Aaron Ellig felt the need for change in his life. Something new. Something thrilling.
So, while working a night shift at a winery, the idea came to him that it would be pretty cool to hike the Pacific Crest Trail -- even though he had never been an avid hiker.
"I have a degree in environmental science but couldn't find a job in that field and was feeling bummed by that," Ellig said with grin. "So I did some research, and I knew the Pacific Crest Trail was what I was looking for. I figured if I don't do it now while I'm young, I might never do it."
The trail runs about 2,650 miles from the Mexican border at Campo, Calif., to British Columbia, passing through desert and a few mountain ranges, including the Sierra Nevadas and Cascades.
Ellig, 23, plans to go the entire distance. He figures it will take him about five months to complete.
"There's about a six-month window of opportunity to walk the entire length of this trail," he said. "If I leave in the spring, the desert portion won't be as hot, and by the time I get to Washington in September, there shouldn't be any snow yet."
He left Campo on Saturday with a backpack, a few clothes, rain gear, extra pair of sneakers, a solar charger for his phone and camera, a tent and a journal. There are trailheads and small towns along the way where he will replenish his food and water supplies.
He will pick up more supplies at post offices along the route where his parents, Danny and Traci Ellig of Richland, will send boxes. The first package has already arrived at Garden Springs, Calif.
"I was hoping to keep my backpack at about 15 to 17 pounds, but I'll figure out along the way what works and what doesn't," Ellig said. "I'll pretty much live on peanut butter, trail mix, chili mac, Snickers bars; food that doesn't take up a lot of room and helps keep my energy level going. I was hoping to bulk up a little more before I left, to 180 pounds (he stands 6 feet tall) but had to settle for 175."
Ellig's parents were hesitant about their son's choice of adventure, worrying about the dangers of wild animals, snakes and strange people he could run into, Danny Ellig said.
"He's taking a freakin' journey into the unknown and that would worry any parent," Danny Ellig said. "We hoped he'd at least find someone to go with him, but he said he would rather go it alone. I might not like it, but I have to admire him for doing this."
As for Aaron, he figures what better way to find out what kind of a person you are than to tackle the unknown.
"Sure, I feel a little fear of the unknown, and there's always those snakes and mountain lions to worry about," he said. "But I'm ready for it. And I'm looking forward to meeting other hikers on the trail who have taken up the same challenge as me."
Ellig started a blog that he hopes to update when possible along the trail. Anyone who would like to follow the intrepid hiker can go to onemanonetrail.blogspot.com/ for information on his progress.
Does he have any doubts he won't complete the full trek to Canada?
"It hasn't even crossed my mind not to make it," Ellig said.
But even if he decides to call it quits at some point, his dad has already made up his mind what he'll do.
"All he has to do is call me, and I'll go pick him up wherever he is," Danny Ellig said.
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal