The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile continuous footpath from the southern border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada. This trail follows the mountain ranges of California, Oregon, and Washington. It takes an average of five to six months to complete.
Project Background: For the last year and a half, I have become more and more interested (obsessed) with the PCT. I find myself daydreaming about thru-hiking several times a week at least. This in combination with a desire to start a new photo project that highlights the stories of real people doing really cool things, led me to the idea of a portrait series of PCT thru-hikers. Back in March, I proceeded to scour Instagram to see who was starting north bound and when. This is when I stumbled upon Megan @pct_amputee. She was about a week into her hike when I reached out and asked if I could meet her to include her in this project; she responded, and we made plans for a few days in the future. The day I was to meet her I had no idea when she would be coming through, so I planned to post up at Barrel Springs and stay all day. Sure enough, she showed up late morning. All together I photographed a dozen hikers that day, met some fantastic characters, and thus @pct_people_project was born.
Initially, this passion project was just an exercise in creating new content for my photography portfolio. However, it quickly became a really enjoyable pastime. I spent about a dozen or so days this Spring in the Southern California section of the trail. I would day-trip from my home in Escondido, CA or camp for a night or two on the trail. I always bring an ice chest of beer, drinks, and snacks to offer thru-hikers when they stumble upon me. I love my interactions with long distance hikers. Most are somewhat perplexed when they see me sitting in a camp chair waiting for them to show up. A cold drink and some fresh fruit usually breaks the ice quickly and most become very friendly and open with me in a minute or two. I ask them casual questions, probing into a deeper conversation. Often I ask them if I can record our chats. And of coarse I take their portrait once a rapport has been established.
All of this effort is to capture the authentic stories of Pacific Crest Trail hikers. I chronicle their struggles, their personal triumphs, trail life, and the social experiment that is putting people from all different parts of the world, walks of life, ages, and socioeconomic status together on trail. It's vastly interesting to me how authentic and "real" thru-hikers are. I believe it stems from how stripped back their life is. No longer are they in a busy "normal" life setting. Their daily goals are to put on a backpack, climb the ridge and not run out of water or food. Hikers bond with each other very easily over this shared experience.
In June, I took a closer look at the 200 portraits I had captured up to that time and realized that this project could be taken a lot further. All those 200 photos were taken in the first 300 miles of the trail. That leaves out the remaining 2,350 miles and more importantly the stories from hikers with more miles under their belt. So I decided to continue this project by making several trips into the Sierras and Northern California this Summer. The first being Kennedy Meadows South the second weekend in June. I photographed 60 more hikers on that trip. Then July I went to Tuolumne Meadows and Donner Pass.
In August, I will attend PCT Days at Cascade Locks, OR, where I plan to photograph many more thru-hikers in the final stage of their hike, entering Washington and the last 500 miles to Canada. I also hope to rephotograph hikers I met in Southern California to have a before and after portrait of them.
The Book: Once I committed to seeing this project through to the end of the Summer, publishing a book became the obvious way to bring my passion for this full circle. The book will be a collection of hundreds of portraits of PCT hikers and their personal stories. Readers will learn why the hikers are on the trail and what motivates them to keep walking. You will hear about their injuries, the things they fear, their families back home, and the families they develop while on the trail. You will get a fantastic look into what makes up a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker.
This book is for anyone that has a perpetual desire to see what lies beyond the next horizon. For adventurers, wanderlusts, and sojourners. This book is about a shared experience of traveling by foot, three miles an hour, through some of the most beautiful and isolated parts of the American West. This book is for everyone that finds comfort and peace in walking along a dirt path.
I would really love for you to support this project. I want to put a book in your hands! It is by far the largest self-assigned photo project I have ever attempted, and I am very proud of it. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.
Happy Trails, Andrew
email@example.com - andrewburnsphoto.com
See more portraits on Instagram @pct_people_project
Risks and challenges
The challenge with self-publishing several hundred books are the printing costs are much higher then if we were to publish thousands. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to measure the number of books we expect to sell before actually committing the thousands of dollars up front required to print them.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)