Reflections on a successful inaugural season from the southern terminus host

Terminus Tom was our first PCT southern terminus host. He’s a former thru-hiker from the Class of 2014. We can’t thank him enough for volunteering! We’re grateful for this partnership with Cleveland National Forest. The trail is far more popular than it used to be and it’s together, as an activated community, that we’ll ensure it remains a wonderful experience into the future.

By Terminus Tom

A wonderful season at the southern terminus has now come to a close. I chatted with thousands of thru-hikers, section-hikers and day-hikers starting their hikes on the PCT. When I wrote this, we still have some hikers just leaving Mount Laguna while others are making their first precarious steps into the Sierra snow.

Terminus Tom, the first PCT southern terminus host.

Terminus Tom, the first PCT southern terminus host.

Most hikers starting at the southern terminus met me. But for other hikers and people who didn’t make the pilgrimage down to the border, I may be shrouded in mystery. My role was, first and foremost, to disseminate information about trail conditions, water, backcountry travel tips and Leave No Trace practices. In years past, this information was mainly shared online and at ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero PCT Kick Off) to facilitate a happy and safe hike for the newly-initiated distance hiker. Now that this event is no more, I helped provide this important advice in a condensed format at the border.

Tom checks a thru-hiker's permit.

Tom checks a thru-hiker’s permit.

Besides providing information, I checked permits. Permit data was collected and is now being used to make more informed decisions about the permitting process. In general, the permitting system has done a great job of managing the potential damage to the sensitive environment in the southernmost 100 miles of the trail. That’s largely because, you, the people I met, care so much about protecting the trail and you voluntarily do your best to protect the trail and the experience. At the PCTA and U.S. Forest Service, we recognize there is no perfect permit system, but we’re constantly striving to provide an easy and effective system that works for hikers.

Having a southern terminus host enabled valuable data collection for continued improvement of the permit process and better protection of the trail.

Having a southern terminus host enabled valuable data collection for continued improvement of the permit process and better protection of the trail.

I met people of all ages from all over our country and the world. Hikers came with small packs, large packs, dogs, children and families. People arrived at the trailhead after a lifetime of dreaming or merely a couple months of indecision. I met college graduates, retirees, hiking junkies, people between jobs and adventurous vagabonds. But as the miles accumulate and our old, preconceived notions of who is and isn’t a hiker wither, we all find the similarities that bring us closer—a distillation of humanity.

Terminus Tom's white van guards a sometimes lonely outpost at the southern terminus.

Terminus Tom’s white van guards a sometimes lonely outpost at the southern terminus.

The greatest joy that I received while working at the terminus was meeting and learning from hikers of all walks of life. On my own PCT thru-hike, one of my greatest joys was how much I learned. And I think that’s pretty common. We’re all trying to learn new things on the Pacific Crest Trail. Hopefully, I helped teach and spread information that benefited you—even in a small way.

It was an honor hosting you all at the PCT’s southern terminus this season and I hope to see you out there!

Photo by: Nathaniel Middleton