Journeys North

By Barney Scout Mann

In Journeys North, Barney Scout Mann spins a compelling narrative non-fiction tale about six hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail.   

"The next best thing to being on the Pacific Crest Trail yourself." Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods. 

"A compelling story told by a master storyteller. Barney Scout Mann delivers a riveting narrative filled with keen insight and high drama."

–  William Gray, National Geographic Book Division head 1990-2002  –

author of the second bestseller about the PCT, The Pacific Crest Trail (320,000 hardbacks sold)


“Wow! I feel like I’ve been a ghostly observer along the trail, hiking with the pack, eavesdropping on conversations and private thoughts.  It made me profoundly homesick. You’re on a roll … keep the momentum going.”

–  Roslyn Bullas, Wilderness Press Publisher (Ret.)   –

“Great! Really rolls along. Characters with a real back story. A people-driven story set on the trail.  Hooks people on the characters.”

–  Dennis Lewon, Backpacker Magazine Editor-in-Chief   –



Blazer stomped a figure-eight path in snow. Over and over, she vainly tried to keep warm. It was October 2, and after five months hiking, now this—numb, in pre-dawn gloom, in eight inches of fresh snow.  The striking twenty-five-year-old couldn’t feel her toes. This was the second blizzard in three days. The Alaskan Gulf, like a pitching machine, hurled once-in-a-generation storms at Washington’s Cascades. Blazer had on jogging shoes. She’d gone through four other pairs, wearing the knobbed soles flat, hiking 2,600 miles since the Mexican border. So close. Three days ago, with one hundred miles left, she’d sworn, “I’ll crawl to Canada if I have to.” Now forty miles separated her from the border.

At least Blazer wasn’t alone. I was right behind her, and behind me was my wife “Frodo.” We made the same tight-looped circles, shaking fat flakes from bent shoulders and packs. Frodo and I had been married thirty years. In all that time, I’d never forgotten her birthday. I did this morning. Frodo forgot it, too.  We were so focused on the cold, focused on not getting lost, and focused on surviving.

Flecks of snow dusted Blazer’s brows, white fluff blotting jet-black, as she pulled her watch cap down tight. A dim light penetrated the pine and spruce thicket. Blazer piped up, “Happy Birthday, Frodo.” We were taken aback. How could we both have forgotten?  Blazer: “What do you want for your birthday?”  Frodo didn’t hesitate, her breath starkly visible. “I want to get out of the day alive.”  

We knew we had to set out soon and climb higher into the storm. Yesterday, the drifts reached over our knees.  What would today bring?

The fourth storm hit four days later. It had been snowing seven straight days. Incredibly early and off the charts.  Washington’s Cascades were getting hammered. The Pacific Crest Trail lay covered under thigh-high drifts. 

At 10:01 pm that night chatter lit up the internet. “Seattle King5 TV News just said three PCT hikers are missing.”  10:13 pm: “Goodness it’s so cold now.  May the Lord protect them.” The next morning at 3:40 am: “I am headed out to Stevens Pass to work the search.”

But they weren’t searching for us. They were searching for Nadine.

Scout's Journal

Luke Highwalker

May 30, 2020

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2007 issue of the PCTA Communicator Magazine

By Barney 'Scout' Mann

While dropping off an early thru-hiker at the border on April 1st, I chanced upon an unusual sight. At home, I was not surprised to find the following on the newswire.


April 1, 2007, Campo, California: Sunrise brought the rhythmic clatter of wood striking hardpan soil as Luke “Highwalker” set off on stilts for a first-ever “stilts” thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Normally six feet tall, Highwalker stood closer to the ten-foot mark as he embarked, perched high on a pair of home-built, green and white striped stilts.

Campo is a sleepy berg in the sparse outer reaches of eastern San Diego County. Known, if at all, for its sprawling Border Patrol complex, train museum, and juvenile detention camp, Campo in spring has one more measure of distinction: an annual influx of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers.

Highwalker is one such intrepid soul, but a very different intrepid soul.  He proposes to hike the entire length of the PCT on stilts. “I got the idea last fall,” Highwalker says, “from another PCT hiker’s Web journal. Sharon Allen joked about hiking the first 20-mile day on stilts. To me it wasn’t a joke. I was hooked the moment I read it. ‘I can do that,’ I thought.”

Many pre-trail problems had to be overcome. “I modified snowshoes with special fittings. I had custom crampons designed, too,” says Highwalker. In June he expects to successfully negotiate the PCT’s highest point, snowbound 13,200-foot Forester Pass, deep in California’s Sierra Nevada.  He says he practiced back home on Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and is ready to take his game out West. “I’ve got it mastered,” he explains, while flashing a hip covered in fading bruises.

Read More