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OUTDOOR HEROES

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Ronald Strickland, Ph.D. - Scenic Trails Research

Creating thousands of miles of trails for millions of hikers

Ronald Strickland has rightly earned his nickname, "Pathfinder." As founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association (PNTA), Ron spearheaded the development of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). His 32-year labor of love culminated with the designation of PNT as a National Scenic Trail in 2009. And his next project, a sea-to-sea trail across America is well underway.

The term "thru-hiking" was inspired by the Appalachian Trail, one of America's first recreational "thru trails," and means "an uninterrupted journey of the trail completed in one year." "Thru hikers" may set off on long-distance trails for different reasons, but all share the traits of commitment, perseverance and the desire to commune with the natural world.

For Ron Strickland, life has been a thru-hike that started with the vision of a spectacular trail connecting the continental divide and the Pacific Ocean. In a Outside magazine interview, Ron said, "It has been an extraordinary thing to think up this idea and see it come to fruition. The way I see it now, I've been richly paid for those many years."

Originally from Rhode Island, Ron moved to the west coast and became captivated by the spectacular landscape. He believed that the beautiful vistas should be accessible to other travelers. In 1970, he took action, founding the PNTA, and began the exploring routes that would someday connect to become a premiere long-distance trail. Ron's enthusiasm for the trail he envisioned won the hearts and minds of others, and small groups of volunteers began to form. After years of dedicated effort, the first thru-hike of the PNT was completed in 1977. Many improvements have been made and the trail now spans 1,200 miles, from Polebridge, MT, to Cape Alava, WA.

Not content with one east-west trail, Ron was constantly seeking out new opportunities. While looking at the map of the great trails that make up the National Trails System, he saw an opportunity to link up the Appalachian, North Country, Continental Divide and Pacific Northwest trails into an exciting and challenging "Sea-to-Sea Route" and began promoting this concept. In 2001, he founded Scenic Trails Research, a nonprofit organization, and serves as executive director. Their mission is to connect the Pacific Northwest Trail to the Continental Divide Trail, the North Country Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the International Appalachian Trail, which ultimately will forge a continuous 7,700-mile trail through thirteen states from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada to the Washington Coast.

Ron now lives in New England and works with the Trustees of Reservations (a Massachusetts land conservancy that owns and preserves over 100 environmental reserves throughout Massachusetts). There he is striving towards the integration of the trustees' properties with the Bay Circuit Trail, an 80-year-old ongoing movement to create an "emerald necklace" of parks, open spaces and waterways around the urban Boston area.

In addition to his work as a trails advocate, Ron has authored several books, including the Pacific Northwest Trail Guide; "Shank's Mare," an anthology of hiking literature; and numerous collections of oral histories. He is working on a forthcoming memoir entitled "Leave a Trail."

With a deep conviction that recreational access to America's wild and natural places is key to engendering a strong environmental ethic, Ron Strickland has created and continues to create a fantastic and enduring legacy of scenic trails, one step at a time, regardless of how many years it takes. True to the thru-hiker spirit, he told an interviewer for GORP.com, "I'm not a quitter. I like to see things through to the end."

For more information about Scenic Trails Research, please visit www.ronstrickland.com.