Testimonials and Stories

There are many reasons why people love the outdoors and backpacking in the high country, here are a few stories from our participants:

Rose Gallagher  Point Lookout NY (2021) It was such an honor to share the trials, the fun, good conversation, and the beauty of the past 6 days with all of you!

Irene Pasternack Bellevue, WA (2021) I thoroughly enjoyed this trip: the Goat Rocks area was beautiful, the trip design with a day-trip day and shorter miles was a good fit for participants, and it was nice to have my arm more functional so I could do more with the llamas. I’m interested in becoming a trip leader for next summer.

Jheri Ketcham Yakima, WA (2021) Thanks again Linda and all, for providing an experience I’m sure I will never forget. I loved the country, the challenges, the llamas and best of all- our wonderful team. I hope to be back on a future trip where I can look forward to new challenges and new sights.

Barbara Hackett Fort Myers, FL (2021) I wanted you to know that I will be making a couple of donations to Pass to Pass to honor all of you who made Trip 2 for Eleanor and I so wonderful. Even though our participation was cut short it was a very valuable experience for both of us. My first donation today is in honor of Judi and Warren Spencer, our trail angels and new friends. Their kindness was so appreciated and our time with them just amazing. I will be making other donations and will send you an email as to I do so. Your selflessness in starting and growing this very worthy organization is to be applauded. If I were a millionaire I would buy you your own Llama’s! Looking forward to our continued affiliation,

Michelle Gustin-Jones  Boise, ID (2021) A heartfelt thank you to everyone for the shared experience of trekking in the Goat Rocks.  What an amazing group to spend time with!  The diversity of backgrounds and love of the freedom of the outdoors made a most memorable week. Appreciate the photos, my grandson particularly enjoyed the llamas. Spokane Bill, thank you for your vision, tenacity and love of the trail!  Linda, thank you for your calm wisdom that kept us moving, safely. Best to all on your future trails and adventures!  Hope our paths cross in the near future. Be well!

Terry Hopkins  San Luis Obispo, CA (2021) Thank you is not a big enough word to describe my gratitude to the two of you for all the work you do to make a pass to pass happen. I am still reliving moment after moment of our trip, yes despite the rain. I am pleased with myself for having accomplished it and I’m having fun thinking back on all the adventure. Thank you again.

Bill Clugston  Auburn, WA (2021)  Hi all, I too am enjoying all of the photos. It was an adventure that I’ll remember for the rest of my life!  Thank you Bill Meyer for having the vision to put such a program together! I’m already working out for another trip 🙂

Linda Lee Marysville, WA (2020, 2021) Thank you for sharing this adventure. It was certainly that. It was so good to meet you all and spend time hiking and chatting together. I encourage some of you to consider the Goat Rocks trip next year. It was a wonderful trip this year with good views and good weather. We stayed in 1 campsite for 2 nights allowing for hiking a dayhike if desired or a day of rest if desired. The freedom, space, beauty and simple basics of life in the wilderness has such a pull on me. Having gotten a shower and a butterfinger blizzard at Dairy Queen,  I already want to go back!

Tim Webster  Clemmons, NC (2021) Hope you’ve recovered fully from the trip. I just added a new donation to PtP but my contributions are way less than the value of my experience. You’re doing a great service with PtP. Thank you to you and  you and Nadean. It was a pleasure to get to know you a bit on our trip. Hope to see you again in the future.

Randy Todd Port Washington, NY (2021) This was a giant step for those of us with Parkinson’s and on behalf of us, I would like to thank those who helped us accomplish this feat. It couldn’t have been accomplished without you. I will be forever grateful and look forward to next year’s hike.

Mike Watkins Evansville, IN (2021) Thanks to all of you I have a lifetime memory!!!!!!  Caleb, you will never know how much I enjoyed this time with you,   its at the top of my list.  I won’t get too mushy here since it is going to everyone. Bill,  Thank you for the passion you have in organizing the PasstoPass to provide this great opportunity for Parkies.  It is a dream that came true for me.  And I couldn’t say thank you without saying thank you to Nadean. Dave and Eric, Thank you for your patience in letting me figure out that my backpack was way too heavy.  Without your assistance in going up and down the mountain I may have had to use that Lifeflight Insurance.  Diane When you were   leading me I always felt like there was a least 4 of us on the path.  It made the hike feel like a party. Irene, First let me thank you for the wonderful dinner you had to kick off our trip.  Everything you cooked was delicious.  And eating that ripe fig was awesome.  The kayak experience with Dave was an eye opener, but I haven’t told Lisa if I have closed the door yet. Randy, If Lisa and I ever run out of food we will make a trip to Long Island.  Thank you for all the information on DBS and I will keep you informed on my progress.  Congratulations again on your new role as an Ambassador. Rose, I am going to set up an appointment for the Rock Steady Boxing class.  Thanks for setting up my tent with Randy and Steve.  The mints you left were much fresher than the one Randy gave me at the hotel. Steve, I totally appreciate the responsibility you took for the Llama’s.  I was not much help in that aspect of the trip. I am looking forward to  seeing the video of you doing the steeple chase run with the Llama. Thanks everyone,

Mary Verbeck Bend, OR (2021) We got off the trail around noon today. What an amazing and inspiring trip! I talked to one man who said he’d donate when he got off the trail for sure. People were really interested and I know cards were handed out. Thanks for starting this.

