For the last 50 years, the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through eastern Kern County, has been a testament to the natural beauty of the western United States.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the trail, the Bakersfield office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will host a friendly “work weekend” at a portion of the trail near Ridgecrest to allow the public to help maintain the path in that area.
“This is a special occasion that we want to mark,” said Brie Chartier, an outdoor recreation planner at the Bureau of Land Management.
While working in the dirt may not sound like an ideal way to spend the weekend to some couch potatoes, event organizers hope to attract a disparate group of nature lovers to the trail.
Organizers also hope the event will draw new Kern County residents to that part of the county.
“We want to make sure that everybody is aware of the opportunities we have here for recreation,” Chartier said.
The event will take place from Dec. 13-16. Work crews will operate out of a base camp located at the Walker Pass Campground along Highway 178.
Each morning, crews will hike to areas of the trail that need to be worked on, and arrive back at the campground at around 4:30 p.m.
The High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew organization, a nonprofit that operates out of Fresno, will provide tools and safety equipment for the volunteers, who will be tasked with maintaining seven miles of trail near the campground.
“We’re making sure we’re preventing any sort of erosion issues that might damage the trail,” Chartier said.
Volunteers will also be clearing trees that have fallen over the trail, and fixing the parts of the trail that have faded into the hillside.
Meals will be provided while volunteers work the trail.
Volunteers do not have to work the whole day to participate in the event, and they can choose which days they want to work.
The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,653 miles long and runs from the northern border of Mexico, all the way through California, Oregon and Washington, to the southern border of Canada.
Hikers from around the world travel to the trail each year to backpack and day hike. Some local residents, too, have taken up the challenge of walking the trail.
“I love everything about it,” said Georgette Theotig, who has been hiking different parts of the trail for the last 45 years and describes herself as an environmentalist. She takes a sketchbook with her each time she hikes on the trail. “I’m an artist, so I see inspiration everywhere.”
Theotig, who lives in Tehachapi, belongs to a group of volunteers known as Trail Angels, who help hikers who pass by two trailheads near Tehachapi. Many hikers stop in town for a day or two to shower and eat before moving on to the next part of the trail.
Volunteers from Trail Angels give hikers rides back and forth to the trailheads.
“There have been times when I’ve had three continents in my car at one time,” said Trail Angels supervisor Kathi Hinkle.
Both Hinkle and Theotig wanted to spread the word about the work weekend.
Theotig, in particular, wanted to do all she could to preserve the trail experience for generations to come.
“There’s nothing like hearing a coyote howl at night. It’s a beautiful experience,” she said. “The peace, the beauty, the fact that it’s totally natural. And you have to work really hard to get these great rewards, but it’s worth it.”