Ear: Persson

Fun rerun from Aug. 28, 2015: "Paul Persson (pictured), Astoria High School class of 1967, former resident of Astoria, has recently completed the Pacific Crest Trail," his sister, Astorian Pauline Moberg told the Ear.

WISC News reported that 65-year-old Paul, a retired nurse, began the 2,658-mile hike March 14 at the U.S. border in Campo, California. (tinyurl.com/pperssons1). He finished his trek Aug. 9 at E.C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia. You can read his blog and see his photos at tinyurl.com/pperssons2

In 2013, he hiked 1,300 miles of the trail, and did 500 miles last year. He began this year's trek with plantar fasciitis, a painful foot injury, and slept on the trail the entire five months. He had lost 38 pounds by mile 470, but he told WISC he's now "in the best shape I've ever been."

Paul's PCT trail name is Bipolar, and he is hiking for mental health awareness and to remove the stigma, a cause close to his heart, as he "came out" as bipolar on the trail in 2013. "I think that we like to keep mental illness hidden," he said. "There have been a number of occasions where I think it's been very therapeutic for me and other people who wanted to talk about it."

And, the trail provided many opportunities for him to form new friendships. "I put it this way: I meet someone on the trail for the first time and I know them all my life … We share so much in common, we're immediately lifetime friends."

But there can be a lot of time alone on the trail, too, he recalled — sometimes he would go for four days without seeing anyone. But even the solitude had its upside, he noted. "It's a wonderful time to think through things."

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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