In Memory of Doris Peddy: A Pioneering Volunteer in Every Way

Doris Peddy, an extraordinary PCTA volunteer with Southern California’s Trail Gorillas for over 30 years, passed away on May, 4, 2022. She was 96 years old.

Doris was one of those volunteers whose commitment, skill, and sheer endurance set an almost unachievable bar for everyone else. “Her nickname was the Energizer Bunny,” said her daughter Ruth Peddy, “because she had so much energy that younger people had trouble keeping up. Once they had a competition to see if anyone could outwork Doris—which didn’t sit well with her. She did what she could, and not what she couldn’t.”

Doris Peddy receiving the PCTA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 with Southern California Regional Representative Anitra Kass (left) and Director of Trail Operations Jennifer Tripp. Photo by PCTA.

Doris earned every major PCTA award in her time as a volunteer, including Regional Trail Maintainer of the Year in 2001, the Alice Krueper Award in 2007, and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. It was Alice Krueper who first inspired Doris to give trail work a try at age 64 in 1989. In a blog post about Doris celebrating her 90th birthday, Kathleen Lynch wrote that Doris’s first outing with Alice set the hook. After that, Doris was building trail with Alice practically every weekend, except when she needed to babysit. “She always kept a backpack ready to go,” says friend and fellow volunteer Edwina Golightly. “Alice would call her and say they needed to go do some work on the trail and Doris would grab her pack and go.”

Doris (left) at work on the PCT with volunteers from the Southern California Trail Gorillas—with her trademark bandana. Photo by PCTA.

Over the next 26 years, Doris would hike into work sites on every section of the first 700 miles of the PCT—in every weather condition, in every season.

“My neighbors think I am mad,” she said, “but I tell them, I’m either hot, tired, and dirty…or cold, tired and dirty; but we always have fun.”

“I met Doris when I first joined the PCTA in the late 90’s,” remembers Edwina Golightly. “We were trail friends from that point on. She opened her home constantly to the PCTA crew down here. When they had meetings crew members would stay at her house. She worked on the trail up until she was about 85, then when she wasn’t able to continue working on the trail, she joined me in the camp kitchen for several more years.”

Doris was known for a particular treat on trail projects: “Her German chocolate cake!” says Edwina. “We usually cooked a stew of some sort for the crew, and she always brought a chocolate cake to serve at the first meal for dessert. And she only brought cake—because Joyce Fish (Pete Fish’s wife) always brought brownies and Doris didn’t want to take those away from her.”

Doris (center) laying out dinner in 2015 at the Southern California Trail Skills College. Photo by PCTA.

Doris’s remarkable work ethic began years before her work on the Pacific Crest Trail. “She graduated high school in 1943,” says her daughter Ruth. “She wanted to be a camp counselor at a Girl Scout camp she went to for many years, but couldn’t because she started college at the University of California Berkeley.” Pushing against cultural norms of the time, Doris studied mechanical engineering at Berkeley. “She was always mechanically-minded,” remembers Ruth. “And back then there were no bathrooms for women in the engineering building—until she got there.”

Doris and her husband Jack married in 1946. Jack already had a job with North American Aviation in Los Angeles, and Doris got a job there too. “I heard she had a higher security clearance than he did,” laughs Ruth, “but I don’t know if that was true.” Later, Jack found a job with CalTrans in the division of highways. “She’d accompany him on trips to meetings of the American Association of State Highway Officials and she was frustrated by the tours arranged for the wives, which were like fashion shows. Doris wanted to go see the bridges and highways.” After Jack passed away in 1988, Doris decided to try trail work. “She was always an active person, and wanted to see what she could do.”

“I hope I’m as active as she was into her 90’s,” says fellow Trail Gorilla Richard Leahy. “She was a fantastic person. The first time I volunteered was in 2005. We were doing the Interstate 10 cleanup project. People would dump their garbage under the freeway bridge, and there were a lot of old tires and other waste. I tried carrying the tires but it was a lot of work. So I got the truck and we loaded it up with tires—including on the hood and the roof. Doris was there and said to me “I think you’re gonna work out because you’re the only one willing to go in there and haul all those tires out!”

“It broke my heart when she passed,” says Richard Leahy. “Doris will really be missed, along with Pete Fish. She was such a nice person. Aside from her great cooking with Edwina and those chocolate cakes, she would mend our clothes when we tore them on projects.”

“To Doris,” says Edwina Golightly, “excellent trail work was her highest goal. When digging out rocks and shrubs she made sure every bit was removed and the trail was smooth. It was like a walk in the park after Doris worked on it, and it lasted a long time.”

Trail work was such a huge part of Doris’s life that when she went to buy a car, she put down the back seat at the dealership and laid down inside. “They must have thought I was nuts, but I needed to make sure there was enough space to sleep” she said.

Current and late members of the PCTA Trail Gorillas celebrating Doris’s 90th birthday in 2015 in San Bernardino, California. Left to Right: Edwina Golightly, Al Golightly, Dave Fleischman, former PCTA Executive Director Liz Bergeron, Doris Peddy, Jerry Stone, Pete Fish, John Hachey, and Lyle Boulter. Photo by PCTA.

In her typical self-effacing way, Doris didn’t have a funeral. She didn’t want one. While it’s a small acknowledgement compared to her countless contributions to the PCT, we’d like to say: thank you, Doris, for all you have done. The Pacific Crest Trail and all those who maintain and travel it are better from your incredible efforts and generous spirit.

Author: Scott Wilkinson

Scott Wilkinson is the PCTA’s Content Development Director. A former professional musician, Scott has 20+ years of experience in almost every marketing role. Before joining the PCTA he was a marketing/creative director at West Virginia University and the University of Oregon. A serious outdoor addict, Scott is an experienced whitewater paddler, hang glider pilot, flyfisher, mountain biker, and (of course) hiker and backpacker.