Trail officials are testing whether an algae bloom along the West Coast’s famous Pacific Crest Trail is putting hikers passing through a remote section of the trail in California at risk.
Earlier this month, the California State Water Board warned of algal blooms in water sources across the statewhich can prove harmful to humans and animals.
This prompted some hikers on the desert stretch of the PCT in Southern California between Tehachapi and Walker Pass to skip a roughly 90-mile section of trail, fearing their only water source was contaminated.
“We decided to skip that section because getting sick in the desert is no joke when you’re 20 miles away from the nearest town, it’s 100 degrees and there’s basically no shade,” Etienne Goldman, a 24-year-old hiker from the UK, told Newsweek.
Leaders at the Pacific Crest Trail Association said there’s no evidence yet of an algal bloom along the PCT hurting anyone.
“We have no conclusive evidence that any reports of sick hikers are caused by water sources or anything else along the PCT. It could be a viral bug picked up in a nearby trail town—or any number of other possibilities,” Southern Sierra Regional Representative Ben Barry told The Independent.
“People on social media are often quick to cite alleged reasons for illness without having any concrete evidence.”
The PCTA has sent a water sample to a lab just in case.
“The number of hikers contacting us with a health ailment is going down, but so is the total number of hikers in the area,” he added. “We’re in the process of mailing water samples to a lab for detailed analysis but don’t know how long that might take.”
Still, some are avoiding the area.
Instagram user @camino.de.postal posted that he would also be skipping a section of the trail to avoid the algal blooms, although one of his friends would be carrying on.
“I had to make a hard decision today,” he posted. “Multiple hikers were getting sick over the next section of trail and the best theory was that the water sources were contaminated. Although my friend @juliette.outdoors decided to brave it, I opted to bypass 85.6 miles to get to safer water.”