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Fire closures spark headaches and detours for Pacific Crest Trail hikers

July 1, 2016

When Ted Locke set out to hike all 2,650 miles of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, he knew he’d run into detours and trail closures.

But what he didn’t expect was that nearly a quarter of the 700-mile leg through Southern California would be made from the comfort of a bus seat.

A series of deadly fires throughout the region have prompted federal officials to close multiple sections of the trail, which runs north from the Mexico border, near Campo, to Manning Provincial Park, in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Most recently, federal officials have closed sections of the trail due to the devastating Erksine fire, which killed two near Lake Isabella. 

“People are pretty bummed out,” said Locke, 37, of Miami, who was resupplying at the Kennedy Meadows General Store near the southern base of the Sierra Nevada.

Locke decided to take a bus from Mojave to Kennedy Meadows and miss a 140-mile section of trail as a result.

“Fire closures are definitely on everyone’s mind. A lot of people are nervous about them because of the fires in Washington last year.”

There are currently five trail closures due to fire in Southern California, said Jack Haskel, trail information specialist for the Pacific Crest Trail Assn.

“Wildfires are a natural and common part of the trail experience,” Haskel said. “The PCT has become more popular, so more people are affected by the closures now.”

The Border fire, which burned 7,600 acres in San Diego County and killed two, has forced a 14-mile closure at the beginning of the Pacific Crest Trail near the Mexico border.

And past fires have led to three trail closures near Idyllwild, Big Bear Lake and Lake Hughes totaling about 45 miles.

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It takes the average long distance hiker about five months to walk the entire trail, typically starting from the Mexico border in April or May and reaching the Canadian border around the end of September, according to the trail association.

Locke, whose trail name is Ted Talks, has enjoyed his trek so far despite the detours and 100-plus degree days hiking through the deserts of Southern California.

“Hopefully, I can come back and finish up in October,” said Locke, who is blogging about his journey.

Scott Hansen, manager of the general store at Kennedy Meadows, said the recent blazes are taking a toll.

“It’s definitely impacting the trail,” Hansen said. “The fire near Lake Isabella has been devastating. That’s California though.”

ben.poston@latimes.com

Twitter: @bposton

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