A culmination of factors started Zach Wims on his journey across the West Coast of North America.
It seems like it was part of a search for a greater direction in life for the Canyon High graduate, who left the SCV to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, then moved back before starting his journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.
“I just did it,” said Wims, 23, a Santa Clarita resident. Wims took his first step on the Pacific Crest Trail on May 2, carrying a backpack of gear weighing about 7.8 pounds as he hiked from Mexico to Canada.
“I wanted to enjoy some of the beautiful world, the created land that’s all so perfect and all flows so well together,” Wims said. “The less significant answer is I really didn’t know what I want to do with my life. I thought, if I don’t do this now, I never will.”
For 113 days, he hiked through California, Oregon and Washington, averaging 26.5 miles a day.
“I would consider it a full day of hiking if I did at least 25 miles,” Wims said. “My longest day on trail was a 60-mile day.”
Wims walked all day before lying down to sleep for the night.
“For three-quarters of the time, I just cowboy camped on the ground, right under the stars,” he said. “The rest of the time I was forced to sleep in a tent, because of the rain and bugs.”
Along the trail, Zach’s friends and family met up with him for support.
“My fiancee (Mimi Tate) hiked with me for a few days,” he said. “Her family, they were what we call ‘trail angels’ — they followed me sometimes and gave me food and brought me packages.”
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Tate typed in a Facebook post. “I climbed 33 miles with this man who has now finished 411 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. What a blast!”
Two friends from Santa Clarita residents, Adam Driedger and Timmy Kahovec, also joined Wims on parts of the trail.
“All these people wanted to come out,” Wims said. “I was grateful and thankful.”
Some wildlife even joined him along the way, he said, citing encounters with bears, deer, elk, mountain lions, birds, snakes and mice throughout the trail.
“You have to deal with the nuisance of mice crawling on you trying to steal your food,” he said.
Wims had been eating almost the same thing every day, never cooking his food. His diet consisted of some kind of oatmeal for breakfast, snacks throughout the day, and dehydrated black beans and rice for dinner.
“Around Mile 310, the trail passes within 0.1 miles of McDonalds,” Wims said. “I can remember running to the McDonalds the last two miles, because I was so hungry. I had planned out exactly what I was going to eat at the McDonalds.”
The McDonalds located of Highway 15, near the Cajon Pass, has separate sections for the hikers and the bypassers, said Wims.
Hikers along the trail have given nicknames to each other, and Whims earned the nickname of “Fievel,” a mouse from the 1980s Disney movie “An American Tail.”
“They named me that for a few reasons,” Wims said.
One because of his run-in with a mouse, and because of his happy-go-lucky and optimistic personality, he said.
Throughout the 113 days, Wims was on the trail, he documented his adventure through a series of Youtube videos and his Instagram, sharing his journey with friends and family back home.
“It was kind of a way for me to cope with how mentally hard it was at the beginning,” Wims said.
He went in and out of cell service throughout the trail, filming when he could and scheduling posts, he said.
“At the end of the day, I really just posted these to look back at them, you know, soak it in,” Wims said.
Wims finished his journey Aug. 22, arriving back in Santa Clarita on Aug. 28.
“Don’t be afraid,” Wims said, sharing advice for others who might think about a bit of exploring. “Don’t let fear be the reason why you don’t get out there and soak in the beauty of the world.”