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Barney “Scout” Mann and Sandy “Frodo” Mann have been PCT icons for nearly two decades. Together, the couple has hosted thousands of hikers, shuttling them from the airport to the Southern Terminus of the PCT. The couple had planned on retiring after the 2020 season, but when Covid-19 forced the duo to cease operations, they decided that they didn’t want to end things that way.
This year, like last, Scout and Frodo had a tough decision in front of them. Do they host more thru-hikers while the Covid-19 vaccine is still inaccessible to so many? Or do they close their doors?
“Three days before the PCT permit lottery, Frodo and I made a decision for 2021,” Scout said. “I think we’d been putting off what we knew would have to be painful. It simply would not be safe to have that many people at our house in March through May.”
When it comes to making the decision to thru-hike, Scout adds, “the main thing is that we want folks to make wise decisions.” Following the CDC guidelines, staying up-to-date with local restrictions, and following the PCTA’s announcements are some ways you might equip yourself to be informed.
A little further along the PCT, Cherry “Mountain Mama” Owens operates the Mountain Valley Retreat out of her home at mile 101. Owens will be operating for her 8th year as a trail angel. In 2020, when the state of California began shutting down operations, Owens followed suit, but her heart was heavy.
“I am really looking forward to the season,” Mountain Mama said. I think the trail is going to be packed with hikers this year.”
But, she warns, last year’s PCT operations were greatly impacted by Covid-19, and this year may be the same.
“Nobody was servicing the water caches on the trail. And a lot of the other people that would normally be trail angels were not,” she said.” Nobody would pick up a hitchhiker. All of the on-trail resources were gone.”
Owens will be cutting down on the number of hikers that she expects to welcome into the Mountain Valley Retreat this year, capping her number of visitors at 10 per day, or half of normal.
In Wrightwood, California, at mile 367 on the PCT, Elizabeth “Champaign” Trine gives hikers rides and takes care of an essential water cache. Covid has led the 63-year-old to shift her efforts to cater to hikers in a different way.
“In 2020, when this first broke out, I started making masks. I sewed them,” she said. This is before everything became more [restrictive]. I was putting 10 per week [in the cache] and they were being used. And we also put a big hand sanitizer bottle in there. We want to be safe and we want the hikers to be safe and we’ll do what we can.”
While Trine seems optimistic about the coming hiker season, she adds that she’s still concerned about Covid.
“This year, there’s already about a 100 masks at the cache,” she says. “But there is a heightened sensitivity to covid. Covid is still here.”