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Hikers finish trek of West Coast Trail

Posted: Friday, October 01, 2004

BORDER FIELD STATE PARK, Calif. -- A pair of hiking pioneers touched the rusting fence at the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday just as the sun was sinking toward the Pacific Ocean, completing the first known continuous trek of the 1,800-mile trail down the nation's Pacific coast.

Nate Olive and Sarah Janes, ecologists from the University of Georgia, held hands and kissed as they reached the end of the so-called West Coast Trail, a path running from northwestern Washington state to this point in the southwestern corner of San Diego County.

''We didn't know it was going to be possible just four or five months ago ... and now the West Coast Trail is reality,'' Olive said. ''It's hard to put into words. This is amazing that we're done.''

Janes said, ''Now more people are going to be coming to hike it.''

Mexican men and children pressed their faces up to the fence separating the two countries and shook hands with the couple, who stuck their feet through the gaps in the barrier to touch Mexican soil.

Olive, 28, of Atlanta, and Janes, 23, of Slidell, La., began their journey at Washington's Cape Flattery on June 8.

Averaging nearly 20 miles a day, the pair have threaded their way across beaches, rainforests and farm country. They marched around, and sometimes through, military bases. In mostly urbanized Southern California, they had to clamber over sea walls and jetties, many erected by homeowners trying to curb erosion, as well as dodge sewage-contaminated rivers.

Their path and schedule largely were set by the moon, which shaped the tidal fluctuations that allowed them either to walk across dry sand or forced them to wade.

With the moon in its full phase Tuesday, the pair crossed their final waterway, the Tijuana River at low tide. The border fence separating the United States from Tijuana, Mexico, lay a short distance to the south.

The pair aimed to promote and mark the West Coast Trail, parts of which are not yet linked, for the Portland, Ore.-based National Coast Trail Association. About 190 of 200 miles of the trail are marked in Washington; 350 of 400 miles in Oregon; and half of the 1,200 miles in California.

They also documented the trip online, and Olive is writing a book, ''Dancing the Tidal Line.''

Al LePage, the association's executive director, has walked the trail in three separate legs, but knows of no other hikers to finish the journey in one trip. It's unlikely that American Indians, or even early day explorers, did so because the route was not practical for food collection and other reasons, according to LePage. A solo hiker attempting the feat is about two months behind Olive and Janes.

''They made history today,'' LePage said Tuesday. ''For years and years forever, these people will be remembered as the first thru-hikers on the West Coast Trail.''



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