Linda and I were just about to leave for Redding for a meeting with our State Farm Insurance Agent when the phone rang.
It was a young woman named Sarah. She was on the PCT trail about 7 miles this side of Old Station. She had turned her ankle. It hurt. She had decided that it was better not to push it and continue the 27-mile hike she had planned that day.
Sarah Wright with a sprained ankle needs a ride
She called the U.S. Forest Service. They gave her my name and number. Could I give her a ride?
I told her that I was really sorry. On this particular day, I had an appointment in Redding. It was already past the time that we were going to leave the house.
She said that the ankle wasn’t too bad. She wasn’t exactly sure of her location. I gave her the number of Burney Lodging where they have a list of trail angels. I also gave her the number of a woman in Old Castle who should be able to get her in touch with the Old Station Volunteer Fire Department. I told her I would call later to make sure she had gotten help. I told her that there was a honeycomb of roads up on the ridge so someone should be able to drive up to get her.
Then I felt bad. There was a girl with a sprained ankle up on Hat Creek Ridge. The temperature was going up to 100 degrees. I said a prayer with Linda lifting Sarah up into the light and praying for God to guide the situation.
We had to stop at the Burney Cemetery Office on the way out of town to drop off some of Linda’s photo cards for Jackie Young. We were running late.
On the way over, my mind was in process. Our meeting in Redding didn’t have to be that day. I actually had been wanting to go up on Hat Creek Ridge. I wasn’t sure how to find her, but I could make the effort. If she got a ride from someone else, it would still be a nice drive. Most of all, if she didn’t get a ride, I would feel terrible.
So, in the parking lot of the Burney Cemetery, I called the insurance office and rescheduled our appointment. Then I called Sarah’s number to see if she had gotten been able to contact someone. No answer. I left a message that we were driving up on the ridge to find her.
Before leaving town, I stopped at Burney Lodging to see if she had called there and if any one was going to find her. She hadn’t called.
Just then, my cell phone rang. It was Sarah. She hadn’t reached anyone. I told her we were on our way and we would find her.
All I knew was that she was on the PCT trail 7 miles from Old Station. I wasn’t familiar with the trail up on the ridge and I didn’t know all of the roads. But several years ago I had driven up there with Linda on a photo shoot and driven down the road where the hand gliders take off. I knew that road came down to Doty Loop so I decided that that was probably the fastest way up.
On the way out Hwy 89, I said another prayer asking God and the spirit world to guide us. I figured that that was the best GPS. Shortly after turning ont0 Doty Loop, I saw a dune buggy driving toward me. I stopped and waved. He stopped and told me to take Bidwell Road.
As we ascended the steep, windy, gravel road, I put the Jeep into 4 wheel drive and all of the lights on my dash board started going crazy. I said another little prayer for no car problems.
I told Linda that if we saw anyone up here we would ask them for directions. Then, just atop the ridge we saw a trailer parked by the road. It was Coppertone, the legendary PCT Magic Man.
Tripster and Sour Patch with Coppertone
Coppertone parks his trailer at various spots along the PCT to supply hikers with bananas, apples, and root beer floats. The PCT crosses Bidwell Road at this point. It is a cache spot, but it is marked this year as not being active.
There were two PCT hikers there resting, Tripster and Sour Patch from Santa Cruz.
When I drove up, Coppertone had just been on the phone with Sarah. Actually, Sarah’s hiking partner Smiles had just left.
Smiles had been hiking with Sarah when she sprained her ankle. When she decided to stop and call for help, he decided to continue on and left some of his stuff there with her to lighten his load. He was going to hike on to Burney and meet her there.
So Smiles and Coppertone had just been on the phone with Sarah, and more or less, Coppertone was expecting us because Sarah and told him that someone was coming.
Apparently, Sarah had made her way to a road and the name of the road was 34N34. Coppertone had a tablet. He showed me on Google maps where we were and had Linda write down directions.
Head up Bidwell, take the first right, from there you will merge with 18. 34N34 was not marked on the maps, but he pointed which unmarked road he thought it was. So I called Sarah again and assured her that I was on the way.
I followed the directions to 18 and saw a road 34N65. I thought that may lead to 34N34. It didn’t. After a few miles it dead-ended at a communications tower.
Communications tower on Hat Creek Ridge
It was the wrong place, but there was a beautiful view of the Hat Creek Valley and Mt Lassen.
View of Mt Lassen from the radio tower
So I called Sarah again and told her I had taken a wrong turn and had to backtrack, but I would be there soon. Sarah said that if she heard a car coming she would come out to the road. She was resting in the shade behind a pine tree.
We drove back to 18. A few more miles down, we saw the magic sign 34N34. Now we were on the right road. I wanted to get there as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to drive by too fast, not see her, and leave her in a cloud of dust.
At last, there she was!
Sarah Wright by 34N34
It was so awesome meeting her. She thanked us for coming and said that she was surprised that we had arrived at Coppertone’s so quickly. I guess that altogether from the time she had first called, only a few hours had gone by – only a little over an hour since we had left Burney.
So now we learned her trail name – Dilly Dally. She said that she probably could have hiked on but she didn’t want to strain her ankle too much and she wanted to go into Burney to rest for a day or two.
As we headed back to Coppertone’s trailer, Smiles texted to say that she had made a wise decision because the trail went through a lot of lava rock that would have been rough on here ankle. He also said to watch out for rattlesnakes because he almost stepped on one.
When we got back to Coppertone’s, there was another vehicle there. It was Chipmunk, another PCT trail angel and magic man. Chipmunk had taken another hiker, Dog Whisperer from Cincinnati, into Burney and back.
Chipmunk, Dilly Dally and Dog Whisperer
I got really excited when I learned that Dog Whisperer was from Cincinnati, because I used to live there and I love Skyline Cincinnati chili. So we talked about the unique 3-way, 4-way, and 5-way Cincinnati chili and Chipmunk explained to us that Texas chili didn’t have any beans or meat – just chili.
Now, Chipmunk had been helping hikers down around Ebbetts Pass. Then he heard that a PCT angel who had a stop near Buck’s Lake was taking a few days off so he drove up to relieve her for two days. While there he heard that a heat spell was coming and that the cache on Hat Creek rim was not active this year, so he drove up to provide water and assistance because the bulk of the hikers are coming through this area right now.
The 30 mile hike from Old Station to Baum Lake is the longest stretch without water in Northern California. (Down south in the desert there is a 40 mile stretch.) There is water at Lost Creek, but many hikers don’t want to hike down an 500 foot escarpment to resupply and then have to hike back up.
So Chipmunk had driven up to this crossing to make sure that everyone had enough water. And that’s how we all happened to be gathered in this one spot.
I brought up the subject of root beer floats.
“I know that they are for PCT hikers,” I said…
“That’s all right,” Coppertone promptly replied, “I make root beer floats for PCT rescuers too!”
So Coppertone made us all special root beer floats with cookies and cream ice cream!
Coppertone told us that after most of the hikers has passed through he was planning to take his rig farther north. He needed to find places where the trail crossed a road, and he preferred to find locations not too far from a town, so he could resupply too.
If I understood correctly, he may set up somewhere at McKenzie Pass in Oregon. He is also looking for another location before that. Chipmunk was giving him some suggestions. Anyway, he will be somewhere providing his special magic.
While we were talking, another PCT hiker passed by. Chipmunk hailed him, but he passed right by. A lot of hikers are pushing for more miles now, making up for delays further south.
After our refreshing break, we headed back to Burney. We had a pleasant ride back. We showed Dilly Dally where the hang gliders take off. Dilly Dally said she wants to try hang gliding too. There is a popular hang gliding site near where she lives in Utah.
Dilly Dally was born in Seattle and spent her childhood there. Then her family moved to Provo, Utah. She graduated from Brigham Young University and as she is hiking is considering whether or not to go to graduate school.
We talked a little about the 2016 election. Because Dilly Dally had been on the trail since April 26, she has been traveling in a realm removed from the ups and downs and ins and outs of media and politics.
“I think I picked a good time to hike the trail,” she said. “It seems like people who are voting for Trump are doing so because they don’t like Hillary, and the people who are voting for Hillary are doing so because they don’t like Trump.”
I took a short detour on the way home to show her the trail head at Baum Lake and Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery, since she would miss those sites. She was impressed by the American White Pelicans.
American White Pelican on Baum Lake
She asked where the MacDonald’s was. We took her into Burney, explained where all the stores and restaurants were and dropped her pretty much in the center at Burney Lodging.
We offered that she could stay at our place and take a dip in the pool, but she preferred to have her own little haven in a motel. Also, she was looking forward to meeting up again with her hiking companion, Smiles, to see how his hike went. Not to mention that she had to take care of that sore ankle, etc.
All in all, it was an exciting, unexpected adventure. I was so happy to have met Coppertone and Chipmunk. I had heard of them, but never really expected to meet them. The PCT is a world of its own.
I hope that Dilly Dally’s ankle is recovering well, that she had a nice rest stop in Burney, and that the rest of her journey is wonderful.