Following the extensive list of horrifying things to be found on the Pacific Crest Trail, the trail's second most abundant resource award goes to “the kindness of strangers” (or “the poop of strangers” – it's a close call).
My objectively undeserving self was showered in trail magic simply because I had decided to go on a very long walk which had in turn resulted in my becoming incredibly smelly and offensive looking (note: this strategy that has yet to work off-trail).
Needless to say, life was good.
However, since my karma meter has dipped so far into the red, something needs to be done so that once more I can hope to receive unsolicited assistance from strangers (because I only do nice things with the expectation that someone will return the favor…to me).
The time has come for me to become a beer dispersing angel of the trail.
I set up camp at around PCT mile 470, just off Highway 2 in the Angeles National Forest.
I choose this spot because it is a day and a half's hike from civilization in either direction, so any hikers I encounter will be craving the comforts of town (aka a piece of fruit, a cookie, and a beer).
I finish my first book of the day and make the acquaintance of large group of Korean day hikers (who insisted that I take their food and water after learning of my previous PCT exploits), but still no PCTers.
I begin to worry that perhaps my trail magic was too late for even the tail end of this year's PCT class.
Maybe I'm not cut out to be an angel (go Dodgers).
It is nearly one in the afternoon and despite my now obvious sunburn, I refuse to retreat to my air-conditioned vehicle (I must suffer in solidarity with the hikers).
Someone must be arriving soon (although the alternative of me gorging myself on awesome snackage and thirty PBRs presents a rather attractive prospect as well).
Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, I catch a glimpse of a solo hiker coming down the ridge opposite my position. He appears to be bearded, ungroomed, and carrying an acceptably large pack – a thru-hiker if I've ever seen one (I have).
Soon he arrives at my table of magic; however, I have hidden my blessings beneath some jackets to limit unnecessary exposure to the sun (I should have thought about doing the same for myself).
I introduce myself and ask if he would like something to eat or drink.
Not realizing the extent of my offer (aka thinking I am just another dirty hiker), he politely declines. “Are you sure?” I ask, revealing my trove of delicious goodness.
His eyes grow wide and he immediately changes his mind. Who knew that making friends could be so easy?
Slowly but surely, hikers file in and my plan to inhibit the progress of this year's PCT class to Canada plays out exactly as planned.
The fruit is a particularly big hit (I should have brought more), and I find that it is still too early in the trail for hikers to have embraced the “beer can (and should) be drank” at any point during the day attitude (they'll learn).
Another result of this mile marker still being relatively early in the thru-hike, it is difficult to get hikers to overcome their shyness when it comes to “helping themselves” from my bounty.
If I say “take one”, take one, but if I say, “literally, take as much as you want”, do not insult my (seemingly) altruistic behavior and simply pick at the offerings (and whatever you do, do not be afraid to open that unopened bag of Doritos – they're yours.)
Here are a few more of the hikers who were lucky enough to put in the miles to reach me:
For anyone wondering what it was I brought to the table (HAHAHAHA): Gatorade, Powerade, Powerade powder, assorted drink mixes, chocolate chip cookies, beer, bananas, apples, grapes, Doritos, Cheetos, pretzels, Goldfish, Coke, Dr Pepper, Ziploc bags, water, deli meats, and love.