How Politicians In Washington, D.C. Are Breaking Hikers' Hearts In Washington State

Oct 11, 2013

Closures on the Pacific Crest Trail aren’t all that uncommon. Parts of the 2,650-mile trail are often closed because of wildfires.

But, now, as the long-distance hiking season comes to an end, the government shutdown has closed all seven national parks and three national monuments along the trail.

Jack Haskel is with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. He said it’s been frustrating for hikers to discover that a political squabble in Washington D.C. is preventing them from achieving their goal of covering the entire length of the famed trail.

“So after walking virtually across the country, they had to stop their hike because of the government closure,” Haskel said.

Most of the Pacific Crest Trail is on Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management land. That’s all still open.

Hiker Marijke Weaver is nearing the end of her journey.

Right now she’s stuck just outside Stevens Pass in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Snowfall from a recent storm has made the trail unpassable. That's keeping Weaver and her husband from finishing up honeymoon trip that began in April at the U.S.-Mexico border.

She says the end feels so close.

“We came off the trail a week and a half ago and have been basically living in limb,” Weaver said.

When they return to the trail, the couple will have another obstacle: the government shutdown. They have to hike for about a week before they will reach the entrance to the North Cascades National Park.

“We’ll cross our fingers that the government’s reopened. And if they haven’t, then we’ll look at alternate routes and see if there’s other things we can do, or if it’s at that point that that’s the obstacle we can’t get through,” Weaver said.

Weaver and her husband have been staying at Jerry Dinsmore’s home. He’s what thru-hikers call a trail angel. They open up their homes and serve as along-the-trail post offices, where hikers can pick up supply boxes they mailed there weeks earlier.

At one point, Dinsmore said he had 15 hikers staying at his home for two weeks, waiting out the snow and the shutdown. He said hikers are telling him that the park services are making sure hikers stop at the boundary.

“They had guards on the trail to keep them from going through,” Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore said that’s not stopping the long distance hikers he’s met. Four hikers decided to walk along the highway.

“The search and rescue guy out of Chelan, he flew over them and called us up, and said, ‘Yeah, I see them down there. They’re walking. They’re walking the highway,” Dinsmore chuckled.

Hiker Marijke Weaver is still optimistic that she and her husband will make it to the end of the trail.

“We think that the next week or week and a half is going to work out,” Weaver said.

They just have 180 miles and one national park to go.

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