12 Reasons to Watch Tell It on the Mountain

Disclosure: The producer of Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail contacted me to watch his film at no cost to myself. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete a review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.

It takes a special kind of person to drop everything and walk through the woods for five months. But in a way, these hikers are just like you and me. They have jobs and families, they love their creature comforts. Yet something pulls them to be in nature, to leave everything behind and embark on what’s called a thru-hike.

Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail involves walking 2,663 miles from Mexico to Canada. The journey lasts from April to October. That translates into about 20 miles a day, every day—on foot. These brave souls face bone-dry deserts, raging rivers, snow-covered mountains, mosquitoes, blisters, torrential rains… and the urge to quit.

Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail is an independent documentary film that puts you right on the edge of the razor ridges, and right in the emotional faces of those who dare to try. This is the first film from producer and director of photography Shaun Carrigan, a sports broadcaster who has worked on the Summer and Winter Olympics, the World Series, the Daytona 500, and Major League Baseball. He hiked 1,400 miles of the PCT during the production of this film, toting the necessary survival and photographic gear.

Lisa Diener is the director, editor and writer. This is her directorial debut, but her documentary post-production and electronic art experience is extensive. The music was written by Ian Franklin Wilkerson, a singer/songwriter and owner/founder of Bay Area Music Therapy.

When you watch Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail, you will follow a half dozen of the 300 or so hikers who attempt a PCT thru-hike every year. Armed with portable cameras, they give us an insider’s view into what it takes to spend half a year living in the wild.


12 Reasons to Watch Tell It on the Mountain


1) The scenery, the wilderness, the wildlife. From the desert of Southern California into the gorgeous, but treacherous high mountain passes of the Sierra Nevada, through 10 national parks and monuments, and 24 national forests, crossing rivers and streams, swimming in alpine lakes, and exploring the Cascades of Upstate Washington Carrigan’s cinematography is stunningly beautiful. I wish there was more, but editing for feature-length time is understandable.

2) You will meet characters with names like Billygoat, Iñaki, Eagle Eye, Jackalope, Sauerkraut, & Alina. Scott Williamson is a remarkable speed and long-distance hiker who has completed the Pacific Crest Trail more than a dozen times, has yo-yoed it twice, and until very recently was the unsupported speed record holder at 64.5 days. Seemingly, nothing will deter him.

Billygoat is a retired railroad worker from Maine who left it all behind in his 50s, and has been calling the trail his home ever since. I get it man. Alina and Sauerkraut are a happy-go-lucky European couple who were thru-hiking the PCT for the first time. Jackalope and Eagle Eye were hiking 2,000 miles to meet friends and family for their wedding ceremony. Yep, that was their plan. Iñaki, the insightful solo-hiker of the group is a seasoned thru-hiker, having done the Pyrenees Mountain Trail, the Arctic Trail in Northern Scandinavia, the Colorado Trail in the U.S., and through the Alps to the Mediterranean Sea.

3) You will learn about the importance of planning. Long distance thru-hiking is a logistical ballet. You must deal with weather, food & shelter. Planning your resupply stops, and getting your replacement gear and nourishment to those stops is as complicated as directing the Nutcracker. This film will teach you the mechanics involved in making sure you have cold weather gear when you reach the mountains, fresh socks to replace the ones with 300 miles on them, and high-calorie, low-weight food that will keep your body nourished for 10 days at a time.

You have to understand your own pace. You have to know what little villages and communities will accept and store your mailed resupply packages. You must anticipate the unexpected, because not much of anything that happens to you is expected. You can’t change Nature, so you adjust. No better an expert than Scott Williamson demonstrates his logistics planning.

4) You’re a chicken; so you can thru-hike a multi-thousand mile trail from your living room. What better way to convince yourself you really don’t want to do this than to see the suffering and tribulations of others. It ain’t easy folks. If you don’t keel over from exhaustion, perhaps the fear will petrify you. Or, what better way to see just how awesome it is, and begin planning your own trip immediately. This film will help you make up your own mind.

Views you won't see from the office

5) You don’t like camping in the woods, so you let others do it for you. That’s right. There aren’t pit toilets or hot showers on the PCT. If slithery snakes, swarms of mosquitoes, or a scorpion crawling on your mattress pad give you the willies, then you’re a lot better off watching the rag-tag cast of characters deal with the unwanted. You’re bound to chuckle at their misfortune, as well as shed an occasional tear for their pain and disappointment.

