Photographer starts new Southern Oregon PCT maintenance crew

By Kathleen Wynne Lynch

Mick “Salt Lick” McBride’s driveway is 35 miles from the Pacific Crest Trail, but on his first one-mile trek, “I was so out of shape that it killed me,” he said.

“At the same time I loved it! I felt peace being out there, and even though I wasn’t in hiking shape, I decided I was going to keep doing it.”

He recently started leading volunteers to maintain and repair the trail along the eight-mile stretch from the top of Mount Ashland, with sweeping views of Southern Oregon, down the beautifully-graded path to Callahan’s Lodge on Interstate 5.

Mick, who lives in Medford, Oregon, discovered the PCT five years ago. “In 2010, I was just kind of getting my life back together,” he said. His father died in 2004. “I had to come to grips with the fact that I suffered from the same affliction that he did, alcoholism. After going through the process of getting sober, I found myself incredibly bored with life and frustrated. I didn’t know how to live life or have fun.

“I asked myself: ‘What did I use to enjoy doing?’ I remembered how much I loved being in the woods with my father…so I went hiking. By the end of that summer I was ripping off 10-mile hikes on a regular basis, but more importantly I was happy.”

It was on one of those hikes passing Pilot Rock that Mick learned about trail maintenance from Janette Storer, volunteer leader of PCTA’s Nor Cal Trail Crew in Northern California. “She was telling me how she was out volunteering on the PCT. I just kind of looked at her and was like, ‘You can do that?’

Mount McLoughlin on the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo: Mick McBride

Mount McLoughlin on the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo: Mick McBride

Mick logged his first trail crew hours at Crater Lake the next summer. He was nervous, having no trail crew experience. “I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what I was doing.” But that trip was enough to get him hooked. “I thought it was great, meeting like-minded individuals that were out there to have a fun time and to do something to give back. I came away just glowing.”

Mick has been working with trail crews based in Redding, California, and honing his trail-work skillset at the PCTA Trail Skills College in Hyatt Lake, Oregon, for the past four years. He also works with Oregon’s Big Bend Regional Representative, Ian Nelson.

“I noticed there was a need for people to lead groups, and I thought that was the avenue I wanted to go,” Mick said. With the help of PCTA, he started leading his own PCT trail crew, Southern Oregon Rockers. The group has a Facebook page where information about upcoming projects and volunteering is posted.

Mick hopes to lead projects in June, July and October. The focus will be brush removal, tread work and drainage maintenance. Volunteers can participate for one or both days of the weekend projects, and can expect to do some hard work and have fun. “No experience required. We’ll teach you,” Mick said.

When Mick’s not preserving the trail, you’ll find him backpacking, pursuing his love of landscape photography and living a “have less, do more kind of lifestyle.”

Photo: Mick McBride

Photo: Mick McBride

His favorite spot to hike is on the PCT through the Brown Mountain lava flow in the winter. “The savage beauty of all that lava capped with a dusting of snow and the view of Mount McLouglin, do it for me every time,” he said.

His dream is to go to Glacier National Park. He also hopes to photograph sections of the PCT in Washington in the next couple of years and to take his time exploring all the stunning vistas his lenses can capture.

“I love what the trail represents,” he said. “I love that it represents something different to everyone who uses it. The beauty of this trail goes beyond the stunning views and scenery. It’s the beauty of the human interaction that takes place on the trail, strangers becoming best friends in mere minutes, people helping people without question, and all the laughter, so so much laughter. In my mind that is magical and should be preserved forever.

“And I get to help!”

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