- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Forget a Global Positioning System or even a map. The Earth’s own original satellite is the most important guide for two hikers making the first-known continuous trek of the nation’s western coastline.

“The moon,” hiker Nate Olive said. “It really decides our path.”

Lunar phases have shaped much of the pair’s 1,800-mile journey, determining tidal fluctuations that can spell the difference between a walk on the beach or wading.

As the end of their expedition nears, the two ecologists wonder how it will feel to return to lives that don’t involve continuous hiking.

For 3 months, they have been constantly on the move, walking nearly 20 miles a day, threading their way across beaches, rain forests and farm country. On Tuesday, they expect to reach the end of the West Coast Trail — the fence marking the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We’re so used to waking up every day and walking,” Mr. Olive said Saturday during a respite in San Diego. “We’ve thought about that day when we reach Mexico and there’ll be no more miles to walk.”

“It’s going to be hard. But, at the same time, we’re excited.”

Mr. Olive, 28, and his companion, Sarah Janes, 23, set out in June from the northwest tip of Washington. Both are taking a break from jobs with the National Park Service.

They keep their backpacks as light as possible, carrying a two-person sleeping bag, a tarp, a stove made of aluminum cans, basic clothing and food. They are lean and tanned, and Mr. Olive’s curly red beard is long.

Along the way, they have contended with poison oak, fierce sunshine, detours around private property and constantly sore feet, but they have persevered through the discomfort.

“Even if you are tired, there’s so much excitement about what’s coming up,” Mr. Olive said.

Once they cross the border, the pair will become the first hikers to complete the journey in a single trip.

Mr. Olive and Miss Janes are seasoned long-distance hikers, having completed a 2,650-mile trek of the Pacific Crest Trail along the spine of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada. Mr. Olive also hiked the Appalachian Trail, stretching 2,170 miles from Maine to Georgia.

The two hope to promote and mark the West Coast Trail, parts of which are not yet linked, for the National Coast Trail Association.

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