Instead you dig cat holes, and bathe in a cold mountain stream. You learn to improvise and become a trail McGyver. After all, what could be more awesome than sleeping under the stars 30 miles from the nearest light source?

6) You will find out what it’s like to be desperate. Because sometimes even the best laid plans won’t help if you run out of water two days from the nearest source, or get stuck in the Sierra Nevada in a freak snow storm. The film demonstrates the human ability to cope. Whether it’s walking hundreds of miles with an in-grown toenail, or even a ruptured vertebrae, you will see how the characters persevere. Desperation is a powerful motivator. Setting goals, even if it’s just an hour or a mile at a time will see you through.

7) You might become a trail angel. If, after watching this documentary, you decide that thru-hiking isn’t for you… then perhaps you will become excited enough to still want to participate. That’s where the trail angels come in. Things like leaving gallons of potable water on the trail in the desert areas where it’s so dry the birds are building their nests out of barbed wire. Or inviting tired and weary hikers into your home for a hot shower and a warm bed.

Trail angels are akin to a support system for addicts. They offer community and encouragement. Their positive nature re-energizes even the most disheartened trekker. They motivate by reminding the hikers of their goals, by describing the beauty of the next picturesque landmark, or by simply telling you that they’re proud of you. Best of all, trail angels will give you a hug.

8) You will learn how to lose your vanity. After the first week, you won’t give two hoots about your appearance. Who cares anyway? It’s just you and the trail. You’re dirty. You stink. Your toes are blistered and rubbed raw like something the cat dragged in. Eagle Eye even said he liked to leave a coat of mud caked on his legs because it was natural sunscreen and insect repellent. Forget your hair. In fact, shave it all off. It’s less of a nuisance that way.

9) You will love the amateur philosophy. Iñaki in particular is quite adept at the philosophical one-liner. Whether is be about Nature or struggle, family and community or simply day-to-day living, he seemed to have an answer for most mental barricades he encountered along the trail. I looked forward to each of Iñaki’s appearances because I came to understand where he was coming from.

10) You’ll learn what life without worries is like. Let’s face it. One of the primary reasons that folks do something as bold as quitting their jobs, pouring their savings into hiking gear, and losing themselves on a National Scenic Trail is to get away from it all, to remove themselves from stress. And it works.

For each of the characters in the film, it was merely a matter of days before they were completely into the trail, and their hike. For all intents and purposes, the outside world didn’t exist anymore. The stress changed to mental and physical duress something they realized they could deal with because each dawn brought a new day, a new chance. I was continuously struck by their optimism and happiness.

I drink water like John Muir

11) You will understand the value of conservation. The scenery along the trail, and the wildlife are priceless. The Pacific Crest Trail itself adds incalculable value to the human spirit. Take a look at the scene from Tuolumne Meadows and ask yourself if you want fracking 10 miles away. Walk among the redwoods in Kings Canyon and wonder whether the loggers should be allowed in. I can do without a housing development on the crest of the Cascades. Can’t you?

Wouldn’t you want a 31st century adventurer to be able to share the same experiences portrayed in this film?

12) These words will come to life for you. Perseverance, effort, coping, enduring, fear, challenge, dreams. A snake is the only animal that can’t fall down. So if you’re afraid of snakes, take the high road. When it’s so hot the hens are laying hard-boiled eggs, improvise. Make your own swamp cooler. The trail that has passed behind will give you confidence for what lies ahead.

The thru-hikers that Carrigan followed in his film never lost sight of their dreams. They overcame their biggest fears, and defeated the greatest challenges. No matter what, they endured, they didn’t quit. Some of the most poignant scenes in the film were as each reached the trail marker at the Canadian border and realized their journey was complete, their dream realized. They can tell one and all, “I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.”

If you ask me what’s not to like about this film, there isn’t much. I could gripe a little about the editing I suppose. The film is just over two hours and probably could have been done nicely in 90-100 minutes. But if you cut scenes from the Southern California desert, I would probably want to add more footage from the Cascade Range. So I don’t envy that job. As it is, Ms. Diener did well.

Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail is an ultimate example of living vicariously through others. If you can’t thru-hike yourself, do it from the comfort of your living room by watching this film. You should at least get some ideas for great day hikes or section hikes.

Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail is available for purchase via digital download or DVD from the website or from Amazon. Why not treat yourself?

Here’s a short snippet:



Disclosure: The producer of Tell It on the Mountain Tales from the Pacific Crest Trail contacted me to watch his film at no cost to myself. My only responsibility was an agreement to complete a review. I was not pressured in any way to make a positive endorsement.


This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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