TEMECULA – Outdoor hiking has a myriad of benefits for both the body and the mind and for the most part it is inexpensive and easy to start. Plus, anyone can participate no matter how fit they currently are.
Most people in the Temecula Valley live within driving distance of wonderful hiking spots and of course discovering good places off the beaten path is a good way of getting to know an area.
That’s been the case for Bill Plummer, a twenty-nine year resident of Temecula; he’s been hiking for years right here in our backyard. He said he decided to take it up after he recovered from a health issue he suffered a couple years ago.
Bill, who also serves on the Board of Directors for the Rancho California Water District, underwent open heart surgery. He watched a blog about a hiking trip during his recovery time that a man did by himself and it was then that he decided to give hiking a try.
“His doctor says he is in good shape, and he gets checked at least three times a year, but I know he believes he is on borrowed time,” said his wife, Leticia Plummer. “He really got into the longer hikes more recently and trained to prepare for an interesting challenge he gave himself, which involved backpacking 160 miles off the John Muir Trail (JMT) in the Sierra Nevada’s, including climbing up to the top of Mt. Whitney.”
Bill trained for a few months in 2013 before testing himself with his first goal, which involved hiking the first sixty miles of the JMT. He successfully accomplished that, going from Yosemite to Reds Meadow in Mammoth.
Nicknamed “Mountaineer Bill” by his wife, the mountain man began the second leg of his Journey on June 17 from Reds Meadow in Mammoth and completed the trail at 7:30 p.m. on July 1. Leticia picked him up at the Mt. Whitney Portal outside of Lone Pine.
“Bill will claim he is not a hiker, but I came up with that name because I was posting a day by day account of his trip on Facebook and I wanted it to be fun for everyone and wanted my friends to follow,” Leticia said. “I was calling it ‘The Adventures of Mountaineer Bill'; however, another hiker on the trail re-named him ‘Wine Country Bill’ because we live in the Temecula Wine Country.”
Mountaineer Bill used trail maps and carried a 40 lb. pack for the two week journey where he was at an average elevation of 8,000- 14,000 feet. He traversed several mountain passes well over 10,000 feet in elevation and crossed streams as well.
Along the way Bill met hundreds of people who were hiking the Pacific Coast Trail starting at the San Diego border and ending in Canada. The hikers he met were from all over the United States and many from around the world. Bill camped each night at designated sites along the trail where water was close by. Every day he would have to refill his water bottles from streams and lakes and filter it and it would usually take him an hour to make camp. Meals included oatmeal for breakfast with protein and lunch was tuna on flour tortillas (his favorite). Dinner consisted of dehydrated dinners that water had to be added to. Bill also carried a bear box for his food and an ultra light one man tent.
“I was surprised at the number of people on the trail; they were all very friendly, and many were also hiking alone,” Bill said. “I was also surprised at how narrow the actual trail was, averaging three to four feet in width. This was especially harrowing when I was climbing up to Mt. Whitney and the drop on either side of the trail was several thousand feet.”
On the way to Mt. Whitney Bill climbed the Golden Staircase a series of switchbacks that took him to 10,853 foot elevation. Five days later Bill was at Guitar Lake camp resting for the next day’s grueling 15 mile hike that took him to the top of Mt. Whitney.
On July 1 Bill started at 5:30 a.m. from an elevation of 11,488 feet to climb Mt. Whitney, which has and elevation 14,505 feet. He reached the top at 11:30 am, where he called his wife, rested and took pictures.
“Who knew there would be cell service way up there,” Bill said.
Bill carried a GPS devise called DeLorme and he turned it on three times a day so that friends and family would know where he was. The GPS had an SOS signal in case of an emergency.
“It was a very emotional experience and hard to describe my feelings on top of Mt. Whitney,” Bill said.
He finished the adventure at 7:30 p.m. after hiking for twelve hours including up to Mt. Whitney. His wife greeted him at the Mt. Whitney portal campground where his first words were “you look like an angel, can you get me some Gatorade, and where’s the car?”
What’s next for Mountaineer Bill?
“Whatever it is, I am sure it will keep me on my toes,” Leticia said. “He has gotten real good at that.”