Pacific Crest Trail to be featured at Wild & Scenic Film Festival

We’re thrilled to invite you to this year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City and Grass Valley, California. The festival runs Jan. 14-18 and you can find out more at

Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, a wonderfully generous PCTA supporter, is a national partner of the festival and has chosen PCTA to be their “local love” partner! During a session that they’re hosting called Tread Lightly (12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Miner’s Foundary – see schedule), they’ll show the Pacific Crest Trail film Only the Essential. We’re thrilled that Only the Essential has been selected for the film festival!

As a festival by activists and for activists, Wild & Scenic is organized and produced by SYRCL (the South Yuba River Citizens League). The Pacific Crest Trail travels through and protects the top of the Yuba River watershed for about 80 miles from Sugar Bowl Ski Resort in the south to near Quincy-La Porte Road in the north.

Colin Arisman at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Colin Arisman at the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

We asked Colin Arisman, creator of Only the Essential to tell us a bit about his film.

After graduating from the University of Vermont, I came home for a month before setting off on the Pacific Crest Trail. In my small hometown of Montpelier, Vermont, I would bump into high school teachers, friends’ parents and other acquaintances, and the conversation would inevitably turn to my plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. After explaining the basics of the trail – “Mexico to Canada…2668 miles…no, I’m not taking a gun…the bears aren’t that dangerous,” the person listening would inevitably fall silent and cock their head with a quizzical expression. Then as if I’d been cornered for the checkmate, the fateful questions would come – “Well, what are you going to do after? What are you going to do for work?” A lump would form in my throat, and eventually I’d reply that I really didn’t know.

 I never expected the trail would launch me into the film industry. Somehow, the “anti-career” choice of setting out into the wilderness for five months jumpstarted my work as a professional filmmaker. My Pacific Crest Trail film “Only The Essential” began as a small project to share with family and friends but over the course of a year grew into something much larger. My childhood friend Casey Gannon and I set off on the PCT with the goal of filming every day but with no prior filmmaking experience. After completing the trail we had an enormous amount of footage, but were devastated to hear that the editor who had agreed to compile the film was no longer available. While I had no professional editing experience I decided to put myself through a crash course in filmmaking and put “Only The Essential” together myself.

It turned out the editing went better than expected – a lot better! Over the last year the film has been seen by thousands of people at home, and we went on a tour across the U.S. including presentations in Portland, Gonzaga University and Boulder Colorado. “Only The Essential” has been accepted into a half dozen film festivals, including selection as Best Feature film at the Maine Outdoor Film Festival and selection in Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

My advice – find what drives you deep down when you are wet, cold and lonely. Put yourself in situations where you will be overwhelmed by beauty. Make a friend in the wilderness. And everything else will fall into place. All I knew before the PCT was that I felt a deep calling to hike the trail and encounter whatever mystery awaited me along the path. I never worried much about life after the trail because I had a faith that something would be waiting for me when I got to Canada.

Check out Colin’s projects at and I’ll see you on Saturday at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival!

Author: Jack "Found" Haskel

As the Trail Information Manager, Jack works to connect people to the PCT. He's involved with a wide variety of projects that help the trail, the trail's users and the community that surrounds the experience. He has thru-hiked (Pacific Crest Trail in 2006; Colorado Trail in 2008; Continental Divide Trail in 2010) and is an obsessed weekend warrior.