Volunteer spotlight: Mike Taylor

By Kathleen Lynch

When the fire swept across the PCT at Etna Summit in 2014, Mike Taylor was three days into a weeklong trail maintenance trip. The smoke and late July heat didn’t bother him, he had solo traversed Hat Creek Rim in August just a few years prior.

Mike was working the Big Bend section of trail with PCTA’s Lyons’ Pride, as he has done since 2004. Though the crew was pulled off the trail by U.S. Forest Service rangers on that trip, he would be back working not long after.

Mike grew up in Paradise, California. As a kid, he hunted and fished in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with family and friends. As a college student at Chico State, a friend convinced him to try backpacking. In June 1965, he strapped on a pack at Whitney Portal and climbed onto the John Muir Trail. From Whitney to Kearsarge Pass, Mike saw no more than a handful of people.

“Going over Forester Pass was interesting,” he said. “There weren’t many tracks. It was the beginning of June, there was still snow on the passes.”


That first backpacking trip lit a fire inside him and he began to hike more and more. After graduating college, Mike joined the army and served in Vietnam. In 1970, he moved to the Etna area of Northern California and began teaching science at a junior high in Yreka, California. On weekends and in the summer, Mike would take his family on hiking trips on the PCT. He retired in 2003.

“I had heard about trail work, and got a name from another volunteer.” Mike contacted John Lyons, who heads the Lyons’ Pride trail crew. His first trip with the crew was a week of trail work in Castle Crags State Park, where the work site was three to five miles from the trailhead.

“I did a lot of hiking,” he said. “I did mostly brush removal. I was intrigued that I was a retiree and the youngest guy on the crew.”

Mike went out for two weeks that year. He was working on a hay ranch at that time, so building rock structures and restoring tread was no problem for him. “I enjoyed the entire experience,” he said. “I liked the people I was working with, the feeling of accomplishment looking at what we had done.”

Every spring, Mike goes out with a local chapter of Back Country Horsemen. They maintain 250 miles of the PCT in Northern California extending north to the Klamath River, removing trees from the trail to make way for trail crews and hikers. “I am a backcountry horseman without the horse. I prefer to walk.”

In August 2008, Mike’s daughter and grandchildren dropped him off on the PCT at Highway 36 east of Red Bluff and he hiked home to Etna. The trip included crossing the Hat Creek Rim. “It was hot and dry.” On other hikes,

Mike has walked north from Etna to the Klamath River. His favorite section of the PCT to hike is through the Russian Wilderness.

At 71, Mike has passed his love of hiking and the PCT on to his grandson, who has logged 50 miles with his Boy Scout troop in the Lake Tahoe area. “My grandkids think it’s interesting that Grandpa’s out there digging in the dirt,” he said.

“When I get on a trail, I want to see what’s around the next bend. The PCT is a great way to do that. It keeps wandering on. I find that idea to be very attractive.”

His love of the mountains and being outside keeps bringing Mike back to work the trail every summer. He still fishes PCT lakes and pursues his interest in botany.

“Mike is an incredibly hard worker and hikes as fast as anyone I know,” said Ian Nelson, PCTA Regional Representative. “We’re both avid bird watchers and I enjoy checking in with him about interesting bird sightings whenever I visit with him and the Lyons’ Pride.”

Mike said he likes the idea of the trail, what it stands for and what it does for so many different people. “I see thru-hikers, section hikers, people I know. The PCT ties all the other trail systems together in our area. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction seeing it open and clear and passable.”

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