The 2021 season brings Crest Runners and Trailhead Hosts back to the PCT

The U.S. Forest Service and the PCTA work together to help minimize the increasing effects of a growing number of PCT users, especially during the peak thru-hiking season. In 2015, this partnership sprouted the PCT Crest Runners program. It continued growing in 2017 with the first volunteer Southern Terminus Trailhead Host. Last year, the partnership expanded and we planned to welcome a second volunteer Trailhead Host in Kennedy Meadows; however, due to Covid-19, these programs were paused. With proper safety measures, we’re glad to announce that we’ll continue this work into the 2021 season.

2021 Crest Runners Brandon Norris (left) and Amber Gilbert.

For the sixth year, the Cleveland National Forest will host two PCT Crest Runners, Brandon Norris and Amber Gilbert, on the first 100 miles of the PCT.

Similar to the Appalachian Trail’s Ridge Runner program and agency Wilderness Rangers, the PCT’s Crest Runners are experts in all things Leave No Trace and provide important information to trail users. They also check permits, keep track of visitor encounters, and monitor campsite use and other environmental impacts. They’re there to help ensure that we can protect the trail experience for years to come. If you see them while you’re out, be sure to say hello.

Brandon is a disabled veteran who faithfully served in the United States Navy for eight years. After being honorably discharged, his love for the outdoors drew him into the USDA Forest Service, where he has served as a PCT Crest Runner for the last 5 years.

Amber is also a disabled veteran that served in the United States Army for five years as a combat medic. After separating from the military, she attended San Diego State University and earned bachelor’s degrees in biology and geology. Since moving to California, she has spent time traveling to national parks and national forests as well as hiked the Washington and Sierra sections of the PCT. She is a recent addition to the Cleveland National Forest and this is her first year as a PCT Crest Runner.

2021 Volunteer Trailhead Hosts

We’re also excited to announce your 2021 Trailhead Hosts, who will serve at the Southern Terminus and Kennedy Meadows this season, Deanna Salazar and Steve Jackson.

Since 2017, volunteer Trailhead Hosts have been placed at the PCT’s Southern Terminus to provide information to trail users. Hosts are a vital resource to hikers, answering last minute questions and sharing important trail information, like water sources. Their goal is to reduce human-caused damage to the trail through education, awareness and empowerment. They also collect valuable information that helps to inform future stewardship of the PCT. Whether you see them when you start your journey, or if you bump into them at Kennedy Meadows, be sure to thank them for their volunteer service!

2021 Trailhead Hosts Steve and Deanna.

Deanna “Hypsy Gypsy” Salazar and Steve “Oak” Jackson are both California natives, growing up in San Diego and the Bay Area, respectively. From thru hikes to road trips, and national parks to international travels, they’ve spent the past 15 years together, enjoying all things outdoors.

“After we were married in 2011, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do next. The so-called career, white picket fence, kids and the rest wasn’t our calling. We watched a documentary about the Appalachian Trail and were instantly fascinated – the seed was planted. That seed grew into a sprout, and we began saving fiercely to embark for our first backpacking venture on the AT in 2013. Needless to say, that experience transformed our lives, so after that thru-hike we immediately made plans to go back to work to save for the next trail, this time the PCT in 2018. From seed to sprout to full-on wild hair.”

When they’re not exploring the great outdoors, you might find them leading couple’s yoga, brewing coffee, painting, and crafting. Their self-built, tiny home on wheels “The Hiker Box,” will be their permanent home while they’re serving as Trailhead Hosts. From March to May, you can find Deanna and Steve at the Southern Terminus. Then they’ll head up to Kennedy Meadows where they’ll stay through July.

Deanna and Steve at the top of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT.

They’ve been volunteering with the PCTA since 2015, and together have logged more than 500 hours on the trail. In 2020, Deanna was slated as the Southern Terminus Host, but her time was cut short due to Covid-19. She’s glad to be back at her post, and this time with her partner by her side.

Thank you to everyone involved in making this season happen, including our wonderful volunteers, members and our agency partners at the Cleveland National Forest and the Inyo National Forest.

The 2021 season is not a normal one and the pandemic is ever-changing. For the latest guidance on visiting the PCT during the Covid-19 pandemic and to view Covid-19 safety protocols for volunteers, please visit our website.

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.