PasstoPass provides multi-day supported backpacking trips for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Trips are planned and led by people with Parkinson’s or close connections to PD so that routes, trails, and distances are selected with the physical challenges of participants in mind. The key is support. Support hikers help on the trails and in camp. Pack llamas carry gear so that Parkinson’s hikers only have to carry a light day pack. The support helps people with PD have a positive hiking experience.
As a nonprofit, all volunteer organization, PasstoPass does it all on a shoestring led by people with Parkinson’s. PasstoPass pays for the llamas, shared community gear, emergency satellite communications, wilderness First Aid training, insurance and operating expenses. 100% of PasstoPass’ income comes from donations.
The benefits of PasstoPass hikes are both mental and physical. Studies have proven that vigorous exercise improves Parkinson’s symptoms and may slow progression of the disease. Support provided on PasstoPass trips helps hikers overcome the challenges of PD, boosting their morale and confidence. The shared experiences create deep bonds and lasting friendship between hikers.
Although Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, PasstoPass trips allow people with PD to live in the moment, to experience exhilarating physical activity, to challenge themselves, to celebrate success, to hope and to experience the joy of being outdoors.
2023 Completed PASStoPASS HIKES
Our trips are planned and led by experienced hikers who have Parkinson’s or are close to someone who does. Most PasstoPass trips are up to six days long and take place along sections of the Pacific Crest Trail in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and Washington State, as well as the John Muir Trail in California. Support hikers provide assistance on the trail and pack llamas carry gear so PD hikers only need to carry a light day pack on most hikes. Please read our 2023 hike details and the FAQs about what to expect on the hikes.
We completed our 2023 hikes. A total of 9 hikes with 46 PD hikers and 59 support hikers. We used 16 llamas and hiked 2,629 cumulative miles. Hikers came from 12 different states and 1 Canadian province.
BUILD. CULTIVATE. NOURISH.
Seeing people overcome and exceed physical challenges is inspirational. To watch people work together to accomplish what they could not do alone is awesome. And to witness it all in the breathtaking beauty of the Sierra and Cascade Mountains is truly extraordinary!
CUMULATIVE MILES HIKED
PLUS AMERICANS LIVE WITH PARKINSON'S DISEASE
PasstoPass was founded by Bill Meyer, whose love affair with the wilderness spans half a century. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2009, Bill was determined to keep hiking. As the disease progressed, his tremors and balance got worse. Hiking became increasingly difficult, especially carrying a heavy backpack over his Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) batteries. Bill had seen pack mules on the Pacific Crest Trail and thought they could be the answer. But if he used mules, he needed people to help. So Bill reached out the NW Parkinson’s Foundation looking for other hikers he could enlist. He found Ken Kisch, a fellow hiker with Parkinson’s and PasstoPass was born.
The first PasstoPass trip set off on August 20, 2016. Four hikers with Parkinson’s, a support team of seven and six pack mules hiked nearly 75 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in 9 days. Their goal was to raise money for Parkinson’s research, increase awareness of the disease and to prove that physical activity can relieve Parkinson’s symptoms. The trip was a success so planning began for another PassToPass hike in 2017.
PasstoPass has grown and adapted based on lessons learned. Pack llamas replaced mules, trips were shortened, more hikers signed up and PasstoPass became a non-profit. In 2022, PasstoPass offered 8 hikes with varying levels of difficulty. 40 hikers with Parkinson’s, 45 support hikers and 9 llamas completed the trips, a cumulative total of 2188 miles.
Bellevue, WA Parkinson’s Hiker
My name is Takahiro Shigemitsu. My friends call me Hiro. I am a senior software engineering manager who’s worked at Microsoft and Amazon. Although I’m used to functioning at a very high level, I started having trouble just brushing his my teeth. In 2016, after two frustrating years, I was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. I was just 45 years old, with a wife and two teenagers…. more>
Evergreen, CO Parkinson’s Hiker
I’m a former natural resources attorney forced to retire early after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 52. I live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and walk the trails outside my back door with my dog. Our whole family, my husband and two sons, love to hike, camp, fly-fish and play golf. I stay fit by taking Rock Steady Boxing classes, which are designed for people with Parkinson’s… more>
Bellevue, WA Support Hiker
I am a retired corporate lawyer who finds special joy in outdoor adventures, particularly wilderness experiences. The opportunity to help others experience that joy is very gratifying. My wife and I moved to Washington State in 1980 and have experienced many backpacking adventures together and with our kids over the years, in the Pacific NW and far beyond… more>
It's time to share our stories with potential PD hikers. Word of mouth is a vital method to find other people with Parkinson's that wish to hike with us and the llamas. In July, 8 former and current PtP hikers went to the World Parkinson's Coalition in Barcelona,...
Both the Trip 1 and Trip 5 teams concluded their hiking adventures Thursday, marking the end of this year’s PasstoPass overnight hikes. The Trip 1 team’s Thursday itinerary included breakfast at The National Park Inn followed by hiking Trail of the Shadows Loop. Trip...
The update from the Trip 1 team Wednesday morning was: “Marine mist this morning at Paradise. Expect it to burn off; everyone looking for stocking caps!” This team’s itinerary for the day included breakfast at The National Park Inn followed by about a 20-minute drive...