Completing a dream, and sharing a journey of a lifetime
By: Lori Bledsoe
The Alpine Sun
Have you ever thought of going on a long-term adventure? Last year we followed Al O’Neal on his Pacific Crest Trail hike that was actually a true bucket list sojourn. Imagine a hike that will last over six months, through some of the most beautiful, and treacherous areas in California, Oregon and Washington, moving across the International border into Canada. Al O’Neal took on this great task to bring more attention to his granddaughters plight. The family called their effort “PCT – Trail to a Cure”. 100% of every penny raised from donations went directly to support Dr. Kenneth McClain’s Histiocytosis research program at Houston Children’s Hospital. LCH is a very rare and life-threatening disease from which Al’s eight-year-old granddaughter, Kalista Rose has suffered.
Al has always loved the outdoors. He was the scoutmaster of BSA Troop 105 here in Alpine from 1996 to 201, he fed that love of nature through camping, canoeing, and mountain climbing. It has long been a dream of his, to hike the Pacific Crest Trail since 1968. On April 9, 2016, he began his journey from just south of Campo at the Mexican Border and hopes to reach Canada by backpacking the entire 2,658 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. His hope was to reach the end of the trail nine miles across the Canadian Border at Manning Park, Canada before October 1 of this year.
As part of O’Neal’s training regimen, and at the invitation of troop 105 ‘s current scoutmaster, he hiked a local portion of the trail in the Laguna Mountains with some of the scouts of troop 105 just a few weeks prior to beginning his journey. The scouts were training for a summer back packing outing at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and joined Al for the first 15 miles of his trek on April 9th. He also spent weeks preparing, and drying food to take on the trail. His family supported him throughout this pilgrimage and visited him on the trail.
O’Neal’s trek was logged and shared by his son, who was luggage posting for his dad, who went by the name ‘Space Cowboy’. The Alpine Sun, in support of the O’Neal’s family’s endeavor, shared O’Neals adventure by published his journey entries intermittently through out 2016. O’Neal shared his story with the Alpine Historical Society at a lecture last Sunday, February 18. At his lecture, he brought samples of what he packed, and shared many of his stories. He did not finish his expedition, but he is looking forward to going back this summer to complete the mileage. He fell short only eighty-nine miles. Good Luck Al, we wish you the best.