A week ago, on my drive home from work, I saw a man clad in trail garb digging through a ULA Pack on the side of the road. I flipped a U-ey in a construction zone and pulled up beside him. I hopped out in a burst of excitement; then stood there, peering over the hood of my car for a moment, making sure my assessment was correct. I offered him a ride to town and he declined, replying that he was walking a long trail. Yup. Thru-hiker.
Arno is a seasoned distance hiker, coffee connoisseur, and an idealist. Upon promising not to murder my roommate or I in our sleep, I brought him home for some hiker town necessities: laundry, shower, food, internet access, and the chance to throw his feet up. I baked chocolate chip cookies as we chatted into the evening and it tore at a tender scab in my soul and I yearned for the trail. He was gone when I woke the next morning, leaving a note (written on the back sheet of a paper-back), an awesome cube of magnetic balls…which I am no longer allowed to bring to work as thy supposedly deactivate magnetic strips.
One morning before work I picked up the local paper to check for beds on sale. Instead I found an article about my PCT hike from a talk I had given!
A few days later, Shannon called from Herman Gulch. In 2009, he thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, last year he became a steadfast member of my trail family. This year he added a GPS to his ensemble and is solo SoBoing the Continental Divide. I have known he is coming through and have been looking forward to it. Actually, by the time he called, I was already on my way out there.
I pulled in to the trail head and there, plunked happily in a spot of dirt and shade, back resting on his pack, and hands entwined behind a mat of curly black hair, lounged Shannon. The only individual I know who has hiked more than 5000 trail miles and still doesn’t have a trail name.
We returned to Frisco and caught up a bit. As we began to consider becoming productive, one of the most productive people I have ever met, the lovely Ms. Leda, pulled up. In town for an Emergency Responder training course, she was joining our little ensemble. We hit the grocery store with a vengeance. Shannon was resupplying and sending a mail drop, I was loading up for hiking down toward Leadville with him, Leda has been feeding a Forest Service BA for the past five years. It was fun to shop together, learning from each of my incredibly knowledgeable companions.
Yesterday, Shannon and I did a light, 16 mile, day hike through fall foliage. That will be a story in itself. When we got home that night I found Leda had, in 1 day, accomplished what I could not figure out in 2 months. She had found a cheap bed, had it checked out, and delivery date was set. I was in ecstatic awe.
For now, I’ve got to get going. The weather’s great and the trail calls.