The Humanity of the Trail

I am now back home in Grand Junction with a gigantic knee brace. I do not know how long I will be wearing this thing or how long I will be here. I’m working very hard on mentally preparing myself for this to be the end of my road for the summer- knee injuries are no joke and I cannot afford to have long term damage. I will be seeing a doctor soon and should have a better perspective then.

In the meantime, I have a couple stories that need to be shared. I talked a bit about my friends who helped me in getting out of the mountains after my injury but I didn’t go into detail about the community, including family who I haven’t seen in years, who came together to make sure I was okay and got home safely. It bears telling the story as we are so often bombarded by crap and negativity.

I will begin with my two trail mates, Frogger and Grandma. They are two of the most selfless, kind and thoughtful people I know. They are also exceptional company while hiking. As soon as I injured myself there wasn’t a moment of hesitation in them about whether they were going to stay with me. It was very evident that this was a serious injury because I spent nearly two hours just trying not to throw up from the pain. Frogger held me and let me squeeze the crap out of her hand while Grandma set up camp right there on the side of the trail. They cleaned my knee, made me dinner, even helped me when I had to empty my bladder and put me to bed. They divvied out my pack weight between the two of them so all I was carrying were clothes and my sleeping bag. Over the course of the next four days, they held my hand as we ever so slowly traversed the ups and downs of the slushy snow hills. They even carried me through river crossings. (Look at the picture two posts ago if you need perspective- we are all very small women so this was huge). In short, they showed their humanity from the moment it happened and it continues still. I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have them in my life.

I fell at around 3pm. We saw no one the rest of the day. I got worried because we didn’t have enough food. Not nearly enough to make it-especially with how slowly I was walking. However, the next day (and subsequent days) we saw plenty of people. The first guy we saw, we didn’t know but without thinking twice, he gave Frogger some gauze for my knee. Said he didn’t have enough food to spare and to be clear, we were not going to take any food from anyone if they didn’t have enough to make it back. Then we saw a guy named Trail Blazer. Again, a new face. He immediately took his pack off and gave us some food, including three tortillas. I’ve never been so happy to eat a plain tortilla in my life! We had to look like we were starving because we devoured them! We saw a few others who didn’t really have much to spare. Then towards the end of our day, we were resting in a tree well (the only snow free area) and I see a familiar face. Limbo and right behind him is Sticks. I had run into Limbo just a tad over mile 200 and I had known Sticks for quite some time as well. It was such a welcomed relief to see them! They gave us all the food they could spare and got my garmin number after which they texted their friends behind us and told them to find us if they had any food. It was so good to see familiar faces and by that point we knew were were going to be okay.

We cowboy camped in another tree well not far from where we rested- it was a cold night but it was easier to sleep under the stars. The next morning we wanted to get up early to make the most of the day but it was just too cold to get out of my sleeping bag. I knew I was holding the girls back but I was still in a lot of pain so being cold in addition to that was just too much. As we were still sitting in our sleeping bags contemplating the need to get out and start our day, up walks Max, or Gilligan. We had met him one time before but he was one of the guys Limbo messaged and he came to find us! He had been carrying way too much food and he gave us all kinds of goodies (including a 1 lb bag of dried mangos!!). He spent a while with us and it truly boosted our spirits. What an amazing guy.

That same day we ran into some other folks we had passed off and on. For whatever reason I could never remember their names but they gave me some good advice about how to wrap my knee and also shared some more food with us. By the time they passed us up we were pretty well set with food for the rest of our journey!

We trudged along that day and finally passed the 1000 mile mark. The next day we ran into BB, Princess, and another friend whose name I can’t remember… Princess gave me an actual knee brace! It made a huge difference in giving me stability and easing some of the pain. A mile or so later, up walks Croc-a-mole and Mild Sauce! Again people we have known for quite some time but hadn’t seen in a long time. We took an early lunch to spend some time with them and they gave us a few snacks to hold on to, including some pop tarts. Then they told me that Stefani had camped with them the day before! I hadn’t seen him in a long time so I was excited to reunite with one of my favorite warriors.

We continued on and sure enough that afternoon I heard a familiar voice. Stefani, in typical Stefani fashion, had been lost for five miles and also had almost no food. I gave him my pop tart and had to force him to continue on, even though he insisted on staying with me to make sure I got out.

That evening, I finally turned my inReach on and sure enough I had messages from UV and also from Misti the warrior sponsor in Bridgeport. I had sent UV a message letting her know we were going to be quite a bit behind because of what happened. She, Mango and Recharge became worried when I didn’t answer their response so they were already formulating a plan to hike back up and bring us food. When i told her we had enough food she was relieved but after I asked her about the conditions coming down to Sonora Pass, she made the decision that they had to come and help me. This text exchange happened in the evening- they were are a bar in Bridgeport. The man sitting next to them overheard their conversation and he jumped in to help. Bill is the post master and he decided there and then that he wanted to help me get off the mountain too. He messaged his friend (my sponsor Misti) to fill her in on what was going on and she even opened her store so my friends could resupply. Bill drove my friends to the store (13 miles away) and then in the morning drove them to the trail head. The three of them hiked about 4 miles up a very steep, snowy hill, with freshly baked croissants in hand, to come and help me down. It’s an indescribable feeling to have so many people jumping in to help. I can honestly say that I don’t know how I would have gotten off the mountain had they not come to help. The girls would have done their best, I have no doubt, but it probably would have taken us 6-8 more hours than it did.

When we got to the trail head, Misti picked us up and immediately drove me 90 minutes to a neighboring town in Nevada that had a good medical system. We got to the hospital and I had such a great experience there. Such an amazing group of people who were genuinely concerned about me and even let us all take showers there. The nurse who checked us in, gave us some advice on where to stay and even drove us there!

The next day, after eating a lot of food and taking more than one shower, we set out to get the girls some resupply while I waited for my cousin Debbie to come and get us. We were about 2 miles away from the grocery store and we couldn’t get Uber or Lyft to come and get us. So we began walking. We were right on the 395 so hitching was impossible. However, not a few moments after we started walking, a car pulls over and a very nice woman named Shamra asked me if we needed to laundry or take a shower. I told her we just had done both but we were trying to get it a grocery store. She scooped us up and drove us there. She went in to get a few things herself and decided while she was there that she was going to make us lunch. So she took us to her house and made us delicious cheese burgers. Out of the kindness of her own heart she simply decided to help.

My cousin Debbie and her family have been camping in Bridgeport for the summers for many more years than I’ve been alive. Unfortunately these are family members I hardly knew because we never spent time around them when I was a kid. Boy am I thankful I know them now. I cannot express just how amazing they are. Without a second thought, they took me in and took care of me for several days. Debbie drove all over the area, shuttling me (and some friends) around. They fed me every meal and taught me how to play corn hole (which I will not be setting any records in any time soon…). In the end Debbie drove us to Lake Tahoe so I could meet up with the girls and Recharge one last time. I’m so grateful that I got to spend time with all of them as they are all amazing people!

Last thing-remember that nice nurse who drove us to the hotel? Well as it turns out her family is good friends with my family there and is also related! What are the chances?

Since I’ve been integrating back into the real world, I have been exposed to a lot of real world stuff. Politics, storms, unhappy people. It’s a sad reality that I hadn’t experienced in a while and I realize my perspective is skewed now. I spent time around nothing but kind, generous, amazing people who could and would restore anyone’s faith in humanity. I’m very fortunate.

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