Wingman from the Roadside:
The Hope Valley Sno-Park was a beautiful spot. I had a great, peaceful night’s sleep. Stepping outside the trailer with my coffee, all is calm. There is a beautiful mist hanging over the small lake. There are a few other folks parked around me enjoying the same solitude: a motorcycle rider out for an early morning ride, a couple in a camper, and a trick looking VW van. I walked over to take a picture of the cool graphics and there were a couple of young ladies, Fabienne and Ramona, sitting behind the van enjoying coffee. They are from Switzerland and are touring the US for seven months in the van which they have custom outfitted for the trip and had shipped to the US East Coast. The van is four-wheel drive, a diesel, and well equipped for camping and they designed their own graphics. They will be continuing on up the coast to Vancouver, BC and then driving back to the East Coast to ship the van home again. We chat a bit more about Switzerland and the PCT adventure before we wish each other well and go our ways.
Back in the PCT support rig I head up the highway for the short drive to South Lake Tahoe and move through the Sunday afternoon traffic. I arrive at the Tahoe Valley Campground and it’s a zoo! There are 415 sites and it is definitely laid out to maximize space and provide the greatest return to the investor(s). I wiggled my way into my assigned space and then stood there scratching my head about where the truck was supposed to fit into the space. Neighbors on all sides, kids going in every direction on scooters and bikes, loud music, small barking dogs. Including the high rent ($70/night) the place is crazy. Certainly a switch from most of the places we’ve been to so far on this trip.
After I drop the trailer and get a few things out (hose, electric cord) to connect it to full campground mode my phone gets a cell signal and starts dinging like crazy. The big one was from an anonymous number telling me to “Get Runningbird at Ebbetts Pass”. First in my mind, and then I type back: “What??”. I immediately left the trailer and took off for Ebbett’s Pass (and that darn skinny road I never wanted to see again) stopping in the tiny town of Markleeville for gas just in case. I had no cell service here and the gentleman in the little gas/market suggested I use his landline to call back the number that left me the text. The trail runner who answered (Runningbird mentions him in her post) said Runningbird was not feeling well, was not far out and wanted me to pick her up at the trailhead. I thanked him and flew up the highway much faster than I should have. She was not at the trailhead when I arrived so I put on my pack and headed in. Some miles down the trail I realized I should have seen her by now unless she was just so sick that she had just stopped on the trail. Oddly I started looking at footprints on the trail. She wears the same Brooks Cascadia that I do. I pushed my shoe print down hard into the dirt to get a good look at the print. Within a few hundred yards I found a print that looked just like mine only smaller and was missing one lug which I had noticed the last time I washed off her shoes. Somehow I had missed her on the trail. I turned around and headed back in at a brisk pace. How did I miss her? Did I miss her at the trailhead in my haste to get on the trail?
Now it gets a bit bizarre. Our trail friend Clax who had helped us with the SPOT (he hikes A LOT) had been watching Runningbird’s tracker as he had been hiking in an area just south of Bridgeport (where we had been just days before) and decided he would try to surprise Runningbird and say hi as she went through Ebbetts Pass. He had found her at the trailhead waiting for me and gave her a ride down the mountain road to try and intercept me. We had blown by each other on the road and not noticed. Eventually they would turn around on the small road and come back to the trailhead but not before I had started hiking. Clax found me on the trail soon after I had turned around and told me what had happened. I tell you, this adventure has really been an adventure! Runningbird and I agree that we really need to change Clax’s trail name to Zorro.
Arriving back at the trailhead Clax and I found Runningbird on the ground in front of Clax’s old Toyota, on her sleeping pad, sound asleep. From here you’ll have to read her story as, once again, it is her story to tell. Hugs and thanks and Clax was again off in his own direction. Runningbird and I return to the crazy campground and our trailer where there is again cell service and several more texts and phone messages pop in from others who were reaching out from the trail to help. We will later have a serious strategy discussion but for now there is joy that she is safe and comfortable.