Southbound hikers on the PCT brave lightning strikes and fire

After a refreshing Bible study and discussion with ministers at Anna’s Country Kitchen on Thursday morning I had an uplifting chat with Anna Denny and then headed out the door to go home. As I passed through the foyer I spied four packs resting by the newspaper racks.

A pair of hiking poles confirmed that they belonged to Pacific Crest Trail hikers. Reentering the back dining room, I found nine international hikers talking and laughing as they enjoyed Anna’s delicious breakfast.

PCT hikers enjoying breakfast at Anna’s Couuntry Kitchen

Some wanted to get back to the trail and some wanted to stay in town to do laundry and resupply. I told them that I could take four in my Jeep.

“We can arrange that!” one cheerfully replied.

They were still finishing their breakfast, so I told them not to rush and asked how much time they would like.

“Twenty minutes?”

I drove home, got my camera and my notebook, and returned 20 minutes later. Five were going back to the trail. One of the five, Juju from France, wanted to hitch out of town. So three young men (Sancho from Corofin, Ireland, Gimli from Saratoga, New York, and Later Gator from Louisiana) and one young lady (Comrade from Russia) all loaded their packs and hopped aboard.

Later Gator, Gimli, Sancho, and Comrade at the trailhead

All four were southbound hikers headed for Mexico. The herd of this year’s northbound hikers has trickled down but the number of SOBO’s (southbound hikers) is picking up.

They said that they had been hiking together for about a week. They had stayed the night before at the WOLA gym and were very grateful that they had been able to do laundry and cook.

I mentioned to Sancho from Ireland that I had watched two videos of Pope Francis’ recent visit to Ireland, one on Sky News and one on BBC. The main theme was how much Ireland had changed since Pope John Paul had visited.

“Of course Ireland has changed,” he replied. “In 1979, we didn’t even have computers. After computers, we got the Internet. Then we got laptops. Now we all have smart phones. The whole world has changed.”

I asked them how their weight loss was going. Sancho said the weight loss evens off after a while once the fat is trimmed down and the muscles are toned. Comrade from Western Siberia said that her weight loss had been quite dramatic.

“I lost one quarter of my weight in the first month,” she said.

Driving along, I asked if they had any interesting tales they wanted to share. Instead of relating a story of their own, they told me of three brothers who had been hit by lightning near Skykomish Washington in early July.

The three brothers, Austin, Dylan, and Garrett Murtha from the Truckee area, took cover under a tree as a sudden lightning storm broke out. One of them was leaning against the trunk when lightning struck the tree. He was thrown 15 feet and lost consciousness. His shirt was melted and his coat was fried. After his older brother revived him, they had to hike 3 days (55 miles) before they could get medical attention. After an EKG they are back on the trail hoping to reach Mexico by late October.

“They should be coming through Burney in a few days,” said one the hikers.

“They are famous on the PCT,” said another.

Just before dropping them off, they told me that a few days before they had been fortunate to hike through one area of Northern California just before the trail was closed. They said they thought the closure was due to controlled burns rather than wildfire. However, I think that it may be due to the Hirz Fire near Castle Craggs. The trail was closed down for 30 miles on August 28 due to the fire. As they were hiking a ranger told them they just made it because the trail was going to be closed that evening. Some of their friends who were hiking behind them didn’t make it.

“It’s all about timing,” they said.

After our farewells, I stopped in at WOLA and told Kathy Newton about the three brothers who had been struck by lightning. City Girl, who had stayed at WOLA last week, had also been standing by a palm tree when it was struck.

Kathy told me another PCT lightning tale. Earlier this summer, a young lady hiked north over Hat Creek Ridge with trail friends. When they reached Cassel, she told them to hike on into Burney and she would meet them there. She was tired and wanted to camp for the night. As she lay down, lightning struck the woods a short distance from her camp and ignited a fire. Shocked and startled, the young woman called 911 and reported her GPS location. Local fire fighters responded immediately and extinguished the blaze before it could spread.

Thank the girl. Thank the fire fighters. Thank God that a Cassel fire was prevented.

It’s all about timing.

See also: City Girl takes 2 weeks off the PCT to go to Cuba

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Filed under Burney, Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

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