PCT Terminus: Mexican Border

Final days of Run While You Can:  

Second to last day of filming near Campo


Jim and Lucy arrive

Sam and Lucy get to talk

With the cameras rolling

Ivan and Jonas Marcinko with the helicopter they made


Putting the heli into action


Sam's fan section at the finish


All set up at the terminus


Sam approaches


Sam and Lucy walk arm in arm to the finish




Sam signs the register


John, Lucy, and Eric look on


Mother and Son embrace


Sam and Chloe


Sam and cinematographer Ben are finally allowed to interact


Team Awesome


The good life in Palm Springs



Desert, Dessert Delights

October 12, 2011 Apart from rattlesnakes, runaway bandits, and the threat of death by dehydration, the desert is quite advantageous. For filming a movie of course. There is a reason why Hollywood films all of its movies here. It is desolate and expansive, which can serve a.) to provide the foundation to recreate almost any environment, or b.)  as a compliment to showcase or enhance the tone of a film. We often rely on the latter because we don't have the money to recreate Times Square, but we also benefit from a third advantage, often forgotten by the Michael Bays out there, which is visibility of the Pacific Crest Trail of course. Since the terrain has gradually changed from forest to desert, access to the trails and the success of our shots, have gotten easier. Not a lot easier, but easier. This day provides a perfect example of the aforementioned easy access.


Sam woke up at 4:45 a.m. this morning and began his 40+ mile day. We woke up a little bit later than that and found a place where the trail crosses an isolated road, and made it our destination, leaving a cloud of dust in our wake. The road to the crossing seemed to have been made by a roller coaster engineer complete with drops so steep you couldn't see the the pavement until you were flying down it. Ordinarily, I might have enjoyed this, but when you are driving your house, there is a lot more at stake. Plus, it's a rental. Gingerly, we drove our way to the trail, and scouted a location.  According to the "dog collar" GPS tracking system, Sam was over 5 miles away, allowing us ample time to set up and eat lunch. The Garmin GPS device, normally used to keep track of hunting dogs, but for our purposes to "hunt" Sam, has been instrumental in our planning, since we are actually able to pinpoint where he is. Needless to say, many of our strategies have been unconventional, but mostly successful.

For God's sake Ben, smile!

The location we picked out allowed visibility of half a mile of the trail, making Sam a little white speck when our lenses first caught him. Ben stayed wide with his camera and followed him as he charged along the meandering trail. As he approached, we wondered what it must be like to be completely alone all day and then suddenly, without warning, bump into a group of people silently filming/photographing you. Strange, I would imagine. After filming a quick break at our RV, Sam took off to finish the last 8 miles for the day, and we took the roller coaster route back down, in search of food and gas. After refueling, we made equally crucial purchases of  neon sunglasses and local beef jerky, in order to demonstrate how we've fully adapted to the local culture. Sam was scheduled to leave at 2 a.m. the next morning, and given the excellent footage we'd captured in the past few days, we decided not to film him leaving in the dark, and splurged on a campground for the night instead.  A pool! Electric outlets! Running Water! Level ground! These are the finest of luxuries, and they did not go unnoticed, or unused.

The next morning, Ben, Jon-Michael, and Marion woke up early to film the sunrise in the desert valley, and we met John and Eric later that afternoon at a trail crossing right next to Highway 58, where Sam would be coming in later. Like the Chevron station at Snoqualmie, WA and the impound lot in Ashland, OR, we made the side of Highway 58 our own by furnishing the gravel turnoff with folding chairs. Jon-Michael and Ben filmed the wind turbines, and barbed-wire fence along the trail, before capturing Sam arrive in the 90 degree heat late in the afternoon. Sam, now pushing harder than ever, has regimented himself to 50 miles per outing, punctuated by 5 hours of rest in between. He promptly went to sleep, to be woken up at midnight for the next leg. Our mission for the day a success, we shared some beers with Eric and John and ate chicken and rice for dinner. Having adjusted to the sound of 18-wheelers whizzing by, our decision to stay put for the night fit within our increasingly low standards, and I slept soundly. Our crew has become efficient and dynamic, a well-oiled machine. But just because we are close to the end, that doesn't make the miles easier for us, or Sam. The days are still long and tolling, we are just more used to it now.  The next day, we went back to LA for perhaps our final break, as Sam barrels towards the border of Mexico, like Thelma and Louise, with the fuzz hot on their trail.


