Four Veteran hikers made their way through the Snoqualmie Pass on Labor Day, Sept. 5 as part of the Warrior Expedition program that gives veterans an opportunity to decompress from their time in the military.
Beginning on April 11 this year, along the Mexican border in Campo, Calif., veterans Joseph Jamison, Rueben Munoz, Daniel Janes and Jimmy Sellers started their trip up the West Coast of the U.S. along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Their goal is to finish their hike on Sept. 22 at Manning Park in British Colombia, Canada.
After retiring from a career in the Army that began in 1995 and spanned 21 years, Jamison, from Pueblo, Colo., started hiking in his free time. While on a hike in 2014 on a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern Washington, Jamison met another hiker who told him about the Warrior Expedition program. After some research into the program he applied to hike the trail.
The Warrior Expedition program is divided into three categories, hiking, biking and paddling. Warrior Paddle participants travel the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana, Warrior Bikers ride the Trans-America Trail from Oregon to Virginia, and the Warrior Hikers have a choice of eight trails across the country including the Pacific Crest.
The program was founded by veteran Sean Gobin in 2012 after he served in Iraq and Afghanistan; he found hiking long distances to be a therapeutic way of transitioning from combat to a civilian lifestyle. He started the expeditions to help other veterans coming back home.
“For a soldier or someone in the military, a lot of times when they get out, the adjustment period is pretty rough, to adjust from the rigid military life to civilian life, it’s hard for a lot of us,” Jamison said. “You are able to press the release button, clear your mind out and process everything that’s happened to you over the years.”
Jamison was selected as one of this year’s hikers after applying for the program and an interview with Gobin.
“He’s pretty selective for who he chooses,” Jamison said. “He doesn’t have enough slots and funding for everyone who applies. He is looking for guys who have at least some outdoor experience — it’s 2,650 miles — guys who would be capable to finish it.”
The weekend before they began, Gobin gave a them a crash course in long distance hiking to prepare the men for the coming months.
Warrior Expeditions provides the hikers with all the gear they need and coordinates stops in various towns along the trail. Once a week, the group of hikers will come into a town and stay with a host so they can shower and get something to eat.
Jamison said the group often splits up and allows each of the hikers some time to be alone while hiking. They meet up once they come into a town, but mostly they hike alone.
“Something that surprises a lot of people is none of us really hike together through the day, we may or may not camp together, we each set our own individual goals,” he said. “It’s an independent and a group effort. We usually meet up in towns, keep in contact, send messages.”
On Monday, Sept. 5, The group of hikers stayed with Adam Cooper, chief of staff for King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, at his house in the Alpental area near Snoqualmie Pass. He got involved as a host for the Warrior Expedition through a neighbor’s Facebook post looking for anyone interested in hosting the hikers.
Local businesses donated breakfast and dinner for the group and they set out on the trail Tuesday morning.
Now that the hike is almost over, Jamison, reflecting back on the past six months, said the Warrior Hike was even better than he was expecting. It has allowed him to relax while also facilitating strong friendships with the other hikers.
“I thought I was just going to walk a trail and get to know the area I grew up in a little bit better, I was looking for something epic to do after I retired,” he said. “It’s been so much better than what I thought it would be. When you are put in a situation with people you don’t know, it’s a clean slate, you are creating new memories with people you never met before. It’s a whole new experience.”
Jamison’s friends and family have told him he is doing something amazing, but he feels that it’s something anyone can do if they put in the effort for it.
“We all get wrapped up in our daily lives and day-to-day things that distract us from bigger goals. If you accomplish something small every day it leads to your bigger goal,” he said. “If you just do things one step at a time, any ordinary person can do something extraordinary.”