> "I doubt that many non-hikers get inspired to do the PCT"
Circa 1979, I was going up Whitney out of Whitney Portal and there was a family strewn all over the trail. We passed Mom and a teenager around 11,000, another teenagers in another mile and found Dad draped over a rock at 12,000 gasping for breath (and wondering, "why is it so hard to breath up here?" between drags on his cigarette). Apparently, Dad had been watching "America's Most Amazing. . .something" from his couch in LA, saw a story about a 91-year-old grandmother who hiked Whitney each (with a support party) and declared, "We're going to do that next year." They had all the regulation K-mart gear: the bright orange pack with the glued-together pack frame, the Fiberfill bags with the duck-printed flannel lining, the Boy Scout mess kits, and the blanket-covered canteens.
Maybe the permit-issuers will start screening for experience? GCNP asks lot of info for off-corridor overnights (arguably with good reason). The Iditarod requires you to have finished a 1,049-mile Iditarod previously or to have raced 500 miles already that year. More alarming would be "minimum gear requirements" like the 1890's Chilkoot Trail, the Iditarod, or climbing Denali.
>"They are all voters and advocates."
+1. Even if they don't hike, they can be voters and advocates. Next week, I'll go into Gates of the Arctic NP with BPL's much more studly Manfred & Sons party. I'm among maybe 1% of Alaskans who have been and perhaps 1 in 10,000 Americans. Yet, the CONCEPT of remote wilderness has enough support to have created and maintained a NP there, despite the dig-it/log-it/drill-it crowd.