San Diego 'trail angels' help thru-hikers trek the Pacific Crest - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego 'trail angels' help thru-hikers trek the Pacific Crest Trail

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SAN DIEGO, Calif.  (CBS 8) -- The release of the popular film Wild, staring Reese Witherspoon, has inspired hundreds of people to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

The PCT is a 2,600 mile trek from Campo to the Canadian border. All along the way, good Samaritans called “trail angels” help the hikers complete their journey.

Brave souls who plan to hike the entire PCT are called thru-hikers.

Every springtime, trail angels Barney and Sandy Mann open their University City home to hundreds of PCT hikers who are preparing to depart on the long trek.

Barney and Sandy are better known in the hiking community by their trail names, Scout and Frodo.

They pick up hikers at Lindbergh Field every day, cook meals for them, provide supplies and a place to sleep, then shuttle the visitors out to the trail head in Campo; all at no charge.

The hikers sleep all over the house, inside and out.

“For all of April we have several hikers here. It can be anywhere from 5 to 45,” said Sandy “Frodo” Mann. “It's a lot of fun because we get to hang out with hikers who are really neat people.”

In the garage, the guests pack up boxes of food and supplies to be mailed, and picked up later, at post offices and general stores along the PCT.

Some of the hikers come from out of state. Others travel to San Diego from overseas. Most are thru-hikers but some only hike sections of the long trail.

“My plan is to get off at Echo Lake, which is by Tahoe, at the end of June,” said Izzy Harrison, 18, who traveled here from Oregon to solo hike.

Everyone staying here appreciates the efforts of the trail angels.

“I think what they're doing is just wonderful. The generosity, the kindness, and the normality that they just seem to exude that this is just something you do,” said Ivo Richaers, 37, of the Netherlands.

On this day about 20 hikers spend the night.

The routine is the same every morning; breakfast is served at 5:30 a.m.

By 6 a.m. the shuttles are packed up and the caravan to Campo begins.

“These people are so excited. They're on the verge of a journey of a lifetime,” said Barney “Scout” Mann. “They are nervous. If you could channel that energy you could light up a neighborhood.”

It's an hour drive east on Interstate 8 to the remote trail head at the international border fence.

There's a marker at the start of the trail reminding everyone of the miles that lay ahead.

“In the low hills they'll be walking across, they'll get their first destiny view,” said Barney.

After final goodbyes and group photographs at the PCT marker, the hikers are finally on their way.

They promise to send photos back to the trail angles who helped them begin their journey of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“If you dream about it, do it!” said hiker Richaers.

“Make the conscious decision to do it. You may regret not doing it. I don't think you're going to regret doing it,” he said.

Barney and Sandy Mann hiked the PCT in 2007.

On average, only about half the thru-hikers will actually make it to the Canadian border.

In 2007, the U.S. Forest Service issued about 300 permits to thru-hikers. This year, that number has increased to an estimated 1,800.

“It's all about mental toughness,” said Sandy Mann. “You realize it's going to hurt, and it's going to be okay, and you're not doing yourself any damage, and you can do this. You just have to keep with it.”

Some of the footage used in this video story was shot using a GoPro camera.
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