A thunderstorm in Colorado sent the two college students racing for cover down a mountain ridge. A black bear charged at one of them in Washington state. A wildfire’s flames spurred a harrowing escape in Northern California. And a raging infection waylaid the travelers for days in the Wyoming wilderness.
While much of the world was locked down during the first year of the pandemic, Jackson Parell and Sammy Potter were busy planning their escape. The Stanford University students had weathered shared coronavirus infections and quarantines. And after spending months cooped up in online classrooms, they were itching to break free.
For the record:
12:21 p.m. Nov. 24, 2021A previous headline on this story implied that the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide were “America’s longest trails.” They are among America’s longest trails.
So they hatched an ambitious plan: to hike three of the nation’s most arduous trails — the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide — all in a single year.
Jackson Parell signs the Pacific Crest Trail logbook April 4 at the southern terminus near Campo, Calif.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
The two meticulously planned their trip, tracing their projected paths along the country’s most difficult terrain. They transformed the ground floor of the Parell family’s New Hampshire cottage into a situation room, taping paper maps to the walls and stockpiling boxes packed with trail provisions. They saved roughly $25,000 from summer jobs, internships and Stanford research projects to fund the trek.
“At the end of the day, there was a lot that went into this that had nothing to do with our will and desire for it to happen,” said Parell, 21. “A lot of it had to do with the luck and privilege that we’ve been blessed with.”
In the fall of 2020, they began working out twice a day to build up strength for a journey that would take them more than 7,000 miles, from snowy climes in the Eastern U.S. to desert pathways in the Southwest and lush forests in the Pacific Northwest.
The trek, dubbed the Calendar Year Triple Crown, has been conquered by fewer than a dozen people. Potter and Parell set …….