Diane Schuirman-Hagedorn Tacoma, WA (2019, 2020, 2021) In March 2019 I flew to California to day hike out of a base camp in Joshua Tree National Park with a group I didn’t know called Pass to Pass. I wasn’t a hiker. I had no idea if I could physically do the hikes.

In late 2014 I was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease. In the nearly six years prior I’d gone from walking five miles a day to literally unable to walk a square block. With an accurate diagnosis and appropriate medication, I regained some physical function, though I hadn’t tested myself. I showed up to hike with a shiny new sleeping bag and minimal physical conditioning. I signed up for … I think it was “4-6 miles per day, relatively flat.”

  • Day 1: Probably about 6 miles, with a steady incline and a difficult descent.
  • Day 2: Flat … and about 8 miles.
  • Day 3: About 5 miles, with two short hills so steep I practically had to crawl up them. The guys already at the top grabbed me as soon as they could reach me.

… And I did every single step. Not without discomfort, but I did it. Since then I’ve completed three 30-mile Pacific Crest Trail section hikes with Pass to Pass.

These hiking trips are like showing up and being taken care of by favorite uncles, thanks to terrific hike leaders and fellow hikers. The scenery and camaraderie are both amazing. I am grateful for the opportunity and the ability to go on these adventures.

Llamas (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) Dear PasstoPass folks, Thank you for the fun adventure, great company, beautiful scenery and your kindness. We enjoyed the trip. The carrots at the end were especially appreciated. Happy Trails, Gina and Amos, llamas.

Judi Spencer  Graham, WA (2020, 2021). Thank you for an amazing adventure with a wonderful group of hikers! You know how to live life – and Pass to Pass is a Lifetime experience for all who have the opportunity to saunter the backcountry together. Happy Trails! Songbird

Mike Calbaum Heartland, WI (2020, 2021) Thank you for including me in this year’s hike. I had a fantastic time and met some really great people. I also want to thank you for providing such good team leaders. Eric, Linda and Dave did a great job.

Everyone that decides to be a back country backpacker has made the decision to leave behind their reliance on society’s safety net. Once we  are in the back country we are all dependent on each other. That is what I love abut being on the trail. We depend on each other and we help each other because we are all we have. I know that I will receive help from my trail family without having to explain why I need that help or feeling a need to apologize for needing help.

Eric Matson  Bellevue, WA (2020, 2021) Just wanted to say Dave did a fantastic job leading this trip.  Your compassion and support for the Parkinson’s hikers was amazing and heartwarming.  What a nice and compatible group of folks, sharing stories and life experiences, and helping each other.  Thanks for asking me to come along and assist.  It was a great experience.

Scott Edson Corvallis, MT (2020, 2021)   “An Atypical Wilderness Adventure Which Bolstered Myocardial Rhythms. ”  Jul 31 to 8/5/2020  As Bill Meyer’s (Bull Dog Bill) support hiker from Chinook to White Pass on The Pacific Crest Trail, WA.  Ten participants; a great group, with impressive team efforts.  I was humbly taken back by everyone’s will & dynamics. As we hiked, the group naturally would space-out along the trail providing other hikers easy passage without inconvenience. Usually, hikers recognized the Lamas & team and yielded the trail allowing smooth, uninterrupted continuation & well wishes exchanged. Periodically we would re-group for: how’s everyone, trail snacks, lunch & water breaks, refreshing pauses, and discuss the magnificent scenery, savoring joyful moments  …various mountains, wild flowers and much more!  When we reach our daily camp destination, backpacks were dropped and immediately tended the Lamas; panniers & saddles removed, assured safe grazing (some floral types are poisonous), watered & treats, and secured to a longer lead. Then community camp needs; potable & sanitary water, (no camp fires), camp-stools circled & meal preparation area set, followed by personal needs, tent spots and so on. Evening meals as well as the day’s highlights were enjoyed & replayed. Lamas didn’t spit at us, but occasionally did at each other if irritated. Lamas were very curious, observant and alert. They liked to smell us, even after several trail days. Authoritative sources {?) claimed bears do not like Lamas …our natural bear spray (having years experience with bears & wildlife species, I wondered). Positioned near the group’s front, we took turns leading pairs, 2 sets of 2.Three Lamas were experienced trail veterans, a young one, first timer, was a bit feisty and occasionally needed treat enticements & / or a boost If she stalled “on strike”.  On a couple occasions, we’d be trekking along and suddenly this youngster would fold legs and plop down in the center of the trail, refusing to get up & continue on. They enjoyed “dusting” themselves, repelling biting bugs, and (I think) challenging our novice –ness! Insects were of minimal nuisance except for our last camp. That afternoon & post evening meals we all gladly headed into our respective tents, looking forward to our morning’s departure. After morning breaking camp, packing personal gear, each Lamas’ packs were matched in weight, near 30# ea, and readied, Lamas were then saddled & panniers secured. During such they would “hum a lets get a move on tune.” …anxious for us to shoulder our packs & get going. Quite amusing. All in all a fabulous time.
Closing:    An Eagle Scout & wild – crazy scientist with  …eager for next trek!

