Ballard and Walker: PCT Thru-Hikers
June 1, 2000: Day 21, Mile 344, Rte. 138, California
My mind's eye sifted through a pile of trick-or-treat candy on the old living room floor while Duffy, his brother Chris, my old college roommate Lisa, and Chris' friend from Columbia Journalism School, Pete, awaited my answer.
"Strawberry Charleston Chew."
"Ohhhh, good one, good one."
Phew, another narrow escape from Candy Bar Game humiliation. Pete's family must have taken lots of road trips to visit Grandma, or he must have spent many rainy days as a desperate camp counselor trying to keep cranky Blue Birds and Little Warriors from feuding. Either way, he's now an excellent guide to the land of good, clean, mile-eating fun.
"Excuse me while I engage in some self-aggrandization. . . . ."
"Such a fixation fills me with trepidation. . . ."
"I'm not sure I like your insinuation."
These snippets of nonsense were all sucessful plays in another of Pete's time-killers - the Radiation Game. Animation, sequestration, flirtation, transmutation, excommunication, even breast augmentation. We must have covered six miles with such "-ations." As inane as the hiking hijinks may sound, they were a welcome change of pace.
Yes, it certainly was great to have guests.
Chris, Lisa, and Pete spent three days on the PCT with us, trekking the 24 miles from Onyx Peak to Big Bear City. The logistics of meeting them as well as the necessarily attenuated pace (it's poor form to exhaust and injure visitors) forced us to skip some trail miles (through a section ravaged by a Willow fire in August 1999, so we're not too upset about it) in order to make up for lost time. But while we had misgivings about bypassing trail, the mental and physical rejuvenation of sharing our trail life with close friends was well worth it. Diehards, please forgive us.
Memorial Day traffic and navigational difficulties delayed the East Coasters' arrival, but while we waited for them in the Big Bear City Convention Center's parking lot, Rocky, its manager, kept us entertained with stories of his days as a Marine, rock-climbing at Tahquitz, off-roading in his jeep, and Big Bear's infamous Oktoberfest weekends. I am consistently astounded by the generosity of strangers out here. When our backpacking buddies finally arrived, Rocky contributed two Safe Water filters, a box of Balance Bars, and a ride to the trailhead so our mini-PCT adventure could get off to a smooth start. Safely deposited back on the PCT, we gave our charges a sampling of a thruhiking life. But they had much to give us as well.
The best thing about having friends from home hike with you is how they change your routine and perspective. We had been working so hard to make the miles that we'd hadn't taken time to sun bathe, nap, play Kick the Cone, or even pine cone softball. With our friends around us we did all those things and more. We made our first campfire, we roasted turkey-dogs, triedin vainto bake biscuits, concocted monster smores, and even shared a few beers. PCT purists may cringe at the thought of lugging such luxuries into the backcountry, but the company was cause for celebration. And, beyond the bad jokes told by moonlight, name games like Harmon Kilebrew, siestas, tune-less renditions of "Puff the Magic Dragon" (later to become "Duff the Magic Dragon"), and the mesmerizing sparks of the fire, time with Chris, Lisa, and Pete helped us revisit why we came out here in the first place.
"It's so quiet. . . ."
"Shhh, see the snake?"
"Whoa, check out that view. . . ."
"Duffy, let me see the guidewhat's this peak called?"
"Did you hear the coyotes last night?"
"This is the life. . . ."
God forbid we forget, but if we do, we know who to call to remind us.
Check out Duffy and Angela's gear lists.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication