and had to leave for an operation, but returned to the hike as soon as he regained his strength.
John Stout & Marcie Guerrein

John Stout

Marcie Guerrein

The hikers were of all ages.

The oldest was 69-year-old John Stout.  And Marcie Guerrein,
just under sixty, was the hike’s oldest woman.
The youngest was a baby in arms, Jaimie, the daughter of Gomer and Gayle Rainbow Pyle.  Jaimie began the adventure in a baby carriage pushed along the route by Gomer.
 She learned to walk while her parents trudged the happy road, and ended up on her own legs at the finish.

Jaimie and Gayle Rainbow Pyle
Jaimie may have set some sort of Guinness World Record as the youngest to cross America with parents on foot, if you exclude of course those babes who grew up in covered wagons during the migration west.

Thirty-five Years Later

Last week the Hikanation group and their descendants met in Rocky Mountain National Park for their thirty-fifth annual reunion.
It was an emotional event with tears of both joy as well as sadness over the loss of so many of their fellow hikers over the years.  Jaimie was there, now a beautiful woman with a lovely singing voice.
Jaimie and Gomer Pyle, Jim Kern and Gudie Gaskill at Hiknation 35th annual reunionMG_5151

Jaimie Pyle, Gomer Pyle, Jim Kern, Gudy Gaskill
Hikanation is significant for setting in motion the drive to establish a fixed footpath across America, which finally came into being as the federally designated American Discovery Trail in 2000.
There are a number of videos on YouTube about Hikanation including one of this year’s reunion.
The special one for me is a slide show that “Kelty Mike” set up.  (That’s Mike Collins’ trail name.)
It has nostalgic scenes of all the events that took place on the entire hike from the boot-dipping in the Pacific to the first night’s camp on a paved parking lot beneath the Oakland-Bay Bridge, the hike across the bridge and the hundreds of other events along the way.
Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbSdzB8PHnTNg7zz2drmVJw
There are other interesting sites on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AmericanHiking/posts/10152062462628108
Then there is Hikanation’s website http://hikanation.com
And the one I liked most has film clips of the entire hike, with a lot of focus on baby hiker, Jaimie Pyle, as she grows up to walk the final steps of the route. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3dhi0S6Xqo

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