Eighty-two-year-old PCT hiker aims to complete the trail: Turtle Don would likely be the oldest

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“Turtle Don” Davis, 82, of Merced, is seen here just before setting out on the next leg of his PCT thru-hike. If Davis completes the 2,650-mile trek, he will likely be the oldest hiker to do so.`Photo by Marshall Smith

“Turtle Don” Davis, 82, of Merced, is seen here just before setting out on the next leg of his PCT thru-hike. If Davis completes the 2,650-mile trek, he will likely be the oldest hiker to do so.`Photo by Marshall Smith

“Turtle Don” Davis is no stranger to thru-hiking. At the age of 70, he completed the entire Appalachian Trail. His wife hiked parts of the trail with him and helped resupply him in that hike.

And he has hiked, in smaller sections, all but 200 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in upstate Washington. Passing through Idyllwild last week, Davis, who turned 82 on April 27, would likely be the oldest hiker to complete the PCT, if he succeeds. He is determined to do so.

“I started at Campo, at the border, on April 25. My intention is to complete the trail.”

He easily shoulders his 38-pound pack, has the latest and lightest equipment and understands the challenges of ice, snow, elevation gains and major temperature changes facing him. “I have a Whippet Ski pole that helps in steep conditions with ice and snow,” he said. It also helps that he knows the trail.

Asked if he joins others on the trail, he said, “Speed determines who you hike with. I decided, after my wife died, that I would not have a hiking partner. I like hiking on my own.” Even so, Davis is averaging about 11 or 12 miles a day. “I have to pick it up to make it all the way,” he said.

Davis is a retired high school English teacher from Merced. He is well-prepared physically for his current hike. “In many summers, I hiked the Sierras with my daughter and her roommate,” he recounted. “I hiked the full Appalachian Trail when I was 70 and had hiked for many years before. My first thought of hiking the PCT was in 1975.

“Thru-hikes have a certain dynamic — a pressure to hike a certain number of miles a day and with a weather-controlled timetable [arriving in Canada before likely major snowfalls].”

Asked about where he camps and what he eats, Davis said, “Most of the time I camp by myself. I find a flat spot where I have room to pitch a tent — the flatter the better. I can be close to the trail, I don’t mind seeing or hearing the other hikers. I cook one meal a day and otherwise I snack throughout the day — string cheese, jerky, trail mix, almonds, raisins and dried fruit. I write down the amount of water I use each day. And I have lightened my load and made cooking easier by using an Esbit solid-fuel stove. I’m very organized.”

And being retired, with financial resources, Davis said he is prepared to make the trip. “Some of these kids just run out of money.”

Davis won’t run out of money and believes his prior hiking experiences and fastidious preparation will enable him to complete the trail within the allotted time.

As to his trail name, Davis said he saw a box turtle on the trail this year. “The name seemed a good fit,” he smiled. He said he would keep us posted on his progress.

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  1. Bravo to Don Davis! I’ve known him for many years – and he’s a remarkable guy (and pretty darned excellent oboist, too!) Hike on, Turtle – and may all those who run into you on the PCT realize there’s a legend hiking in their midst, my friend!

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  2. Laraine Downer June 10, 2016, 8:15 am

    Go Don! You’ve renewed my dreams to try another PCT solo thru-hike. Heck, I’m “only” 74! Best of luck to you, you’re in for quite the adventure! Ladeda PCT section hiker ’89-’04

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  3. Willie Younger June 10, 2016, 1:44 pm

    You add an element of inspiration which is much needed by an obsessed outdoors man with plans to kayak from Columbus, Ohio to Columbus, Texas next summer during my 70th year. My objective is to raise both awareness and research funds for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). THANK YOU and God speed you on your journey!

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  4. Turtle Don is an inspiration to me. I wish you great success with your hike Don. I’m with you on the trails in spirit.

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  5. […] age range of PCT hikers known to have passed through Idyllwild is 18 to 82. “Turtle Don” Davis of Merced, Calif. is thought to be the oldest of the […]

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