Sunday, September 6, 2009

Assistant Trail Angel for a Day

After my mostly-berry-picking hike on Saturday, I headed toward the Pacific Crest Trail's north trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass so I could intersect with Chris' hike group because he and I had planned to go for a swim. (Yes, it was not ideal weather for a swim, being 50 degrees and moist air, but my swim addiction is strong and causes me to act irrationally at times). At the signpost for the trail, a couple sat eating and I figured they were one-way hikers waiting for a ride. We said hello, then I headed up the trail, running into Chris and his group a mere 15 minutes later. Upon returning to the trailhead, we struck up a conversation with the hike couple that were sitting there and their story soon unravelled. They were through-hikers on the PCT, having started in mid-April from Mexico and were recently discouraged by the heavy downpours and the impending closure and 20-mile detour north of Snoqualmie Pass due to forest fires burning in the area. They were waiting to find a ride to the Stevens Pass area so they could continue on their trek.

I really wanted to help them out, as I have read about so many accounts of through-hikers who were the recipients of people's generosity, usually being invited back to their house for a shower and a decent meal but also for being driven to nearby towns. This practice is known by through-hikers as Trail Angels. I was going to be heading over Blewett Pass, but not until Monday. Then Chris spoke up and mentioned that he would be leading a hike the next day to Tuck and Robin Lakes which branches off from Deception Pass where the trail intersects with the PCT. The PCT hikers' eyes lit up- what a great coincidence! And Chris lives at the Pass so he invited them over to spend the night. And I followed them back to his place.

They are Alicia and Alfredo, she from Portland, Oregon and he from Milan, Italy. Their story is unbelievable, as this journey on the PCT is only a fraction of their 13 years of adventures. Alicia started out from San Francisco on a sailboat with a (now previous) boyfriend with the goal of sailing around the world. Along the way, they met up with Alfredo, doing the same, yet solo. And, just as I have read of in many around-the-world sailing diaries, the two found each other, ditched the other guy, and continued traveling together all around the world. They have been together for 7 years, both in small quarters on the sailboat and on trails on all continents. Alicia mentioned places like Indonesia, the Seychelles, Vanuatu- she could teach a class in geography and hold every 5th-grader completely captivated by her stories, I am certain.

Chris and I finally went off to swim (or attempt to) and left Alicia and Alfredo to rest and relax. Our expedition wasn't quite as successful, as the lake we chose had a muddy bottom that sucked our feet in and required a long walk out into the water while we were exposed to wind and cold. I called it our "chicken swim" since we finally turned back, me clutching my arms around my chest, trying to keep warm. When we returned to the house, Chris re-introduced himself to his guests and I caught myself staring, trying to remember what the "before" picture had looked like. They had completely transformed from sweaty, dirty, trail-worn hikers to nice-looking people. We ate dinner, complete with Chris' homemade berry ice cream, which Alfredo beamed over and was given the bowl to finish and then it was off to bed for everyone.

In the morning, I didn't even have to ask how the hikers had slept; the look of a restful, good night of sleep in a soft, warm bed showed on their faces. After breakfast, we all packed up and met Chris' hike group outside. I gave Alicia and Alfredo my email address so they could get in touch with me if they came to Seattle and also to ask me for bike advice, since their next adventure was starting to sound like a bike tour across the US. As I drove toward home to get ready for my next adventure, I felt refueled with the fire of adventure travel and was grateful to Chris for letting me be a Trail Angel for a day, through him.

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