ILWACO - Two long-distance backpackers arrived at Cape Disappointment over the weekend, after hiking the 200-mile "Washington Coast Trail" in their attempt to be the first to complete, in one continuous trip, America's West Coast Trail - from Cape Flattery to Mexico.
The packers are calling the event the "West Coast Trail End to End, 1800 Miles Dancing with the Tide." The trip began on the northwest tip of Washington at Cape Flattery on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 8, and the pair reached the Columbia River at the southwest tip of Cape Disappointment on Sunday, June 20.
Nate Olive of Atlanta, Ga., and partner Sarah Janes of Slidell, La., completed the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section in their attempt to hike at total of 1800 miles along the length of the West Coast Trail.
The plan is to eventually reach the Mexican border and complete their trek over the next four to five months. The journey seeks to promote public awareness of this long-distance trail, and serve as the basis to create a book, and photo journal, tentatively called Dancing the Tidal Line, to provide a personal account of the overall trail experience.
"Other than a trip to California, this is really my first time on the Pacific Coast," said Olive of his time in Washington. "There is more history here than I had realized, and the natural beauty of the Long Beach Peninsula is inspiring."
The couple tries to use as little as possible on the trip, carrying 30 to 40 pounds of gear, not counting food and water.
Logistic, informational, and media outreach assistance provided by the National Coast Trail Association (NCTA), a non-profit organization focusing their efforts on the development of the West Coast Trail for the last nine years. The event is officially registered as a National Trails Day 2004 event with the American Hiking Society.
"Nate and Sarah are sort of like Lewis and Clark," said Al LePage executive director of the NCTA. "They are making the first attempt to continuously travel a major stretch of the United States. As a matter of fact, Nate is actually documenting the entire trip, not in drawings as the famed explorers did, but in photos, and he is also keeping a journal to be developed into a book of the experience."
The West Coast Trail is envisioned as a continuous recreational hiking trail along the Pacific coast, traveling the entire length of the Washington, Oregon, and California coastlines. Significant portions of this trail system already exist, with new linkages being developed every year.
The development of the West Coast Trail has been the primary focus of the NCTA. The trail should not be confused with another long-distance trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, which is about 150 miles inland and travels along the spine of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.
Olive and Janes hiked the 2,650-mile length of the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to the Canadian border in 2003. Olive also hiked the nearly 2,000-mile length of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia in 2002, and Janes joined him for 400 miles, during which they acquired the "trail names" of "Tha Wookie" and "Island Mama."
Both are experienced field research staff working under recreation ecologist Jeff Marion of Virginia Tech. Olive just recently earned his M.A. degree in Recreation Ecology and Leisure Studies from the University of Georgia and hopes to explore exchanges between nature and human interactions, both past and present, during the trip. Sarah has a degree in anthropology with a pre-med minor from the University of Georgia and is a certified wilderness first responder able to deal with medical emergencies in the wilderness.
"I'm really interested in how people maintain their health," said Janes. "At this point, I feel lucky that I am able to take this trip through some of the most beautiful country in the world. The fresh air and the exercise where big draws when we were planing this trip"
The Makah Indian Nation developed an important linkage to Shi Shi beach in 2003. The Quinault Indian Nation's beach pass program represents an important contribution to the Washington Coast Trail section as well. The route travels through the Makah Indian Nation, the "Olympic Coast Strip" in Olympic National Park, the Quinault Indian Nation, and finally south along the many public beaches south to Cape Disappointment.
Hikers cross Gray's Harbor by the existing passenger ferry from Ocean Shores to Westport. They connect across Willapa Bay from Tokeland Marina to the Long Beach Peninsula by arranging their own shuttle by land or travel by water around the bay itself.
The NCTA is working on the Washington Coast Trail with Washington State Parks, which has agreed to partner with the organization, endorse the overall concept, and officially recognize those trail sections in areas directly under their jurisdiction.
Al LePage, founder and executive director of the NCTA, apparently was the first person ever to have hiked the entire West Coast Trail. However, he did so on three separate occasions, not in one continuous trip.
In 1988 he hiked the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail in about one month, in 1992 the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section in two weeks. In 1996 he tackled the 1,200-mile length of the California Coastal Trail in three and a half months, averaging about 100 miles per week on each trip.
Those who want to follow their progress through journal notes and photos from beginning to end may visit the Web site (trailjournals.com/westcoast).