Photo by Alec Santiago
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My Trail Story featuring Yuengling

Alec Santiago, a.k.a. Yuengling, shares a few stories from his experience thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       02/06/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
02/06/2019
A hiker standing on the trail among the trees.
Photo by Alec Santiago

What is your trail name?

Yuengling

What trail did you hike?

Pacific Crest Trail ’17 and ’18 

Where are you hiking next?

Plans are set for Calendar Year Triple Crown, kicking off from Campo Feb 25th

How old are you?

25 years

What was one thing you wish you knew before you started?

If bluntness is necessary, I wish I had even an inkling on how the trail was going to change me. Right out of college I landed a comfy 6-figure job running logistics on biohazard materials being shipped via UPS. Who could complain about a job that paid off one’s student debt within months, setting a 22 year old on a path to do whatever he pleased? Even after buying all the toys I could ask for, doing whatever I could to remain forever young, I felt dead inside. Friends used to joke around that I was the “grandpa of the group” (I guess the khakis and cardigans didn’t do justice in my defense.). One more job change, yet the same feeling, I moved out west with relatives for a change in scenery.

A weird bet placed in bingo at the local casino came with unexpected shear luck, and a young man with a large wallet had doors swinging wide open for him once again. Several splurges at REI, a horrible failure of a shakedown hike, and a handful of miserable bus transfers later, this guy found himself in San Diego, CA only for a trail angel by the name of “Scout” to scoop up for the ripening. It was then I knew I was in too deep. There was no going back. I was officially going to be a hiker. To think those heavy first steps would only grow equivocally stronger and lighter, lessening the impact of the old lifestyle on myself, and perhaps inversely metaphorically, strengthened my desire to make an impact in the hiker community. I believe we all can have a character to play, if we so choose, and, even to this day, mine is just starting to develop into its supporting figure- one day earning its chance at a leading role.

A Pacific Crest Trail sign on a tree.
Photo by Alec Santiago

What was your favorite food on the trail?

One dish I hope never leaves my palate’s memory was this curry a hiker had made for the congregation at BudPharm, home to the trail angel “Reverend Dave” just outside of Wrightwood, CA. Recently from Alaska, a 6’ 11” gentleman by the name “Penguin Pants” was already wowing the crowd with his mere presence. Having spent the last few days helping Reverend Dave cater to the hiker trash alongside this gentle giant, we had made a decision to cook for everyone instead of the usual potluck as was routine at the house.

A beautiful sunrise on the trail.
Photo by Alec Santiago

I wish I could even begin to describe the details to such a dish – one I would register as a curry – but I wouldn’t be doing the artist any justice. Penguin Pants had commented on the ingredients as “a pot full of Southern hospitality, the grit of the Far Northwest (I’m assuming a reference to Alaska), with a splash of Midwest simplicity.” If I haven’t lost the reader yet, picture a curry made to a biscuit and grits-esque consistency but not losing the feel of a good ol’ pot roast. Turmeric had tinted the color to something quite repulsive but the flavors and mouth watering sensation pushed one for seconds, hiker-hunger or not!

As if the remarkable artistry and pure awe in stature wasn’t enough, I bared witness to his cooking utensils: a 6 pound cast iron skillet and lid, with quite a canister of fuel and an impressive selection of spices. I’m honored to have met this walking soul and was stricken with sadness as we set off on our own in Kennedy Meadows as I set off to blitz through the Sierras and he was more than willing to fish every lake possible along the way.

A hiker stands with a view of the mountain s behind.
Photo by Alec Santiago
A view of a peak of a mountain.
Photo by Alec Santiago

What advice would you give to someone who has never done a thru-hike before?

Never quit on a bad day. After a foggy and drenched climb over Mt. Baden-Powell, I lost sight on why I was hiking the PCT again. Doing the desert all over seemed stupid and a waste of my time. Once I reached the beginning of the endangered frog detour, I threw a thumb up and headed straight back to Wrightwood. It was a bad, bad day. After talking to a hiker who was on the verge of quitting herself, we both came to realize it was “just a bad, bad day.” The bigger thought was “What difference was this bad day from any other bad day?”

It came down to the demand on the hike when there’s always things that we won’t have control over. There’s going to be crappy weather and views just may not be what you expected. With nearly 8 billion people in the world, there’s bound to be unwelcoming individuals, but that’s no excuse to give up on your hike. The Pursuit of Happiness; that is yours and for you to hold dearly. Never quit on a bad day.

A view of a mountain peak during the sunrise.
Photo by Alec Santiago
A trail covered in snow.
Photo by Alec Santiago

What was your favorite feature in our app?

I loved the simplicity as well as the ability to comment on landmarks along the way. I even appreciate the several “alternatives” and even a few Mark’s on old sections of the trail. I think it’s pretty cool to see even the physical history of the trail, eyeing out the routes and getting a feel of what hikers experienced years ago. Guthooks is like a biography being written as it’s lived!

The sun shining through the forest.
Photo by Alec Santiago

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Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) and is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.

2650 mi       $29.99 full guide
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Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
A trail meanders through a green and mountainous landscape on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
Get our hiking guide for this area!

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) and is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington.

2650 mi
$29.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.