I haven’t yet shared with you the awesome story of my friend, Jessica, trail angeling for us during my first week of hiking. It must have been only day four on the trail, my journey had just begun, and Jessica contacted me and told me that she would like to bring oranges and beer for us to the Mt. Laguna campground. We told her beer’s a-plenty, so no need, but oranges sound great, and maybe some moleskin for our blisters too? She showed up late at night after work when we were all sleeping, slept in her car, and surprised us in the morning with oranges, moleskin, hot coffee, hot cider, root beer, cinnamon buns, Hawaiian rolls, bacon(!!!), dark chocolate bars, chips and salsa, firewood, and sooo many things that about 12 of us gobbled up in a heartbeat. She also took home 2lbs worth of junk that I decided to part with to lower my pack weight, drove two carfuls of my trail family to the restaurant and trailhead, and then hiked with me for the whole day.
All of this wonderful trail magic, and I got carried away with my hike and never even really thanked her. And the worst part, besides not thanking her enough, is that I nearly starved her! I was running a little low on food myself and had picked up a few meals from the hiker box (where hikers discard excess food, clothes, and other items) earlier. All I was thinking about was making it to the next town without running out of food and not messing up my achilles any further (it was pretty bad at that point; swollen and in a lot of pain). I didn’t even think about the fact that Jessica fed us most of her food in the morning and joined me for a short day hike with a granola bar and some leftover Hawaiian rolls in tow and one bottle of water. I didn’t notice that, when our simple day hike turned into a close to 10 mile hike, and that when she was waited around at the campground for a ride back to her car, she had no food or water. At one point, my subconscious reminded me for a second to be considerate, so I offered her something, but she remembered I was running low myself and adamantly shook her head in refusal.
Only when she had left and it felt so empty without her for a while did I start to replay the day’s adventures in my mind and remembered her snacking on nothing but a bread roll and her not having any water by the time we got to the campground. I felt like the worst friend ever. How could I be so inattentive? And the couple who drove her back to her car so she could go home, Just Wendell and Mama Bear, stocked me up with plenty of food when Mama Bear showed up and picked up her husband, Just Wendell, to take him off the trail because she wanted him back home. She shook out her husband’s backpack and gave me all of his extra food. I handed Jessica some of the surplus ritz crackers, and as she drove off, realized that was the only thing she’d had to eat in hours! I’m sorry for starving you, Jessica! I promise you that if we hike the JMT together (she wants to hike it for her birthday this year and I plan to get off the trail for a bit to join her), I won’t be so careless. You will be fed and your kindness and generosity will not go unrewarded. Thank you, dear friend. We have missed your presence and reminisced about your trail magic many times since!