Bernadette Murray, a graduate of Stevenson High School, will give a talk-and-slide presentation on her family’s trek on the Pacific Crest Trail at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum in Stevenson. It will be held on Sunday, April 19, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.
On April 26, 1969, Bernadette and the Murray family, a young family of five, set out from the Mexican border to pioneer the newly minted Pacific Crest Trail by riding from Mexico to Canada on horseback. Her family, which consisted of her father, Barry, mother, Bernice, brother, Barry, Jr., 12, Bernadette, 10, and Colette, 8, rode the trail. Their horses, all recuse horses, became extended members of the family.
At that time, the trail was a dotted line on a map. The United States Forest Service estimated that up to 2/3 of the trail was unbuilt, under construction, or in need of repair, making much of it impassable. The trail crossed through 400-miles of private property, which often meant locked gates.
The PCNST cobbled together old trail systems, such as the California Riding and Hiking Trail, Dessert Crest, The John Muir, Lava Crest, Oregon Skyline and Cascade Crest Trail, with other trails and sometimes roads, to link all together from border-to-border. There were many places, especially in California, where the trail trickled away to nothing, forcing the riders to go cross-country. They carried a shovel, a Pulaski, and an ax to blaze and build the trail as they traveled.
There were many trials and tribulations along the way, including outdated maps that were the most current available; the heat of the Mojave Desert; a 100-year snow pack in the High Sierras; locked gates, and ranchers who didn’t want trail users on their land, and greeted the group with loaded firearms; quicksand; dilapidated swinging bridges; rattlesnakes; injuries; and the day-to-day struggle to survive, and find and mark their way on the trail.
By September 9, 1969, hampered by raging rivers from the melt-off of the 100-year snowpack, they made it to Mt. Lassen, CA. The Murray family wintered and regrouped, returning in June to the same spot, with better preparation and renewed enthusiasm, for the second season. They brought their pregnant mare, Crazy Daisy Mae, who gave birth to a filly, Tagalong, near Indian Heaven in Skamania County. The Murray family completed their trek, reaching the Canadian border, on October 7, 1970.
At Bernadette’s presentation on Sunday, April 19, she will use their trail maps and memorabilia, and the photography of her father, Barry, a professional photographer/writer, who shot over 4,000 photos during their ride. After the trek, he wrote an article which was published in LIFE Magazine on Sept. 3, 1971.
After the family finished their historic trip, they decided to come to Stevenson to make their permanent home. Barry, Bernadette and Colette attended school in Stevenson and graduated from Stevenson High School. Bernadette graduated in 1977, and started working at the Skamania County Pioneer, and then the Hood River News. She became involved in the Apple Macintosh community in the mid-1980s, and worked in the print industry, converting traditional print shops to digital. For the past 20 years she has been self-employed as a graphic designer and writer.