Local hiker journeys across the state | TheUnion.com

Local hiker journeys across the state

Frank Cook (left) is hiking across California, with Chad Tignor accompanying him for part of the way.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Forget walking shoes. Frank Cook is backpacking the width of California in a pair of sports sandals, foraging for food and jotting notes in his nature journal like a modern-day John Muir.

The bearded, dreadlocked, 39-year-old man had racked up 230 miles in 13 days Friday when he stopped in the Nevada City area – his part-time home – to resupply and meet with friends.

On Sunday, Cook and friend Chad Tignor, who is accompanying Cook partway, will hike out of the town of Washington toward their journey’s end at Lake Tahoe.

So why the hike across California?

“To appreciate the land and the feeling that everything is kind of close and doable,” said Cook. “This is something that’s been done for thousands of years. It’s (sad) that we’ve lost that in our culture.”

A passionate amateur botanist, Cook is taking notes about plants he sees.

Cook and Tignor are carrying store-bought, vegetarian food. But the two botanically minded men also have been foraging. They’ve noshed on everything from seaweed gathered on the beach near Gualala to Central Valley almonds left on the ground after harvest to wild figs in the foothills.

“We really felt the abundance,” Cook said.

They have hiked mainly along back roads. On Thursday, the two were joined near the South Yuba River by John Olmsted, a Nevada County resident who hiked the width of California in the early 1970s.

The man’s 64 years old, and we’re doing everything we can to keep up with him,” said Cook.

Cook splits his time between Nevada County, North Carolina and travel to places such as India and Peru. A self-described kid from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., he graduated from Duke University with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and zoology. But now he figures he gets by on about $3,000 a year.

“I don’t own a car” he said. “I don’t have a bank account. I don’t have insurance. I don’t have that kind of thing in my life.”

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