Locals look to attract PCT hikers
There’s a hiker’s heaven tucked into a back room at Lake of the Sky Outfitters.
Maps sit on a shelf and a backpack hangs above a couch inviting Pacific Crest Trail hikers to put their feet up and take a break from the 2,663-mile trail.
“They love it because it’s a place where they can dump their backpacks, use the laptop. They like a place where they can just hang out,” Lake of the Sky Outfitters Owner Peter Hussman said.
Hussman set aside the “basecamp” for PCT through hikers last season. It’s part of his effort to raise awareness of the trail in the South Shore and galvanize the community to welcome the trekkers when they pass through the basin.
Last year, 250 PCT hikers stopped by Lake of the Sky Outfitters. Hussman expects that number to grow this season, partly because of what he calls the “Cheryl effect.” Since Cheryl Strayed published her memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” last year, the book has been part of Oprah’s Book Club and on the New York Times’ best-seller list.
“A lot of people are going out and finding themselves this year,” South Lake Tahoe resident Rick Brower said.
Brower, who’s helping Hussman promote the trail, hiked the PCT in 1979 with his wife. He noticed many of the towns along the route rallied around the hikers. One community newspaper even published the photos of all the trekkers who passed through the area.
“A lot of the towns have a lot of town spirit when hikers come through … We want to raise awareness that there are people coming through here,” Brower said.
Hussman admits there’s an economic incentive to bringing more PCT hikers through the city. In June and July, about 50 percent of his business comes from the travelers. Making the “Y” intersection a haven for these hikers fits South Lake Tahoe’s emphasis on recreation and brings business to the other stores in the area, Hussman said.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s good business, but I enjoy it because part of our goal is to develop a community of hikers,” he said.
The outdoor retailer has grown the network of trail angels, volunteers available to help the hikers, from three to 17 since 2012. They’ve stocked the basecamp with food, fuel and other accessories in preparation for their first visitors — the PCT flood started on June 7 last year — and the store’s listed for the first time in the popular “Yogi’s PCT Handbook.”
Brower planned to post a flyer on the section of the PCT that runs through Tuolumne Meadows this weekend. The small leaflets promote Lake of the Sky Outfitters as a friendly store that lets hikers escape from the hardships of the trail.
“To walk 2,600 miles is not something you just decide to do to find yourself. Your will has to be stronger than your feet. It sounds good on paper, but once the sole hits the trail, it’s a whole other story,” Brower said.
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