A hiker’s promise to the Pacific Crest Trail

Twenty two years ago, Charles “Pounder” Williams lived his passion while thru-hiking the PCT. But the PCT was always close to his heart, long before his thru-hike.

“I grew up hiking on the John Muir Trail and saw the PCT trail signs along the way,” he said. “One day, I saw the PCT guidebook while browsing in a Yosemite bookstore. It had pages and pages of topo maps and I realized, wow, this is huge!”

Years after his life-changing hike, Charles dreamed of seeing the PCT again. Because of health issues related to a disability, he didn’t think he’d be able to thru-hike again, so he decided to learn about horse packing in preparation of a thru-ride. He learned that Justin Kooyman, PCTA’s regional representative for Northern California, had an office in Portola. Charles visited Justin to see if he could get advice on planning his thru-ride.

Charles Williams on his Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.

Charles Williams on his Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike.

The subject of PCTA’s volunteer trail crews came up and Justin planted a seed: “Maybe I can get you out volunteering on the trail one day.”

Something clicked for Charles upon hearing these words. He realized how important it was to give back to the trail. Soon after, Charles joined the Backcountry Horsemen of California for a trail maintenance project in the Belden area. Later that summer, he became certified as a crosscut sawyer, and hasn’t stopped. In the past six years, Charles has cleared hundreds of trees, given 1,700 hours of volunteer time and inspired a group of volunteers to help him reach his goal to annually maintain a 222-mile section of the PCT in northern California.

His group’s name is Pounder’s Promise.

Some of the Pounder's Promise crew on the section of PCT that they steward.

Some of the Pounder’s Promise crew on the section of PCT that they steward.

“Pounder is my trail name and my promise is that each year I will do more to maintain the trail.” It’s a promise that he and his fellow volunteers are keeping. In fact in the last two years, they have more than doubled the amount of hours they work on the trail.

“My favorite part of being out there is seeing the thru-hikers come through,” he said. “I cheer them on, hear their stories and tell them about Pounder’s Promise. I try to inspire them to think about volunteering, too.”

He recognizes that young people don’t always have time for volunteer work since they are often busy trying to support themselves. He just hopes to sow the seed for a time when they are able to give back to the trail.

Charles "Pounder" Williams with one of the many, many trees that he's cleared off of the PCT.

Charles “Pounder” Williams with one of the many, many trees that he’s cleared off of the PCT.

“I do this for the hikers. I do it to create a lasting program that will keep on going when I no longer can do this. I became disabled at an early age and volunteerism is how I can contribute to society.”

After several summers of trail work, Charles discovered the trail has also given back to him. He is now fitter and stronger and ready for another PCT thru-hike. His journey next summer will take him through the section of the trail he maintains. He’s actively recruiting and inspiring volunteers to step up to more responsible roles to fulfill Pounder’s Promise while he is away. Giving back by paying it forward – this is part of Charles’ legacy and gift to the trail.

Support our trail crews by donating or volunteering today.

Author: Angie Williamson

Angie Williamson is the Director of Philanthropy for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. She oversees our fundraising work so that we have the resources we need to fulfill our mission. Her favorite part of her job is talking with donors who share our passion for the PCT.