Zachary Ramsey is seen in the Sierra mountain range near Sonora Pass in California. Ramsey, of Leesburg, recently completed the Pacific Crest Trail, one of only 250 to do so this year.
LEESBURG, Ga. -- While Zachary Ramsey has some previous backpacking experience, he had never done something quite like this.
Ramsey, a native of Leesburg now residing in Columbus, Ohio, recently took the 2,650-mile hike up the Pacific Crest Trail.
"I just decided to do the trail because I wanted to do it for a long time," he said. "It is the most fun in five months you could have."
The trail in its entirety travels through the three westernmost states in the contiguous United States -- California, Oregon and Washington. The journey starts at Mexico and ends in Canada.
It took him from April 26 through Oct. 1 to make the trip.
"It was physically and mentally demanding," Ramsey said. "I had some backpacking experience before, but this was my longest trip. The longest trip I took previously lasted four days."
Information available from the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) indicates that there are many sites to see along the way, such as the Mojave Desert, the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada as well as vistas of volcanic peaks and glaciers in the Cascade Range.
There are an average of 300 people a year who attempt to cover the full length of the trail. Of those, about 60 percent finish it in its entirety, according to the PCTA.
Data provided to PCT
A from an outside source shows that there are 256 people, Ramsey being among them, on the Pacific Crest Trail "2,600 Miler List" for this year.
Ramsey said that the appeal for the trail comes from its changing ecosystems, which provide diversity in terms of what there is to see.
Even so, the part of the trip he liked the most was the people, he said.
"There were so many good things about it, but the best was probably the people you get to meet and get to know," the 2009 Georgia Institute of Technology graduate said. "The trail was very social."
On a trip like that, a hiker would be encouraged to pack only what is absolutely necessary -- which was something Ramsey learned himself.
"It showed me how to live life simpler," he said. "It helps you appreciate what you have."
By Ramsey's account, his family -- while encouraging -- had reservations at first about him making the trip, but eventually felt better about the idea once they saw how well he had prepared for it.
It also helped that, even though the trail is so far out, there are ways of keeping in touch with loved ones at home.
"I was excited because he had been talking about it for awhile," said his mother, Mary Lou Ramsey, of the moment she heard her son was making the journey. "I was also worried.
"I was worried initially, but once he got there, he checked in on a weekly basis. After that, I wasn't that worried."
Mary Lou Ramsey said that -- since his return -- her son has spoken of the scenery as well as the people he met along the way, including those who helped him and other hikers during the journey -- known on the course as "Trail Angels."
She even said that there is a possibility of her doing a section of the trail herself next year.
"I am very proud of him for doing it," she said.
When asked about the lasting impact she thought the trip had on the younger Ramsey, his mother said that it seems to have matured him and even given him a boost of self-confidence.
"He was real motivated to begin with, but this put him over the top," said Mary Lou Ramsey. "I read a blog from a woman (in her 50s) that did it (the trail). I thought that if she could do it, my 26-year-old son could."
Provided that the proper preparations are made, it is a trip Zachary Ramsey said he would encourage others to make.
"I would definitely do it again," he said. "I would highly recommend it, if you know what you are getting into."
The route was first explored in the late 1930s by teams from the YMCA, according to PCTA. Once proven feasible, pioneers Clinton Clarke and Warren Rogers lobbied the federal government to secure a border-to-border trail corridor. It was eventually designated as one of the first scenic trails in the National Trails System authorized by Congress in 1968, and was dedicated in 1993.
It climbs nearly 60 major mountain passes, descends into 19 major canyons, ambles past more than 1,000 lakes and tarns and goes through seven national parks and 33 federally mandated wildernesses. Information from the PCTA website also says that is crosses the San Andreas Fault three times and passes the three deepest lakes in the nation -- Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake and Lake Chelan.
For more information on the Pacific Crest Trail and the necessary preparations to travel on it, visit www.pcta.org or www.fs.usda.gov/pct.