August 27, 2013


Book tells of cancer survivor’s Pacific trail hike

TrailPhoto provided by John Casterline
Cortland native John Casterline is seen in 2012 posing at Fuller Ridge, near Idyllwild, Calif. Casterline has written a book about his hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Staff Reporter

Cortland native and cancer survivor John Casterline can now add author to his list of accomplishments.
In the last few years Casterline, 70, hiked 1,561 miles of the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada.
His new book — “Peaks & Valleys: A Hike of Hope,” which hit stores in May — chronicles his voyage and tells about the rewards of pushing one’s body to the limits and overcoming extreme challenges.
A stage-four lung cancer survivor, Casterline has always raised awareness of cancer and he is donating the proceeds from sales of the first 2,000 copies to the American Lung Association. After those 2,000 sales, 50 percent of all proceeds will go to the American Lung Association and charity.
Casterline struggled with various setbacks along the way such as illness, fatigue and injury. But he never gave up and he kept his spirits high with the help of support from family and friends.
Casterline plans at some point in the future to complete the remaining leg of the voyage, picking up where he left off in Oregon.
He also must confront the most challenging leg of the trip, a 260-mile trek in California he avoided because of its extreme altitude and daily climbs up six passes in six days.
“Every time I stop, that mountain is calling me back,” Casterline said Monday.
He describes with awe the solitude he experiences amid the vastness of the Sierra Nevada mountains but he cannot quite explain it except to say the mountains hold a certain power over him.
Casterline is an Orlando, Fla., resident but went to high school in Cortland. He spent 21 years in the Navy and then another 21 years at 7-Eleven Inc. as a field consultant until retiring in July 2006.
One week after retiring in 2006 he was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, a diagnosis he beat with aggressive chemotherapy treatment and by being diligent with daily medications.
He also attributes his health to his physical activity and positive mental outlook.
“A positive mental attitude is more than just believing you can beat it,” Casterline said. “It’s knowing you can and will beat it.”
He describes aggressively sticking to routine exercise even on days he does not want to and by administering medication at 5 a.m. daily and making his concoctions of healthy juices each day even if it is time-consuming. These things, along with early detection, were key to his survival, he said.
Casterline started the hike in April 2011 at age 68. That first year the hike was curtailed after about 970 miles, due to a severe infection that hospitalized him. He picked up again in 2012 and hiked more than 370 miles.
This year he hiked about 210 miles but was taking time off from hiking to vacation with his wife, Susan, this month in Glacier National Park in Montana.
Casterline hopes the book will help combat what he sees as a stigma against lung cancer, which he says many people view as a smoker’s disease and therefore not worth treating.
“Twenty percent of all lung cancer happens to people who never smoked,” said Casterline, who was a smoker. “It’s not just a smoker’s disease.”
Casterline described himself as “totally in remission” now and said although he has never authored a book before, he enjoyed writing one. He started working on it in October 2012, and with the help of friends, he had it published by May.
He took to the task of writing as he does everything: with diligence and perseverance, putting in long hours each day.
Casterline’s book can be ordered at


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