Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail often take on what they call “trail names.” Some of the more memorable names I can recall are: Geezer, Pop Tart, Daddy Long Legs, Mouse Trap, Sour Kraut, Busted, Jose Cuervo, Blister and Honey Boo Boo Soft Paws. As someone who completed the trail in 2016, my own trail name was Bucksnort. Long before completing the trail in 2016, my wife and I took on another name. That name was “Trail Angel.”
You may also want to consider taking on the Trail Angel name. Trail Angels provide rides, information and sometimes lodging to travelers hiking the 2,650-mile PCT that starts on the Mexican border in San Diego County and ends on the Canadian border at Manning Provincial Park, in British Columbia.
Formed in 1996 by George and Anne Marie Novinger, Tehachapi Trail Angels are a group of individuals who volunteer to assist PCT hikers. Angels usually give rides to individuals or groups ranging from one to four hikers. Angels giving rides quickly discover that they will likely be transporting not only the hiker, but their backpack as well.
The PCT is one of several federally designated National Scenic Trails. It follows the pacific crest through California, Oregon and Washington. It also passes approximately 10 miles east of downtown Tehachapi. The PCT attracts hikers from all over the world.
When I was hiking the PCT, and also when I was serving as a Trail Angel, I encountered individuals from many countries including: Japan, China, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and most of the European Union countries. These hikers fall into two major categories: through hikers (who attempt to hike the entire PCT in one calendar year) and section hikers (many of whom are attempting to hike the entire PCT over two or more calendar years). As a section hiker myself, I took more than 10 years to complete the entire trail.
The majority of PCT hikers start their hike in the April time frame at the Mexican border. The bulk of these PCT hikers come through the Tehachapi area from the middle of April to the middle of June. The most requested service a PCT Trail Angel can provide is a ride from one of the trail heads to town and from town back to one of the two trail heads. These two trail heads are located on the Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road where it intersects with the Cameron Canyon Road and at Highway 58 where it intersects with the Cameron Canyon Road overpass.
Although most hikers are young adults, they range in age from geezers over 70, like myself, to pre-teens. PCT hikers often jokingly refer to themselves as “hiker trash,” as they can often be recognized by their rugged appearance, strange attire, their hiking poles and their backpacks.
So why would you want to assist these almost homeless looking vagabonds? Tehachapi Angels have found these hikers to be some of the most interesting folks you could ever meet. Coming from all over they almost always have a fascinating story to tell.
Tehachapi is one of the few towns of any size within a short distance of the trail, and it has developed a very positive reputation among these international travelers. Angels and PCT hikers jointly contribute to Tehachapi’s economy and its reputation as a desirable place to live, work and take what the PCT hiker calls a “zero day,” i.e. a day with zero hiking miles completed.
If you are interested in being associated with Tehachapi’s original Trail Angels group, please contact Georgette at 822-4371 or Kathi at 855-4101. Your first name and contact phone number would be placed on a list of Angels posted at trail heads, businesses and other locations in town. If you are not available to help a hiker/caller, the PCT hiker is instructed to call another Angel on the contact list.
Another option for Trail Angels assisting PCT hikers is through the Wits’ End PCT Hiker Depot. It is located at 115 S. Mojave St. The Depot was first opened last year during the peak season for hikers coming through Tehachapi. It will again be open this year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week from mid-April through June. The folks connected with Hiker Depot can be contacted by calling 750-4852.
Christopher Rush, a.k.a. Bucksnort, is a PCT Trail Angel.