Dan Kovach Renton, WA  (2019, 2020)  As a support hiker, I remain constantly amazed and inspired by the toughness of the Parkies taking on these adventures (definitely a lot tougher than I am!!!).  I am in awe of their grit and determination, and am blessed by the time our participants allow me to hang with them.  I had a wonderful time I won’t forget, and hope I can do this again next year!!!

Peter Flynn Spokane, WA (2019) Wow! My Pass to Pass 2019 Hike 2 was a brilliant adventure. There was great camaraderie among our group. The llamas worked tirelessly and were fun to have around. A higher elevation climb rewarded us with spectacular views of surrounding mountains, alpine lakes to swim in and beautiful sunsets. Our team leader, Brian got us across the Knife Edge without issue. One night we had a lightning storm with gale force winds and rain. Thankfully, we woke to a sunny day. Learning about how the other guys handle their PD was very supportive. After seven days it was an amazing feeling of accomplishment to make it across the finish line with memories to treasure about our experience. Two thumbs up!

Brian Lance Methow, WA (2018) I thought the hardest part of the trip would be the hiking. But the hardest part was saying goodbye to everyone at the end.

Esther Hammerschlag Methow, WA (2018) We raised money, we raised awareness, and we made new friends. But the most meaningful part was sharing an incredible backpacking experience with my husband Brian-it never would have been possible without the support of Pass to Pass and the llamas.

A.C. Woolnaugh Sandpoint, ID (2017, 2018, 2019, 2021) I want to express my deepest appreciation for creating PasstoPass and for including me in the 2017 hike. It pushed me to my limit, but it was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Although at times, it seemed nearly impossible for me to continue, the support hikers and the Parky’s together provided the sense of unity and community necessary for me to take another step. While I doubt I will hike again with PtP, I will treasure this experience forever–and I’m glad I did it!

(2019)Why I Hike PasstoPass

Three years in a row I’ve hiked the PCT with PasstoPass… despite cramps, blisters, bug bites (actually, they were hornet stings), sunburn and other unpleasantness…Participating also had some pretty serious financial issues—new backpack, new tent, new camp stove, trekking poles and on and on. I hadn’t backpacked in almost 50 years. So, why did I do it and why do I plan to add 2020 as the 4th year in a row?

As a Libra, I try to stay balanced. So far, I’ve weighted things on the negative side. Here are some of the reasons I keep coming back. First and foremost are the hikers— the PWP’s, the support hikers, the llamas and the through hikers on the trail. We form a community that understands PD and supports each other. We share, we learn and we show the world what we can do. Hiking on the PCT provides unique vistas, an opportunity to challenge oneself and provides all the benefits of participating in outdoor adventures.

Advocacy, education and research are my passion and PasstoPass covers two out of three,

Finally, if you are as lucky as I am, your 20 year old grandson will ask to participate as your support hiker—two years in a row! Talk about a bonding experience and getting to know him as a man instead of a boy. When all is said and done, the scales are not even close. PasstoPass wins easily. I hope to see y’all next year.

Bill Meyer- Spokane,  WA (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) In 2015, after having successful DBS (deep brain simulation) surgery, I wanted to get back into backpacking in the high country. So I got together my nephew, Marcus and good friend, Scott and tested my ability to hike with a pack on a 4 day trip in the Enchantments. It proved to be very difficult, particularly the weight of a 40 lb pack with straps over my DBS batteries/generators. The trip was terrific but the pack was definitely a problem. I knew then if I was going to do more backpacking, I would need to carry a maximum 15 lb day pack. With or without DBS, the backpack was too much. I sent a note out through the NW Parkinson’s Foundation to find other Parkies interested in backpacking. Ken Kisch answered my call and we talked. Ken helped with recruitment and made the website, I did recruitment, sponsors and logistics and PasstoPass was born.

