Peter and Wynne Wimberger of Tacoma used vacations with their kids to show them nature and the love of a good hike.
Next week, Peter Wimberger will load daughter Elena, 22, and son Gus, 18, into the car, drive them to the Mexican border and leave them. By mid-October, give or take a month, the siblings should make it home.
The Pacific Crest Trail, at 2,663 miles, is a challenge few people take on all at once. Gus, Elena and her boyfriend, Carter Chaffey, are nothing if not ambitious.
“We’ll each have tent, water filtration, clothes, pots, a First Aid kit, sleeping bag and pad, and big water bladders – some sections on the trail, you go 30-40 miles without access to water,” Gus said.
“We’ll be carrying packs weighing about 30 pounds, base weight. When we carry a lot of water, it could go up to 50 pounds.”
Oh, and plenty of Pop Tarts.
“Gus loves them and has about 40 pounds of them, I think,” said Elena, who will graduate from Willamette University in Salem, Ore., on May 12. “He says we’ll never get tired of eating them because there are so many flavors.”
Gus will graduate from Foss High School in June but won’t be at the ceremony. He will already have left for his brother-sister odyssey.
For years, the two talked about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and time was a factor. When could both find six months in their lives to dedicate to it?
“I’m a politics major, and this trip will give me time to sort it out. career-wise,” Elena said.
Gus wants to work when he returns to Tacoma, travel next spring and go to college the following year.
He and Elena have talked about this hike much of his life. As the two realized the chance was realistic, they decided to make it about more than hiking, about more than themselves.
“We’ve saved our money for this trip. It’s financed,” Elena said. “We wanted to try to help others as we do this.”
After looking at charities, they selected Etta, an organization that helps rural villages in Bolivia by funding water, sanitation, health and nutrition programs.
“Etta helps build sustainable communities and allow self-sufficiency,” Gus said. “Rural Bolivia is the poorest region in South America.”
Gus and Elena have been preparing for the trail by walking with weighted backpacks. Most of Elena’s training has come on a track at college. Both know the challenge ahead is daunting.
“Every summer, we’ve gone on weeklong hikes,” Gus said. “But the most either of us has ever hiked was 93 miles. We’re scheduling in some down days – about one a week – in case we need the breaks. We want to average 20 miles a day where it’s flat.”
One such “break” comes about 700 miles into the trek, when the trio reaches Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. As a side trip, they say they’ll climb it.
“We go right by it, so the opportunity to just drop our packs and take the trail to the summit was just too great to pass,” Elena said.
All three will have cameras and solar chargers to keep their telephones going. Though they plan not to call or text much on the trail, both Gus and Elena will blog weekly.
So as not to have to carry more than 10 days of supplies at any one stretch, they’ll cache boxes at inns and post office boxes along the trail, something hikers having been doing for years.
Gus researched the trail and those who have taken it on.
“From what I’ve read, the scariest thing on trail is staying motivated, staying in the moment,” he said. “You walk and walk and walk and don’t seem to get anywhere.”
Elena is a bit more practical.
“We’re going to be hiking in the desert, in the mountains, and the weather is always unpredictable,” she said. “My biggest worry is possible injury. It’s a long trip and things can come out of nowhere.
What will each of them miss most?
“Beer,” Carter said.
“Ice cream,” Gus said.
“My dog,” Elena said.
Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638