At the beginning of May, when the winter snow is softening at higher elevations, the daylight hours extend into the evening, and the temperatures begin to warm up, a local Corvallis man will be starting his hike along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
Jason Evans hikes for popular reasons, like getting the chance to spend multiple months outside and to see and experience the wild, beautiful places of the American West, but there’s also more to his story. Evans is hiking to raise awareness and funds for Huntington’s disease (HD).
HD is a rare, fatal, genetic neurodegenerative disease, according to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA). Individuals diagnosed with HD suffer from total physical and mental deterioration during the years they could otherwise be leading healthy, active lifestyles. There’s currently no cure for the disease.
Evans, along with his two sons Aidan and Rowan, are just three of the 200,000 people who are at risk of inheriting the disease from an affected parent.
His mother, Catherine Evans of Depoe Bay, was diagnosed with HD in 2005. His late grandfather also suffered from HD.
Catherine is one of approximately 30,000 Americans who are living with the disease.
Evans remembers his mom as a woman who enjoyed singing songs around the campfire during family trips in his youth and as an amazing teacher.
Today, he says his mom is in some ways a shadow of the vibrant and talented woman that she once was.
In efforts to help find a cure for HD and share his family’s story with others, Evans embarked on a journey to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2014. After spending over four months on the trail and hiking more than 2,600 miles, he finished in September 2014.
During that first thru-hike, Evans raised close to $20,000 for HD research and prevention. He made it through his journey with help from sponsors like Rogue Ales, along with the unwavering support of his family and friends.
He dubbed the process of spending long, quiet hours on the trail, either observing or simply existing in nature, as “shadow walking.”
“John Muir was a self-prescribed lover of the range of light. I like to think I hike for the important places each of our shadows hold,” Evans said.
As Evans prepares for his thru-hike along the CDT, he knows his journey will begin with a road trip with two old high school friends from the Pacific Northwest to New Mexico—the location of the CDT’s southern terminus. From there, Evans will hike more than 3,000 miles through deserts, the Rocky Mountains, and national parks. If all goes as planned, he’ll end up on the northern end of the trail along the Canadian border.
With less than two months left before his targeted start date on the CDT trail, Evans is accepting donations and sponsorships from individuals and businesses.
“Most important is education and encouraging many to follow me on Facebook and Instagram, to share the link to my donor page, with the suggestion folks tell my story and consider donating a penny per mile [$31],” Evans said.
He added that he’s sincerely thankful for people supporting him.
He’ll also have the support of his wife Nikki, his two sons, his parents Catherine and Chris, and his beloved dog Shadow.
Evans said Shadow has acted as his training partner, and Shadow’s also his constant companion.
Find Evans on Facebook or follow him on Instagram. His Instagram handle is @shadow_walking. To become a sponsor or to donate, visit hdsa.donordrive.com/event/
By Abbie Tumbleson