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[pct-l] ADZPCTKO -- The Official Story

ADZPCTKO - The Official Story
 by Bob, Greg and Tom

The Trail Angel of the PCT comes in many forms. The appearances are too
numerous to count and the list of names too long to recant. It can be a
multi-year commitment of what amounts to a hikers hostel at Agua Dulce or a
single unexpected act of kindness on the spur of the moment. The trail angel
is a past thru hiker, a future thru hiker or not a hiker at all. The trail
angel can be man or woman, young or old, single or married, human, or...
well... spirit. 

Probably the largest gathering of Trail Angels is at The Annual Day Zero PCT
Kickoff {ADZPCTKO} gathering that takes place every year at Lake Morena
County Park. It is here, 21 mile from the monument, that the Trail Angels
gather to help ease the daunting task of walking from Mexico to Canada.

For Greg Hummel, the Unofficial Coordinator of the ADZPCTKO, the idea that
past thru hikers should "give something back to the trail" was not new. Greg
describes his life as a choice between Plan A and Plan B. He chose Plan A
and now has a wonderful wife and five children but the call of Plan B,
spending his life on the trail, still echoes in his mind. Greg writes:

 "A friend of mine from our 1977 thru-hike, Paul Hacker, and I had been
thinking about treating PCT hikers for a while as something that we felt
compelled to give back in return for all of the random acts of kindness that
we received on our hike".  

As a result Paul and Greg decided to drive a couple of aspiring Scottish
thru hikers to the Border

"Standing there at the southern terminus for the first time in 21 years
since our hike, on an overcast, drizzling morning similar to our first day,
Paul and I silently watched the two Scots hike down into the chaparral.  We
both felt a tremendous pulling force, drawing us down the trail, drawing us
over the hills, across the streams, up into the mountains.  Right there, we
knew, we had to do more."

Charlie Jones felt the same call. Charlie is the ultimate unseen trail
angel. Quiet and unassuming it is Charlie and his friends from the Sierra
Club who drag the San Felipe water cache up to the gate every year, making
that parched 22 mile stretch a little easier.

It was left, however, to a non-thru hiker, Tom Reynolds to pose the idea of
ADZPCTKO. Tom writes "In fact ADZPCTKO was my idea alone. That is why the
terrible name. If Greg had been involved from the start it would have a
proper name." 

To understand how and why ADZPCTKO started you must understand the existence
of the PCT-L. This is an Internet interest group where aspiring hikers can
get questions answered about issues concerning the trail. Hosted by Brick
Robbins, the PCT-L has waxed and waned, with members coming and going and
ideas changing as the PCT has evolved. Generally, however, through reasoned
arguments or emotional flame wars, has hashed out most of the problems
associated with hiking all or part of the trail. This is where aspiring thru
hikers go to get their questions answered.

Tom writes, "On the PCTA-List, two issues surfaced. The first was the
difficulty of Section A in terms of water. The second was the danger from
illegal immigrants. I posed the idea of water stashing at Scissors Crossing
and of having a "gathering" in Hauser Canyon to the list and Charlie Jones
and Greg Hummel immediately agreed to be part of the idea."

Tom contacted Brick in order to get the key to Hauser Canyon but Brick, a
San Diego resident, advised Lake Morena Park, some 21 miles from the
trailhead instead. Pete Fish of the PCTA confirmed this.

Tom continues, "Charlie, Greg and I arranged to drive down to the trailhead
and scout the area. We looked at Lake Morena and decided the campsites that
we would use. The original 4 are very close to the trail and serve as the
core location to this day. We then drove the trail to determine where to
spot the water. Scissors Crossing was an easy choice. On the trip we learned
from Charlie that the Sierra Club was planning to stash water in the San
Felipe Hills. That left Oreflame Canyon. After two days of driving around we
figured out how to take fire roads to the trail at the top of Oreflame
Canyon. That stash still has water although we located a spot that was
easier to resupply the next year".

As Greg recalls "As we drove around the area an idea came up that a vehicle
should be created to ensure the long-term supply of water stashing and
logistical support at the southern terminus of the trail.  We brainstormed
through the day as we four-wheeled into the upper reaches of Oreflame Canyon
and scouted along the Highway to the Sun, looking for strategic water
stashing sites.  The issue clarified;  "We must somehow draw in a sufficient
number of supporters, like ourselves, to become involved in the long-term
logistical support of hikers".