Until next time,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran


More pics:


Badwater Baby

October 9, 2011 For those of you hardcore fans who read the Run While You Can website as well as ours, you will know by now that because of a major snow storm in the Sierras, Sam and his team have made the difficult to decision to forgo the PCT speed record attempt. As the storm approached last week, the team tossed around several ideas for a plan B, but even if Sam did forge ahead into the storm, with appropriate equipment and emergency support, his attempt would be too slow for record pace, and not mention, extremely dangerous. As Sam has always said, the ultimate goal of Run While You Can was never to break the record, but to use the record-attempt as a platform to raise $250,000 for Parkinson's. The idea behind Sam's traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail is about enduring extreme mental and physical challenges as a way of honoring his mother's own struggles with Parkinson's. So, while it was a difficult decision for Sam and his team to bypass 400 miles of the PCT, the essence of this journey remains. As Support Director John Bernhardt says, they "certainly wanted to keep the spirit of the expedition alive," and so, as an alternative to this stretch of the PCT, but in keeping with the spirit of the journey, Sam is currently running the Badwater Trail in Death Valley.

Badwater Trail at Death Valley

This 135 mile trail begins Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation the entire country (282 feet BELOW sea level), and ends at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 states at 14,000 feet. As if this wasn't extreme enough, Death Valley boasts the hottest, driest climate in North America. The Badwater Trail is certainly in keeping with the physical and mental challenge of the PCT, and brings new challenges as well. Much of the trail is paved, which is a completely different terrain than Sam's body is used to. Additionally, Sam is upping his daily mileage to two 50-mile days, one 35 mile day, finishing with the Mount Whitney summit on the fourth day. Currently, Sam has completed most of the trail and is camping at the base of Mount Whitney as I write. Tomorrow he will attempt to summit and then head to Walker Pass to finish the last 650 miles of the PCT, where I presume he will drink a margarita and take a long nap.


A few days ago, Marion and I hopped in the RV, which we parked on Sunset Boulevard and have been anxiously feeding the meter for every two hours, and maneuvered our way out of Los Angeles out to Death Valley. The drive took a little bit longer than expected, like three hours longer, but it was important that we stop and buy cupcakes for John since it was his birthday. Plus, we were too enthralled by the amazing scenery to care. As a New England native, born and raised, the sand dunes and compacted rock cliffs were completely alien to me, or maybe I was the alien, since it felt like I was on a different planet.  That you can see for miles, was a huge blessing, making our job of finding Sam on the trail easy. We didn't have to worry about getting lost on the wrong forest road, bad walkie talkie reception, or even Sam's spontaneous naps that foil our approximation of  his arrival, because there was only one road, and Sam was going to be next to it. Even if he did decided to curl up and take a nap, we would still be able to see him. At this point, Marion and I started belting out Wide Open Spaces by the Dixie Chicks.

Storm looming over Death Valley

Dark Skies

As predicted, we eventually found Sam, jogging at a steady pace and drove ahead to meet John and Eric, where we would film Sam arriving. Because Marion had promised Ben, Jeff, and Jon-Michael a full week off, which is completely necessary for the survival of this job, I worked the sound, and Marion worked the camera. After getting myself slightly tangled in the sound equipment, I managed to hook the lav mic up to Sam, while Marion filmed and interviewed him talking about the recent changes. As Sam was talking, dark heavy clouds rolled in overhead, and we heard thunder in the distance, preceded by flashes of lightening. Sam and Eric, who was to join Sam on the next stretch, agreed that being completely exposed to the storm in a wide open desert was not "prudent," and decided to wait for it to pass. Since Marion and I had lot of work to do in Los Angeles we left the boys in their warm and cozy RV, and drove, through the storm, back home. After a productive week here, we are headed to Walker Pass, where we will remain on the trail until the Mexican Border!

