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Deep River native Shane Lindner was recently back in town with reports from his recent 2,653-mile through-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the Mexican to Canadian borders. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Everybody has their own way to finish the sentence, “Happiness is…” but few people’s idea of happiness would match Shane Lindner’s. For him, happiness is a tattered pair of hiking shorts, a leaky one-person tent, and a 2,653-mile walk.
Shane, who grew up in Deep River, has recently completed a hike along the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Campo, California, on the Mexican border to Manning Park in British Columbia on the boundary of Canada and the United States.
“I was living out of a backpack, and I was never happier in my whole life. When I had a job and an apartment, and nice things, I was miserable,” Sean says.
There were bears, there were rattlesnakes, there were scorpions, coyotes, and mountain lions to watch out for on the trail, but Shane says the question he has been asked most often about the experience is where he charged his cell phone. In fact, he took external battery packs with him, but he says it didn’t really matter because the trail wound through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains and often there wasn’t much reception.
Every couple of days Shane would go into a town where he could recharge batteries, stock up on food, and dispose of his garbage.
“You had to pack everything out, even toilet paper,” he says.
He ate a lot of Power Bars, and says tuna burritos were another favorite, but he explains that what he ate was less important than that he keep eating enough.
“I just looked at all food as calories,” he says.
Over the five months of the hike, he says he lost some 15 to 20 pounds.
Shane says though he did much of his hiking alone, he was neither frightened nor lonely.
“I didn’t have any anxiety; I just kept walking,” he says.
Still, he admits there were some challenging moments. In the Toulumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park, he got painful shin splints in one leg.
“Every step was excruciating, but I still had to hike 20 miles a day,” he says.
Shane rested a few days when he got to Lake Tahoe, but when he started out again, he got shin splints in the other leg.
Twenty miles was his usual daily trek, but one day, starting at three in the morning and walking until 8:30 at night with only a half-hour break, he covered 53 miles.
“It was in Oregon; I was in peak shape,” he says. “I would have laughed if somebody had told me I could do that.”
One night in Oregon, hiking through a burn area, Shane lost the trail and had trouble finding a camping spot. When he finally bedded down, he kept hearing loud noises nearby.
“I thought it was Big Foot, crashing the trees down; I couldn’t sleep,” he says.
In the end, nothing happened and he still doesn’t know what was making the noise.
On another occasion, he was running very short of water on a 95-degree day, limiting himself to one sip per mile.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so thirsty in my life,” he says.
But he found unexpected relief: a cooler by the side of the trail with ice cold soda.
“I thought it was a mirage at first, but the trail provides,” he says.
When he was 60 miles from the end of the trail, Shane and a companion were caught in a rain storm that turned to snow. They stayed inside his leaking tent for 30 hours.
“I thought we were going to die of hypothermia,” he confesses, “but when everything seems darkest, amazing things happen.”
The next morning the pair woke up in what Shane calls “a winter wonderland. It was so beautiful it didn’t even feel like planet earth,” he says.
It wasn’t a quest for adventure but unhappiness with his life that inspired Shane’s hike. He had broken up with a girlfriend of seven years, lost his job, and a close friend had died.
“I had very dark thoughts; I was not socializing,” he admits. “I felt like a victim, but now when I look back I think those negative things were an opportunity.”
The opportunity started when Shane decided to take a hike up Mt. Tom in Massachussetts, listening to music from his favorite band, The Grateful Dead. He heard one of the group’s signature songs, “Lady with a Fan” from Terrapin Station, with the lyrics, “I will not forgive you if you will not take a chance,” he decided he himself needed to take a chance.
He got a one-way ticket to San Francisco, traveled, and worked odd jobs. While staying at a hostel in Lake Tahoe, he heard about the Pacific Crest Trail.
“A girl came in, covered with mud, and was talking about bears, falling off cliffs, and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I had never heard of it then,” he remembers.
Less than a year later, Shane knew all about the trail. By then, back home in Deep River, he had a job offer to start in several months and he wondered what to do until work began.
“The Pacific Crest Trail popped into my mind,” he says.
He obtained one of the coveted permits necessary to hike the trail from end to end, and, filled with more optimism than experience, started preparing.
“I’d never really been backpacking, never really camped, never used a cook stove, didn’t know how to filter water,” he says.
For Shane, the journey was more than a physical challenge. It was an adventure of the mind and the spirit as well.
“At first people would laugh when I told them what I was going to do. I’m just an average person, but we are so much more capable than we know. We are scared to live our dreams, but go for it,” he says.
At the end of the trail after five months of hiking, Shane found himself sad again, but this time because the hike was over.
“The worst part was reaching the northern terminus. I would have liked to just keep hiking,” he says.
He still isn’t sure what he will do next—perhaps write a book about his experience, perhaps do some motivational speaking. He is, nonetheless, sure about one thing.
“I will never go back to my old life again,” he says.
And there are two other things he is considering for the future: the Appalachian Trial at 2,184 miles and the Continental Divide Trail running a whopping 3,100 miles.
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