Remembering John Hachey, a true Trail Gorilla and friend

John Hachey was a kindhearted friend and mentor to many of the PCTA’s Southern California Trail Gorillas. He passed away on April 16 from cancer. For the last 17 years, John was dedicated to maintaining the PCT in the San Bernardino National Forest and surrounding areas. In 2006, the PCTA presented John with the Southern California Regional Trail Maintainer of the Year award; and in 2009 he received the Alice Krueper Award, the PCTA’s highest honor.

“John’s personality was a magnet for volunteers,” said volunteer Jerry Stone. “I don’t think anyone can fill his shoes but the training he gave some of his leaders will give them a head start to carry on his work.”

Volunteer Jerry Stone remembers John’s friendly personality. “It didn’t matter what the problem or situation was, John had a smile and a plan,” he said. “I can’t begin to list all the things he did for the Trail Gorillas and the PCT. If he wasn’t running a project, he was out there attacking a problem—often with Don Line. They were a team and had a great friendship.”

Don and John worked together for 15 years.

“He was one of my best friends,” Don said. “I loved him like a brother. I will miss him. He was truly a Trail Gorilla.”

Before getting hired in 2009 as the PCTA’s regional representative for Southern California, Anitra Kass was a Triple Crown thru-hiker. After her PCT thru-hike, she decided to join a trail maintenance project John was leading near Lake Silverwood.

“He was welcoming and kind and set me up to work with some great people on that project,” she said. “At the end he encouraged me to come back, so I did.”

Anitra kept working with John over the next few years, learning from his leadership. Eventually she got on paid trail crews and worked her way up to becoming the PCTA’s regional representative.

“John had a profound impact on my life both personally and professionally,” Anitra said. “Over the years, I’ve seen John do some incredible work but not just with the trail, with people. John loved the trail and the people, and we loved him back.”

“Welcome to Section C. He will always be remembered.” — Don Line, PCTA volunteer

Many fellow volunteers and PCTA staff members remember John’s carpentry skills. John’s finely crafted trail signs and kiosks are in several places along the PCT. But he lent his skills elsewhere, like making truck tailgate covers with the PCT emblem on them as gifts for fellow volunteers and helping to rebuild an old U.S. Forest Service horse trailer into a custom kitchen trailer for the Trail Gorillas.

Angie Williamson, the PCTA’s Director of Philanthropy worked with John on the PCTA’s Trail Fest, a former event. Angie said John had volunteered to help improve signage for the event, which usually was held in a hotel along the trail.

“We thought he would go to a print shop,” she said, “When we arrived, we were surprised to see he had created handmade wooden signs just for the event! That’s just the type of guy John was.”

John instructs a class at Trail Skills College. Fellow volunteers remember his dedication to the trail and his warm personality.

Fellow volunteers remember his kindness and dedication to doing quality work on the PCT. The PCTA also found out that John’s driving style was memorable—though we must say this is not condoned on the way to or from PCTA volunteer projects!

Volunteer Jim Banks met John on the National Trails Day project in June of 2008 and rode to the work site with John in his big yellow truck.

“That was my introduction to the crazy driving style of John,” Jim said. “It was my first of many white-knuckle rides. Over the next 11 years, I worked with John on many, many trail projects and quickly realized just how dedicated he was to the PCT. As a hiker, I realized that it was people like John who made it possible for me to hike the PCT. It was his passion and he put so much time and energy into it. He left big shoes to fill, but his dedication will inspire the rest of us to continue his work and rededicate ourselves to maintaining the PCT.”

“John was a one-of-a-kind person and he was the true embodiment of what a Trail Gorilla should be,” said volunteer Tim Morris.

Tim also mentioned John’s unique driving style. “He was a terror on the Forest Service roads—all you would ever see if you were driving behind him was dust.”

Whether on the trail, on the train, or on the road, John really enjoyed life.

“John was a stickler for raking the trail after the maintenance and work had been done,” Tim said. “He wanted the trail to look as groomed as possible and would make sure he showed everyone how it should be done and look.

John was also a train buff, Tim said. Cajon Pass, which is very close to the I-15 freeway, is a major train thoroughfare in Southern California. “He knew everything from the sounds, signals and type of train, what they were doing and what they meant,” Tim said.

Frank Trujillo, another friend and long-time volunteer, remembered John’s dedication to the PCT. “His work ethic was second to none. John always finished what he set out to do,” Frank said. “I will never forget my good friend John Hachey.”

Until the end of his life, John continued that dedication. Last winter, he helped coordinate logistics on his Cajon Pass projects and would pick up volunteers at the end of the work day.

There will be no memorial service for John, but the PCTA’s Trail Gorillas always will remember him and will continue maintaining the trail in his section to honor his legacy.

Author: Emily Bauska

Emily Bauska is the PCTA’s Volunteer Programs Outreach Associate. She is excited about sharing the stories of the hard-working volunteers who maintain the Pacific Crest Trail. Emily grew up hiking in her native state of Oregon and completed a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada in 2013. When not on the trail, you can find her bicycling or tending to her vegetable garden.