One foot in front of another, one foot in front of another. Here they were again, executing the same monotonous routine that had defined them almost daily for nearly five months. One foot in front of another, one foot in front of another.

Now, as a warm sun shone at 10:35 a.m., Chad Worth and Megan Farrell moved those feet along a switchback on a graded trail. A clearing in the trees ahead revealed their promised land: The Canadian border beckoned.

The backpacks, usually weighing between 15 and 30 pounds each with food and camping supplies, turned light. The fatigue from moving those feet back and forth for more than 2,500 miles turned to euphoria.

The Pacific Crest Trail was conquered. Worth, an Antioch resident, and Farrell, his girlfriend of three years, had won. Their challenge, to hike from the Mexican border into Canada while traversing three states through the Sierra Nevada mountains on one of the country's most challenging and unique trails, was successful.

"Pretty emotional," Farrell, a 27-year-old Santa Cruz native, said of the moment on Sept. 24 when the long journey ended. "You're so happy. All we could do was cry until we started to laugh. And then, you're so relieved that it's over and that you've accomplished what seemed like this impossible thing to do. And then you're sad, because you don't want to have to say goodbye to all the other people you've met along the way."


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Worth, who had dreamed of walking the trail since he was 14 and turned 28 five days before finishing, said: "You run the gamut."

It's a statement that may best sum up this journey of a lifetime. The trail is 2,669 miles and runs through high and low deserts, old-growth forests and alpine country through California, Oregon and Washington. It is maintained entirely by volunteers and offers easy and difficult hiking through flat grounds and hills. Approximately 300 hikers a year try to walk its full length. Only about 180 succeed, according to the trail's website.

Worth said it was a perfect challenge for a couple who met while earning degrees at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Both always harbored a love for the outdoors, Worth said, adding that the timing was right because both were in a transition time in their lives.

In the end, Farrell said the hike changed their lives forever.

"It restored my faith in humanity like nothing I've done ever," Farrell said. "I've never felt so in alignment with myself."

Worth and Farrell set out from Campo, in San Diego County, on April 26.

Four months, 29 days later, Worth, Farrell and 10 other people, many of whom they'd hiked with for days, made it to the end of the line: Manning Park in British Columbia, Canada.

They completed the trek in 152 days, taking only 15 days off. They hiked an average 19.5 miles each time they walked.

Along the way, they endured a 13-day stretch without a shower, hiked through a tunnel of brush in cold rain at night without a clearing in which to camp, then discovered their food was frozen -- "one of those nights, I didn't think I'd make it," Farrell said -- and destroyed most of their clothes from sheer use.

Worth wore one shirt "every day for five straight months." Farrell admits: "I don't know what body odor is anymore."

But 100 miles in -- "further than I'd hiked in my life," Farrell said -- both said they were filled with a sense that their goal was attainable, and once that belief set in, their journey became eased by what hikers call "Trail Magic."

"You meet people from all over the world, and as you move along the trail, you bond with them in a way that helps you understand, 'We're all in this together,'" Worth said. "You gel like a team, and ... you wind up witnessing or committing small, personal acts of kindness, maybe to help a person who's struggling. ... It becomes community. And then that community grows."

They lived mostly on beans, rice, lentils and dehydrated meat. The trail offers areas to replenish supplies, allowing the two to store up in bulk. They slept in sleeping bags, occasionally without a tent.

They trained informally for the journey by spending the previous six months skiing, with some hiking, in Mammoth Lakes.

"Going in, you picture a romantic adventure ahead of you," Farrell said. "Then you learn early on, it's not romantic at all. But at the same time, you learn to depend on each other, and you come together as one unit, and you become stronger in each other."

As for their next great adventure?

"That's not romantic, either," Worth joked. "Get a job."

Still, that task doesn't seem nearly as daunting after the lessons learned along the trail.

"We'd get up every day and we'd have a place to go. Get up and move those feet one in front of another," Worth said. "It's a good arrow for life."

Contact Rick Hurd in Walnut Creek at 925-945-4780 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.