RV Chillin'

Until next time,

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran

A Day at Donner Pass

October 4, 2011

Sam and Sam

A "brief" recap of Donner Pass is in order. This day was monumental for us and our film, thus this blog post is of equal stature. I know it is long, but please, bear with me until the end, because if you don't you'll never find out what happens to the film crew dangling over hot lava! Just kidding, please just read.

October 1st put Sam at Donner Pass with Nelle Fortenberry, producer, and member of the Board of Directors of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Michael's son, Sam Fox - an ambassador of the Foundation, as well as several supporters from the Lake Tahoe area. Because Sam is donating the money he raises to MJFF, the foundation is including a segment of him in a video for their annual benefit, and hired our services to film it. The night before filming the segment, Nelle treated us to a delicious dinner at Stella in the town of Truckee near Lake Tahoe. Marion and I donned our best formalwear, (and by formalwear, I mean the last clean shirt I had), and reunited with our favorite support director, John Bernhardt, who, happily, has made a full recovery.

Storm's a'brewin' in Tahoe

The food was delicious, and our conversation with Nelle compelling. Mostly, we talked about Sam and the nitty gritty of the project and film, but Nelle also shared with us some of the exciting developments at the Michael J. Fox Foundation regarding groundbreaking treatments for Parkinson's. She is excited about new therapies that will ease the suffering of Parkinson's patients, significantly increasing quality of life. And she is hopeful that, with continued funding, a cure is within reach. Listening to Nelle speak so passionately on the real possibility of a cure for Parkinson's reinforced the impact of Sam's efforts and the role that the documentary can play in rallying people around the cause. Post-dinner, we talked strategy for the next day, then said goodnight and fell into our bunks. Exhausted, as always, from dealing with the usual twist and turn of daily events ("Sam's here, no he's here"), I desperately needed sleep. Unfortunately, Marion and I unwittingly chose the parking lot of a train station as our sleeping accommodations for the night, and were gently awoken by the sound of screeching horns and clanging metal every two hours as freight trains rumbled by.

Needless to say, I awoke at 6 a.m. the next day feeling fresh as the morning dew. In keeping with my Den Mother job description, I was delegated to go buy breakfast food for our visitors, so I forced myself out of bed, fueled by the prospect of hot coffee. After throwing bagels, donuts, and yogurt into the cart in zombie-like state, I started driving to Donner Pass, but was suddenly stopped by a road block assembled for another film crew shooting a car commercial. The road to Donner Pass coils around the mountain terrain like a paved python, providing an ideal environment to showcase the handling of a sports car to sell to thrill-seeking customers. It's also just so darn pretty. Being in Tahoe reminds me that my job is awesome, and that at least I'm not one of those Production Assistants planted along the road with a walkie-talkie until someone tells them to move. I waited for the state trooper to wave me along, and kept my fingers crossed that a Ferrari wouldn't drive through our shot further up the road.

Sam, Nelle, and the crew filming an intro segment

I met up with the rest of the crew, and we led Nelle and Sam to the location Marion and I had picked out to film the two Sams meeting. The scouting of locations is a delicate art, requiring tact, and the consideration of several factors. Throughout the filming of this documentary, we often drive or hike to beautiful and remote locales that require no effort to seem...well, beautiful and remote. But while Donner Pass is literally minutes from some of most dramatic wilderness I have ever beheld, it is also the location of a popular ski school, conveniently accessible to residents of the Bay Area via I-80, and surrounded by power lines (great cell phone reception.) Situations like this particular one, in which we need to depict Sam in a "wild" setting, to illustrate the ruggedness of his journey to the audience, challenge us to consider our surroundings more carefully than usual. This is not to say that we're faking it or creating any illusions here folks, but we, as filmmakers, are given an instant before the viewer makes their judgement. Thus, the sound of a car going by, or the site of a telephone pole in frame is distracting to a viewer unfamiliar with the setting, and can jeopardize the credibility of the director, the crew, and especially, the subject. Even without the civilization factor, we want to film Sam in beautiful scenery in order to accurately, and aesthetically portray the PCT in our film. (Not an easy task, considering - some of you may have noticed -our subject is a moving target.) So, when we get the chance to film him in any kind of wilderness, we take full advantage of the opportunity, and when we film in a populated area we choose our shots with care.

