17 Years, 8,000 Hikers: Trail Angels Scout and Frodo Retire from PCT Hosting

Seventeen years ago, Barney “Scout” and Sandy “Frodo” Mann welcomed a group of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers into their San Diego home for the first time, offering a place to rest, a warm meal, and invaluable advice and support. Little did they know that this humble beginning would burgeon into a legendary tradition in which they’d become the very definition of selfless trail angels. 

Over two decades, the pair — now iconic celebrities within the PCT community — have hosted 8,000 hikers, all of whom spent their last night before embarking on their northbound trek at the trail’s terminus in Campo, California, sleeping under the Mann’s fig tree.

This couple didn’t just provide shelter and sustenance. They also fostered a community, taught line dancing (a skill, Scout claims, that is more important than you’d think), and imparted wisdom that would echo along all 2,650 miles of hikers’ journeys.

Now, they’re retiring. As they close this chapter, their story stands as a testament to their unimaginable generosity and enduring bonds formed in their backyard.

After 17 years, Scout and Frodo retire from hosting PCT thru-hikers in 2024. Photo Credit: Scout

The Rise to Trail Angeling

Scout and Frodo have been married for 46 years. Both PCT finishers, Scout is also a Triple Crowner and author of the book Journeys North. Frodo is a retired PhD molecular biologist and teacher. They began their journey as trail angels back in 2006, inspired by the immense kindness they encountered during their own PCT thru-hike. 

That first year they hosted 17 hikers, many of whom they still keep in touch with. “We were so lucky to experience so much kindness on our own thru-hike, and it’s a privilege to be with each and every one of these folks on the cusp of this journey of a lifetime,” Scout recalls. “We thought this would be a wonderful way to touch the trail.”

Their home quickly became a desert sanctuary for hikers. Twice as many hikers came through their door the following year, and by 2019 (the last year they hosted before the pandemic), they were averaging 35 to 40 hikers per night, with a record-breaking 1,329 total guests that year.

According to the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA), 4,748 northbound permits were issued in 2019. That means nearly a third of the 2019 northbound thru-hiking class started their journeys with Scout and Frodo.

At their home in San Diego, Scout and Frodo offered immeasurable support to thru-hikers, including pack shake-downs, safety talks, and social connections, in addition to a place to stay. Photo Credit: Scout

At their San Diego home, the Manns offered a haven of comfort and support, providing home-cooked meals, logistical help, and social activities. Anxious thru-hikers could expect a warm welcome, transportation to REI for gear, assistance with obtaining SIM cards, food, and fuel, and shuttles to the terminus in Campo.

“We wanted to relieve thru-hikers’ stress at the beginning of this very big, momentous occasion,” Scout explains. “We provide these services at no charge and we do not accept donations. It’s as much a gift to ourselves as this is to them.”

Measurable (and Immeasurable) Impact on the PCT Community

Scout and Frodo’s influence has extended far beyond the boundaries of their backyard. Through after-dinner talks, they instilled Leave No Trace principles and a sense of responsibility in hikers that resonated on trail.

“PCTA employees and rangers would always tell us that when they interacted with hikers, they could tell who stayed at our house,” Scout recalls. “We had a chance to positively affect behavior out there.”

Many hikers have written to thank the pair for this guidance, recounting moments when Frodo’s advice to “make wise decisions” played back in their minds during treacherous sections of the trail.

“We probably saved a few lives,” says Scout. “People come in some of the most ill-prepared, neediest ways and we have the chance to do something extraordinary for them.”

One particularly inspiring story is that of Zelzin Aketzalli, Mexico’s first Triple Crown hiker. In 2017, she stayed with Scout and Frodo, speaking no English and having very little backpacking experience. Scout made it his mission to ensure she left their house “with a fighting chance to do the PCT and be safe.” Aketzalli went on to complete not only the PCT but also the Continental Divide and Appalachian trails. 

Hosting thru-hikers from around the globe, they’ve seen the percentage of international hikers rise from below 10 percent to well over a third.

Their thru-hiker haven has been the backdrop for countless memories. They recall numerous touching stories, such as the couple who first met at their house and later gave their firstborn the middle name Scout. 

Once, Scout and Frodo found themselves assisting with a unique request: a thru-hiker wanted to propose to his girlfriend at the monument of the southern PCT terminus. “Frodo laughed,” Scout recounts. “She’s the scientist between us. Whereas I’m the romantic. We knew we needed to make it happen.”

The pair was instrumental in coordinating the proposal, complete with a literal red carpet to the monument lined with fellow thru-hikers and 100 lilies. A month ago, Scout received a message from the couple that they’d recently celebrated their 10-year anniversary. This memory brings Scout to tears. “Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? What a special life moment to be involved in,” he says.

