“There are few things more exciting than to wake up in the morning with the prospect of striking out on foot for the distant horizon,” Ron Strickland said. “Curiosity, fitness, and camaraderie were important influences on my young self. But after a certain point, I hungered to create my own route.”
That he did, and many times over.
Author and conservationist Ron Strickland always loved the adventure of outdoor discovery.
Beginning in 1970, Strickland began to create a pathway from the Continental Divide at Glacier National Park, Montana, to the Pacific Ocean at Cape Alava, Washington. He and fellow explorer Ted Hitzroth thru-hiked the proposed trail’s 1,200 miles east to west in 1983, and together wrote the Pacific Northwest Trail Guide.
In 2009 the route was established by Congress as the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail (PNNST).
What drives Strickland’s passion for trail building?
“I create pathways because I love to hike and because I want to share. That’s behind my current project to link together enough long trails to develop a transcontinental Sea-to-Sea Route [C2C],” he said.
One of Strickland’s greatest pleasures besides hiking is writing books.
In 2011, he published Pathfinder: Blazing a New Wilderness Trail in Modern America. 2013 saw the arrival of his guide to the North Country National Scenic Trail. He’s now hard at work on his 10th book, an earthshaking Pacific Northwest novel called The Big One.
When it comes to trails that happen to be roadways, Strickland appreciates his 2010 Subaru Forester.
“Trail building is incremental, like Subaru’s periodic tweaks to its designs,” he said. “Each year I recognize in new Subaru vehicles the same delight that I feel in readying a new trail for public use.”
The pleasure is ours, Ron.
Q&A with Ron Strickland
Q: Tell us about your first Subaru.
A: I first became acquainted with Subaru in the ’90s during weekend hikes near Seattle. My hiking buddy, Ted Hitzroth, used his Forester on overgrown logging roads to reach remote trails in the North Cascades. That experience proved to me that the Forester was an ideal trailhead vehicle. I was very impressed by its reliability and longevity.
Later my wife and I owned a 2004 Forester. In 2009, after several days of rain, she and I drove home from shopping when an explosion of branches and leaves engulfed us. A large tree crushed our car so badly that my wife was taken to the emergency room. Luckily she was not seriously hurt. The car was totaled, but we were so impressed by our Forester’s strength that we replaced it with a new 2010 model. And we’re planning ahead to 2015 ... maybe a new Outback. Brand loyalty takes on a new meaning when your car saved your life.
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: Pathfinder has a chapter that recounts my Valentine’s Day proposal of marriage to Christine “Tine” Hartmann while lying on the ice of the famous Walden Pond. I hope that I won’t seem too mushy if I say that my bride and I like to spend as much time together as possible. Tine is also a writer (So Far Away, 2011), and she has just completed crafting a thriller about a murder on the Pacific Crest Trail.
This summer we rented a new Outback for a major road trip to hike trails throughout Oregon and Washington. She agrees with me that the best car to rent is a Subaru Outback.
Q: Any words of wisdom for a first-time hiker?
A: Hiking is actually surprisingly easy at any age, but novices should approach it by seeking help from a trusted source. Learning to hike is a bit like learning to ride a bicycle. The key is to find someone who will coach you at your own pace.
Your equipment is important. But a good mentor can develop your inherent talent, while a bad adviser may deter you forever by pushing you into a discouraging experience.
Q: Share more about the 7,700-mile transcontinental Sea-To-Sea Route (C2C) you are building.
A: On October 17, 2013, I drove my 2010 Forester to a mountain pass near Killington, Vermont, from my home in Massachusetts. My goal was the nearby Maine Junction on the Appalachian Trail (AT) where (1) Vermont’s Long Trail heads north to Quebec and (2) the AT veers toward northern Maine. That junction is one of those symbolic places that looms large in the imagination even though it lacks conventional views.
What makes it so special to me is that there are only two gaps that we need to plug in order to make the transcontinental Sea-To-Sea Route a reality. And one of them is the Vermont gap between the eastern terminus of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) and the AT.
As a trail developer I was eager to meet 23-year-old Luke “Strider” Jordan, who had just spent the previous 6-1/2 months walking the 4,600-mile NCT. He finished his mega NCT hike with an extra 40-mile link to the AT in order to show his support for creation of the Sea-To-Sea Route. I mention this because trail invention is a long-term, push-on-a-wet-noodle affair. So I dearly treasure the moments when I meet a Luke Jordan or when I return to a trail that has some of my sweat in its soil.