After some training hikes and bicycling, I had a back issue that resulted in surgery and my dropping out of the first hike (2016). But now, PasstoPass had taken hold and I became a support person until the following year when we hiked from Rainy Pass through Stehekin to Suiattle River trailhead. That hike we used llamas and we loved them– they were more flexible with our needs, carried goodies like watermelons and were the topic of conversation with everyone we met. We have since refined our planning for shorter mileage each day (about 6 miles each day) and not to exceed 1500-2000′ vertical feet per day.

Hiking in the mountains gets my adrenaline going. I am lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest. Hiking with my Parkie hikers has become my passion. We now have a community of friends including Parkies, support hikers and trail angels that make up PasstoPass.org. As John Muir said: “And into the forest [or mountains] I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”

Jo Ann Fjellman Seattle, WA (2016) I could not have hiked with a more exceptional group of people. Everyone on the team showed up completely offering 100%.

Patty Driscoll Seattle, WA (2016) Our PD group and support team climbed, swam in lakes, ate huckleberries and worked and played well together. We handled adversity and were stronger for it. Our primary goal of pushing ourselves physically with exercise to help us maintain and improve our strength and endurance to fight PD was realized.

Dave Jarnes Spokane, WA  (2016) I value the experience of  hiking on the PCT  with you and the bonds that were formed so quickly.

Ken Kisch Sammamish, WA (2016, 2017) My favorite experience during the trail was the blueberries that Jo Ann picked for my morning oatmeal.  Good company, good laughs, hard work, great scenery and even the dusty trail, all good. Stehekin was a mystical place of my dreams since childhood which finally became a reality.

Frank Hagan Issaquah, WA (2016, 2017) The real rock stars are the “parkies” who dealt with so many issues and still had the energy to help with the llamas as well as camp chores. One couldn’t ask for a better group. Brian‘s involvement was invaluable.

Joe Quinn Portland, OR (2019) Pass-to-pass was an unforgettable experience.  The beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail was incredible, but was surpassed by the beauty of determination, teamwork, compassion, and humor among our hikers.  I came home with a sense of peace and wonder that I hope will linger as long as all the great memories.  I feel privileged and truly blessed to have shared this trip with an amazing group.

Takahiro Shigemitsu  Bellevue, WA (2019, 2020, 2021)  The trip had everything – full sun, partial sun, cloudy, rain, thunder storm. And it ended in a sunny day. This resembles emotional and mental roller coaster I often go through. The trip taught me to finish strong on bright side everyday like the trip ended in a sunny day. I have more smiles on my face after the trip.


Hennig, Clare. April 1, 2022 Living with Parkinson’s: A Quest to make Hiking Accessible. GoodRx patient Stories

March 22, 2022 NW Parkinson’s Foundation Feature group in weekly update for MOVE

February 2022 Davis-Phinney News and Inspiration “Pass to Pass Hikes Connect the Wilderness, Llamas with People with Parkinson’s”

Bill Clugston ” Dancing with Llamas” NW Parkinson’s Foundation blog post 10-27-21

Travis Robinson and Judy Yarnas interview Bill Meyer and Derek Torry for a July 2021 episode of “I’m Not Dead Yet” podcast

 Takahiro Shigemitsu First Place Photo (Trail Family) and March 2021 calendar page of Washington Trail Association

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Trail Family WTA first Place 2020

Laura Gould Kennedy “Lay down the backpack” Parkinson Pathfinder Winter 2020 p. 2-3

Dr. Joe Quinn in OHSC Parkinson Center Parkinson Update Summer 2020 vFNL2

Woolnaugh, A. C. “My PCT trips with Pass to Pass for Parkinson’s” PCT Communicator Summer 2020 pp. 16-19  (linked by permission of PCTA)-PCTSummer2020

A.C. Woolnaugh in APDA Pathfinder Summer 2020 issue article starts page 16

Our 2019 Trip Hike photo in PCTA Calendar for 2020– taken by a fellow hiker- #27

Spring 2020 Outdoor Evolution Blog post by A.C.

Laura Kennedy Gould 2019 Magic Trick blog

A.C. Woolnaugh NW Parkinson’s Foundation November 2018 Blog

Brian Lance article Methow News 2018

A.C. Woolnaugh  Bonner Bee Sandpoint, ID newspaper article 2018

Jo Ann Feldman King 5 Interview 2017

World Parkinson’s Conference September 2016 Portland Oregon, Poster

Laura Kennedy Gould “Magic Trick Parkinson’s Blog” August 2016

Drawing attention to Parkinson’s Disease on the PCT” by Mark Waters. 2016 PCT Blog

From Pass to Pass: Parkinson’s Hikers Complete Nine-Day Adventure” by Seth Manthey. 2016 MJFox Blog

King5 News Story 2016 Eric Wilkerson July 2016 practice hike

King5 News Story 2016 Sula Kim August 2016 end of first hike