Another year, Scout recalls running through his neighborhood to track down the postman and hand-deliver a package to a new hiker just in the knick of time. These stories are just a few examples of the Manns’ dedication and the profound connections they formed within the PCT community. 

Lessons Learned From Hosting Thousands

Hosting so many hikers each year came with significant challenges. The logistical effort was immense, from handling hundreds of resupply packages to organizing daily transportation — all of which they initially did by hand.

Between 2015 and 2016, the couple developed a streamlined website to manage reservations and volunteer schedules and address frequently asked questions. Following COVID-19, they also limited the number of hikers they took in each night to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

“These things enabled us to do what we love best: interact with hikers,” Scout explains. “This couldn’t work without a lot of behind-the-scenes becoming more and more efficient.”

The hosts had no expectations of help from thru-hikers, emphasizing that they wanted hikers’ stays to help them physically and mentally prepare for the trail. However, Scout recounts how visitors often assisted with shopping and chores around the house.

At the height of their hosting gig, Scout recalls twice-weekly Costco trips with multiple carts full of food. Ever the scientist, Frodo developed a grocery list organized by location of food in the store, enabling their group to complete shopping trips in under half an hour. 

Scout often recruited a few thru-hikers to go grocery shopping with him each week, making these trips much quicker and more efficient. Photo Credit: Scout

“One of our (Scout and Frodo’s) strongest suits has been working on a joint project together, and hosting has just been one big project,” Scout says with a fond smile. “We see where each of us is best at covering and just naturally fill in. When one feels like a deer in the headlights, we have each other’s backs.”

Scout and Frodo also welcomed a few live-in volunteers each year and began working with locals to outsource shuttling to the terminus instead. In 2022, they partnered with Dee and Paul Milosch, who run the PCT Southern Terminus Shuttle. Their transportation operates March 1 through May 31 and begins accepting reservations when PCT permits are released in November. 

In addition, the Miloschs take on the responsibility of bringing hikers to REI for a gear stock-up and partner with the non-profit Camp Lockett Equestrian and Events Facility (CLEEF) to offer camping near the terminus. 

“It took a lot off our plate while hosting knowing these thru-hikers were in good hands, and Dee and Paul would shuttle them, do a safety talk after dinner, and all that,” says Scout. “We wanted to help support their business they’re growing. It really makes us feel better about leaving, too.”

What’s Next for Scout and Frodo?

While the pair notoriously “retired” back in 2022, Scout wants the people to know: this time, this is it.

“After 2020, we felt like we were done. In 2022, I drowned my sorrows by hiking the Arizona Trail,” Scout recalls with a laugh. “But, we still felt like we had some unfinished business. We always get emails and letters from past thru-hikers, but what really got us that year was even more people than usual who articulated the impact we’d had, and that really drove it home.”

This year, however, Scout senses there’s more finality to it. They only announced it privately, waiting until the 8,000th hiker passed over their doorstep. In a symbolic passing of the torch, the Manns handed over their signature PCT flag that hung outside their home to the Miloschs, who are committed to continuing the legacy of hikers supporting hikers.

“Their 8,000th hiker was a gal that rode the shuttle with us,” says Dee. “We just thought it was the end of the season, not the end. We’re flabbergasted and honored to have their blessing; it’s a really good feeling.”

The symbolic “passing of the torch” to trail angels and shuttle drivers Dee and Paul Milosch. Photo Credit: Scout

Looking ahead, Scout feels it’s time to step back and focus on their own adventures. “We want to knock off Frodo’s bucket list while we still can. I’d like to get more of a bandwidth for my next book. And we have grandkids who only have one youth. We want to be there for that,” Scout explains. 

Scout and Frodo’s influence on the PCT community is immeasurable. Their home was more than a place to rest; it was a hub of kindness, learning, and camaraderie. As they move on to new adventures, their legacy will continue through the thousands of lives they’ve touched and the community they’ve helped build.

Reflecting on their journey, Scout says, “When we are hosting, we are so alive and have this amazing synergy of giving and receiving, of fostering kindness in this world, of being able to make people’s dreams come true.”

As Scout and Frodo embark on their next chapter, the PCT community will forever be changed by the angels who made the trail a little brighter for all who passed through.

Keep up with Scout and Frodo’s adventures on Instagram.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Stace : Jun 18th

    Excellently written piece full of humanity and grace.

  • Kylie : Jun 24th

    Missed meeting you both by only one year, we’re coming in 2025 🙂

    Thank you for so many years of support and information, Scout and Frodo, you’ve left a lasting legacy that’s for sure. Here’s to many more adventures.


What Do You Think?