The Northwest's Mountain Man

The founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail always takes the high road.

Ron Strickland, age 68, founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail, at 7,600 feet, image

Ron Strickland, 68, at Cathedral Pass, 7,600 feet, in Washington's Pasayten Wilderness.

Ron Strickland began work in 1970 on the Pacific Northwest Trail, a 1,200-mile track across Idaho and Washington stretching from Montana’s Glacier National Park to the Pacific. In 2009, Congress named the route a National Scenic Trail. Strickland’s new book, Pathfinder, charts his decades of advocacy.

Q Why write a book?
A It’s partly a memoir about my struggle to create the trail, but Pathfinder is also about trying to attract a new generation to hiking and backpacking. If people don’t take up these pastimes, wilderness preservation won’t have a new generation of constituents.

Q What makes this trail special?
A The volunteers always used to say, “Stay high for the views, Dr. Ron.” I always tried to locate the trail on ridges and high points.

Q What’s fun about walking all day?
A When you hike by yourself day after day, you get into the rhythm of the place. If you’ve been out for a month, your mind-set begins to change. You begin to feel at home. You’re not tethered to where you came from; you’re living in the moment, and to me that is a wonderful feeling.

Q Some of your favorite parts of the trail?
A The western terminus at Cape Alava in Olympic National Park is quite spectacular. And heading west from the town of Oroville, Wash., in the high desert country, you follow the Similkameen River on a former railroad grade that has an Old West feel; it’s the country Owen Wister described in The Virginian.

Photography by Christine Hartmann

This article was first published in September 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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