BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Hikers going from Mexico to Canada encountered a "quite dangerous" and "very scary" stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail near Tehachapi that had signs declaring it was rifle range and had nail-studded booby traps embedded in the trail, a hiker told the Kern County Sheriff's Department Thursday.
Scott Williams, 57, a former probation officer from Martinez, gave sheriff's Sgt. Richard Wood one of the cement cylinders with nails sticking up that Williams said he took from the crest of the trail about eight miles southeast of Tehachapi.
Wood, noting there have been some disputes around the trail mostly over illegal off-road motorcycles and other vehicles, said that after receiving the report Thursday afternoon, he asked a deputy and a Bureau of Land Management official to check it out.
Williams said he's alerted the Pacific Crest Trail Association and members of a much larger group of hikers, numbering in the hundreds, also making its way from Mexico to Canada. He said his three-man group was among the first to reach that part of the trail.
Mountains to the south were so covered with snow that he and his friends rented cars to bypass the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains, he said.
He said his group came upon the problem Wednesday afternoon and then hiked to Tehachapi to report it to the sheriff's department.
Williams said he found signs saying the "owner" was declaring the section a rifle range. He also found broken bottles in the trail that appeared to have been shot, about 20 or 30 nail booby traps in and along the trail, barbed wire across the trail and lots of no trespassing signs.
Williams said he did not hear any gunshots nor see anyone with a gun as he hiked through the area.
"This is one of the premier trails in the world," he said. It goes 2,650 miles from Campo, east of San Diego, to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington.
It is a public trail designed for hikers and pack animals. Williams said he was worried about people wearing soft-soled shoes that could be maimed by stepping on nails.
Wood said hikers haven't been an issue among the property owners along the trail, but offroad vehicles have raised a ruckus. The trail has been difficult to find in some spots, but workers are expected this year to improve the markings.