Pacific Crest Trail volunteer spotlight: Chris Ryerson

Chris Ryerson estimates that he’s spent about 650 days in the Sierra over the past seven years. It’s no wonder he’s gravitated to working in the trails he loves.

He recently became chief of the PCTA Trail Gorillas’ Section G, meaning that he coordinates projects in the area, scouts for trail damage and makes sure his crews are well cared for.

Chris joined the PCTA Trail Gorillas for his first work project in late October 2009 and has been at it ever since. That project was in the Trail Gorillas’ Section F, which runs from Tehachapi to Walker pass and is notorious for heavy brush that grows up to 18 inches a year.

Chris on the summit of Clyde Minaret in the Sierra Nevada.

Chris on the summit of Clyde Minaret in the Sierra Nevada.

Asked where he like to work trail and Chris’s answer is an enthusiastic “Anywhere I can!” But most his work is done in Southern California south of Kennedy Meadows.I get out most with the Trail Gorillas and have also done lots of time with SCA (Student Conservation Association) crews,” he said, “but any group that offers trail work could see me show up.”

For Chris, working hard on the trail is personal and cathartic.

“I have lived a life that is lonely and full of turmoil,” he said. “Being able to get out on the trails I love and do something not only for myself but for every other person that walks it gives me a sense of enjoyment and purpose that I have lacked all my life. Combine that with an ever expanding list of people I respect and can call my friend and volunteering becomes more then just work. It becomes a way of life.”

Chris Ryerson Photo

Chris in his home range, the Sierra Nevada. His volunteerism on the Pacific Crest Trail is greatly appreciated.

One of his favorite accomplishments came when he joined and SCA for tread work. The crew installed dozens of drainages and cut trail into a sandy hillside for more than four miles. “After eight hours of shoveling dirt day after day I was filthy, tired and happy as can be,” he said.

His message to potential volunteers?If your even considering volunteering you’re a lot closer then most people ever will be,” he said. “Take the step and give it a shot. The worst that can happen is you lose a day getting fresh air and some exercise. You will more likely gain dozens of new friends and a new appreciation for trails and what it takes to keep them open. But be warned! Trail work is highly addictive!”

Hanging from the summit of Mt. Farquhar in the Sierra Nevada.

Hanging from the summit of Mt. Farquhar in the Sierra Nevada.

Author: Mark Larabee

Mark Larabee is the PCTA's Advocacy Director. He is the former editor of the "PCT Communicator" magazine and co-author of "The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America's Wilderness Trail" published in 2016. Larabee is a journalist, part of a team who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for The Oregonian newspaper. He hiked the PCT across Oregon for a 2005 series for the paper and has been with PCTA since 2010. He lives in Portland.