MOTHER TAKES A HIKE
As usual in America, there
seem to be mirror images of the East Side and the West Side. The same
is true with our mountains and trails. On the Atlantic side we have the
Appalachian Mountains and Trail. Spanning some 2,000 plus miles from Georgia
to Maine, this trail along the east coast opened in 1937. Not to be outdone,
the west coast's 2000 plus miles along the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains
along the Pacific coast has the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) along a route
first explored in the 1930s.
Thru-hiking these trails are accomplishments that few attain. Earl Schaffer
was the first person to solo thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) in 1949.
Emma Gatewood was the first woman to do it in 1955. Martin Papendick was
the first man to thru-hike the western trail in 1952 (although the trail
was not "official" at the time. After the PCT's official opening,
Eric Ryback had the honor of the first OFFICIAL solo thru-hike in 1971).
Teddi Boston took the honors as the first woman to solo thru-hike the
2,614 mile western trail.
On May 1, 1976 when the 49 year old mother of four started her hike, Teddi
Boston left Manning Park, Canada with a 65 pound pack; rawhide-laced,
white ash snow shoes and a thick-shafted ice axe. She was not only well
equipped but, unlike Emma Gatewood, she was experienced. Growing up in
Maine, Teddi says you become a hiker by default! In fact, she had climbed
Mt. Katahdin (the Appalachian Trail's northern end) three times before
she took her PCT hike. Besides her hiking experience, Teddi was the first
volunteer ranger in the San Gorgonio Wilderness.
When Teddi's daughters were Girls Scouts in the 1960s she had her first
backpacking experience in California's San Bernadino Mountains. She taught
the girls backpacking and in 1972, she took eight girls on a hike on the
John Muir Trail. That's when she met her first Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker
and her dream was born!
Four years later, she set off on her record-setting hike. It was a good
thing she had the snow equipment because when she got into Washington
a blizzard kept her confined to her tent for two days! When she was finally
able to leave her tent and head south she'd get up at 3:30 a.m. every
day and walk on the frozen crust. By about 10 a.m. she'd put on her snowshoes.
The trail markers were buried in the snow so she hiked that first month
using her compass and map. She didn't see a single person in the entire
state! By the time she got far enough south to find her first trail marker,
she was fewer than 10 feet off the trail!
Though the weather was better when she got to Oregon, she had two major
setbacks - she got lost and she scratched her cornea. The eye injury was
bad enough that she stayed with a couple at Odell Lake for a week before
she hit the trail again (AGAINST her doctor's orders!).
Teddi was a purchasing coordinator in an Anaheim, California school district.
A relatively healthy woman, she had built up quite a lot of sick time.
It was just the ticket to let her make her historic hike! Teddi put in
for six months worth of sick time for her adventure. Unfortunately, in
July her hometown newspaper ran a story, "Anaheim Mother Tackles
2600 Mile Trek Alone." Just the kind of headline that attracts attention!
Her boss read the article. "Sick leave!?" he couldn't believe
his eyes. He brought her up on charges with the school board and the superintendent
sent her a dismissal notice by certified mail. It found her just north
of the Sierra! Well, at least she was being treated for an injured cornea!
However, that wasn't good enough to get her job back when she returned
Back on the trail, Teddi was worrying about lack of water in the Mojave
Desert when the weather gods provided her with an overabundance in the
form of Hurricane Kathleen - one of the worst tropical storms in California
Teddi most dreaded the Mojave Desert. She had white long pants, white
sleeved shirt and a straw hat. She had shipped all of her rain gear to
the next stop since she figured she wouldn't need it in the desert. But
as she camped by an Aqueduct, she felt a little rain and by morning it
wasn't just pouring - it was a downpour! She was chilly and she managed
to find a sweater before she headed for the town of Mojave. It was when
she got to town that she found out she was in the middle of Tropical Storm
Kathleen. That storm set a record for the most rain that ever fell in
When she got to Mojave, she got a hotel room. She looked like a drowned
rat! She told the man at the desk that he'd better have a room or he was
going to have to find someplace to put her. He asked what she was doing
and when she told him he said he wasn't even going to charge her for the
room! She asked where the Laundromat was and went and cleaned her clothes.
