-- 'Hike with Scout' Newsletter --

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Hike with Scout #3

September 30, 2020

Dear Friends,

I call this “Hike with Scout,” but maybe you would have wanted to miss my last hike. It was Sunday, Labor Day weekend, the moon was five day past full and we were at 9,000 feet in the Sierra. I knew when the moon would rise. But it never did. Smoke. You’ve heard about the West Coast wildfires and forest closures. We were there. 

The single trek this summer for my wife and me was a long-anticipated 6 days in the Sierra. Over half of the 55 miles would be on the Pacific Crest Trail. After 13 years, we’d finally return to Evolution Valley and Muir Pass. The first two-and-a-half days were pristine. We lingered over lunch Saturday at McClure Meadow on Evolution Creek--the best campsite in the entire Sierra. But afterward, we saw a bulging thunderhead behind us. Climbing toward our campsite at 10,900-feet, we realized that it was being fed by a fire. It's a pyro-cumulonimbus cloud. Two events cause them--an extreme forest fire or a volcanic eruption. From then on, we were chased by smoke. Sunday night was the worst. We never saw the moon. That Monday we crammed two days’ worth of hiking into one and got out at 4:30 pm. A half hour later the forest was officially closed. 

But we were lucky. Our direction was away from the fire. That Saturday, under that thunderhead cloud, we met the nicest young couple, Aaron and Mindy. They were heading the opposite way. They were doing the John Muir Trail, with ten days still ahead of them. What happened to them? I found out a week later. Did you see the hikers helicoptered out by the Air National Guard? That same Sunday night, the one where we had no moon, the two of them reached Vermillion Valley Resort, a planned re-supply spot at a remote Sierra store and maildrop. The sole access was an 18-mile, one-lane dirt road. That road had been overrun by the fire. At 3:00 am Aaron and Mindy woke to the sound of helicopters. I saw a photo of them tightly wedged inside with their packs. They were airlifted out—end of hike.

I promise, good news the rest of the way today. We need that. 

First, from one of you, a favorite trail spot you shared—Glacier Peak Wilderness, North Cascades: “I turned a corner and saw the mountain and watched the glacier sparkle in the sun …  in that moment realized all I had done and was about to accomplish. I felt I was exactly where I was meant to be.”

Second, I’m 68.  For decades I’ve read National Geographic magazine, but I never thought I’d be in it. The October issue not only has me and my book Journeys North, it quotes me and then goes on to call me “arguably the dean of America’s long-distance trails.” How’s that for a testament there’s life after 65?! And a short while ago, the Banff Mountain Book Festival announced that Journeys North is one of four Adventure Travel finalists.

But what pleases me most are the emails and Instagram messages I get every day. “Reading your book every night is what got me through the last week.” “I’m stretching out the last quarter. I don’t want it to end.” “Finishing Journeys North felt like my trail family had left without saying goodbye. Every word hung in the air and tore at my heart … pick up this great read that is about so much more than thru-hiking.” That’s why I wrote Journeys North—I hoped you’d laugh, cry, grip the arm of your chair, and in the end feel a bit better about yourself. 

And then there was the reader who sent me the picture of her backpack, the mesh outer pocket stuffed with a bag of potato chips and Journeys North

Thanks for walking alongside me again. Till next time,


Barney Scout Mann

San Diego, CA

Order Journeys North for yourself or a friend at: REIAmazon or get a personalized signed copy.


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