Skywalker Lauds Pacific Crest Trail Documentary, ‘Tell it on the Mountain’
The highest compliment I can pay to the recently released Pacific Crest Trail documentary, Tell it on the Mountain, is that it ruined my life. What? Well, okay. It may not have ruined my whole life, but it sure has clouded my intermediate term future. I had already done the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), followed by Europe’s most popular footpath, the Camino de Santiago, and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. So I had thought I was pretty much done with long-distance hikes. In fact, I had recently made a decision to move to Africa for a year or two.
But then I watched ‘Tell it on the Mountain’, and now all is uncertain again. Why? Because this film brought home–in a way other such documentaries have not–the feeling of utter liberation and fulfillment that long-distance hiking, especially on the PCT–offers us mortals. The film, done by Shaun Carrigan, features riveting footage of key parts of the PCT, along with extensive coverage of renowned PCT personalities, Scott Williamson, Billy Goat, and Donna Saufley. You always hear about these people, and occasionally you spot them. But this documentary lets you in on the real stories behind these PCT pioneers and what drives them to immerse themselves so deeply in this national scenic trail. The interviews with Scott Williamson proved to be especially interesting, perhaps because he has an Elvis-like image (He hikes so fast you don’t spot him for long). Indeed, the story of him attempting to ‘flip-flop’ the PCT has a touch of drama to it, as he deals with the vicissitudes of snow levels on the PCT. I had heard various snippets of the story, but this documentary gave me the real guts of the tale. Despite the fact that he and I are at polar opposite ends of the Bell Curve of hiking ability, I found it inspiring. In fact, I have now decided I need to go back and throw myself full bore at the PCT for a second time.
But what really set this documentary apart is that it was not just a collection of interviews in trail towns. Rather, the filmaker has obviously gone to great lengths (and perhaps expense) to really cue the viewer in on the true glory of the PCT–its stunning beauty. I don’t know how he did it–by following these hikers with his camera, or what (how the heck do you follow Scott Williamson for long!), but he really does give the viewer more than tantalizing glimpses of the PCT, like most documentaries do. You get extensive action shots in places like Forrester’s Pass, the highest point on the PCT.
The bottom line is I’ve got PCT fever again. I’ve yet to find a better way for the average person such as myself to get immersed in such deep beauty and experience such unbounded freedom. Yes, life thrums at a higher pitch on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. And this film does an excellent job of exhibiting its true richness.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, as well as The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago and Getting High–The Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Walker, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is currently working on a whimsical book on the subject of height.