She stayed there three days. When she got back to the dessert it was cold
instead of hot!
Teddi says clearly someone was watching out for her because if she had
been on the mountain during the storm instead of in the desert, she probably
would have been killed. She says, "God looks out for the stupid ones!"
In the San Bernardino National Forest all the trails had been washed away
in the storm and at Highway 2. There had been a landslide and the road
was closed. When she got there, there was a crew knocking boulders off
the side of the hill. One of the crewmen stopped everything when he saw
her coming. He told the rest of the crew there was a lady with a big pack
on her back and not to knock boulders onto her.
However, the storm was not the least favorite part of the trip - the drought
by Burney Falls in Northern California got that ranking! The coolest day
in that area was 103 degrees. The trail went across black lava and the
trees were all spindly. At one horrible ridge you could look down and
see some water. She thought "Who in the hell put the trail up here?
It should be down there by the water." (Apparently, the trail has
since been moved to that lower part.)
Teddi says the Marble Mountain Wilderness with its rock formations was
her most favorite part of the hike.
On October 16, 1976, after 169 days of hiking, Teddi reached the Mexican
border where she was greeted by family and fans. "I want to do it
again!" the long-distance hiker exclaimed. "It's hard to believe
it's over. It's hard to believe I've spent my last night, heard my last
wind in the pines, howl of coyote, hoot of the owl." Like Emma Gatewood,
Teddi lost 30 pounds on her hike. (Probably not surprising since "When
I walked the trail my boots were three-and-a-half pounds
When she first told her husband she was going to hike the Pacific Crest
Trail, he said she'd be back in two weeks. Later during the hike he wrote
her a letter and told her he was so proud of her and hoped she wouldn't
quit before she got to the end. Their two boys and two girls were excited
about their mother's adventure. The whole family got bragging rights!
Currently Teddi works as a Volunteer Coordinator for the Forest Service
- a position she's held for more than 18 years! Last year she also logged
1,546 volunteer hours between May and October and recently received a
letter from the White House with a certificate and a pin honoring her
When Teddi is at work, she's AT work! She stays at a ranger camp through
the season - a 24/7 job. She lives in a FEMA trailer that sleeps eight.
There's no address or no zip code, but she does have a phone and computer.
It's 17 miles to the Ranger Station and 24 miles to Big Bear City for
food and shopping.
Just because she's at a "normal" job, doesn't mean she doesn't
have any excitement any more.
At the camp/trailer there are outbuildings with a shower, bathroom and
kitchen. Last year she had three encounters with bears - all good she
First a bear had upset her recycling bin at the trailer, but Teddi had
walked right past him and never saw him when she went into the trailer
- only heard him.
Then she was walking about 3/4 mile down the hill when she met a bear
coming up the hill, but he ran off. The third time she was in the kitchen
working on the computer when she heard a noise out by the trash. She opened
the door and her face was about 18" away from the bear. She said
to him in French: "Get out of here!" And he did. As he went
away she told him "And your fur coat's too big!" His beautiful
fur was wiggling around on his butt as he ran away! Bears in the vicinity
where Teddi resides apparently are not used to human voices and when Teddi
shouts they run off.
When she's not yelling at bears, Teddi continues to hike and tells her
remarkable story to audiences in the area.
Teddi was born on January 26, 1927 in Limestone, Maine
Teddi started her record-setting hike on May 1, 1976 and finished on October
Boston, Teddi. Phone interview with Bette Lou Higgins. February 6,2013.
Mann, Barny "Scout". "On The Trail With Pioneer Thru-Hiker
Teddi Boston". Pacific Coast Communicator. June, 2011, volume 23,
number 2. Pgs. 16 - 20.