I’m sitting at a table on a beautiful patio, nibbling on fresh bread stuffed with garlic cloves, wondering how on earth I came to be here. When I was in Belden talking to a local about the trail I said ‘it’s amazing because you never know what’s around the corner’. The last few days couldn’t be closer to that truth.
Today has been full of so many welcomed surprises that I’m pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t just a dream. After hitting the trail around 7:30am, I found myself at the highway into Chester after 3 miles. This is where all of the folks I had camped with last night were heading. Those who got there before me had called a trail angel to pick them up, and when I crossed the highway I saw there was trail magic on the other side! When the trail angel arrived we realised she was Piper’s Mom, the one who refills the coolers with fresh fruit, sodas, packets of chips and other goodies. Not only did she satisfy my hunger cravings, she satisfied my childhood dreams of one day being famous after she asked my name and then exclaimed ‘you’re Muk Muk!?’ She had seen my recent horror films from a link on the PCT 2013 Facebook page and immediately gave me a huge hug, telling me she was so relieved I was alright. I almost got teary again. Thank you Piper’s Mom for looking after us hiker folk, we appreciate it more than you can imagine!
The next water source was Stover Spring which had a pipe gushing with icy cold water. I wet my entire t-shirt, hat and bandana as the day was already super hot! Luckily the first half of the day was relatively flat, and if it wasn’t for all the logs across the trail acting as speed humps, I would have been flying along after my Mountain Dew, banana and packet of sun chips this morning!
There were signs of horses close by ahead on the trail and I wondered if the girl riding the horse was ahead of me. I spent a long time imagining what it would be like as a horse walking the trail. Sometimes I actually feel like a pack horse with my hiking poles acting as my front legs as I plod along down the trail. When I caught up to the horses I discovered it was two men from a property close to Drakesbad. They asked me about the hike and more specifically how often I set up my tent. I told them that I may set it up more frequently after my incident with the mountain lion and relived some of the account. They reacted as if I was telling them what I had for breakfast and simply said ‘yeah you don’t want to get too close to those things’.They also told me the river a mile away was big enough to swim in which brought absolute joy to my day, but an even greater surprise was in store…
I took a fresh sandwich and a cold beverage down to the river and sat in one of the most perfectly situated spots for my lunch break during a heat wave. After gobbling down every last crumb of the delicious sandwich it was time to immerse myself in the freezing cold water. It was absolute bliss and one of those moments on trail when you realise just how lucky you are to have the freedom to be out here.
The 1000 foot climb after the river during the heat of the day was not so blissful. I felt completely lethargic and wanted nothing else than to pull out my sleeping mat and have a snooze under a shady tree. Something however was pulling me forward towards Drakesbad. I knew I didn’t need to arrive until 7:30am tomorrow when breakfast was served, but when I realised I could make it there around 6:30pm, I suddenly got the motivation to simply get there as quickly as possible. The thought of a comfortable place off trail was extremely tempting, even though I knew they didn’t let hikers camp on site.
The final 3 miles to the ranch were extremely confusing and badly marked, to the point that I found myself way off trail and had to bush whack a substantial distance to get back on track. Part of my motivation to get to Drakesbad was to fill up on water, as I’d already passed the other drinkable sources, and when I saw the bubbling lake which was the last source before the ranch, I knew I simply had to get there. Even the exit to the ranch wasn’t signposted, and Halfmile’s app sends you bush whacking down a grassy slope only to be stopped by a huge stream. I had to backtrack to the first junction I’d passed and was quite frustrated by this point as it was almost 7pm already.
I felt like a complete outcast when I arrived and was scared to walk too close to the other guests because of my stench and filth. I was forced to walk inside the restaurant which doubles as the front desk. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to ask. I said to the woman Francine that I had a reservation for breakfast tomorrow and she said ‘you must be Rozanne, we also have a table reserved for you tonight’. My mouth dropped open as she indicated the table outside with my name on the reserved sign. I teared up and gave her a ginormous hug. I don’t think she was expecting that reaction but hugged me back none the less. She even said I could shower first and then come back and eat!
I was still in shock when I sat down and they came to take my order. I had a three course meal ahead of me and I was so hungry I could have eaten the napkin! I cleaned off every plate and was the last person in the entire restaurant. On my way to brush my teeth I passed a large group of people toasting marshmallows around the fire. They asked if I was hiking the PCT, and not long after I started talking, I had my first ever S’more in my hand (toasted marshmallow and chocolate inside two gram crackers), and the speakers seat around the fire. It took me a full hour to eat my S’more as I was telling story after story and enjoying answering all of the questions they had about the trail. At one point, one of the younger boys turned to me and said ‘I’m inspired’, my heart honestly melted.
Thank you again to all of the trail angels who shed absolute joy on us PCT’ers out of the kindest of their hearts!