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Combating toxicity in trail culture

Over the last several years, my family and I have been section hiking the Washington portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The PCT is a 2,653-mile trail that starts on the Mexico border, travels up through California along the spine of the Sierra-Nevada mountains, then cuts up through Oregon and Washington via the Cascades and finally concludes at the Canadian border.

Some people - like us - do sections of the trail, taking short periods away from our lives to be in the wilderness. We are referred to as "section hikers." Others take up to five months to do the entire trail in one long adventure. They are referred to as "thru-hikers."

Trail culture is fascinating. It is not uncommon for thru-hikers to start with limited backcountry experience, only to gain it over weeks and months. Some people take on trail names, identifying as anything from a geological feature, a piece of equipment, a tree, a plant, an action, an activity or even a movie character.

Hikers challenge each other to eat five 1-pound pancakes in two hours at a Northern California café for a free breakfast. And courteous strangers - known as trail angels - often feed you, provide libations or leave treats at certain points on the trail.

But, unfortunately, some trail culture isn't so friendly.

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