Hiking On The Edge

Hiking on the Edge: Dreams, Schemes, and 1600 Miles on the California Coastal Trail (keynote, adjustable length). When John McKinney first planned his epic hike along the California coast, his purpose was strictly pedestrian: to pioneer a route for the new California Coastal Trail.

But his walk soon evolved into a challenging journey of discovery as he alternately reveled in the stunning natural beauty of landscapes and seascapes, met memorable and colorful characters, and hiked headlong into controversies: nature boutiqued, coastal access denied, bureaucracies run amok, zombie nuclear power plants, oil and more oil. A saga, a celebration, a comedy, and a lament, this is a tale that stirs the heart and guaranteed to stimulate discussion about the California coast, a hot-button topic these days.

It all began over nachos and beer. Free-spirited board members of the California Coastal Trails Foundation met at a beachside cantina to chart annual progress toward realizing their dream: a 1600-mile-long trail on the edge of California. Despite their three years of mapping and promotional efforts, the California Coastal Trail remained all but unknown.

To literally and figuratively put the trail on the map, someone needs to hike the whole thing, board members decided. And that someone should be John McKinney, Eagle Scout, The Trailmaster, native son of the Golden State. He was perfect for the job: strong legs, an adventurous spirit, and “he doesn’t have a real job—he’s a writer.”

No one, until McKinney agreed to do so, had ever hiked along the edge of the state to determine if a California Coastal Trail was even possible. Were the beaches passable at low tide? Could the bluffs be traveled without arrest for trespass? Could a trail be found through the rugged coastal mountains? The intrepid trailblazer found the answers to these questions—and to more profound ones that never occurred to him until he was on his challenging journey of discovery.

“The natural beauty of the landscapes and seascapes exceeded my high expectations,” declares McKinney. “What I didn’t expect was hiking head-on into so many controversies on the edge of California: nature boutiqued, coastal access denied, bureaucracies run amok, zombie nuclear power plants, oil and more oil.”

“Unforgettable and near and dear to my heart, are the marvelous people I met along the way,” adds the author, “including the founding father of whale-watching, backcountry rangers, nuns praying for mercy for the redwoods, and for us all.”