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THERE’S SOMETHING UNIQUE AND SPECIAL ABOUT TREKKING THROUGH PRISTINE WILDERNESS THAT’S SELDOM VISITED WHILE ALSO EXPERIENCING UNBRIDLED KINDNESS FROM THE WORLD’S NICEST STRANGERS. and they don't look down on those who hike for days rather than months. On our map, the hike to Carson Pass appeared milder than our earlier segment, but outdoors types know well how looks can deceive. Sun, rain, steep switchbacks and tricky route-finding combined to make it longer and harder than expected. Two beat backpackers and one pooped puppy staggered to Carson Pass on our fourth day. Trail Angels came to our aid again, refreshing us with fruit, chips and ice-cold sodas. Their selfless support proved that the PCT has become not just a trail, but a community. Hikers get to experience the west coast of the United States, and Trail Angels get the rewarding satisfaction of helping them. “They're so grateful,” said one. “It's like seeing kids' eyes get big when they see Halloween candy.” Though I've hiked many years in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere, I've never seen anything like it. We recovered enough to hike three more miles that evening, camping in the lush, wildflower-filled Meiss Meadow. We slept beside the historic cabin built by the Meiss family in the 1870s. Though the building is closed in summer, it stands as a reminder of life in a simpler time when mail arrived only rarely but the 209MAGAZINE

Truckee River provided fish regularly. After about 65 miles, I felt we had adjusted to the rigors of the trail and the wilderness. That goes for my four-legged friend too. A pack of coyotes howled late in the night but Sam didn't make a sound, simply raising his head and ears before returning to sleep, snuggled beside me. A final push to El Dorado National Forest took us to Echo Summit. One shouldn't expect help from Trail Angels, who won't always be found, but I was glad to get it a final time from friendly folks who gave us juice and homemade cookies. My nephew Benjamin Story also qualified as a Trail Angel by driving more than 350 miles to get us on short notice. The hike still changed us for the better. There's something unique and special about trekking through pristine wilderness that's seldom visited while also experiencing unbridled kindness from the world's nicest strangers. Most of the PCT remains for us to do, but I suspect the day will come when we also visit the trailheads not to hike but to give back. ■ — Matt Johanson authored “Yosemite Adventures,” a new guide to 50 hikes, climbs and winter treks. His writing can be found at www.mattjohanson.com. 37

APRIL/MAY 2015


209 Magazine - Issue 7