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HAPPY TRAILS Modesto residents Paul Konsdorf and Gary Martinez now can say they've ridden the length of the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Oregon.
They used their vacations over more than two decades to complete their journey, ending with a stretch near Quincy that they intended to finish back in 2000. An angry mule kicked Konsdorf during the first day of that one, breaking his leg and forcing him to abort the ride. Then fire hit the area, so they decided to go elsewhere and come back to that one later. July became that later.
They began their journey in the late 1980s with five other men, never thinking they would go the entire way, border to border, in stages.
"We weren't serious about it," Konsdorf said. "Guys got older, bad hearts, bad backs. Then only Gary and I were left."
They spent about two weeks each summer on the trail, riding, each with a pack horse in tow. Over the years, they scuttled heavier gear in favor of more lightweight stuff, going to packaged add-water meals instead of tri-tip.
But they've always carried ice, the reward being a Crystal lemonade and vodka treat at the day's end. They saw everything from bleak high desert to majestic peaks and forests.
"The toughest stretch probably was Southern California," Konsdorf said. "No feed, no water."
Friend Larry Seymour acted as their supplier for those vitals, driving and meeting them at points along the way during three of the summer trips.
They took their horses through John Muir Wilderness' Forester Pass, elevation 13,200 feet "The highest you can take horses over," he said.
In fact, several times over the years, the men encountered rangers who were amazed to see private stock where usually only commercial pack animals tread trails cut into mountains with a 3,000- foot cliff a few feet away.
They endured the heat in the lava beds north of Mount Lassen in 1999. "No water," Konsdorf said. And when they got to some, "the horses drank out of a 50-gallon drum like it was a Dixie cup. And when we were in Redding, it was over 120 degrees. We hosed off the horses and the steam just poured off of them."
They're not finished. There's still 1,000 miles to go, from Oregon's Mount Ashland to the Canadian border.
"We figure it will take us four years, 250 miles each trip," he said.
After that, who knows?
SUCCESS STORY In late June, just as the heat wave was about to hit, I wrote about Proeuk Touch, an 81-year-old Cambodian man who had taken up residence in a doorway of First United Methodist Church on 16th Street downtown.
Church officials, including administrative assistant Deb Howey, knew he needed help and worried about him in the heat. Touch, for his part, decided the church was his home, and he often brought food to the staff. But it wasn't going to be a long-term arrangement.
It took Howey five weeks plus two days of working with social service agencies, but she is happy to say Touch now has a case worker and is staying at a motel until permanent housing can be found.
"He's so excited to be where he can shower," Howey said. "And it's nice to be able to help someone do something better."
YAM THE TORPEDOES! Livingston's Chamber of Commerce introduced its Yamboree, a celebration of the sweet potato, back in 1997. Before that, it had been a harvest festival. The Yamboree lasted only four years, ending after the 2000 version.
Now, the city and the California Sweet Potato Council will resurrect the festival Sept. 20-22 at the Max Foster Sports Complex, promising a yam good time for all.
It will be bigger and better than ever, with a carnival, entertainment, sweet potato dishes, Growers Alley farmers market and other exhibits.
Tickets are on sale at City Hall. Visit www.livingstoncity.com or contact the Livingston Recreation Department at (209) 394-8830 for more information.
AUTHOR! AUTHOR! Ruth McLeod-Kearns of Turlock recently became a first-time published author with her e-book, "Carnations Never Wilt." Her story, based upon the death of her sister, centers on "a silent community of mourners at the cemetery and their poignantly individual grieving mechanisms."
She's sold more than 500 copies through Amazon and recently licensed it to a media production company, she said.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.