Volunteer Trailhead Hosts start their season on the PCT

Over the past four years, the U.S. Forest Service and the PCTA have partnered to create a program that places volunteers at the PCT’s Southern Terminus. From the end of February to mid-May, a terminus volunteer will provide sustainable hiking information — the goals being to reduce human-caused damage to the trail and help keep people safe through education and awareness. Volunteer Hosts also create a sense of community. Whether hikers are out for a weekend trip or starting a long-distance journey, there is a last-minute resource awaiting them.

The success of this program, and the PCTA’s partnership with the Cleveland National Forest, encouraged the growth of the program in 2020. Kennedy Meadows, another popular PCT waypoint, will have a volunteer Trailhead Host for the first time. Starting in May, the Kennedy Meadows Trailhead Host will provide information on Leave No Trace and safety practices and collect valuable data on travel patterns before hikers and horseback riders head into the Sierra Nevada.

Meet your 2020 Trailhead Hosts

Southern Terminus, March – May

Deanna “Hypsy-Gypsy” Salazar

Deanna doing her most favorite thing, “getting lost in the woods”

Deanna grew up in San Diego and has always enjoyed the outdoors. She thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 and continues to spend lots of time “getting lost” in the Southern California desert, especially on the first 150 miles of the PCT. She’s an active Trail Angel and PCTA volunteer and is studying to become a certified yoga teacher.

The trails have taught me a lot about myself and life. I’ve seen such amazing sights, climbed to great heights, and have met many wonderful people, developing long-lasting friendships. The PCT is a place (two feet wide and 2,650 miles long) that I will always call home!

Deanna looks forward to pairing her yoga practice with love for the outdoors as an official yoga instructor.

Her experiences make her an excellent candidate for this volunteer opportunity and we’re excited to have her at the Southern Terminus this year. When you see her, ask her about her time on the trail, and maybe she’ll show you some yoga stretches before your hike!

Kennedy Meadows, May – July

Lauren “Dip” Hirsch

Lauren, fully immersed in the “magic of the trail”

Growing up, Lauren loved spending time outside, but it wasn’t until her adult life that her passions turned into reality. As a wilderness guide in Yosemite National Park, Lauren worked in conservation and outdoor education, guiding trips throughout California. Last year, she loaded her pack and hiked the PCT, to find even more inspiration in the dirt. She’s pursuing a degree to continue making a difference to important places like the PCT.

I don’t believe my heart has ever been fuller than while I was a crusty hiker making my way through the trail. Like many, I had an idea that it might be an amazing experience, filled with some incredible people, but what I didn’t know was that it would actually change the course of my life.

Lauren, full of joy from a wilderness guiding trip, at the summit of Mt. Whitney.

Her love for the Sierra Nevada makes her a perfect fit for Kennedy Meadows and we’re excited she gets to kick off this new position! When you see her, ask her about her biology courses or maybe a story from her wilderness guiding days.

We’re looking forward to the 2020 hiking season, and with the support of volunteers, agency partners, and members, the PCT can remain the greatest wild and scenic trail. Thank you to everyone who was involved in making this happen including our U.S. Forest Service partners at the Cleveland National Forest and the Inyo National Forest.

Author: Mila Benson

Mila Benson was the PCTA's Volunteer Programs Outreach Associate in 2020 but has since moved on to other opportunities. She's enthusiastic about stories that engage and inspire others to volunteer and view the trail through a new lens. Originally from North Idaho, Mila is passionate about all things outdoors and spends her free time exploring California.