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Mary Litch, a PCTA volunteer, has adopted part of the Pacific Crest Trail near her home in Anza. She hikes/rides this section of the trail weekly, overseeing the condition of the trail.
Mary Litch, a PCTA volunteer, has adopted part of the Pacific Crest Trail near her home in Anza. She hikes/rides this section of the trail weekly, ove...
Thru-hikers Philip Pfanner, 34, and Julia Frantz, 28, from Eugene, Oregon, enjoy Trail Angel Mary Litch’s rest stop along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Poppies grow wild along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Poppies grow wild along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Trail Angels, thru-hikers find adventure on Pacific Crest Trail

Friday, May 16th, 2014
Issue 20, Volume 18.
Allison Renck
Special to the Valley News

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize what it might feel like to hike 145 miles through arid lands.

The 145 miles isare only the beginning of your journey. You still have more than 2,400 miles left to complete your thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Back to visualizing: it has been hot the last few days and at one point you run into a swarm of bees, which luckily only left a few stingers in your body.

As you approach Coyote Canyon Rd., you drink a small sip of water. You think about how you’re almost out and you know there might not be any water until Paradise Corner Café.

Then, up ahead, you see a plastic tub with six water bottles in it. The PCT Trail Angels are looking after you again. Trail Angels provide some of the comforts of home and life’s necessities along the trail.

Paradise Corner Café is at the junction of Hwy 371 and Hwy 74. Hikers on the PCT look forward to stopping there, due to its close proximity to the trail and its reputation among hikers as having the best burgers on the trail.

Every year right around April and May the town of Anza increases its population due to the thru-hikers and equestrians traveling the PCT.

The number of permits varies each year, but this year the number of hikers is rumored to be over 1,200 people.

The PCT traverses the eastern end of town. Hikers and equestrians travel ; it from the border of Mexico and California to the border of Washington and Canada.

The trail is over 2,600 miles long and travels through some very rugged country. A thru-hiker is a hiking term used to describe long distance hikers that attempt to traverse or hike through the whole length of a long distance trail like the PCT.

On Saturday, May 3, ,Anza’s local PCT volunteer and Trail Angel Mary Litch was helping make these thru-hikers’ lives a little easier.

Mary owns property that is adjacent to the PCT and on this piece of dirt Mary has created a place where hikers and equestrians can rest and refuel before they continue their journey. Mary provides water, sodas, chocolate pop tarts and a table to sit at.

For your tired horse, she provides water and grass hay. On May 3, Mary provided something special; she fired up the grill and cooked hamburgers for all the hungry and weary travelers.

She also invited some out-of-town guests to come and enjoy her PCT Ranch in Anza.

When asked what Mary does as a PCT volunteer she replied, "I’ve been a volunteer with the PCTA [Pacific Crest Trail Association] working on repairing trail tread (path) and trimming back vegetation along the PCT for three years. I’ve unofficially adopted the section of the trail nearest my house between the two Table Mountain Truck Trail crossings. I ride [my horse] or hike this section at least once a week, noting any issues. If they are easy to fix, I do it myself. Otherwise, I report the problem to Don Line, the Advertisement
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trail chief for this section of the PCT."

Mary wears a T-shirt that says "All dirt roads lead to Anza, CA" as she tells me a little bit about herself.

"I used to live in New England and vacationed every summer along the Appalachian Trail, so I have some experience with thru-hikers," she said. "The ones on the PCT are very similar: they are so interesting."

"These are not people who are just wandering through life on auto-pilot," she saidcontinued. "It seems like there are more thru-hikers on the PCT this year. But this perception may just be the result of my being more actively engaged with them."

I had the opportunity of meeting a couple of thru-hikers by the names of Julia Frantz, 28, and Philip Pfanner, 34, from Eugene, Oregon.

This couple had begun their journey on April 24. Both, in their own words, are "taking time away from work to find adventure and get off the grid."

Phillip is employed as a nurse and Julia is employed at a non-profit where she raises funds for the arts. They reported that they are trail runners and that is how they conditioned for this thru-hike.

When asked what the hardest part of the hike has been, Julia replied, "Not being able to shower enough." Phillip added, "My feet seem to hurt all the time."

The couple is going by "Liver-strong" when they sign into log books along the trail. You can look up other thru-hikers’ trail journals at

During Mary’s event I met thru-hikers from, Boston, Massachusetts, Ohio, Idaho, Colorado, and quite a few from Oregon. Most were in there 20’s and 30’s, but I did meet a man who was a school bus driver that had helped build the trail in the 1970s, s.

Besides Mary’s event in Anza, the local Santa Margarita Group of the Sierra Club hosted a one-way hike from Barrel Spring to Warner Springs on the PCT (8.5 miles) with lunch at Eagle Rock.

The Warner Springs Community Resource Center and the Santa Margarita Group of the Sierra Club hosted a welcome celebration for PCT thru-hikers.

Pam Nelson from the Sierra Club reported, "The thru-hikers were thrilled to have a celebration for them that included free taco plates and a cake dedicated to the PCT and the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. I made a large set of posters showing the wilderness areas they would be encountering on their journey to Canada. A group of three was doing a ‘selfie’ photo/video while soaking their feet in foot baths and saying jokingly that no one should come to the Warner Springs Community Resource Center because of the torture of having foot baths, showers, washed clothes and free taco plates. It’s fun to hear all the discussions about routes, experiences, equipment and so on in all the accents from around the world."

To be inspired is to feel alive and it appears that from the Trail Angels to the thru-hikers, the Pacific Crest Trail inspires many to go a little further and find a new adventure.

For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail, go to



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