The plan was to draw past thru and section hikers, supporters and trail
angels to come meet and give something small back to those that aspire to
hike the trail that year.  That "something small" was considered to be a
ride to the border from San Diego or LA, a meal and water stashes.  By doing
this, it was envisioned, we would ensure the long-term provision of
logistical support of hikers by drawing a larger support group who could
take over from us when we decided to go hiking, retire, or pass on."

This was a good plan but the ADZPCTKO gathering would not be what it is
today if it wasn't for Bob Reiss. As Greg tells it "We began to broadcast
this idea on the PCT-List looking for other supporters. Before we knew it,
Bob Reiss popped up saying that he was already ferrying hikers from the San
Diego area out to the southern terminus of the trail and could supply and
cook most of the food for the event!"

While Greg and Charlie had the call to "give something back to the trail"
for Bob Reiss, there is no such call. In 1999 Bob posted a message on the
PCT-L for hikers to contact me about SD to Campo help.  He hosted 14 hikers
that first year. God knows how many he will host next year but all attempts
to relieve him of his burden have been rebuffed. "This is my thing," says
Bob, "This is what I do and I love it. Butt out!"

Bob recalls, "I saw Tom's announcement of the First Annual Day Zero PCT Kick
Off.  I lurked around awhile and saw that several people were getting
involved and it looked like a good event.  So I posted a message to those
who seemed to be the main organizers saying I'd like to throw in with them
and offered to provide and cook breakfast on Sunday."

What'a offer! Bob had never met Tom, Greg, or Charlie prior to his arrival
at Lake Morena in April of 1999 but had committed to show up and cook
breakfast for the group --- and what a breakfast it was! Once you taste one
of Bob's breakfast you will come back next year for another, so the
gathering grew and grew.

Then Anne Riedman and Jim Wermers announced that they weekly drove by
Scissor's Crossing going between a home in the San Diego area and a cabin in
Borrego Springs and would re-supply any water stashes thereabouts.  Anne
said she would make up a large pasta salad for the dinner also. Finally we
had solved the problem of resupplying the water stashes. It's a big job. The
water goes fast but Jim and Ann have been faithful.

At the first ADZPCTKO, Bob had set up his RV, tables were laden with food,
barbecues were cooking burgers and Tom, Charlie and Greg and a few other
hikers and supporters were sitting in lawn chairs in the afternoon sun
drinking beer and wine.  Two hikers with large backpacks came strolling up
the trail next to the campsites at Lake Morena and hesitated adjacent to us.
They looked quizzically at the "PCT Golden Spike Ceremony" sign that was
propped up on  one of the tables.  They walked into our campsite and asked,
"Are you somehow associated with the PCT?"  As we chuckled, one of us said,
"Well, yes, we happen to be cooking up some hamburgers for you and may I
offer you a beer or a glass of wine?"  And so the strange aura of the
ADZPCTKO began. 

Tom provided nearly all of the funds for the first and second events while
Bob, Charlie, Ann and Jim provided the work. Then, of course, Greg took over
and ADZPCTKO is self-supporting through his efforts.

>From the start it was determined that we would attempt to prevent this from
becoming a commercially supported event.  We didn't want to advertise it
outside of long-distance-hiking circles, didn't want name brand equipment
suppliers setting up booths and hawking clothing and equipment.  We knew
that thru hikers, having put their minds into a state of wilderness
appreciation slowly over a year or more of planning, would not want to come
into a hyped-up market place.

What we did not see the first year was how this event would become such a
huge review of home-made equipment and long distance strategies, a hiker
camaraderie fest and a butterflies-in-the-stomach-killer!

In 2002 the ADZPCTKO operates a water stash before the climb into Oreflame
Canyon and near Scissors Crossing. Ann, Jim Charlie and company are still at
it. And, Charlie still schleps 5 gallons of water uphill with the Sierra
Club to the gate in San Felipe hills. Bob oversees the cooking of dinner and
breakfast for two days for 260 people. Reluctantly he has accepted a little
help for cooking, not for San Diego to Campo service. Greg is still dreaming
of hiking the trail again with his old buddies but he does find time to plan
and organize the 2003 event while trying to fight off the bureaucracy the
ADZPCTKO organization is threatening to become.

And Tom? Well, Tom, like ADZPCTKO is basically indescribable.