Past the Halfway Point and heading towards Oregon!
After Lake Tahoe Andy got picked up by his Ananda friend Margret in Sierra City. She shuttled him to Ananda Village where Andy has lived on and off for the past two years. Ananda is a Spiritual Community dedicated to conscious living through the yoga philosophy of Paramahansa Yogananda — think ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.
At Ananda, he saw many old friends, curious about his trip and marveling at his adventure. I’m sure in their eyes they saw a transformed friend. Andy’s physical appearance has changed quite a bit in the last 125 days on the trail. Extraordinarily bronzed from endless days of sun, he’s sporting a furry beard and a well-toned muscular body. And that’s not all that’s changed. So has his mental outlook. I think the trail does that. Back in March, while at Ananda, Andy had brooded over his future, wondering what course to take, concerned about his health, and not completely satisfied with what seemed like limiting possibilities of life at the village. He was indecisive and constantly vacillating on what his next move would be. I’m sure to his friends he was moody, non-committal and somewhat of an enigma.
Today he is a changed young man — excited about his adventure, and forging ahead on the trail with confidence and a renewed spirit. In every phone conversation I have with him from the trail he is high on life . . . and at the same time focused on the next meal he’ll eat that didn’t come out of his backpack.
This last stretch, past the halfway point, has been a collection of interesting twists and turns (dare I say traversing?) and backtracking as there have been serval fires in the area north of Sierra City and the PCT trail has been closed. He’s been forced to get off the trail and hitch a ride to the nearest town and hatch a new plan. Every time he’s had to rely on the kindness of strangers. And they have been VERY kind. His stories have renewed my faith in humanity — the kindness and generosity that has been offered by people he’s met has astounded me.
At this point Andy has finished with the Sierras and is beginning to hike through the first peaks of the Cascade Range. He’s passed Lassen Peak and closing in on Mount Shasta, next it’s on to Mount McLoughlin to Mount Thielsen and onward to the Three Sisters around Bend, Oregon. After that Mount Washington to Three Finger Jack to Mount Jefferson and finally to Mount Hood.
When Andy was forced to get off the trail outside of Belden Town to detour around the fire he hitched a ride to a podunk town called Quincy. Immediately he spotted a sign that read “Free Beer for PCT’ers” It’s wasn’t the ‘beer’ that caught Andy’s attention, it was the ‘free’ that perked Andy up. Because of his inherent light-weightedness when it comes to any kind of alcoholic beverage, Andy’s just not a buzz-on kinda guy. So he went in and ordered a free non-alcoholic brew and struck up a conversation with the bartender. The bartender quickly offered him a ride to his home when he got off work so he could take a shower, do some laundry, join a party he and his girlfriend where hosting, have some home-cooked food and bed down for the night. Obviously, this wasn’t an offer that any PCTer could turn down — especially the food part!
He spent the night with his new bartenders’ friends who partied till the wee hours while Andy slept on their couch with his earplugs in. The bartenders ‘home’ turned out to be an old barn on an Organic Farm where sheets served as walls to partition off sections into rooms. The next morning his hosts and overnight friends picked breakfast from the garden, nursing hangovers while Andy was fueling up for a bus ride around the fire.
He got a ride back to Quincy and while sitting outside the bus station without any money got to talking to a woman about the PCT and the unexpected fire and the need to get off the trail. The woman, interested in his adventure and sympathetic to his need for $4 for the Plumas County transit ticket to take him to the next small town of Chester pulled out her wallet and gave him his fare!
Once on the bus, he met another new friend! Colby, a young man a year younger than Andy, started a conversation. His curiosity about his PCT status and why he was on the bus turned out to be Andy’s next meal ticket. Colby grew up in Chester where he’s a well-known cyclist and his dad owns the local bike shop and his mother is a Forest Ranger! Colby, seduced by Andy’s travels, invited him to come home with him and promised a free meal, a hot shower and a bed for the night. Again, it was those two little words — ‘free’ and ‘meal’ strung together are music to Andy’s ears. When they got to Chester, Colby hooked him up with a loaner bike. With back-pack strapped on, the new friends rode a few miles out of town to Colby’s house.
There Andy met the parents who embraced him whole-heartedly. Colby loaned Andy some clean clothes, threw his hiking clothes in the laundry, showed him the guest cottage out back where he could shower and crash that night and let him know when dinner would be served. Dinner that would again be fresh picked from the garden.
The next morning after a delicious hot breakfast Andy and Colby biked back into town and Andy made a quick visit to an ATM and got back on the trail skirting the fire and headed to Drakesbad Guest Ranch. The guest ranch welcomes PCT hikers with open arms, handing them a towel, a bar of soap and a free shower upon arrival. A $10 all you can eat dinner is available to all PCTers along with free use of the pool.
While in Drakesbad Andy learned of another fire ahead of him and he would be forced to again skirt around before he could get to Old Station. The fire was located in the Modoc Plateau called Hat Creek Rim, noted for its desolate surroundings and famous for its lack of shade and water. But, another lucky break was coming Andy’s way and it contained those two favorite words linked together — free and food.
While hanging out around the pool at the Drakesbad Ranch Andy met a couple that owned a second home in Chester and they were going back that evening, would Andy like to come? Well, we all know that answer to that by now. He saddled up in their car and went out to their home — turns out that the husband Jim, is a Zen master and has a cool meditation nook that also serves as an impromptu guest quarters. After a blissful sleep surrounded by spiritual artifacts Andy woke up to a delicious breakfast and a surprise guest. The couples 20-somethingish daughter had come in that morning in search of a partner to go kayaking, anyone want to go? Lunch would be served afterwards.
A morning kayak outing with a new girl on a pristine lake, knowing a free lunch was on the horizon. Sounds like bliss to me. Again (third time) the meal was procured from the garden, so guaranteed to be fresh and organic. Andy volunteered to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
After all the good-byes and happy trials Jim drove Andy to Old Station Post Office where he retrieved his food drop from with assorted bars and dehydrated meals I’d packed about 1 week before and a box from Zappos that contained his forth pair of new shoes. It’s time to get back on the trail and putting in some milage to get him accross the California / Oregon border. On the way he’s looking forward to meeting up with an old buddy, Jeremy somewhere close to Castella.