A Blistered Kind of Love

Trail Angels
  |  Gorp.com

WE FINALLY TOUCHED DOWN AT THE SAN DIEGO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ON MAY 7. We had made arrangements, using a Pacific Crest Trail e-mail forum, for an ex-Navy commander named Bob to pick us up. He was to be our first "trail angel." Trail angels are sometimes said to be the "unsung heroes" of the PCT, helping hikers with food, water, rides, laundry, showers, and much more. During the dark times, when hikers waver between continuing on and giving up, the support, encouragement, and "magic" provided by a trail angel can make all the difference.

Often anonymous, trail angels help thru-hikers for no other reason than, in the words of one angel, "the satisfaction of helping another human being . . . making their journey better and in the process becoming woven into that journey." Frequently, trail angels find spots where hikers are liable to run into trouble and then, like magic, solve the problem—for instance, by providing water in the desert. In this way they seem like guardian angels, appearing just when they are needed most.

In Bob's case, this meant picking up hikers at the airport, giving them a place to stay, and then driving them to the trail's southern terminus, near Campo.

We rescued our packs from the strap-eating conveyor belts at baggage claim and, exhausted from the previous day's preparations as well as the cross-country flight, staggered outside into the bright southern California sunshine. Bob was already parked at the curb, his minivan sporting a Pacific Crest Trail placard.

"Welcome to paradise!" Bob exclaimed when he spotted our bulging packs, trekking poles, and Duffy's Lawrence of Arabia-like sun hat. Beckoning us, he grinned and shouted, opening his thick arms out wide to reveal sweaty armpits and a sumo wrestler tummy.


Published: 8 Sep 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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