Here We Are.

Well. We’ve arrived at the point I knew would come sooner than I’d like. And of course, it did. But I’m ready.

Michael has been ready for weeks. Oh, there have been a few last-minute changes and unplanned trips to REi and a mad dash yesterday to apply for a passport. But by in large, he’s been planning and preparing for close to nine months and while he’ll admit to being nervous, I know that he’s ready and excited and anxious to get this thing started.

New “tent” plan

People have asked me if we’re taking Michael to California to start the trail, which of course always makes me feel guilty and question my decision to let him go alone. But seriously, what 20 year old wants his mom dropping him off on the self-discovery trip of a lifetime? And then I read this:

Angels help Pacific Crest Trail hikers

April 15, 2016   By Joshua Emerson Smith  Contact Reporter

Barney Mann, center right, held a plastic-wrapped backpack belonging to one of the Pacific Crest Trail hikers he picked up from the San Diego International Airport on Tuesday morning. (John Gastaldo)

Someone rings a metal triangle and a couple dozen people dressed in colorful hiking clothes make their way from a backyard covered in backpacking gear to the dining room.

This evening’s dinner at the University City home of Barney and Sandy Mann is organic soup. But the main course is actually the conversation — the sharing of anecdotes from the trails, the swapping of tips for making coffee or filtering stream water, the laughing that’s a sign of giddiness about what could be the trek of a lifetime.

Every April and May for the past decade, the Manns have shared their home, time, food and other resources with hundreds of people preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail — a 2,650-mile journey from Mexico to Canada that stretches through California, Oregon and Washington. The route is billed as the world’s longest continuous hiking trail. This spring, the Manns anticipate hosting close to 600 people. That would be an annual record high for these so-called trail angels

Barney Mann, left, and wife Sandy Mann shared a moment Thursday at their University City home after feeding dinner to dozens of people preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. (John Gastaldo)

I don’t know that these are the people Michael will stay with tomorrow night, but if they’re not, he’ll be staying with other kind souls just like them. Whoever they are, they’ll pick him up at the San Diego airport, and along with about 20 other hikers from heaven-knows-where, they’ll all stay the night, have dinner, talk about the trail, fill their water bottles, and have a launch party together. That’s way better than Mom driving you.

I’ve really worried about Michael being alone. Anyone who knows me knows that I speak often of the need for community and if I have one underlying belief that fuels me (other than love and faith) it’s that the power of community can overcome all adversity. It’s certainly been true in my life. So I’ve really fretted over the idea of my son, who I think of as a shy man of few words, being alone for five months. I’ve particularly feared him sleeping alone on the ground in the woods (must be the mother in me. Or my fear of snakes.)

But he explained to me the other day that this won’t be a lonely experience. He will start off with people he knows, thanks to his trail angels on Friday night, and he said people tend to stop and camp together, and that he’s looking forward to camping with other people, sitting around at night, sharing stories. They give each other trail names, and catch up with one another along the way. Perhaps this is more of a community experience than I’d thought.

I’ve been plagued by that film Into the Wild, fearing that’s what my son is about to head off to. It’s helping me today to realize I am wrong. That’s what I’m choosing to believe, anyway.


*Photo credit for the tarp-tent picture above goes to Jocelyn “Patches” Songer, PCT 2014 et al.  You can read her terrific blog at




  1. Rachel

    April 27, 2017 at 10:45 am

    And it’s what we choose to believe that gets us through the hardest times.

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Amen, sister.

  2. Lisa Schoelles

    April 27, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I laugh at the passport, always forgotten and last minute with my son. Love the community aspect. Trust in your faith and in your son. Love!

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 5:02 pm

      I was impressed that he remembered it at all, Sharon, in these last few days of excitement and his job and packing! I can tell you, he’s come a long way since those days in high school when he didn’t know when his papers were due. Shows there is always hope! (I love the community aspect too, by the way. Keeps me happy when I think about this)

  3. Dennyse Gunts

    April 27, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Dear Maxine,
    I learned about Michael’s adventure and your blog, through the wonders of Facebook. Kate “liked” Molly’s post about her brother and you. So, I want to tell you about my nephew, who hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago. (I hope this isn’t like forcing labor and delivery stories on someone!) This was a transformational experience. It was the first time he made his own decision to do something and took responsibility for himself. Of course, everyone is different, and it isn’t right to force expectations on anyone. I just thought it would be nice to share a positive experience.
    I hope you are well.
    Dennyse Gunts

    1. MaxineFrampton

      April 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm

      Dennyse, how wonderful to hear from you! And I so appreciate hearing about your nephew. He sounds like Michael. This too is the first time I’ve seen him plan and take responsibility himself for something so complex and well, enormous! I pray he will have the same “transformational” experience your nephew had. Thank you so much.

  4. Libby Palmer

    April 27, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Hi Max! The mom in me feels like tonight might be the longest for you, after Michael is launched, you can be excited for his adventures. I am looking forward to sharing this with you, thanks for being so generous with your experience! xoxo Libby Palmer

    1. MaxineFrampton

      April 27, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Libby, I hadn’t thought of tonight as such but I believe you’re right. Thank you for this beautiful sentiment. I am so lucky to be surrounded by all of you who are following, praying, caring and supporting us! xoxox

  5. Jo Ann Clipp

    April 28, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Praying that Michaels trip is all he hoped it would be and that God return him safely to you.

    1. MaxineFrampton

      May 9, 2017 at 5:03 pm

      Thank you for your prayers, Jo Ann. That is the prayer, precisely. Perfectly stated. I’ll keep praying this one, too.

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