West Linn man fit as a fiddle after 40-year, 2,650 mile marathon effort

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Miesen is always well equipped for his walking expeditions after four decades of experience. Steve Miesen looks so doggone healthy that he may do for walking what the Beach Boys did for surfing. Instead of lying comatose with exhaustion on the couch of his West Linn home, Miesen is sparkling with fitness after completing the effort of a lifetime: Walking the entire 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The last giant step came on Aug. 14.

“It took me 40 years,” said the 54-year-old Miesen. “It was a lifetime journey. Especially the last 10 years as I was getting older. I had to amp up the miles. I’m shocked I could do the whole thing.”

Miesen started his long quest when he was just a little guy. Thanks to his parents, he was exposed to the great outdoors early through hiking and camping trips. But what really got Miesen’s size 12 feet itching to do some long-distance walking was reading the book, “The High Adventure of Eric Ryback: from Canada to Mexico on Foot.”

“When I read it, I thought, ‘Oh, my God!’” Miesen said. “It inspired a whole generation of guys like me.”

It would take Miesen four decades to complete the Pacific Crest by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Miesen walked the entire 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.Trail because he had to work for a living. He was a youth counselor at the Christie School, owned a bicycle shop (Miesen is also a long-distance biker) and worked in sales and management. But having a job eventually faded away as he pushed up his pace to walking 650 miles in 2010 and 700 miles in 2011.

“I gave in to the trail,” Miesen explained.

Good things happen to those who walk.

“Doing the Pacific Crest Trail was probably worth a million dollars to me,” Miesen said. “Sacrificing not making as much money as I could have made is not a problem. I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

Miesen said he was motivated by a combination of things: Freedom, being in the wilderness, the challenge and the fun.

“It’s super fun being out there,” he said. “There were all of these unpredictable amazing times. Once you experience that it becomes addictive.”

His final verdict: “When I finished it was like being a little girl seeing a Beatles concert.”

Now that’s ecstasy, and oh what sights he has seen! Mountains, lakes, animals of every variety, flocks of quail, stampedes of elk, bears, cougars (whose screaming at night was traumatizing), giant rattlesnakes, forest fires that caused him to turn around and run, thunder, lightning, high winds and streams he had to wade across.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Miesen gives out a big cheer after completing the Pacific Crest Trail on Aug. 14. It was a quest that lasted 40 years and covered 2,650 miles.He rescued a man on Mount Whitney and provided food and shelter to others. He also learned a few things along the way. Like when it comes to hiking, nighttime is the best time.

“You feel like you’re in the middle of the universe at night,” Miesen said. “There are millions and millions of stars. It’s pretty stunning. You’re tired and you want to sleep, but you’re just amazed by the stars.”

The thing that amazed Miesen the most, however, was the everyday people he met on the trail. Hikers are evidently a very high-class type of humanity.

“People are so friendly on the trail ...” he said. “I only met one guy who didn’t say hello, and we definitely thought he was strange. I’m a social hiker so I mostly hiked with friends.”

The entire experience he said was like being in the 1969 movie, “Easy Rider.” Only Miesen was on foot.

“I was in awe when I met people who had actually done the Pacific Crest Trail. You see people flying down the trail and it’s a real inspiration. I interviewed them and learned all of the tricks. The more tricks you learn the better. Older guys have got to use every trick they’ve got.”

Sometimes, though, solitude could not be avoided.

“It is weird when you’re totally alone,” Miesen said. “It’s a little more dangerous. Sometimes I went for two or three days without seeing anybody, even in extremely beautiful places.”

Now that he has completed the big trail, Miesen is relaxing and thinking about his next great challenge.

“I’ve completed the biggest goal on my bucket list,” he said. “It gives me confidence I can tackle other goals. I’m re-thinking my bucket list.”

Miesen’s bucket list now includes writing a book on how to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. He kept a log of every hike he has taken since the 1970s. Now he wants to put the knowledge to good use.

“I feel we’re still in the pioneer phase of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail,” Miesen said. “It’s the greatest trail on earth, and I think I have the ideas and enough knowledge to really help people do it.”

Miesen hopes his guidebook, along with the stories and photos he has collected from other hikers, will teach people to not only complete the trail, but have fun while doing it. Until the next adventure begins, he’s taking the time to congratulate himself.

“It’s great to complete a goal,” he said. “And move on.”

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