Many hikers swear by the “10 essentials,” a collection of must-have safety and survival items to help them handle anything they might encounter on a trail. The list includes things such as extra food and water, a first-aid kit, matches, and navigation systems.
But whenever University of Oregon alumnus Barney “Scout” Mann hits the trail, he carries a non-negotiable 11th essential: his journal. Mann, JD ’78, has dutifully penned hundreds of words at the end of every day on the trail for all of his major hikes, including the 2,653-mile Pacific Crest Trail, the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, and the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail—a trio of hikes known as the Triple Crown. Mann believes he is one of the few people over the age of 60 to finish all three of these super-sized hikes and believes fewer people have completed this feat than hopped a rocket into Earth’s orbit.
“My trail journals were as important as my feet in each of my big hikes,” says Mann, who estimates he’s written 400 to 600 words per hiking day—which means he’s logged upwards of 225,000 words over the course of his longest hikes, a sum greater than the length of Moby Dick.
Mann’s commitment to collecting stories from his many treks is at the heart of Journeys North: The Pacific Crest Trail, published last summer and named a finalist in the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival adventure travel category.
Mann was inspired to write the book following his hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007. His daily journals assisted in the writing, but Journeys North is not a day-by-day trail diary; instead Mann focuses on the people he met along the way, sharing the stories that inspired their hikes and the way they interacted with the trail and each other. The book is full of page-turning tales of how hikers survived and thrived in the unpredictable and rugged conditions they encountered on their trek from Mexico to Canada—including a harrowing blizzard, serious injury, and scorching desert heat.
“I’m honored these people trusted me with their stories,” says Mann. “And I hope I told their stories in a way that brings the reader to the trail and allows them to see that these hikers doing an incredible thing are also humans. I hope when people put down the book, they are inspired to shed distractions and go for a walk, even if it’s just through a local park.”
Another ingredient in Mann’s book project was his 26-year career in law. The writing-intensive work prepared him to pursue creative writing and journalism in retirement—the very day he retired, to be exact. Mann’s first deadline for Backpacker magazine was just a few hours after he walked out of his law firm for the last time on Friday, May 21, 2010.
Now, Mann has more than 40 bylines in Backpacker, the New York Times, the Oregonian, and other publications. In his writing he centers on trail stories, history, and the hikers he has met.
Mann is also a trail advocate and has held leadership positions for top trail organizations in the country, including a three-year stint as board chair of the Pacific Crest Trail Association and a two-year run as the president of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. He is currently president of the Partnership for the National Trails System, where he contributes to lobbying for conservation measures.
Mann and his wife, Sandy “Frodo” Mann, are also legendary “trail angels,” a title bestowed upon people who generously help hikers on
Conveniently located near the PCT’s southern terminus, the Manns’ San Diego home is open to thousands of hikers. They offer shuttles, errand running, and a pre-hike feast and safety talk. When they first began hosting hikers in 2006, they had 17 people stay at their home from mid-March to mid-May; that number has ballooned to well over 1,200 hikers each season, prompting them to create an online form and “spreadsheets upon spreadsheets,” Mann says, to stay organized in their hiker hospitality efforts.
While hosting their guests they advocate for trail stewardship and safe hiking practices.
“Frodo and I have this real possibility of positively influencing trail behavior,” says Mann. “So after dinner every night, we lead a talk and we discuss being a good trail ambassador and practicing things like proper safety measures and leave-no-trace principles.”
The 2021 season will likely be the last that the Manns host hikers, but it’s unlikely they will stray too far from a life intricately connected to the trails. Mann hopes he never sees the day when the pair stops hiking.
Says Mann: “My wife and I like to say: ‘At age 95, after 70 years married, we’ll be holding hands at the crest of another summit, and with weary smiles on our faces, lightning will strike us dead.’”
—By Emily Halnon, staff writer for University Communications