Before Jackson Borg died in 2018, he was a favorite of Lake Highlands young people, charmed by his easy smile and delighted by his wicked wit. The 2012-13 Wildcat Bell Boy and Young Life leader to Austin Lake Travis students was killed while crossing I-35 on foot in Pflugerville.
Carson Woods met Borg in kindergarten at Highlander School and they made an instant connection. Frank Ruggeberg teamed up with the guys at Lake Highlands Junior High, and the trio formed a bond that lasted until Jackson’s death.
On May 13 Woods and Ruggeberg will set off on a 2,650-mile journey down the Pacific Crest Trail in remembrance of their friend.
“Jackson (Borg) was basically the center of our entire friend group,” Woods said. “Wherever he went, people wanted to be like him and would always pick up his lingo and mannerisms. Since we grew up together, we shared a ton of experiences like concerts and road trips. I even planned on moving in with him in Austin. Losing him was devastating and is still hard to even grasp.”
As days went on without Borg, Woods realized he wanted to do something big to remember his friend. He and Ruggeberg will trek the PCT, which begins in California on the U.S.-Mexico border and winds over mountains, through valleys and past lakes before ending in Washington State at the edge of Canada.
“I thought it would be cool if I could put something together that a lot of people could have a hand in. The idea is to have this trail be a tangible way for everyone to remember him at the same time and in their own way,” Woods said.
Friends can follow along via the Share the Load website here, where the guys will post real-time updates during their journey. Woods knows online followers won’t experience their exhaustion and dehydration, but, still, they can relate.
“People back home are dealing with their own struggles, yet still trying to move on with their lives,” he said. “I think those two aspects kind of parallel in some way.”
I asked why the pair couldn’t, say, walk around White Rock Lake and experience the same impact.
“The way Jackson (Borg) lived was very different from how most people live,” Woods said. “He lived with an extreme fearlessness. A lot of times, he would do things without really thinking them through, but he would go for it anyway. He took a trip to Ireland with, like, two days’ notice, I think. That way of living and decision making is a big inspiration behind our picking such a massive undertaking. Walking around the lake wouldn’t be on par with the way (Borg) lived.”
Woods and Ruggeberg plan to share stories along the way of times spent with Borg – going to junior high and high school dances together, visiting each other in college, taking off on their first no-parents camping trip … and a few that shouldn’t be repeated in a community magazine. Their website states they hope to finish “if knees don’t explode, friendships don’t implode and no one gets arrested.”
I asked which seemed most likely.
“(Ruggeberg’s) knee exploding is the most realistic,” Woods joked. “I even think some of our friends are taking bets on how long it will last.”
Supporters can aid the effort or join the trek. The pair has arranged mail boxes along the trail to receive care packages and notes of encouragement, and they’re sharing their map and schedule to allow people to link up and walk a section with the guys. If you’d like, you may donate here to Borg’s beloved Young Life.
“When we finish, I know it will go down as one of the most important things I’ve ever done, personally,” Woods said. “More importantly, I hope that it will help some people heal or cope in some way. We know that this won’t be a fix, like we end all sadness or something, but we really think it will be helpful in a lot of ways.”