Several years ago I discovered a podcast called Trail Tales. The host of the podcast, Kyle, had finished the Appalachian Trail and had begun interviewing others that hike/backpack. I was a fan of the podcast from the start. Last year Kyle hiked the PCT and I followed along from home rooting for him and his hiking buddies along the way. I knew that I would be hiking this year and it was good to get fresh intel. Long story short, I stumbled upon Kyle just after leaving Etna, California. He is out finishing up a few sections of the trail that were closed for wildfires last year. When I stumbled upon his podcast a few years ago I really started to consider the idea of doing a thru hike. I spent several years listening to the podcast on my way to or from school or in my free time. It was a way for me to feel connected to the world of thru hiking while I waited for my opportunity. Somehow we were able to cross paths on the trail at the same time at the same place. The impact that this podcast had on my life, and then coming full circle to meet Kyle while actually doing a thru hike, is a chance encounter that blows my mind.
I have been thinking a lot about the impact that other people along the trail have had on my life or the impact I may have had in someone else’s life. It’s pretty crazy to think about some of the random encounters that I have had along the way. There have been so many times when it seemed like I was at the right place at the right time.
The biggest one that comes to mind is of course Julie the Trail Angel from Lake Morena on day two of the trail. I have mentioned Julie many times and I have kept in touch with her along the way. At the time I met Julie, I was feeling so overwhelmed with excitement and nerves. Julie could tell something was upsetting me even though I was a stranger she had never met. I will never forget the kindness Julie showed me and the courage she gave me. I sometimes wonder if I would have made it this far on the trail if I never met Julie.
In Seattle, while I was taking a couple of days off before heading south on the trail, I met a lady named Marianne. I was going to pick up some mini donuts at the Pike Place Market to snack on while I walked around. Marianne saw my backpack and it sparked conversation. I told her all about the trail and why I was hiking it. I think I intrigued or inspired Marianne as she was so interested in my adventure. Marianne also had quite the impact on me. She filled a bag of mini donuts for me and told me I needed them for fuel, at no charge. Marianne was so kind on that day in Seattle. She had a welcoming sparkle in her eyes and I will never forget her words of encouragement and support even though we had just met.
At Shelter Cove Resort in Oregon, I met a family on a weekend getaway. They were interested in the hikers and had seen them for a few years filtering in and out of the resort. I was able to talk to them and tell them about the trail answering any questions. A kid in the family, maybe 13 years old, made me a bracelet with my trail name “BAG” on it. It was so sweet of this kid to make a bracelet and I wonder what he thought about the trail. I was around his age when I learned about backpacking, and here I am after all those years following my dreams. I like to think that maybe I impacted his life and maybe someday he will go on a thru hike.
Yesterday, Big Papa, another hiker named Zorc, and I arrived at the highway and were waiting for a ride to town. There wasn’t a lot of traffic going by and were starting to lose hope. The temperature was easily over 100 degrees and the little spot of shade we were in was our only relief while we awaited the luxuries of town. A highway patrol officer had made several rounds while following highway construction vehicles. After a couple of passes, we stuck our thumbs out assuming the officer wouldn’t stop. To our surprise, he did and asked where we needed to go. He said he could take us to town! I have never been in the back of a police car, but getting a hitch in one was definitely on my bucket list. Officer Pete was very friendly and interested in the trail. He asked all sorts of questions and told us all about the best spots in town to go to. Officer Pete seemed to be jealous that we were hiking and experiencing this adventure. We told Officer Pete that it’s never too late and I like to think that maybe we inspired him. I will always be thankful for his help on that hot day and his interest in us stinky dirty hikers.
The last one hundred miles on trail from Etna, California to Mount Shasta, California provided some of the best sunrises and sunsets I have seen on the whole trail. I like to watch the sunset or sunrise and think. I spent a lot of time thinking about the people I have met while hiking the PCT so far. I even wonder about the people I have talked to and how I may have impacted them. While Kyle, Julie, Marianne, the kid at Shelter Cove, Officer Pete, and many others had a positive impact on my life, I wonder if I also impacted their lives. It’s crazy to think about all the places I have been and the people I have met. It’s crazy to think about the decisions I have made along the way and how they led me to certain interactions.
I have met so many kind and encouraging people. It’s almost hard to include every experience and all the generosity. Thru hiking has impacted my life for the better and I can only hope sharing my experiences has done the same for others.