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Backpacker Magazine – January 2014

Readers' Choice 2014: Dream Trips: All Heart

Proving anything is possible on California's rugged coast

by: Dennis Lewon

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Chris Martin on his dream trip (By Andrew Bydlon)
Chris Martin on his dream trip (By Andrew Bydlon)

“We Shall  Overcome”

Winner Chris Martin, 28, from Windsor, CA

Guest His father, John Martin, 61

Where to Lost Coast, CA, August 10 to 12, 2013

Winning pitch Dialysis patient goes backpacking for the first time

Gitchell Creek emerges from a narrow, rocky canyon on California’s Lost Coast and swoops across the beach in a big S curve, then disappears in the waves breaking on the sand. Above the high tide line, we pitch our tents amid driftwood tree trunks, with a broad view of the transition zone between earth and sea. We can see the Pacific swallow Gitchell Creek up to the middle of the S when the tide comes in, and neon orange starfish clinging to half-submerged rocks when it goes out. 

We’re just 3 miles north of the trailhead at Shelter Cove, with another 23 miles of wild coastline between here and Mattole Creek, but we don’t need to go any farther to find what we’re after. It’s not only the perfect campsite, the sweet view, and the sound of the surf as we drift off to sleep. Like most backpackers, we’ve come looking for a challenge, and we found a bigger test than most hikers will ever encounter.

When we put out the call for the “We Shall Overcome” Dream Trip, we expected plenty of entries from hikers who were recovering from injuries. But we never expected Chris Martin. As a child, the 28-year-old EMT from Windsor, California, was diagnosed with a rare, lifelong kidney disease called membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis Type 1. He started dialysis during his freshman year in high school; two kidney transplants (the first donated by his dad) failed. At an early age, when most teens’ chief bodily concern is pimples, Chris had to make a decision: would he let his illness rule him, or would he be in charge? “I don’t think of myself as compromised,” he says. Chris became an avid dayhiker who volunteers at a local park. Still, at home he must undergo dialysis treatment nightly, and that prevented him from going backpacking. Until now. 

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