When scouting locations for Donner Pass, Marion and I drove down to Tahoe a day early to look for areas along the trail that are:

a. pretty

b. protected from the highway

c. protected from the wind, and

d. are void of any eyesores like telephone poles or chubby sunbathing nude couples.

So money, baby

After some searching, we managed to find a location that fit all of these qualifications, and filmed the Sam and Sam rendezvous. Having just completed 70 miles, Sam continued to the parking lot to take a well-deserved nap. This gave us the opportunity to talk with Jennifer Johnston, senior director of research at Elan Pharmaceuticals, which specializes in neurological diseases like Parkinson's, who also happens to serve on the Michael J. Fox Foundation Scientific Advisory Board. An avid trail runner, she heard about Sam and Run While You Can and decided to get involved by joining him for 100 miles after donations from her colleagues exceeded $5,000. Jennifer rightly anticipated that Sam would be mentally and physically exhausted, and made it her mission to keep him on pace. One of the most difficult aspects of Sam's journey on the trail is that no one is there to motivate him, share his gripes, or even just talk to him, so Jennifer, with her seasoned knowledge of the trail and optimism was a welcome partner.

Sam coming in at Donner Pass


The rendez-vous

The Amazing Pacer, Jennifer Johnston


Back at the parking lot, a small group of supporters from the Tahoe area had gathered and cringed as Sam unbound his feet from the confines of athletic tape and soggy sneakers. While Marion, Nelle, and the film crew scouted another location for the interview, I had the privilege of meeting Run While You Can's amazing supporters, who brought the most useful gifts: food and checks. Chloe's friends Kate and Steve came from Reno with a box of pastries and a cooler of beer. Sam's aunt, Cynthia arrived with a table full of snacks, including homemade beef jerky! Tattie, a Tahoe native, and member of the trail-running community, (aka. my new heroes after reading Christopher McDougall's Born to Run (seriously, it will knock your smelly running socks off)), brought a check along with kind words of advice and encouragement.

Arriving at the Support Point


Sam's hardcore fans


Towards the end of our fete in the dusty, windy parking lot, carrying a pie and gluten-free treats for Marion, Michelle Turley, wife of current PCT speed record-holder Scott Williamson, arrived. For Scott, who started two weeks before Sam, hoping to break his personal best, this is his THIRTEENTH thru-hike on the PCT, all of which have been unsupported. An unsupported thru-hike means that instead of relying on a support crew, he mails packages of food and other needs to himself along the trail, sleeps in a tent, and walks alone. While it is natural to assume a rivalry between a record-holder and an attempting record-breaker, Scott and Michelle have been nothing but gracious and supportive of Sam and Run While You Can, and we were all honored that Michelle stopped by. Good luck Scott!

Sam and Michelle finally meet

With our new friends in tow, we set up chairs by a small lake close to the southbound trailhead. There, Sam and Sam finally got to sit down face-to-face to talk about fears, hopes, dreams, challenges, and what it's like having a parent with Parkinson's. While Ben and Jon-Michael covered the setup, careful to keep Jeff's hovering boom-mic out of frame, Nelle orchestrated the interview as MJF's Sam asked thought-provoking questions. After the interview, we said goodbye to Sam and Jennifer as they made their way to Barker Pass, and filmed a few final segments of MJF's Sam introducing Sam to the camera, in manner of Bear Grylls or David Attenborough. We were so appreciative of Sam and Nelle's trust in our crew as well as their patience with not only the whirlwind day, but also with the actual gusty wind. After we wrapped on Sam, we packed up and headed off to Barker Pass, as the day faded into our rearview mirror and we began to plan for the next.

Nelle orchestrates the interview


Sam talks to Sam


Thank you for staying posted!

Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran