Recap: celebrating our Mt Hood Chapter’s remarkable doubling

By Ron Goodwin

The Mount Hood Chapter of the PCTA had their annual celebration at Gifford Pinchot National Forest headquarters on Feb. 7. About 120 people attended to honor the 400 volunteers for their 15,600 hours contributed in 2014 – more than doubling the number of volunteer hours contributed in the past. This breaks down as 204 volunteering up to 15 hours, 119 with 10 to 40 hours, 40 with 41 to 100 hours, 18 with 101 to 500 hours and 5 volunteered more than 500 hours. This was over double the volunteer hours that have been contributed to work on the trails in the past.

Roberta Cobb, chapter chair, and Dana Hendricks, PCTA regional representative, went through the many accomplishments of Mount Hood volunteers this year. Edan Lira of the Columbia River National Scenic Area representing the Gifford Pinchot and Mount Hood national forests and the Colunbia River National Scenic Area presented awards to many of our deserving volunteers. Edan also applauded the chapter for its great safety record and communication skills.

Roberta Cobb

Roberta Cobb receives an award.

The Mount Hood Chapter had 35 caretakers lead 114 work parties on 214 miles of the PCT from Breitenbush Lake in Oregon to Mount Adams in Washington. With feeder, alternate and Columbia River Gorge trails, the chapter maintained 487 miles.

The highlight of the afternoon was Bernadette Murray’s story of the Murray’s family of five plus a friend who rode the PCT in 1969-70 from Mexico to Canada. The family trekked the trail before it was as widely known, admired and cared for. Bernadette’s father, Barry, was a cartographer. He collected topographical maps of the PCT from the many ranger stations along the way, finding that the trail was not always there. He was also a professional photographer and took about 4,000 pictures with his two 35mm cameras. Bernadette was 10 years old and she and her 8-year-old sister and 12-year-old brother took their school work along.

They used 12 “rescue” horses, which her father had bought for $5 to $75. They rode six, used three to pack camping gear – including canvas tents – and three packed horse food. Barry learned to shoe horses. In some of the rocky areas, there were a lot of thrown shoes. Bernadette’s pregnant mare Crazy Daisy Mae gave birth to a filly named Tagalong near Indian Heaven Wilderness in Washington, so they took a week off to get the foal ready to go along until it was sent home. They made up a lot of songs to go along with the horses and played horseshoes for entertainment.


Bernadette Murray showing off a saddle bag she used.

Conditions along the trail were so bad at times that the family carried shovels and a Pulaski to relocate or reconstruct the tread. Many places were fenced with locked gates as it crossed private land. At first they dug up the gateposts, laid blankets across the wire for the horses and then reinstalled the gate. In Idyllwild, Calif., they bought a fence mending tool so they only had to cut the wire and then mend it.


It was an enthralling slideshow and talk.

Bernadette and her father could sew and made all their saddle bags, clothes, and hobbles. They had a gold pan for washing and were doing leave-no-trace camping, which gave one ranger the idea for a “Pack-it Out” campaign after seeing it written on their saddle bags.

The previous winter brought a 100-year snow event, so rivers were running high and fast and snow was still on the trail in September. Other obstacles included rattlesnakes, Mojave Desert heat, quicksand at one crossing and ranchers who did not want them crossing their land. The Feather River crossing on a bridge had a sign on the other side saying: Not Passable for Stock.  One horse broke a board. They finally left the trail near Mount Lassen at a high river crossing and continued the next year. They completed their trek on Oct. 7, 1970 when they reached the Canadian border.

Think about how much better the PCT is today because of the volunteers maintaining it. A big shout out to all the volunteers in the Mount Hood Chapter for working so diligently to keep the trail safe and passable for hikers and equestrians.

We’re actively recruiting more volunteers. Sign up.