So here I am, sitting on a rock by the trail and weep. The pain in my feet is so bad. Three miles to go still until I reach my next destination, but the pain is too overwhelming.
I get out of my boots and look at the mess down there.
I stick new plasters over the blistering bleeding flesh, bite on my teeth and make the last three miles through the boiling, completely shade-free desert.
Wow! Down here are trees! Real big trunky trees with real leafs and real shade! My mood lifts to 10 points out of 10!
I hobble the last mile right into the SHADE! It is the “Whitewater Preserve” at Mile 218.5. It is a PCT hiker friendly garden-in-the-desert kind of thing. It has benches, a huge green lawn surrounded by trees and a toilet (which means water!) That’s all there is, but for me it is heaven.
I sink down under a tree and do not move for two hours.
Need to pitch my Big Agnes, need to cook, need to sleep.
I am not going to leave this place tomorrow but just stay here in the shade and don’t move my feet, except for going to the toilet once in a while.
It is two days later already. I am still here, still licking my wounds. There is no way I can hike on, besides, I am running out of food. I need to find a way to get out of here and into Big Bear Lake, the next town on trail. But how? I guess I need to ask a day hiker who comes here by car. (The Whitewater Preserve has access to a road). Big Bear Lake is a mountain resort and totally remote. It would be super complicated to hitchhike there….
I chat to Lilian, a woman from Los Angeles who visits for the day. She says she might come back tomorrow and pick me up and drive me to Big Bear!! How incredibly wonderful! It would mean a two hour drive for her to get here, an almost two hour drive up the mountain to Big Bear, and then back home. She would do this for me out of kindness! Just after a 10 minute chat! What a wonderful person! She is (in hiker slang) a Trail Angel: Somebody who helps hikers for no other reason than kindness.
The only problem is, she just can not promise 100% that she will indeed come back tomorrow. And there is no cell reception here so there is no way she can let me know whether she is coming or not.
I go to sleep with a warm heart.
I wake up and enthusiastically pack up my tent and other gear and sit on a bench under a tree (!) and wait and think: will Lilian be coming or not?
A woman with several cooler boxes under her arms comes into the garden. I offer her the space at the bench I am sitting on. We start talking, and she begins to unload an ENORMOUS amount of delicious fresh food!
Grapes, pineapples, tomatoes, berries, bread, cheese, beens, chips, pie, you name it! Her husband and sister arrive at the bench. They invite me to eat with them! OHHHH! Fresh food, and they invite me to eat it!!!
We eat and eat and chat. There is an endless supply of fresh food! And I realize how hungry I am and how much I crave other food than muesli bars!
I am so so so very grateful! The family is super nice and wonderful and I learn very deep and interesting facts about their lives.
Lu turns to me:
“Heidi, we have decided to drive you up to Big Bear Lake later today”.
“What?! Are you sure?”
“I can not possibly accept this offer! You have been so good to me already and now you want to drive me up there, in the opposite direction from where you live?”
“Yes, we are happy to help you, since you are in need”.
Oh my, I am deeply touched. Totally overwhelmed!
So we drive up to Big Bear Lake! It is a long drive. First a busy highway down in the desert and then a windy very steep mountain road up to 2100 meter!
From the desert heat into the nice lovely cold mountains! This is more my kind of terrain up here: Woods! A lake! Cool temperatures! They drop me off right outside a place I can stay!
Thank you thank you thank you Lu, Eric and family!!!
I have found my very personal Trail Angels!
Life is good!
I am going to stay a few days up here in Big Bear Lake and allow my feet to heal.
I don’t care that I skipped a few trail miles (48 in fact), which means I am not “pure” anymore (hiker slang for hiking EVERY single mile without exception).
My PCT is to make it to Canada, if possible by foot, if not possible, then by other ways. This whole PCT thing is too big of a challenge to be stubborn and/or stupid!
PS. Lilian, the woman from Los Angeles sends me an SMS. She went back to Whitewater to pick me up!! She could not find me there anymore so she is hoping I made my way safely to Big Bear!! I am deeply touched, again, by these great great people here!!!
THANK YOU Trail Angels!
… And this is Big Bear Lake :)