Sitting in the coffee shop after Sunday service at WOLA, I saw a dapper young gentleman sporting a straw hat stroll through the room. Though he didn’t have a pack or poles, I surmised that he might perhaps be a PCT hiker.
I introduced myself and asked if I might take a picture and ask him a few questions. He politely agreed and introduced himself as Alberto Clement Flores, known on the trail as “Rowdy.”
Rowdy is 28 years old. In a few weeks he will celebrate his 29th birthday as he continues his hike to Canada. After his hike from Lost Creek Canyon over Hat Creek Ridge, he decided to come in to rest in Burney for a few days to rehydrate and gain back some weight before continuing.
Rowdy is from McAllen Texas. He began his trek on the Pacific Crest Trail at Campo on March 20. He likes to begin his hiking day at 4 a.m. and hike until midnight. That gives him only four hours of sleep. When he’s hiking he makes good progress but every so often he takes a string of zero’s to regain his strength and rest. On one occasion he even took a break to journey over to the Pacific Coast to spend some time at the beach.
Generally, because of the hours that he keeps, he hikes solo. This gives him time to reflect upon his life. He has seen several bears and numerous rattlesnakes, including several on Hat Creek Ridge. (He also told me that he met Coppertone on the ridge where the trail crosses Bidwell Road. Coppertone is a legendary PCT magic man who parks his trailer at various spots along the PCT to supply hikers with bananas, apples, and root beer floats. (See Finding Dilly Dally)
As we talked, Rowdy revealed that his PCT trek is just one leg of a planned seven year global journey. The journey began on January 1 when he left his home in McAllen to ride his bicycle to San Diego where he spent several months before shipping his bike back to Texas and beginning his PCT adventure.
Rowdy is an experienced bike rider. In his early 20’s he experienced tragedy when his girlfriend committed suicide. It devastated him emotionally and mentally. As part of his recovery he began going on long bike rides. One of his trips was riding to Colorado and back. As he explored the West on his bicycle, he took time to interact with many different types of people, some of them homeless and discouraged, seeking to understand their lifestyle and psychology.
He developed a thirst to see and understand the world. He also developed a desire to develop his survivalist skills. Eventually this desire blossomed into a plan to hike the PCT and then travel the world.
Rowdy hopes to reach the Canadian border before the snows get too heavy. Then he will return south to spend the winter with friends he met who own a ranch in Tehachapi.
Next year he plans to get his bike back from Texas and then bicycle north through Canada into Alaska. Once he completes that, he is hoping to be able to return and then travel south through Mexico, Central America, and South America to Argentina.
Rowdy wants to complete a north-south transcontinental journey! He is hoping to accomplish this within 3 years! He doesn’t want to use any motorized transportation. In addition to hiking and bicycling, he hopes that he can do some of it on horseback or with the help of pack animals.
It is a journey of high hopes and big dreams. And there is more. After completing his longitudinal journey through the Western Hemisphere, he wants to travel across Europe and through Asia to China. In preparation and on the way he hopes to learn several more languages (he already speaks English and spotty Spanish).
Altogether, Rowdy hopes to accomplish this in seven years. He also hopes that through his world travels he can carve out a professional career. He has good writing skills, but he says that he needs to acquire a better camera.
After Rowdy explained much of this to me, I introduced him to my wife Linda. Linda told him that we had a pool and invited him to come to our house for a refreshing swim. Rowdy said he was planning on staying at the WOLA gym that night, but perhaps would call us the next day.
Sure enough, the next day he called. I went to the gym to pick him up. Ten of so hikers were lounging in the gym. I asked if any of them wanted to come jump in a cold pool. A few were tempted but said they had just arrived and wanted to get settled in and shower, so there were no takers.
Linda and I had a pleasant afternoon and evening with Rowdy. We cooled off in the pool and then talked several more hours. Then Rowdy had some quiet alone time to catch up on Wi-Fi and take a short nap. After dinner that night he slept in our back yard on an army cot.
The next morning, driving through Burney on our way to the 299 trailhead, I saw two more hikers heading out of town. I was pulling over when we saw that a white pick-up had already stopped to give them a ride. So Rowdy and I drove to the trailhead enjoying more pleasant conversation as we sat in traffic waiting for the pilot car to lead us through the construction in Johnson Park.
When we reached the drop-off point, the white pick-up pulled in behind us and who should jump out but Jim Billo with the two PCT hikers he had picked up: Kiwi and Bear from New Zealand. Kiwi is 64 and Bear is 62. They had jumped to a northern point on the trail and were now headed south.
We chatted for a bit. Then Rowdy, Kiwi and Bear returned to the trail to resume their journeys and Jim and I headed back to Burney.
When I got back into town, I stopped in at WOLA to see Kathy Newton. Once again, the room was full of PCT hikers. Beautiful classical piano music was streaming from the sanctuary.
Kathy told me that a hiker from Portugal was playing on the piano. I went in to listen and heard a powerful heartfelt rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata being played.
The pianists name is Tomas. His trail name is Dr. Pineapple. He is a doctor. He completed his medical training two years ago. In Portugal, doctors must complete a one-year foundation before beginning their residency. Dr. Pineapple has finished his foundation. Before committing to a five-year residency, he wanted to take time off for an adventure. So here he is in Burney, California enriching the area with beautiful classical music. It reminds me of Albert Schweitzer, also a doctor, also a classical musician, and a distinguished scholar who then devoted himself to missionary work in Africa.
Ah what a blessing that the world comes to Burney thanks to the PCT. So many interesting and diverse personalities. So many high hopes and big dreams.