Meet the 2016 Crest Runners

The Cleveland National Forest is hosting two Crest Runners for the first 100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in Southern California. This is the second year of the 12-week Crest Runner program based in the Descanso Ranger District in Alpine.

Jules Fijolek and Brandon Norris are U.S. Forest Service employees who are providing Leave No Trace information to hikers and horseback riders as they start their PCT journeys at the Mexican border. The pair will also collect data about campsites, water sources and visitor use for this highly popular section of trail.

The program is similar to the Ridge Runner program on the Appalachian Trail. On the PCT, it was started in 2015 based on a desire of the Forest Service and PCTA to minimize the effects of an increasing number of PCT thru-hikers starting at the southern border during peak spring season.

The Crest Runners stand at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. They work for Cleveland National Forest.

The 2016 PCT Crest Runners at the Southern Terminus.

In this area, the PCT passes through a fragile desert ecosystem. Because of the general scarcity of water, vegetation and organic soils, desert lands are particularly susceptible to damage and are slow to recover. To spread out large groups, the Forest Service limited the number of long-distance permits issued in 2015 to 50 per day, but only for trailheads in this area.

The Crest Runners are Leave No Trace specialists who will provide information about minimizing the affects of travel and camping and proper techniques for washing dishes, gathering water and safely using fire. They also will help monitor visitor impacts to campsites, water sources, and riparian areas. They will hike and camp along the trail.

This is Jules Fijolek’s second season as a Crest Runner.  He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and in the spring of 2010 attended a three-month National Outdoor Leadership School trip to the Australian Outback. He is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a Degree in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Administration with a focus on Outdoor Recreation. He has worked as a wildland firefighter and with the Pacific Crest Trail Association as an intern in Southern California. He thru-hiked the PCT in 2013.

Brandon Norris grew up in Florence, Alabama. He spent eight years in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged in 2012 after being injured in the line of duty. He then completed an internship with the Veteran Fire Corps through the Student Conservation Association in Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. From there he spent a season in the Kisatchie National Forest. In the summer of 2015, he was a member on the Palomar Hotshots, a firefighting crew for the Cleveland National Forest. He’s now is excited to serve on the Descanso Ranger District as a Crest Runner.