The journey of a lifetime: NIC ABE instructor completes 2,600-mile hike

Everyone has had that “someday” dream that they've kicked around in their head for years. “Someday, I'm going to…” take a cruise, build a dream house, skydive, or a leave on an uncharted road trip. But somehow the seemingly unattainable dream is often left unfulfilled. But not in North Idaho College Adult Basic Education Instructor David Lyon's case. After 15 years of wondering and wishing, he made his dream come true. When in the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., Lyon and his close friend Jerry Smith always talked about hiking the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,658-mile trail that crosses California, Oregon and Washington from the Mexican border to the border of British Columbia. In fact, Smith had hiked the entire trail years ago and was itching to try again. Both were in their 40s, married with two children, and had recently retired from their 23-year careers with the U.S. Navy. Neither was without obligations, but to Smith and Lyon, the timing was perfect. “Jerry called me one day and said, ‘Do you want to do it?'” Lyon said. “The timing was just right. Both of us were starting new phases in our lives after retiring from the Navy and we just thought we've talked about it long enough. Now let's do it.” After months of precise planning, from clothing choices to specific ounces and calories in each meal, the two traveled to Campo, a small town southeast of San Diego, to begin their trek in April of 2001. “I thought I'd quit about 20 times a day at first,” Lyon said. “My feet were swollen and blistered just days in and it didn't seem that we were making hardly any progress on the map.” But the two pushed on and soon their inner motivations switched from just making it through to the next meal, to making it through the day, and soon the end was in sight. The two averaged about 20 miles per day, hiking all day carrying all their supplies in their backpacks and setting up a tent along the trail at night. They established 24 re-supply points along the trail where Lyon's wife Karen would ship a box full of food and other supplies to get them through the next leg of the journey. Lyon said distances on each leg of the trail were typically driven by re-supply points and the availability of water. “Water was the most critical,” Lyon said, adding that all the water they used was treated, pumped and filtered. “Sometimes we had running water at the recreational sites, but otherwise we found it in streams or lakes. At one point in the desert, we were desperate enough to collect it from cow prints in the ground.” The two traversed 24 national forests, 34 wilderness areas and seven national parks crossing the Cascade mountain range as well as the high Sierras. Elevations on the trail dipped as low as 100 feet above sea level at the Columbia River to 13,000 feet over some mountain passes. After going through three pairs of shoes, lots of raisins, beef jerky and instant potatoes, many wildlife sightings and unimaginable scenic views, the two arrived at the British Columbia border exactly five months after their journey began. Though Lyon said he was very happy to reunite with his family, one of the biggest surprises of the whole journey came when trying to readjust to being back home. “As hard as it was to adjust to living in the woods with practically nothing, it was surprisingly difficult to readjust to all the trappings of city life,” Lyon said. “The noise and pace was so different when I returned. I had grown comfortable being totally self contained and independent on the trail.” Lyon said the five months he spent on the Pacific Crest Trail were some of the most challenging, but also some the best times of his life. “I've traveled all over the world, driving or flying, and felt I'd seen the country,” Lyon said. “But I realized that was like looking at the IMAX Theater through straws. It's amazing to see the whole picture.” A website with pictures, journal entries and other details of Lyon and Smith's trek is available online.

For More Information
NIC Adult Basic Education Instructor David Lyon, (208) 676-8005

Posted: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2004

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