Before this trek began people would often ask, “Are you hiking alone?” And though my answer was (and still is), “Yes,” truth of the matter is, you’re not completely alone on trail. Once the adventure begins, you become part of a large morphing family for which many people care.
These people are called “trail angels,” “friends of the PCT,” and “hiker volunteers.” They will sometimes provide food and refreshment when you least expect it. They might pick you up along a road walk and give you a ride into town. Some will take you into their homes.
They are strangers with kindness. They care for hikers because some have been in the same hiker shoes. Some want to care for, protect, and promote the trail, knowing hikers with boots on the ground are the primary word of mouth instrument to do so. Some just love being with people.
I met a man this week named Joe. Joe somehow contracted giardia while on the trail. How? He didn’t know and was quick to point out all water he consumed was filtered, never straight from the source. Still, it’s no fun whether on trail or not to have this bug hit you.
Joe just happened to meet up with some trail angels restocking a supply of water for thirsty hikers in the desert. He explained his situation to them. They immediately told him to jump in their truck and they drove him straight to the nearest town ER.
Once Joe was in the ER and explained his symptoms, the examining physician knew exactly what the problem was and how to treat it. He explained not only had he seen it before, but he had personal friends who experienced the same problem while hiking the PCT. He wrote out the appropriate prescriptions and even provided a little extra in the event Joe might have problems again.
Then, one of the medical technicians told Joe, “Hang on 15 minutes, and when I’m off I’ll take you to get your prescriptions filled. Then, whatever food or supplies you need let me know and I’ll take you to the store. If you’re feeling OK after that, stick with me and I’ll take you to the trailhead so you can get back on your way.”
Joe began to cry.
All these people were complete strangers, and in a moment of need provided extraordinary care. I purposely call it “extraordinary” simply because it’s not typical. It IS out of the ordinary and not something we see everyday. It’s receiving a free gift with no strings attached. Good Samaritans up close and personal.
To those who demonstrate their care for strangers, whether on trail or not, thank you, thank you for your kindness!