I was pulling into the WOLA parking lot for a cup of coffee when I saw a family of hikers headed east on Main Street.
“Are you PCT hikers?” I shouted.
“Yes we are!” the father of the group responded. “We’re on our way back to the trail head. Are you headed that way?”
“It doesn’t matter if I’m headed that way,” I responded. “I’m a trail angel, I’ll take you wherever you need to go.”
They put their packs in the back of my jeep and clambered into the car.
This was a uniquely amazing family. Their trail name is “Brit Family Robinson.” In the real world they are the Grist family from Matlock, Derbyshire, United Kingdom. Dad’s name is Christopher. Mum’s name is Anya. Their two children are Josie, age 12, and Jack, age 10.
Josie’s trail name is “Pippi Longstocking” and Jack’s is “Captain Obvious.” Not only are they two of the youngest hikers on the PCT this year, they are also authors publishing a blog entitled “A Really Long Walk” in which they are detailing their 2650 mile journey from Mexico to Canada.
As we drove out to the trail head, Christopher told me that they had begun their trek on April 16 from the trail’s southern terminus on the U.S. border with Mexico, just south of Campo, California. When they reached about mile 800 in the southern Sierras, they skipped about 300 miles and rejoined the trail in Truckee. Christopher said that he wasn’t worried about the snow. They had adequate equipment. However, the melt had swollen the rivers to a degree that they judged them to be too hazardous to cross.
They were sorry to miss a part of the trail, but in light of report of a resent rescue of a PCT hiker south of Lake Tahoe, they felt that they had made a wise decision.
From Truckee to Burney, the trail had been good. There is still some snow, but Christopher judged that the recent heat wave would melt a lot of it.
Christopher is an international trail guide. When I mentioned that Australian Sam had come through last week and was going to India and Nepal when he finished his PCT hike, Christopher told me that he had hiked in both India and Nepal in the past few years. Before that he hiked the mountains of Mongolia and he has led hikers in the Andes.
Young Josie and Jack have traveled from Alaska to Patagonia and have also hiked in the Andes.
I asked how they like the PCT. Christopher answered that he liked the diversity. Such a broad range of topography, geology, fauna, and flora that is always changing. He also commented that he was impressed by the friendliness of Americans. He called it a “culture of generosity.”
As an example, he recounted that when they had reached the trailhead on 299, Willie Rodriguez, District Manager for the Burney Water Board, had stopped to give them a ride to Anna’s Country Kitchen in town. Willie said to call them if they needed a ride back to the trail. When they finished their breakfast, they found that Willie had left money to pay for their meal.
We arrived at the trailhead. They got their packs out to the car and I snapped a picture with my cellphone.
I couldn’t resist asking one more question.
“What do you think of Britain leaving the EU?”
“Well, it’s not the way I would have voted,” said Mrs. Grist.
Christopher said he probably wouldn’t have voted to leave either. He opined that the people who would be most affected would most likely be wealthy bankers and financiers. Average people will not notice much difference in their lives.
I asked the children what they thought. They raised their hands in bewilderment with angelic smiles on their faces.
“We don’t know anything about it!”
Life goes on. How wonderful to meet such an inspiring and adventurous family.
A hard copy version of this article also appeared in the Mountain Echo 7/5/16