SCOTT KING and George Hormell hiked the 420-mile distance from east to west across Arizona in 14 days, covering an average of 30 miles per day. They were walking from Maine to California in honor of the Bicentennial of the American Revolution. Their unique project was sponsored by their community club, the Meredith (N.H.) Jaycees. Their fellow volunteer and Meredith Jaycee, Chris Hurd, accompanied them in the supply van, and provided general assistance.
On July 14, 1976, King and Hormell crossed the Colorado River, which forms the western border of Arizona, by walking over the I-40 bridge. That night, Hormell wrote in his journal, “WE MADE IT TO CALIFORNIA! At 11:30 today we walked into Needles, California, to mark the beginning of our last state. It was 110 degrees, so we decided to rest this afternoon and continue after sunset when it is a little cooler.” The city is named for the “The Needles,” the beautiful rocky spires in the nearby Mojave Mountains in Arizona.
The hikers were now in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. On July 16, the desert was cooled by a rare rainstorm, making it comfortable to walk during the daytime. They camped out with Hurd that night, and the next day continued westward on I-40 until they were stopped by the Highway Patrol. They were ordered off the highway and had to walk along a service road paralleling I-40. Night hiking was now problematic. As Hormell wrote, “It’s pitch black! With a cloud cover and no moon…we just barely see the ends of our noses.”
On July 20, as King and Hormell approached the San Bernardino urban area, the air turned foul. As Hormell described, “The smog is unreal! I never expected it to be so bad. There’s not a cloud in the sky, yet the visibility is only about a half mile on the ground. It’s so thick it stings your eyes and sometimes your skin.”
The hikers were unaware of the smog alert warnings that were issued each day. On this day the level went from Stage 1-Unhealthy to Stage 2-Very Unhealthy. This meant that any outdoor activity was hazardous and likely to cause breathing problems, and should be avoided.
The hikers met up with Hurd at the San Bernardino City Hall. This ultra-modern building was a striking contrast to the more traditional municipal buildings they had encountered in their travels.
The building, completed in 1972, is covered nearly entirely in dark tinted glass, and part of the structure rests on heavy metal columns. At City Hall they were met by a representative of the local Jaycees and by a city official who presented them with a certificate of appreciation.
This was a good day, as the trio no longer had to camp out in the desert. Hormell wrote, “The Jaycees arranged a room at a motel for us, bought us dinner, and a few drinks.” The men enjoyed a reception with the Jaycees where they were the featured speakers. Hormell recounted, “It was a long awaited pleasure to meet Jaycees again and to sleep in a real bed!”
Smog was still a problem on July 21, but King and Hormell were not willing to curtail their progress. Their goal, the Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, was now nearly within reach, and they wanted to keep going.
After a good breakfast hosted by a local Jaycee, they began walking. They were soon joined by another Jaycee and by a reporter for the San Bernardino newspaper who questioned them as they walked. The hikers appreciated their company, but, as Hormell wrote, “…they slowed us down; every time we saw a store, they would find some excuse to stop and get a cup of coffee or a coke.”
In the early morning of July 22, King, Hormell, and Hurd were interviewed on air by Charlie Tuna, a popular Los Angeles radio personality. At the end of the day King and Hormell met up with their parents and other relatives who had flown in from New Hampshire. The two went off in different directions with their relatives for dinner, and then spent the night with them, while Hurd enjoyed the hospitality of area Jaycees.
Next week: Reaching the Pacific Ocean at Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, California.