Art & Culture

Q&A: Jim Ostdick’s 2,650-mile hike from Mexico to Canada

Local adventurer publishes his story of the journey.

Jim Ostdick is no stranger to epic journeys. His first book, “Palomino and the Dream Machine,” chronicled his bicycle journey to all 48 contiguous states. His second book, “Palomino Nation,” covered his walk from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, then back to his home in San Juan Bautista.

Describing his age as “60-ish,” Ostdick has not stopped his adventures, as can be seen in his latest book, “Walks Far Man: In Step with History on the Pacific Crest Trail” with cover art by Shawn Monique Del Gado. It is the story of his off-and-on, 20-year hike from Mexico to Canada. Ostdick, also a contributor to BenitoLink, sat down for an interview about his new book.

Oregon/California border. Photo courtesy of Jim Ostdick.
Oregon/California border. Photo courtesy of Jim Ostdick.

BENITOLINK: How did you get started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail?

OSTDICK: I had previous experience with the trail because years ago I lived and taught in Bakersfield, and part of it is near there. I would go and do little day hikes. Then I got involved in a project in Indian Wells Valley, which is on the opposite side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Bakersfield. I spent a long time hiking in the mountains and canyons that feed down into the Valley. So that section of the Pacific Crest Trail was in my field area and I got to know it very well. I met some PCT hikers and kinda got a bug about the trail thinking, “Maybe I could do this.”

Where did you start?

I started the trail in the Spring of 2001, on the Mexican border in a little town called Campos. That is what they call the Southern Terminus. I left there hoping, if all went well, I would get to Canada before all the snow and rain hit in late September. It did not work out for me to get all the way to Canada that year. I got off the trail at Edison Lake, near Yosemite. I had gone 879 miles at that point. 

How did you continue from there?

Well, I became what is known as a “section hiker,” someone who does the trail in parts over the course of years. People who do it in one year are called “through-hikers,” but that first part of the trail gave me an understanding of what through-hikers do. It was not the way I planned it, but life throws you all kinds of curveballs. In the summertime, I would work on completing the trail and finished in 2009.

"Walks Far Man" with cover by Shawn Monique Del Gado.
“Walks Far Man” with cover by Shawn Monique Del Gado.

How did you come to write this book?

Well, I had these really detailed journals of my trip and I kinda wondered if I would ever write a book about it. I was busy teaching and it wasn’t until I retired that I started thinking about writing. I started with the book about the bicycle journey, which was all personal experience. I got encouragement from Laynee Reyna, who had just finished her first book, “Wolf Dreamer of the Longest Night Moon.” She told me to try it, saying “what else are you going to do?” 

What approach did you take with this new book?

There are already a lot of books about the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly by through-hikers. So I wanted to tell my story as a section hiker. And as I developed my friendship with Sonne and Laynee Reyna, I have come to a better appreciation of Native American culture. So I got the idea that I would blend the story of my walking the trail with stories whose land am I walking through. There were more than 30 tribal bands that lived in the area traversed by the trail. And the Native people had trails all through the area that the later settlers used. U.S. Highway 50 was the trail taken by the Pony Express, but before that it was a trade route for the Washoe and the Yokuts.

Do you have another adventure planned?

I turned 69 this year and I’m feeling it. I got a lot of miles on these legs. But I have a list of things I would like to see and do—I want to ride my bike along Route 66. But I might have to bow down to the electric bike people to make that one!

Jim Ostdick. Photo by Robert Eliason.
Jim Ostdick. Photo by Robert Eliason.

 

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Robert Eliason

I’ve been a freelance photographer since my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. My dad taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.   I have had gallery showings and done commercial work but photojournalism is a wonderful challenge in storytelling.   The editors at BenitoLink have encouraged me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  It is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community.