Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting off the trail, the hard way

June 9: Today I had a short little hike to Walker Pass, where Amanda was scheduled to pick me up later in the afternoon. Due to my diligent hiking, I was going to arrive several hours before Amanda would arrive to pick me up, however, and I didn't feel like sitting on the side of the road killing time. I'd hitch down to Lake Isabella and wait for her there, I thought.

That was my plan. It seemed like a simple plan, but I managed to royally screw it up. It started with my arrival at Walker Pass, at about the same time Morph and Moonshadow arrived. They too planned to get off at Walker Pass in order to backtrack to do the section between Idyllwild and Big Bear that they had skipped due to fears of snow. So the three of us were at Walker Pass, trying to hitch a ride into Lake Isabella about 35 miles away.

I was able to check my e-mail on my Peek device from the pass, so I did, getting a couple of e-mails from Amanda letting me know that Gwen, a friend from letterboxing, would be in Kernville and that we could stay at her place, and that if I get in early, to give her a call to pick me up from Walker Pass. Awesome! I wouldn't have to depend on hitching a ride!

I tried my cell phone, but alas, got no service. *grumbling* Here I was, with a ride set to pick me up, and no way to contact her. I thought about e-mailing Amanda to call her for me, but Amanda was already flying. She couldn't get e-mail. I could only communicate via e-mail, and Amanda could only communicate via cell phones. We couldn't communicate. Gwen, I //could// e-mail, but I know she doesn't get online very often, and she likely wouldn't get the message for who knows how long.

So while Morph and Moonshadow took turns trying to hitch a ride, I sat there reading the rest of my e-mail and scratching my head about how to let Gwen know that I was there.

A car pulled over, but it wasn't clear if the driver was stopping, or planning to offer us a ride. He got out with his dog, telling us that he was taking his dog to the lake to swim, asking us where we were hitching from. "Right here," we told him. "To Lake Isabella." Right where he was going. He was an elderly gentleman, and the knives in his head seemed a bit rusty. At first he said he'd never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, then later that he had friends who hiked it. He chatted with us for five minutes or so, then wished us good luck on our journey, and left us there.

Moonshadow said, "You know, I think he forgot we were trying to get a ride."

Morph made a comment about, "It was just as well. We probably would have died if we got a ride from him."

Then I had a lightbulb go off in my head about how to let Gwen know I was at Walker Pass. I e-mailed wassamatta_u, a man who is always online--or at least seemingly so--and asked him to phone Gwen for me.

Just as I finished punching in the e-mail, a vehicle pulled over without any of us even sticking out our thumbs. "You need a ride into town?" the lady asked. Well sure.....!

The lady was Okie Girl, a trail angel who was actually heading to the nearby campground with ice cream, drinks, and all sorts of other snacks for thru-hikers stopping by. Morph and I piled into the back of the truck and Moonshadow got in front, and I whipped out my Peek to send wassamatta_u another e-mail that essentially read, "Abort! Abort! Abort!" I didn't want Gwen driving up to find me if I wasn't going to be at Walker Pass.

As soon as the truck started going down the road, however, I lost my fragile e-mail connection. Wassa didn't get my abort message. Shoot. I wasn't sure what to do now. Either my cell phone nor e-mail worked. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

We dropped off the food and drinks at the campground, then continued toward Lake Isabella. I kept both my e-mail device and cell phone out, hoping to get something one of them to get the abort out, but they both stayed stubbornly without a signal. Our ride stopped once again in Onyx so a hiker could pick up their maildrop there, but again, no signal.

Finally, we arrived in Lake Isabella, and at long last, my e-mail connection once again started. My abort finally went out, but I feared it was too late. Then I got a message from wassa saying he contacted Gwen and she was on her way. Drats! It was too late! Now I'm in Lake Isabella, and nobody knew it.

Morph and Moonshadow checked into a motel, then we got a ride from the trail angel to the Pizza Factory near Vons. The other hikers getting rides wanted to resupply in Vons, so it was a convenient place to part ways. Okie Girl allowed me to use her cell phone (which actually worked!) to call both Amanda and Gwen, to let them both know that I was at the Pizza Factory in Lake Isabella, in the Vons shopping center complex. I also e-mailed wassamatta_u to let him know what I mess that I made of things, but that I'd get things sorted out eventually, and that both Gwen and Amanda now have a message about my location, though who knows when either of them would get it.

I'd wait at the Pizza Factory all day if I had to, though. I was in it for the long haul. I wasn't moving. =) At least I wouldn't go hungry or thirsty, I was inside where it was cool, and I had restrooms readily available. It was a good place to wait.

The pizza came, and while eating and talking, I heard my name in the background. Huh? I looked up, and a girl behind the counter was asking if there was a Ryan in the store. Me? I waved, tentatively. "I'm Ryan."

"There's a Gwen on the phone," she told me.

Ah, yes, that's definitely for me! Gwen told me that she just got my message, after my sadly sending her on a wild goose chase looking for me on Walker Pass. But it wasn't a totally wasted trip. She was able to pick up two hikers trying to hitch a ride up to Walker Pass, and met a few other hikers at the campground that told her I had gone into town. Gwen said she'd be there in about 20 minutes to pick me up. Awesome!

I also asked if she could call Amanda to leave her a message letting her know that I'd be with her in Kernville.

Finally, the mess was getting sorted out. And I was full on pizza. Life was good. =)

Gwen arrived, and gave Morph and Moonshadow a ride back to their hotel room. It was only a half mile or so away, but they originally expected to walk back, so they were happy to get a ride back instead. Gwen also gave them her contact information so when they get back to the area, she could give them a ride back to Walker Pass. They made out pretty well in the deal. =)

Then Gwen drove me to Kernville, then Amanda arrived a few hours later, and all was right with the world once again. I got on the computer and started typing up more than two weeks of adventures I'd fallen behind in, until I crashed, too tired to stay up past hiker midnight (sunset).

In August, I'll be participating with Amanda in the Washington Trail Association's Hike-a-Thon. If you haven't already, please consider sponsoring us. (Especially me!) The folks do great work helping to fix up and maintain trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail and help make thru-hikes such as mine possible. If you enjoy reading this blog, consider giving something back to the trails that make it possible. Thanks!


Anonymous said...

You are ALWAYS in good hands with Gwen and Wassa's Uncle Don!

Grumpy Grinch

Anonymous said...

It's good that you have so many to look after you while you are hiking... Now if I were in better shape I could see why someone would just go hiking without getting some art along the way! I'm beginning to understand now!

Goofy girl

Dezert Ratty said...

Just found Don and Gwen's LB in Hell's Half Acre - they are everywhere :-)
Dezert Ratty

Anonymous said...

Aww. I miss the pizza factory and the west coast.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sometimes you just need to have a little patience and wait for things to work out....before hitting send. ;)

You sure have kind and generous folks watching out for you, though. Lucky guy. I bet you treat them all very well in return, though.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers