Tag Archives: Pacific Crest Trail

Autumn hikers heading south on the PCT

In the cool Tuesday morning air of October 23, the town was aflame not with forest fires but with the beautiful red orange hues of the autumn leaves. After picking up the latest edition of the Mountain Echo, I decided to make a brief stop at the Word of Life Assembly of God (WOLA) church. A fall on Sunday had resulted in a bloody three inch gash in my leg. I had washed it with hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol and bandaged it up, but I was still concerned lest it become infected. WOLA has a great prayer team so I decided to put in a prayer request that the wound would heal without complications.

As I approached the door, I saw a pack with hiking poles leaning against one of the wooden posts. I was surprised. I didn’t expect to see any more Pacific Crest Trail hikers this late in the season.

After talking briefly with Kathy Newton to put in my prayer request, I espied a spry man with a full grey beard, wearing a blue knit hat and a blue sweatshirt getting a cup of coffee from Bon.

Todd McBride with Abby

“Might you be a PCT hiker?” I inquired.

“Yes I am,” he responded.

As he returned to his table, I noticed that he had an attractive young dog accompanying him The dog advanced with her tail wagging to give me a friendly greeting.

The dog, a two and a half year old mix of pit bull, boxer, and lab, is named Abby. The man’s trail name is “Abby’s Person,” otherwise known as Todd McBride from Eugene, Oregon. They have been hiking the trail together southbound toward Campo since August 1. They began their hike at Steven’s Pass where Hwy 2 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail in the Washington Cascades.

Abby has  her own little hiking pack, a Kurgo. Todd added the water bottle holders and made some alterations to make the pack ride better. Abby carries 4 pounds of food. The water bottles are empty. Todd uses them for long carries.

Todd recently retired from a career as a wildland firefighter. His children had grown up and left home. Having spent his whole life near the PCT, Todd decided that it was a good time for Abby and he to hike the trail. He loves the wilderness, and he loves the PCT.

“You walk around a corner and you say, ‘Oh my God!'” he said.

Todd had just celebrated his 54th birthday the day before on the cusp of Libra and Scorpio. He shared that he had been conceived here when his mother was living in Burney and working in Lassen. He ruminated that life had come full circle just as he is approaching his second Saturn return.

The first rain he experienced on his hike was in Northern California after crossing the Oregon border. There had been some fires along the way in Washington State, but from his perspective as an experienced firefighter, they were not so bad.

“Not as bad as the fires you had down here this year,” he said.

When I asked about animals on the trail, McBride claimed that he had seen an endangered blue fox. He had seen no cougars or bears but lots of tracks. He told me that he and some of his friends keep track of each other by their shoe prints. On one occasion he had seen mountain lion paw prints dead center in the footsteps of one of his trail buddies.

Tod and Abby are planning to hike south to Truckee and then explore alternative trails south avoiding the approaching harsh weather of the high Sierras. Then they will follow the trail through the desert to Campo. When they finish they plan to hike the Arizona trail through the winter and then the Appalachian Trail from March to July. He plans to come back next summer to hike the PCT again.

As we came to the end of our conversation, Bonn informed me that one of the Pastors, Larry Hagar, wanted to see me in the office. Larry was concerned about my leg and offered a healing prayer and encouragement.

When I returned, I saw that Bonn was now chatting with another PCT hiker, a young lady from Butte Montana named Cierra Dauenhauer aka “Happy Feet.”

Bonn and Cierra

Having grown up in Montana myself and graduated from Helena High School, we reminisced some of the glory days of the Irish Butte copper-mining culture. Cierra’s dad is German but her mother is Irish. Hard working men, tweed suits, cozy homes and Irish lace. We talked of the ups and downs since the mile-deep Berkeley Pit had been closed and much of the downtown area had sunken into the ground.

Butte is a close knit town. Cierra told me that she had met a hiker on the trail who said he had a friend from Butte. He asked if she knew her.

“Of course I knew her,” she said. “She was my younger sister’s best friend.”

“It’s a small world,” Cierra said.

But Cierra’s world has not been small since she graduated from high school. She attended college at Gonzaga University in Spokane where she graduated with a degree in biochemistry and a minor in religious studies. After graduating she worked in a Jesuit volunteer program for a year helping special needs children in San Antonio, Texas . Then she went with two other friends to Chicago to work with autistic children in Chicago. Her work stimulated her to apply for admission to medical school to pursue a practice in developmental pediatrics.

While applying, Cierra took a break to hike the PCT. She has been a skip hiker. She hikeed north from the southern PCT terminus at Campo to Yosemite. Then she took some time off from the trail. In August she resumed, but this time hiking south from the Canadian border.  She hopes to reach Truckee by November 1 and then fly home. If possible, she will return next year to complete the portion of the trail through the High Sierras between Yosemite and Truckee that she didn’t hike this year.

Bonn said that she could give Cierra a ride out to the trail when he got off work that afternoon. I wished Cierra and Abby and Abby’s Person all “Happy Trails.”

On my way to my Jeep in the parking lot, I met Pastor Ken Frazier. I told him why I had stopped by and he immediately prayed for a speedy infection-free recovery for my leg. I had accomplished my purpose and much more. The visit had been full of surprises and peppered with good company.

Seems like every time you walk around a corner you say ‘Oh My God!'”


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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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City Girl takes 2 weeks off the PCT to go to Cuba

Linda and I had just finished having lunch at the Senior Nutrition Center. We were chatting with friends outside when we saw a young blonde lady hiking out of town with a heavy pack on her back. We quickly jumped in our jeep, hustled onto the highway, and pulled up beside her.

Linda Morse, City Girl, and Linda Colvin at Burney Mountain Guest Ranch

“Would you like a lift,” Linda queried.

“Oh yes!” the PCT hiker replied. “I would very much appreciate a lift if you’re going my way.”

The cheerful young lady told us that her name is Katharina Groene. Her trail name is City Girl.

“Why are you hiking the trail?” I asked.

“Weight loss,” she replied.

“Weight loss?” I responded, somewhat surprised by her response.

“Oh yes,” she said, “It’s much cheaper that the gym.”

I told her that she was the first hiker who had told me they were hiking for weight loss.

“Lots of people hike the trail for weight loss,” she explained. “They just don’t tell you that that is why they do it.”

Katharina currently resides in Germany. She was born in Russia and has lived in several Eastern European countries. She has relatives in the Crimea. When she gets back to Germany she plans to continue her studies in Munich in Russian related studies.

In Europe she had hiked one of the trails of the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The Camino is actually a network of “pilgrim ways” dating back to the Middle Ages. In the past it served primarily as a pilgrimage to the  shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Recently it has become a popular trek for hikers. In Germany there is a related network of pilgrimage trails known as Jakobsweg or the The Way Of St. James.

Comparing her PCT hike to her European adventures. City Girl said that what impressed her is the vastness of the landscape.

“It takes your breathe away.”

As we drove along, City Girl shared an interesting tale of her past two weeks experience.

City Girl began her northern trek on the Pacific Crest Trail in Campo near the Mexican border. She only had a 3 month visa so she knew that she would have to take a break at some point to renew her visa.

When she reached the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch after 1400 miles of hiking she realized she had only a couple of days left before the deadline.

Under US Immigration law, City Girl had to travel to another continent to renew her visa. For some reason, Cuba is considered to be another continent. Under the Obama administration after travel restrictions had been loosened, she would have been able to fly directly to Cuba. However, since PresidentTrump had reinstated travel restrictions, she would have to go to Mexico in order to get to Havana.

“I need to find the quickest way to get to Mexico.” she told Linda Morse who operated the Ranch.

A local man named Paul Harbick offered to give her a ride to the bus station in Redding. When they got there, they realized that there was no bus. Paul drove her to the Travel Centers of America truck stop south of  Redding to see if they could find a ride.

When the got there, City Girl told Paul, “Don’t worry, I will take care of this.”

She walked into the center’s store and announced that she needed to get to Mexico and needed a ride south. A Mexican man at the counter who was transacting lotto tickets said he was headed for Stockton and could give her a ride.

After he finished his transactions, they hopped into a brand new Chrysler 300 with dealer’s plates still on it and headed south. The Mexican gentleman took her to the Sacramento Greyhound station where she bought a ticket to San Diego.

The next day she rode south to San Diego. She took time to get something to eat but then realized that she had better hurry to get to the border. Her visa had be stamped by midnight. If she didn’t get her visa stamped in time, she would not be able to get a 90 day visa to enter the United States for the rest of her life. She got rides from helpful people. She paid someone $20 to drive her the last 5 miles. When the driver dropped her off, she took off at a sprint to cover the final yards. Her visa was stamped at 11:58 p.m. just two minutes before the deadline.

Arriving in Tijuana, City Girl stayed at a hostel for two days while she arranged a flight to Mexico City and a connecting flight to Havana. She had been told that Tijuana was dangerous but she personally found it pleasant and not intimidating.

Interestingly, according to City Girl, when President Trump had limited travel to Cuba, someone had started a company selling visas to Cuba at a discount rate. She was able to get a visa to enter Cuba for only $20, whereas, a visa to any other country would have cost her $50.

When she arrived in Havana, City Girl expected that she would find many people who spoke English. She did not. She didn’t know a word of Spanish. She didn’t know where to go or how to get there. Fortunately, she met a young woman from Germany who spoke fluent Spanish. The young lady had been traveling though South America and had spent the last two months in Cuba.

Apparently, in the past, it was considered very favorable for young German job applicants to have on their resume that they had spent time in the United States, Canada, or Australia. In past few years, however, the situation has changed. Companies now look to see whether the applicant has spent time in Latin America. Therefore, this young lady was traveling to improve her job resume.

In addition to speaking excellent Spanish, her new friend was able to take her by bus for only $1 to a safe and comfortable hospice where she could stay for $1 a night and introduce her to several restaurants where she could get a good meal for $1.

It took four days for City Girl to renew her visa. During that stay, she took time to visit the beach. Standing on a grassy knoll overlooking the beach, dark clouds began to form. She heard a loud clap and felt a sudden jolt like someone had slapped her sharply on the top of her head. Somewhat dazed, she looked down toward the beach where people had been swimming and saw them running up the hill toward her shouting excitedly.

As they got closer, she saw that they were pointing at something behind her. Turning around she realized that a palm tree just behind her had been hit by lightning and burst into flames.

After renewing her visa, City Girl flew into Houston. She had less that a half hour to make her connecting flight to San Francisco. However, as she came off the plane she was detained by Homeland Security. They took her to an interrogation area to ask her why she had left the United States to travel to Cuba and was now trying to reenter the United States.

She told the officer that she had been hiking the PCT and had to renew her visa and now wanted to finish hiking the trail. The interrogator had never heard of the PCT. He was extremely skeptical that such a trail existed and doubted her story.

City Girl had seen several other people lose their tempers talking to officials.

“I was pretty sure that they were not going to be allowed to enter the country,” she told me.

Therefore she did her best to remain calm and explain to the official what the PCT was and why she had had to go to Cuba. They talked for 35 minutes and the departure time for her plane passed. The Homeland Security officer remained skeptical.

Fortunately, another official overheard the conversation and stepped in. He knew about the PCT and verified the plausibility of City Girl’s story. They decided to let City Girl enter the country and she rushed to the gate where her flight was supposed to take off.

Fortunately, the flight had been delayed and she made it in time to board. After arriving in San Francisco she made it back to Burney. She checked in at WOLA church and arranged to stay there for the night. Then she went over to have dinner with Paul and his wife where she filled them in on all of the details of her journey since she had left him at the Redding truck stop.

As she was hiking out of town after spending the night at WOLA we picked her up. As we approached 4-corners, I asked her if she wanted to go to Burney Falls or the 299 trail head. She told us that she wanted to go back to Burney Mountain Guest Ranch because that was where she had left off.

“I am a perfectionist,” she said,” and I want to hike every mile of the trail. I missed one mile at the beginning and I have felt guilty about it ever since.”

So we drove her to the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch. When we arrived Linda Morse came out to greet her, happy that she had safely returned.

Before we said our farewells, the four of us said a short prayer. Rev. Morse prayed that City Girl would have a safe hike to Canada and I prayed for world peace. Afterwards, Morse said that she didn’t thinks so much about the tensions in the world because she had PCT hikers from so many different countries, some of them at odds. At dinner they all gathered and ate together in peaceful conviviality.

As Linda and I headed back to our Jeep, a smiling PCT hiker from Austria came up to thank us for giving City Girl a ride. In the spring, he had completed his law degree and then took time off to hike the PCT. His name is Fabian Gamper, trail name “Pringle.” He is hiking the trail southbound to Mexico.

Pringle from Austria heading south

Every hiker has his or her story. Unfortunately, in Pringle’s case I only got a picture.




Filed under Hiking, Pacific Crest Trail

Journeys and gatherings

Life is an intricate tapestry of interwoven threads. The threads consist of our journeys, not only physical journeys, but spiritual. mental, and emotional as well. Sometimes we travel alone, sometimes with others. Sometimes we gather to share our stories.

This is a story about journeys that converged on Friday July 27 in Mt Shasta. It involves a cross country adventure by automobile, PCT hikers, fire, vortices, flying saucers, sasquatch, friendship, marriage, church, nature, and the unfolding discovery of life’s purposes and possibilities.

One of the journeys began in late 2002 when I met a talented young songwriter named Shannon Fratanduono at a coffee shop named the Year of the Rabbit in Bowie Maryland and we became friends.

Over the years our friendship grew and developed even thought we have made many separate journeys along the way. Shannon went to Flaggler College in St. Augustine Florida to study art and then returned to Maryland. I moved from Maryland to California.

Yet through the years, we have kept in touch. My wife Linda and I made a journey to Florida and visited her while she was at college. We had reunions when I was back in Maryland. Shannon helped me to get started painting. We had many conversations on the phone sharing our insights, ideas, and experiences.

After Linda and I sold our house in Maryland and moved permanently to California, Shannon made a journey west, first by plane to visit another friend Rosa in Los Angeles. Rosa was a best friend of Shannon’s in Maryland who also used to come to the Year of the Rabbit. Shannon then came north by train to visit Linda and I, and then by bus to visit another friend in Portland.

Several years later, Shannon came West again to do organic gardening at Trillium Farm near Jacksonville in southern Oregon. One day she came down to Mt Shasta with her roommates from the farm and I hiked on Mount Shasta with them. I also visited Trillium Farm and together we explored some of the area around the Applegate River.

Shannon at Trillium Farm

This year, Shannon decided to drive cross-country by car. She traveled though Tennessee into Arkansas where stopped to pick up quartz crystals in Ouachita Mountain. Then she drove through Texas to Taos, New Mexico where she stayed in an “earthship” dwelling fashioned by Michael Reynolds out of recycled materials (ie. a home made out of garbage).

Next she went to Sedona Arizona to experience the beauty of the red rocks and the energy of the vortices.

Then on to California. First she visited relatives in San Diego. Then she visited her friend Rosa who is preparing for the release of Alita: Star Warrior, in which Rosa plays the starring role.

Then she travelled north on Hwy 1 though Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, and Mendicino before cutting over to Hwy 101 where she spent a night in Benbow.

Shannon planned to drive over the Coastal Mountain on 299 and then north to Mt. Shasta. Hwy 299 was closed west of Redding because of the Carr Fire  so she took route 36 instead. Hwy 36 also had a temporary closure, so during her delay, she went back down to Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park to cool off in the Redwoods.

After reaching Interstate 5 and heading north, she was shocked to see the black cloud of smoke with an ominous underlying orange glow ahead. She pulled off at a Redding exit to get gas. Eerily, all of the gas stations, shops, and restaurants were closed and abandoned due to evacuation. It was intense, strange and overwhelming, and Shannon burst into tears.

Back on I-5 heading north, she was horrified to see the wall of flame to the west of the highway. She had never imagined the hellish intensity of an  out-of-control wildfire.

Nonetheless, Shannon continued north and arrived in Mt. Shasta about 10 p.m. where she checked into the KOA for a nights rest.

The next morning, Linda and I woke up in Burney. The air was filled with smoke. As we traveled to Mt Shasta to rendezvous with Shannon, the air was filled with smoke. When we arrived in Mt Shasta, the air was filled with smoke and you couldn’t see the mountain. Most of the smoke in Mt Shasta was from fires that had been raging on the California-Oregon border.

Driving into the downtown area, we saw Shannon walking on the sidewalk. We found a place to park in front of the vacant store where Village Books used to be and headed in the direction we had seen her.

On the way, we met two people on a different sort of journey. They were PCT hikers. We briefly introduced ourselves, then Linda spotted Shannon across the street just as she also spotted us. So we rushed to the corner and when the light signaled “walk” we met and embraced in the middle of the intersection.

Shannon had to take something back to her car so I returned to talk with the hikers until Shannon joined us.

Slip n Slide from Redding CA, Shannon, and One Step from the UK

One of the hikers bore the trail name One Step, I suppose because he was taking the trail one step at a time. He was from the United Kingdom. He began his hike in Campo on April 27.

The other was Slip and Slide who had been hiking north since April 7. His motto is “The last one to Canada wins.”

It is actually a profound motto, because not everyone who sets out makes it to Canada. Some stop for physical reasons; some stop for emotional reasons, some stop because they run out of time; some stop because they are delayed, injured or distracted. Finally some stop because the snows of the northern Cascades close the trail.

The first one who makes it to Canada holds a special place. The last one to make it to Canada occupies a special place. Yet there no shame for any. In my view anyone who hikes the PCT for a long distance deserves some kind of a medal.

In any case, Slip and Slide’s is from Redding California. His real name is Zach Winchell. His mother had evacuated her home in Redding the night before. So our conversation turned to the fires. He was in touch with his mom. She was okay, but they were not sure about the house. Zach was faithful and optimistic that all would be well. He was containing north hoping that the fires would be contained and the smoke would clear.

After talking a bit we spent time in one of the shops talking with Sandy, a woman very knowledgeable about crystals and native history. She was Native American. Though she was not Navaho, her family had lived on the Navaho reservation for generations. She was on a spiritual journey.

Shannon wanted to get to Ashland by evening and to Grants Pass by bedtime, so our time was limited. She asked if we wanted to go up the mountain and hike, a suggestion to which Linda and I readily assented in spite our not too spy physical condition.

As we ascended, we rose above the smoke. At Bunny Flats the sky was blue and we had a clear view of the mountain. We continued on to the parking lot at the old ski area.

Shannon and Linda at the old Mt Shasta ski area parking lot

For the sake of time we decided not to take the upper trail to Panther meadows but to go back down to the campground where there was a trail to the lower meadows and several other trails.

When we arrived we were greeted by a cheery young man named Jesse who had recently come from a farm near Trout Lake, Washington. Trout Lake is a small community near Mt Adams. Jesse told us that there was a lot of UFO activity in the area and that he had had several dreams of Sasquatch. According to Jesse, Sasquatch are interdimensional beings.

“That’s why you will never catch a Sasquatch,” he said. They can appear and disappear at will.

That’s as good a theory of Sasquatch as any that I have heard.

The last time I was in Shasta when our daughter Hana Lyn was visiting I met and prayed with a lady named Paravati who was working on achieving a Shamanic journey into the center of Mt. Shasta so she could meet Adamas the High Priest of the Lemurians.

The point is that many people one meets in the energy vortex of Mount Shasta have interesting experiences and ideas.

We continued down the trail into the campground and veered left toward a clearing thinking it might lead into the meadows. Our path took us to a campsite where a tent was set up.

“If there’s anybody there,” I said, “I just want you to know that we are just passing though.”

“Okay,” the tent said.

We walked to the edge of the clearing and the trail stopped.

“We’re looking for Panther meadows,” I said.

“Go south,” the tent said.

So we retraced our steps, went past the bathrooms and took another trail that lead to the southern reaches of the meadow. Shannon wanted to go deeper into the woods, so we took another trail that lead to a pool by a small stream.

A pool by the stream

Linda stayed to rest by the pool while Shannon and I went back to descend a steep downward trail to the “drinking springs.”

The drinking springs

I told Shannon that I had gone far enough. The trail was steep; I was concerned about time; and I didn’t want to leave Linda for too long.

Shannon rested for a few minutes on a tree and then said she would like to explore just a little bit further down the trail.

Taking a thoughtful break by the trail

I sat on the log as Shannon descended around a bend into the forest.

After about 25 minutes, I began to worry. Shannon hadn’t returned and Linda was probably wondering where we were.

Then I remembered the verse, “Do not be anxious about anything. Take your prayers and supplications to God with thanksgiving and He will give you the peace that passes understanding.”

I closed my eyes and began to pray. As peace descended upon me I heard rustling. I opened my eyes and saw Jesse and two friends appear from behind a tree. They approached me with friendly smiles on their faces and Jesse introduced me to his two friends, Silken and her husband.

As it turned out, Jesse and Silken’s husband had been friends for years since they had been youths in the Phoenix area. They said that their paths often crossed, just as they had today in this synchronistic meeting on Mt. Shasta.

Silken’s husband was one of those PCT hikers who had never made it to Canada. He had been hiking the PCT several years ago when he ran into some delays in Ashland. He liked the area around Shasta and Ashland so he just stayed and became a part of the community.

Silken also had an interesting tale. She and a boyfriend had been driving up I 5 several years ago when their car broke down. The got it going and it broke down again heading into town. Then it broke down again once they got into town. She stayed.

I learned that Silken and her husband had known each other as high school students at Glendale High School in Arizona. Silken’s parents are Canadian and she had returned to Canada with them, so she had her own journey but she eventually returned to the US.

She met her friend from high school again. He decided that she was the girl that he wanted to marry and they had just recently celebrated their wedding. They spend part of the year in Phoenix and summer is Ashland.

Shannon returned and joined the conversation. We started back up the steep ascent to the trail where Linda was. My knees were hurting so I told them to go on ahead at their faster pace so Shannon could check on Linda.

As I traipsed upward a heard a man who appeared to be an aspiring shaman yelling at an elderly couple, “You are the sickest people in the world I have ever met. Be healed.” I’m not going into that story.

Finally Linda, Shannon, and I were united and we sat to talk while I gained my breath.

Conversing by the mountain

As Linda and I made our way back to the car, Silken came up to us once again. She shared more of her story and Linda and I shared some of ours. We said a prayer together for her marriage and for world peace.

Then, Linda and I drove Shannon back to Bunny Flats where she had left her car. We had a fond farewell and Shannon took off to travel through Oregon on her way to Orca Island where she hoped that she could spend some time with the whales before driving back to a family gathering on the Atlantic seashore.

As Linda and I drove back down the mountain, Linda said, “We have to stop at the Gathering to see if anyone is there.”

The Gathering is the sister church of Word of Life Assembly of God in Burney. Recently, Cory Yake, the assistant pastor at WOLA, had moved to Mt. Shasta to grow the church. Linda had seen the church as we drove by on our way up the mountain.

Pastors Ken Frazier and Cory Yake, Linda and Alex Colvin at the gathering

Sure enough when we got there, we met Cory’s wife. As we were talking Cory drove up in a pick-up truck together with Pastor Ken Frazier from WOLA in Burney. They gave us tour of the church and showed us their community garden from which we plucked several cherry tomatoes and radishes.

Then we closed with a prayer that the Gathering might be a focal point for people to come together to experience God’s love in a spirit of reconciliation. As we left, Pastor Ken came running up to the window with two bottles of water for our journey home.

Praise God! It was an amazing day of journeys and gatherings.

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High hopes and big dreams

Alberto C. Flores off trail in his Sunday best

Sitting in the coffee shop after Sunday service at WOLA, I saw a dapper young gentleman sporting a straw hat stroll through the room. Though he didn’t have a pack or poles, I surmised that he might perhaps be a PCT hiker.

I introduced myself and asked if I might take a picture and ask him a few questions. He politely agreed and introduced himself as Alberto Clement Flores, known on the trail as “Rowdy.”

Rowdy is 28 years old. In a few weeks he will celebrate his 29th birthday as he continues his hike to Canada. After his hike from Lost Creek Canyon over Hat Creek Ridge, he decided to come in to rest in Burney for a few days to rehydrate and gain back some weight before continuing.

Rowdy is from McAllen Texas. He began his trek on the Pacific Crest Trail at Campo on March 20. He likes to begin his hiking day at 4 a.m. and hike until midnight. That gives him only four hours of sleep. When he’s hiking he makes good progress but every so often he takes a string of zero’s to regain his strength and rest. On one occasion he even took a break to journey over to the Pacific Coast to spend some time at the beach.

Generally, because of the hours that he keeps, he hikes solo. This gives him time to reflect upon his life. He has seen several bears and numerous rattlesnakes, including several on Hat Creek Ridge. (He also told me that he met Coppertone on the ridge where the trail crosses Bidwell Road. Coppertone is a legendary PCT magic man who parks his trailer at various spots along the PCT to supply hikers with bananas, apples, and root beer floats. (See Finding Dilly Dally)

As we talked, Rowdy revealed that his PCT trek is just one leg of a planned seven year global journey. The journey began on January 1 when he left his home in McAllen to ride his bicycle to San Diego where he spent several months before shipping his bike back to Texas and beginning his PCT adventure.

Alberto biking a montain highway – photo courtesy of Alberto

Rowdy is an experienced bike rider. In his early 20’s he experienced tragedy when his girlfriend committed suicide. It devastated him emotionally and mentally. As part of his recovery he began going on long bike rides. One of his trips was riding to Colorado and back. As he explored the West on his bicycle, he took time to interact with many different types of people, some of them homeless and discouraged, seeking to understand their lifestyle and psychology.

He developed a thirst to see and understand the world. He also developed a desire to develop his survivalist skills. Eventually this desire blossomed into a plan to hike the PCT and then travel the world.

Rowdy hopes to reach the Canadian border before the snows get too heavy. Then he will return south to spend the winter with friends he met who own a ranch in Tehachapi.

Next year he plans to get his bike back from Texas and then bicycle north through Canada into Alaska. Once he completes that, he is hoping to be able to return and then travel south through Mexico, Central America, and South America to Argentina.

Rowdy wants to complete a north-south transcontinental journey! He is hoping to accomplish this within 3 years! He doesn’t want to use any motorized transportation. In addition to hiking and bicycling, he hopes that he can do some of it on horseback or with the help of pack animals.

It is a journey of high hopes and big dreams. And there is more. After completing his longitudinal journey through the Western Hemisphere, he wants to travel across Europe and through Asia to China. In preparation and on the way he hopes to learn several more languages (he already speaks English and spotty Spanish).

Altogether, Rowdy hopes to accomplish this in seven years. He also hopes that through his world travels he can carve out a professional career. He has good writing skills, but he says that he needs to acquire a better camera.

After Rowdy explained much of this to me, I introduced him to my wife Linda. Linda told him that we had a pool and invited him to come to our house for a refreshing swim. Rowdy said he was planning on staying at the WOLA gym that night, but perhaps would call us the next day.

Sure enough, the next day he called. I went to the gym to pick him up. Ten of so hikers were lounging in the gym. I asked if any of them wanted to come jump in a cold pool. A few were tempted but said they had just arrived and wanted to get settled in and shower, so there were no takers.

Linda and I had a pleasant afternoon and evening with Rowdy. We cooled off in the pool and then talked several more hours. Then Rowdy had some quiet alone time to catch up on Wi-Fi and take a short nap. After dinner that night he slept in our back yard on an army cot.

The next morning, driving through Burney on our way to the 299 trailhead, I saw two more hikers heading out of town. I was pulling over when we saw that a white pick-up had already stopped to give them a ride. So Rowdy and I drove to the trailhead enjoying more pleasant conversation as we sat in traffic waiting for the pilot car to lead us through the construction in Johnson Park.

When we reached the drop-off point, the white pick-up pulled in behind us and who should jump out but Jim Billo with the two PCT hikers he had picked up: Kiwi and Bear from New Zealand. Kiwi is 64 and Bear is 62. They had jumped to a northern point on the trail and were now headed south.

Rowdy, Jim Billo, Kiwi and Bear near the 299 trailhead

We chatted for a bit. Then Rowdy, Kiwi and Bear returned to the trail to resume their journeys and Jim and I headed back to Burney.

When I got back into town, I stopped in at WOLA to see Kathy Newton. Once again, the room was full of PCT hikers. Beautiful classical piano music was streaming from the sanctuary.

Kathy told me that a hiker from Portugal was playing on the piano. I went in to listen and heard a powerful heartfelt rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata being played.

Dr. Pineapple playing the Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the baby grand in the WOLA sanctuary

The pianists name is Tomas. His trail name is Dr. Pineapple. He is a doctor. He completed his medical training two years ago. In Portugal, doctors must complete a one-year foundation before beginning their residency. Dr. Pineapple has finished his foundation. Before committing to a five-year residency, he wanted to take time off for an adventure. So here he is in Burney, California enriching the area with beautiful classical music. It reminds me of Albert Schweitzer, also a doctor, also a classical musician, and a distinguished scholar who then devoted himself to missionary work in Africa.

Ah what a blessing that the world comes to Burney thanks to the PCT. So many interesting and diverse personalities. So many high hopes and big dreams.

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Happy Feet and the Hissing Bear


Gargoyle, Happy Feet, Cheerie, and Whistler

Happy Feet was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through Kings Canyon National Park. He came upon two other hikers who had stopped to eat by the side of the trail. They told him to be aware that there was a bear by the trail a little further ahead.

Sure enough there was a bear, a very big brown-colored California black bear. The bear was a safe distance off to the right of the trail and appeared to be foraging for food. After observing it for a while, Happy Feet went on his way.

Some time later, he stopped for food. He took some supplies out of his pack and enjoyed a brief meal, then repacked. Before starting on his way again, he pulled out his cell phone to see if he could check his GPS location.

As he did so, he heard a hissing sound behind him. When he turned, he saw the bear he had seen earlier moving toward him hissing loudly.

Happy Feet was startled. He jumped up, grabbed his hiking poles and started clanking them together, waving his arms and yelling at the bear.

The bear stopped. He was only about 12 feet away.

Happy Feet backed off continuing to clack his poles together and make noise.

The bear just stood there. Happy Feet continued to back off.

After he had put some distance between himself and the bear, the bear walked to where Happy Feet had eaten his snack and sniffed around to see if there were any food.

Seeing that the bear no longer seemed interested in him and did not appear to be aggressive, Happy Feet continued on his way.

According to the North American Bear Center, “Bears blow and clack their teeth with they are afraid. When this is done in response to being startled by a person, it appears to be a defensive threat, but they also do it when they scare themselves by almost falling from a tree.”

The NABC website also says, “Apprehensive expressions are forceful expulsions of air accompanied by threatening body language and sometimes deeper throaty sounds.  This explosive behavior looks and sounds very threatening but is harmless bluster from nervous bears…”

So when the bear came upon Happy Feet, he was probably just as startled as Happy Feet. Once a safe distance was established and things quieted down, both went on about their business.

I met Happy Feet at the Word of Life Assembly of God Church in Burney. He and three other hikers had slept the night before in the WOLA gym and then attended Sunday morning service. After the service, I took a picture of the four of them and Happy Feet told me his bear story.

Happy Feet’s name off the trail is Phillip Hennessy. He hails from Yorktown, Virginia and left Campo on March 14. Asked why he was hiking the trail he said, “We hike to reconnect with nature, to reconnect with people, to reconnect with ourselves and the simple values of a healthy lifestyle.”

Happy Feet has spent much of the hike together with Ben Ferguson “Gargoyle” from New Hampshire who began his hike on March 16. They usually camp together. They were surprised when I said that several other hikers I had talked with had seen no bear. They have seen four bears, most recently one near Quincy.

Happy Feet and Gargoyle were excited to hear that I had met Hardcore the day before. They had hiked with her south of the Sierras but had not seen her for some time. I told them that she had gone to Redding and they may well meet her soon coming the opposite direction because she was going to hitch to Weed and then hike south.

Gargoyle said that he was hiking the PCT “to see the world, to meet new people every day, to see the nature and the many towns, communities and cultures we pass through. Also to challenge myself physically and mentally.”

One of the other hikers was Lea Bravin “Cheerio” from the German speaking part of Switzerland. She had met Happy Feet at the beginning of her hike in Southern California and reconnected with him and Gargoyle at intervals along the trail. They just happened to meet again here in Burney.

The fourth hiker was a young gentleman named Nicholas Turney from Seattle Washington. He began his hike from Campo on May 14 so he has been hiking a bit faster pace. His trail name is “Whistler.” You may hear him in the next few days if you are in the woods near the PCT.

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Owl and Hardcore become friends in Burney

Wow! I feel terrible. I just met two delightful PCT hikers at the McDonald’s in Burney. I took a picture of them, but then I came home and accidentally deleted the picture.

I usually only post a PCT article when I have a picture but in this case I will make an exception because I told them that an article would be posted and I don’t want to disappoint them. The two ladies we met who are hiking the PCT are Alison Blair “Owl” from Brisbane, Australia and Josie Chen “Hardcore” from Taipei, Taiwan.

My wife Linda was hot and tired from doing a yard sale so we went to the air-conditioned McDonald’s for parfaits. As we were going to our seats we saw Hardcore and asked her if she were hiking the PCT. She said that she was and then we were joined by her new friend Owl.

They had just met here in Burney. Hiking the hot stretch along Hat Creek Ridge, she had been feeling a deep loneliness. Previously, she had hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and she had never felt lonely like this. She had never felt anything like it in her life.

She didn’t mind hiking alone. She would see friendly people on the trail, but the conversation generally consisted of “Hi!” Hardcore felt a longing for deeper communion. She decided to come into Burney.

Here she met a new bright and cheerful friend. Hardcore had met a woman who offered her a ride into Redding. Owl wanted to go into Redding, so they connected.

There’s an old saying, “Friends are born not made.” Some people you meet and the resonance is there. You feel that you are meant to meet. Linda and I felt the joyful bond between them.

About her PCT experience, Hardcore said, “The trail provides.”

Owl said, “It’s good to say you are strong, but to be strong and measure it once in your life is a good thing.” Owl is wise.

Linda had an uplifting short conversation with Owl as I talked with Hardcore. Hardcore pointed a finger upward and said, “Now I know why He guided me to come into this town.”

They were planning to go to Redding tonight and then Hardcore intended to hitch a ride to Weed and hike back south to Burney.

Because Hardcore had testified to her faith and gratitude, when the time came for farewells, I asked Owl if it was okay if I said a prayer. She said, “Sure!”

So I thanked God that He had brought us all together, people from three distant countries who were able to feel the love that can unite us all. I prayed that God could guide them and bless them on their journey. And we prayed for world peace, racial and religious harmony and that we could create a culture of true love where children can grow up in a good environment.

Then we hugged each other and said, “Good bye.”

Sorry I lost the image, but I hope you get the picture.

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Weaver and Avocado on the PCT

When my daughter Hana Lyn, who is visiting from Maryland, found out that there is a lady in Burney who sells Mary Kay, she was so happy. She had run out of foundation. So Linda messaged Bobbi Frazier and we arranged to meet at 11 a.m. on Tuesday at the Word of Live Assembly of God (WOLA) for resupply.

When we arrived, the WOLA coffee shop and lobby were buzzing with activity. Bobbi was there and so also were two members of a 4K for Cancer Team running from San Francisco to New York. So while Hana Lyn transacted with Bobbik and got a latte, I spoke briefly with one of the team leaders for the 4K Run, Cheyenne Greenside. Kathy Newton who was organizing hospitality for the runners during their rest stop in Burney, told me that they would be having a barbecue at WOLA that evening and invited me to come take pictures for an article. (See 4K Runners Grateful for Burney Hospitality).

Bon preparing a drink for Weaver at the coffee shop

In the meantime, I noticed several PCT hikers in the coffee shop. Five more hikers were enjoying the hospitality of WOLA. Two of them were heading back to the trail that day and three of them were planning to rest, resupply, and stay for the night.

I managed to chat with the two who were planning to trek on that day.

Rebekah Archer is a charming, thoughtful young lady from Melbourne Australia who is flip-flopping (skip-hiking) the trail. Her trail name is Weaver. She began solo hiking in Campo on April 9. As she hiked through the Southern California desert she made several friends with whom she hiked. Rebekah said she saw a lot of rattlesnakes in the south.

When they reached Lone Pine (Mile 788.8), she chose to skip the Sierras and hike north from Chester. Hiking from Chester to Burney she has seen a lot of deer but no bear yet. I told her she may well see one in this area.

After she passes through the Northern Cascades to Canada she plans to return and hike south through the high Sierras after the snow has melted.

In the midst of her journey north, Rebekah will take two weeks off from the trail to spend time with friends from Australia who are coming for a two week visit in San Francisco. Then she will rejoin the hikers she met earlier in the desert and hike to Canada with them. Rebekah has planned her hike so she can enjoy, the “best of all worlds.”

Avocado from Frankfurt Germany

The second PCT hiker I talked with in the coffee shop was a young thru-hiker from Frankfurt Germany. His trail name is Avocado. He started from Campo on March 28. This is the first time that he has done such a long hike. He has hiked the mountains of Europe but never longer than two weeks.

Avocado said that what impresses him about the PCT is the “diversity of beauty full of extreme contrast” that he has experienced on his journey through the desert, the High Sierras, the Southern Cascades, Hat Creek Ridge, and then descending into the forests of Burney Basin. He is looking forward to seeing Burney Falls, and then passing through Mt. Shasta, into the forests of Oregon and the Northern Cascades in Washington.

Just before leaving Germany for his adventure, Avocado completed his undergraduate degree in sociology from Frankfurt University. As he is walking north through the wilderness, he is pondering whether he should continue his studies or begin his career.

From the point of view of a sociologist, Avocado said that the PCT culture is a “tiny special society.” It is international. There are people of all ages and backgrounds making the journey for varied reasons. There are day hikers, section hikers, through hikers, and hip hoppers. Trail angels support and encourage the hikers and businesses in small rural towns cater to their needs. Rugged outdoor adventure interfaces with hi-tech social media and special PCT apps to facilitate the journey. There is a fluid blending of individualism and group formation that enriches the PCT family. Avacado said that he may write a short paper on it in the future.

He said that he met only one person hiking through the snow in the Sierras without a cell phone. Avocado considers his phone to be not just a means of communication but a safety device insuring location and rescue in case of mishap in a treacherous area.

Weaver relaxes at Burney Falls Park

After talking with Avocado, Hana Lyn, my wife Linda, and I headed to Burney Falls to hike the Loop. While there, we ran into Weaver again, sitting at a picnic table writing in her journal. She was planning to have an ice cream before visiting the falls and heading north.

Hana Lyn, with her new Mary Kay foundation, had several opportunities to snap selfies by the falls and on the bridge over Burney Creek.


Hana Lyn by the lynn at Burney Falls

Selfie on the bridge over Burney Creek

Ah! The best of all worlds!

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Vince Wall encourages the Burney Chamber to help make Burney a “PCT Friendly” town

Vince Wall spoke to the Burney Chamber of Commerce on November 14 at Gepetto’s Pizza about the benefits of serving Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers during the summer.

Vince Wall talks about PCT at Burney Chamber of Commerce

Wall worked with CAL FIRE for 30 years. He moved to Burney in 1997. Wall’s daughter Jenn and her boyfriend, Colton, hiked the trail this year. They began at the Mexican border April 15 and Jenn kept a 167 day blog of her journey called Jenn Hikes PCT.

The PCT extends  2,659 miles from the Mexican Border to Canada passing through the Southern California desert, the Sierras, and the Cascade Mountains. The trail crosses Highway 299 six miles west of Burney and also goes through McArthur Burney Falls State Park.

People who hike the whole trail are called thru-hikers. Most of them begin at Campo by the Mexican Border and hike north. Last year 4000 PCT permits were issued. In additions there are many day hikers and section hikers. The bulk of PCT hikers pass through the Intermountain Area in June and July. That means that thousands of hikers pass within 6 miles of Burney each year.

Wall explained that the PCT hike has become a social media event. The hikers and support organizations share information via cell phones and tablets as they traverse the trail. Life on the trail is simple, the hikers seek to maintain a steady pace of miles each day. They try to keep their packs light.

When they pass towns, they need to shower, resupply, eat, socialize and seek recreation. They pick up and ship packages at the post office and patronize markets, stores, restaurants and movie theatres. The also may need medical and dental services and sometimes they will rent motel rooms and take a break.

Though social media hikers share experiences and tell one another which towns are PCT friendly, where the best restaurants are, where they can get good camping sites, which businesses give discounts. where there are special events such as fireworks, etc.

Certain locations become “must see.” It is part of the trail culture. If you don’t go to a must see location you missed out.

Wall showed slides from Jenn’s journey picturing towns, restaurants, and lodging that have catered to the PCT hikers. The pictures showed restaurants. bakeries and taverns packed with PCT hikers. Some small towns provide shuttle services from the trail to town.  PCT friendly towns post small billboards advertising their service. Organizations and trail angels pitch in to provide “trail magic.”

Wall wants Burney to become better known as a PCT friendly town. Burney is ideally located just about half-way on the trail. Thousands of hikers pass through during the peak summer months after crossing the hot Hat Creek Ridge. Wall wants to organize a committee made up of representatives from the Chamber, Rotary, and other service organizations to explore ways to enhance services for PCT hikers in a way that would benefit both hikers and the town.

In other business:

Jen Luck shared that this year’s Fall Fling had netted over $17,000.

Advertising opportunities for Chamber members and membership options were discussed.

The County has allocated $10,000 from the Occupancy Tax for grants for projects that will benefit tourism in the Intermountain Area. Deadline for application is December 1.

The Chamber is also exploring the idea of organizing a Blue Grass Festival if an appropriate location with necessary amenities is located.

Catherine Camp encourage people to participate in North State Giving Tuesday (www.northestategives.org).

It was announced that Jen Luck will resign as Burney Chamber Office Manager effective December 31, 2017.

For more information call Burney Chamber of Commerce 530-335-2111.

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Songbird, Phoenix, Pickles, and Trail Families

“The number one rule of the PCT,” Songbird assured me, “is ‘hike your own hike.'”

He went on to explain, however, that hikers do form friendly “trail families.”

“When you meet other hikers on the trail with whom your goals align, it is wonderful to trek together because shared memories are deeper and richer than solo memories. Be the best friend you can, stay fluid and flexible,” he said, “but don’t generate expectations.”

Songbird is from Tukerton, New Jersey and has been hiking north on the Pacific Crest Trail for more than three months. I met him in the parking lot of the Dollar General along with three members of his PCT trail family: Phoenix from Santa Cruz; Pickles from Philadelphia; and Whoopie from San Jose.

Songbird, Whoopie, Phoenix, MIssy Lyons, and Pickles

I had brought my wife Linda to the store to buy a few items. I didn’t see the hikers at first, because a car was blocking my view, but when the car pulled out, there were two sitting on the curb by their packs chatting.

Then Missy Lyons drove up into the empty parking spot between me and the hikers. She said “hi” as she got out and immediately went over and began cheerfully asking them questions.

They told her that they were thru hikers, had hiked about 1400 miles from the Mexican border, and were on their way to Canada. When they began to ask some questions about local trail conditions and places to stay, she said, “That man over there knows a lot about …”

So I figured that was my cue and went out to meet them. I mentioned the Burney Mountain Guest Ranch, which they had passed, Burney Lodging, and camping at Burney Falls Park. They actually were anxious to get a few more miles in before dark so I asked them if they would like a ride. They said they would appreciate a ride out to the trail head. As we talked two more hikers came out of the store.

Songbird, Phoenix, and Pickles wanted a ride to the trailhead. Whoopie from San Jose decided that he wanted to stay in town for awhile and take in a meal at McDonald’s. Phoenix still had shopping to do, so the trio told me they would wait for me at the Dollar General while I took Linda home to unload our own “resupply.”

When I returned, Phoenix was still shopping so I sat down and we passed the time in conversation.

Pickles from Philadelphia said the hike was part hiking and part thinking and reflecting. Then he also acknowledged that it was also part learning not to think. Urban life is very busy and we are thinking all the time.

Pickles said, “When I get back to the city, I want to take time to get out of the city into nature so I can just wander and refresh myself.”

He earned a degree in art therapy with a minor in art and has been working as an art therapist. His girlfriend in Pennsylvania is going back to school to finish her education. Pickles said that as he hiked he has realized that rather than doing therapy, he wants to devote himself to art.

I told him that I painted with acrylics and he pulled out his phone and googled some of my work. Then he showed me an image of one of his paintings, an urban scene with a fascinating blend of split complementary colors mixed with text expressing his unique voice.

“People say you shouldn’t mix text with painting,” he said.

“But that’s what they think…” we both refrained simultaneously and laughed.

Pickles compared a lesson he had learned from art to hiking the trail.

“You just show up,” he said. “Sometimes the inspiration is there and sometimes it’s not, but you show up every day. Sometimes I don’t like hiking the trail because it is difficult or painful, but I show up every day. I don’t even necessarily think about the destination.”

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s truly inspirational! You just show up everyday.

In the meantime, Phoenix rejoined us from the store. She is attending University of California Santa Cruz studying premed.

“I have almost completed my undergraduate degree, but then the trail called,” she said, “so I will finish up when I complete the hike.”

She was planning to go on to study neurology, but now is thinking of going into cardiovascular work instead.

When she heard Pickles and I discussing art she said, “I would like to get back into art!”

We asked what kind of art she did and she said she was more realistic and had done a lot of drawing in the past.

One of the pleasures of the trail is that the hikers have such diverse talents.

As we prepared to load their packs into the Jeep, Songbird told me that they had a trail family of eight. He showed me two pictures: seven of them at the foot of Mt. Whitney and another somewhere further up the trail with all eight of them.

He and Phoenix had currently been hiking together for about three weeks. They hadn’t seen Pickles for several weeks but now they would be hiking together for awhile. Another of their family had hiked on ahead. One was resting at Burney Mountain Guest Lodge. Whoopie was at the McDonald’s and would hike solo but probably meet some of them again further up trail. Two others were somewhere else.

They had met earlier on the trail and become friends. Each one was hiking his own individual hike, but they stayed in touch by cell phone, followed each other’s progress on social media, reunited periodically, and hiked together when their pace and goals aligned.

On the drive to the trail head, I was silent as they checked their phones to receive messages and check trail conditions. One of their friends had just hiked 51 miles in 20 hours. He was far ahead.

Phoenix gasped. Two nineteen year old girls hiking the PCT had just been found dead in a rocky area of the bottom of a waterfall in Oregon. Everyone was deeply shocked and saddened by the tragedy and wondered how it had come to pass, but they took it in stride. They had faced some close calls themselves.

Songbird, Phoenix, and Pickles ready to head north to Canada

You never know what the trail may hold. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. You just show up everyday. Sometimes you hike alone, sometimes you create a wealth of shared memories with friends and family. It is a challenging journey full of beauty and love.

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