Two weekends ago, my husband I watched “Wild” about a young lady trying to sort out her life by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada.
Part of the trail runs through our mountains so Idyllwild is an ideal place to stop, refresh and replenish. It is now PCT season in Idyllwild. Various businesses welcome hikers with discounts on motel rooms, food, etc. Idyllwild is a stopping point where hikers can pick up their mail, sign the post office book validating they made it to Idyllwild or mail home extra backpacking equipment they no longer wish to lug.
As I was making my daily run to the p.o, I noticed a man with long gnarled hair, a beard, a backpack and a walking stick. Normally, I would have tried to avoid him, but being this is PCT season and having a high degree of respect for anyone who accomplishes this feat, I went up and asked if he was a PCT hiker. He assured me he was. I inquired if I could ask him some questions about his journey. He said, “Yes.”
We were standing just outside the pizza place. After talking for about 15 minutes, I offered to take him into the pizza place and treat him to a beverage. He was very pleased with the invitation and ended up with a cup of tea. We seated ourselves and spent another half hour or so discussing life on the trail.
All PCT hikers have a “trail name” and his was “Painted Wagon.” About four years ago, he had a heart attack and his doctor told him he needed to walk. He started walking and found he really loved walking. It was his belief that instead of sitting in a chair in front of the TV and waiting to die, he should find somewhere interesting to walk. He found the PCT. This is the third season he has done this walk and he looked very healthy to me.
He turned out to be an interesting man who at one time had been a professional skydiver. During his teens, he worked for a logging company just outside of a town in the White Mountains of Arizona from which I had just moved a year ago. Small world.
I’m glad I had the courage to go up to Painted Wagon and ask if he was a PCT hiker.