3/31/2012 10:52:00 PM Five young men hike from Arizona to Chicago for a good cause - and their treasured Cubs
A group of five Cubs fans from several different states, including P.J. Fisher of Prescott, are hiking from Mesa to Chicago with a goat named Wrigley to generate money for cancer research while hoping to end the Cubs franchise’s longstanding “Curse of the Billy Goat.”
In late February a self-described "ragtag group" of Chicago Cubs fans, including 25-year-old native Prescott resident P.J. Fisher, began a cross-country hike from Mesa to the Windy City's iconic Wrigley Field with two disparate goals in mind.
For the entirety of the trip, the contingent's five men are focusing not only on generating donations for cancer research - but breaking the hard-luck franchise's infamous "Curse of the Billy Goat."
While traversing its route to Chicago, the outfit of 20- and 30-somethings has been toting around heavy backpacks and a goat named Wrigley in a three-wheeled cart in hopes of snapping a 67-year-old curse that numerous Cubs fans superstitiously believe has kept their beloved franchise from advancing to and winning a World Series ever since.
(In fact, the Cubs have not won the championship since 1908. The supposed curse occurred in 1945, the franchise's last World Series appearance that Chicago lost in seven games to the Detroit Tigers.)
On Feb. 25 the group of Cubs backers, whose six original members met while working together in Alaska's Denali Park and hail from Arizona, Washington state, Oregon, Michigan and Tennessee, left on foot from Hohokam Park - the Cubs' spring training home in Mesa - to their intended destination. (The sixth member, Austin Roberts, stopped participating two weeks into the trip because of an injured Achilles tendon.)
Over the past 36 days, a quintet composed of Fisher, Matt Gregory, Kyle Townsend, Blake Ferrell and Philip Aldrich has averaged about 20 miles of walking per day (with some time off thrown in), although occasionally at night to avoid the Southwestern heat. They often wear Cubs hats and T-shirts, receive food and water from locals, and camp in select spots near railroad tracks.
Every evening, Gregory blogs about the men's experiences via text messages that he sends from his iPhone to appear on blog.crackthecurse.com.
By Day 17, for example, Gregory discussed how they had crossed the Arizona-New Mexico border and into the Land of Enchantment.
Last Monday, the group reached Ruidoso, N.M., located about 184 miles southeast of Albuquerque, and it has continued to hike through the arid New Mexico desert, at least partly along Interstate highways.
The men have endured bad blisters on their feet, high winds and dust storms, being mistaken for illegal aliens, and being forced to switch routes off the Interstate and into rural areas on orders from the police.
This past Friday, they completed Day 35 of the trip, feeding and providing plenty of water for Wrigley the goat all along the way.
Gregory noted in his blog the friendliness of the residents in the rural areas near Roswell who delivered snacks and cold beverages to them as they trekked across the desert. Among them was a Roswell woman named Pat, formerly of Chicago.
Every once in a while, the group has run into TV, radio and newspaper reporters producing stories about its journey. Little more than a week into the trip, a documentary filmmaker shot footage of the men hiking near Tucson.
The Daily Courier reached Fisher late Saturday afternoon on his cell phone in the remote New Mexico desert. He said he and the other guys in the group were doing well and planned to reach Texas in the next couple days.
Fisher grew up in Prescott and later became an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. He met the other men last summer in Alaska and soon was inspired by their eagerness to hike for a good cause while attempting to crack the Cubs' curse.
"You can't not root for the Cubbies," Fisher said.
Gregory, 32, is the impetus behind the trip. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, he became a Cubs fan more than two decades ago as a follower of former franchise great Ryne Sandberg, who hails from Spokane, Wash.
In the past, Gregory has hiked in support of cancer research, largely in memory of his mother, who died of cancer at age 43. He once completed a 5,000-mile solo hike from Bellingham, Wash., to Key West, Fla., to generate money for the cause.
During this current trek, Gregory and his contingent have been accepting donations from folks they've met all along the way that will go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The Seattle-based nonprofit organization conducts research to prevent, detect and treat cancer as well as other life-threatening diseases.
On the group's website, www.crackthecurse.com, they also sell "Crack the Curse" T-shirts for $19.95 each and stylish sunglasses with blue frames and red lenses at $25 apiece in support of cancer research. People can also donate directly to the Fred Hutchinson Center on that website.
To follow the men on the rest of their trip, log on to www.crackthecurse.com or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CrackTheCurse.