PCT Mile Marker 1869.60 – 1875.70 + 10.63 OST
Miles Covered 16.73
Stabbing pains shot through my foot whenever I moved it in my sleeping bag. I gingerly sat up and unwrapped a breakfast bar and brought it to my mouth. My hands still smelled like horses. I breathed it in. I loved horses.
I took a bite of the breakfast bar and the permanent retainer in my mouth broke off of one tooth. The sharp metal wire raked the tender underside of my tongue.
I took three Advil and carefully chewed the rest of my breakfast bar while I touched my foot.
How bad was I injured?
It took me a while to get my sock on, and even longer to get my shoe on. It was really tender.
I packed everything that I could while sitting down, then struggled to my feet and started to load my pack.
I looked at my Sawyer in-line water filter and realized the filter was on incorrectly. With no way to fix it because I’d sent the rest of the pieces home with my Mom. Did it still work upside down? I hadn’t treated any of the water I was drinking yesterday because I thought I was filtering it. Nasty mucky lake water.
I put Aqua-Mira drops in my water bladder even though it was probably too late. If I got sick from the water, it wouldn’t be for a few days.
I crossed my fingers.
Turtle took the lead and I fell behind immediately. Every few steps, the pain was so sharp in my foot that it would take my breath away. I paid close attention to the pain. If I could keep from bending my foot any further than ‘x’, I could keep the pain at a minimum. If I used my right foot to step up but my left to step down, and if I used my trekking poles heavily, the pain wasn’t as bad.
But it wasn’t looking good.
I met up with Turtle again about six miles in. He was very busy eating. It looked like he’d probably been eating for a while. Tears welled up in my eyes when he asked how my foot was doing. I shook my head.
I took off my sock and shoe, and Turtle got out some KT tape and wrapped it expertly around my foot.
We looked at maps for options. I told him if I took the Oregon Skyline Trail and he took the official PCT, we could both make it to Shelter Cove around the same time. The OST is 8 miles shorter, and I was definitely slower than him at that point.
He decided to stay with me. We hiked another few miles very slowly and stopped at a Forest Service road. We sat there for a few hours, hoping a car would go by that could give me a ride to a town.
I always heard that after you turn forty, everything starts to fall apart. I just didn’t know it literally meant The Next Day.
A fellow named Ridiculous joined us with his dog Pearl while we sat and waited. He gave me an ace bandage that I wrapped around my foot. Turtle gave me a safety pin to hold it all together.
I had a tiny bit of service if I just held very still, so I put a message on Facebook to see if anyone happened to be coming up this lonely old road that could help me.
Aidan looked up my location on a map and said I was pretty far from just about anywhere.
I decided to try to make it to Crescent Lake. It was 8.58 miles more, and mostly flat.
When I stood up to go, Turtle took my food bag out of my pack and put it in his. He took my tent and handed it to Ridiculous. Then a man named Wayne took my entire pack and started heading up the trail.
“I’ll come back for my pack later,” He said. “This will give you a good head start. I’ve got a wife too, and she’d want me to help.”
I stared. Incredulous.
Turtle gave me some Aleve, and we were off. Slowly but surely. I sweated and gritted my teeth. My foot screamed, and sores sprung up on my tongue from the probing wire.
Wayne hiked my pack out for 1.5 miles, then turned around to go back for his own. There were no words big enough to thank him. He just smiled and said, “When you get to a place with broken trees on the left, there will be a stand of green trees on the right. Your pack is behind them. Good luck.”
And that was it. And he was gone.
I’d never met him before, and I never saw him again.
And that kind of generosity is amazing, and raw, and human in a way that I’d never experienced before.
Just as he said, I found the broken trees and the living ones, and my pack.
Turtle stayed with me every step of the way. He stopped with me when I needed it, a smile on his face. He kept it light and happy.
Dwayne and Richard came by with their horses. They looked tired. They scooted by me. I was surprised to even see them, considering how many downed trees they had to navigate in the last day. I couldn’t imagine how difficult their journey had been.
We finally came to a small lake, and Turtle and I went down to the water’s edge.
He crawled out onto some logs that were poking into the water and dipped his dirty water bag into the lake. He brought the water back and we each filtered some of it to drink.
I wanted to drink as much as I could so that I didn’t have to carry it. Like Turtle always says, “It’s better to carry it in-ya than on-ya.”
My day would have been ten times more difficult if it hadn’t been for Turtle.
We heard horses and looked back toward the trail. Dwayne and Richard were headed back up the trail again.
“Hey guys! Didn’t we already see you going the other way? What are you doing?”
“We’re looking for you,” Dwayne said.
“Yeah, we heard you were injured. Do you want some help?”
“Yes! Yes I do! Thank you!” Tears welled up in my eyes and I hobbled toward them.
I took my food bag back from Turtle and put it in my pack. Dwayne lashed my pack onto Jewel’s back and helped me onto another horse’s back. Sky.
Dwayne gave me Jewel’s lead, and Richard rode behind Jewel with his two horses. Dwayne led the way, holding Sky’s lead rope. My foot dangled, hollering at me, all useless and pathetic.
Dwayne told me great cowboy stories all the way back to their horse camp. About how he’d sold his first horse to buy wedding rings for him and his wife. About his favorite horses ever. About his least favorites. About dogs. About people. About being trail angels for PCT hikers over the years.
When we got back to their camp, I was overwhelmed with their amazing families.
James, who immediately took me over and sat me down in a chair and brought me coffee. The grandkids who brought me ice for my foot. Cindy, who made me dinner and brought me ice water, and drove me around the camp circle to the restroom so I didn’t have to walk. Carla, who instructed the children to stack wood on top of the cooler so I could elevate my foot, and then kept a fresh beer in my hand all night, and gave me a ziplock bag full of Aleve.
Another hiker, Devilfish, who saw my Facebook post and drove there to make sure I’d made it out okay.
Then Turtle was there too.
They brought me warm water and soap in a basin to wash my hands and face and foot. They wrapped my foot and brought me fresh salad, and when it was time for bed and Ridiculous hadn’t made it, they found a tent for me and put it up. They made signs and had the kids run all over the campground and down to the creek to post them on boards and trees to let Ridiculous know where we were so he could find me and return my tent.
I made one for my loaner tent that read “Here Lies Icebox”.
They offered to take me to a hospital or to Amtrak or wherever I needed to go.
They were Angels In The First Degree.
Their children sang me songs and asked clever questions, were polite and generous and kind. Giving and Respectful.
One even had the same name as my own brother.
When it was time, I crawled into my loaner tent, lay down in my bag, and stared at the ceiling. My heart swelled up and spilled over with gratitude and good fortune. How does one repay such kindness? How can the news stations report the horror they report when there are good deeds like this that are happening for no reason other than people are good? People are kind. People care and act out of goodwill just because they believe in the goodness of others.
The floodgates finally opened, and I cried and cried and cried.
What was going to happen to me now?