Beyond the Badge, Employee Wellness

CDCR officer, family hike Pacific Crest Trail

Medina and son take picture with canyon in the distance
Medina and his son, Isaac, along the PCT.

Inspired by others, Gabriel Medina, a 16-year CDCR employee, decided to explore the Pacific Crest Trail during April’s Physical Wellness Month. He’s a correctional officer at California Correctional Institution.

Medina, his wife Amanda, and their 14-year-old son Isaac, set out to explore the Pacific Crest Trail on March 31.

The trail stretches over 2,500 miles running from the Mexican border, through California, Oregon, and Washington, until reaching the Canadian border. 

Their desire to explore the trail began two years earlier when they opened their home to offer boarding to Pacific Crest Trail hikers. Hearing their stories, the Medina family decided to take on the hike themselves.

“There were many challenges, but the rewards were worth every moment of discomfort. We suffered from poison oak rash, huddled in our tents as freezing winds whipped around us, we were exhausted, our feet hurt, we became cold and we were hot and stinky,” Medina said of their 11-day journey.

The Pacific Crest Trail journey begins

Their journey began at the Pacific Coast Trail Southern Terminus in Campos on the Mexican border. Their final destination was set for the Great Southern Overland Stage Route near Julian. 

Throughout their 77-mile trek, the family had their ups and downs, at least in elevation. The journey started at roughly 3,000 feet above sea level, but quickly rose to over 6,000 feet elevation. They saw narrow ridges, 1,000-foot drop-offs, and views of endless deserts and towering mountains.  

As their daily voyage ended and night descended upon them, they found astonishing campsites to rest.

“We slept near streams, lakeside, under an old oak grove, in a field with mice as our neighbors, near a bubbling spring from crystal clear snow melt, and a creaky old cabin that offered a hot shower and a bed for the night,” said Medina.

Finding friends along the way

Along the trail, the Medina’s reconnected as a family, but also made countless new friends. Perfect strangers quickly became a support system. They shared stories, experiences, trail information, gear advice, and laughter with new friends who became “tramily” (trail family).

“We identified with like-minded hikers and quickly realized everyone we met would do anything to help another hiker,” said Medina.

Their new “tramilies” included individuals from:

  • France
  • Taiwan
  • Czech Republic
  • Michigan
  • Kentucky
  • Wyoming
  • and other hikers from California. 

At the end of their excursion, the Medina family hitchhiked off the mountain to Julian where they basked in their triumph.

“The feeling of accomplishment came from the hard work from pushing our minds and bodies to our limits. The incredible views and immersing ourselves in the natural environment was well worth the amazing experience. We can’t wait to do it again,” said Medina.

(Editor’s note:  During the “Virtual PCT Challenge” for April’s Physical Wellness Month, 113 staff logged nearly 5,824 miles and over 13,001,163 steps. Stay tuned for a follow-up story on the top finishers.)

Story by Todd Javernick, Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

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