Intrepid PCT thru-hikers travel through Plumas

Cheshire” Abby Popenoe, left, “Guz” Sadie Sarvis, “Early Bird” Nika Meyers and “Squirrel” Carrie Johnson pause June 15 during their 2,650-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. The women, from Maine and Vermont, began their trip in early April and plan to reach the Canadian border by mid-August. Photo by Laura Beaton
Laura Beaton
Staff Writer

Two thousand, six hundred and fifty miles is a heck of a long hike. But hundreds of people each summer take on the challenge of hiking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches from Mexico all the way to Canada.

Most hikers begin in April or May from Campo, near the Mexican border, depending on how much snow is in the mountains. Very few thru-hikers start at the northern end and go south because of heavy snows in the Cascade Range.

On Sunday, June 15, four intrepid thru-hikers paused for a break above Silver Lake in the Bucks Lake Wilderness Area. The halfway point of the trail lies near Highway 36 in Chester.

The four women, two pairs of friends — “Early Bird” Nika Meyers, 25, and “Squirrel” Carrie Johnson, 28, from Vermont and “Cheshire” Abby Popenoe, 19, and “Guz” Sadie Sarvis, 19, from Maine — had to travel more than 3,000 miles from their New England homes just to begin their epic hike from the Campo trailhead.

Because of the dry winter, the four began their trip in early April — Cheshire and Guz on the 6th and Early Bird and Squirrel on the 9th. They were able to cross the usually snow-socked Sierra Nevada a month or two earlier than most years. The women did indeed encounter snow, but were able to get through it without too much difficulty.

The women serendipitously met up on the trail before they reached the high Sierra, and decided to stick together for safety and support while they hiked at elevations up to 13,153 feet: Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT.

Squirrel suffered from altitude sickness, but thanks to the nurturing help of her friends, made it through safely. The four women have played leapfrog for hundreds of miles, as each pair planned their resupply stops independently.

In order to keep their packs light — between 20 and 30 pounds — they arranged mail drops at various road crossings along the trail. Hikers may also avail themselves of services at road crossings such as a hot shower, meals and shopping.

Family members of one of the hikers met them in Truckee and treated the group to all the comforts of home.

Trail registers along the 2,650-mile PCT allow hikers to keep tabs on each other and leave messages for other hikers. Although the four women said they were tempted to go to Quincy and its natural foods store, they had already planned a resupply stop at Belden.

Cheshire and Guz, who received their trail names from fellow hikers for their propensities to smile wide and guzzle water, respectively, are planning to wind up their thru-hike by mid-August, when each will go off to college. Cheshire will be attending school in Washington while Guz will be calling Prescott, Arizona, home.

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has an extensive team of volunteers that does trail maintenance, offers hikers rides into town and provides other valuable services.

Another type of volunteer, “trail angels,” often set up shop near road crossings. These good Samaritans provide cold drinks, fresh fruit, candy, meals and other treats for hungry and thirsty hikers.

Chester dentist Brent Webb has even provided free dentistry services to thru-hikers.

For more information on the PCT, or to read hikers’ trail journals and view photos, go to

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