Sunday, March 31, 2013

Part 31 - The Call From the Mountain

There were a dozen hikers lounging in the shade when I arrived.  Some I knew and some were new.  Some are resting while others were preparing meals, but everyone was taking advantage of the shade as they wait out the heat of the afternoon sun.  Forest Service personnel, a female captain and two grunt firefighters, were working with the water system.  Apparently, there was a leak in one of the underground connections, which meant periodically having to turn off the water to the building in their effort to fix the leak.  It was this lack of water that had caused a backup of hikers at the fire station.  

The next reliable water was seventeen miles away at another Forest Service campground, and no one was moving without sufficient water to get them there.  My legs and feet were covered with grime and soot from having walked through the black ash residue of the forest fire.  Even though the Forest Service employees were not able to fix the leak in the time we were there, the captain ordered the water to be turned back on.  Water being as precious as it is here in the desert, I didn’t feel it appropriate to try and take a sponge bath, but I did go to the side of the building out of sight of all others and quickly washed the dirt and grime off of my legs and feet.  

In the late afternoon, I left the fire station.  No one was with me.  Some would follow a short time later and quickly pass me, but for the moment I walked alone.  This evening, after making camp on a deserted road, I placed a call to my friend, Lee Benson, who writes a weekly column for the Salt Lake City Deseret News.  Lee followed my rowing excursion across the Atlantic Ocean.
Recounting that time on the ocean, every few weeks, using my satellite phone, I would place a call to Lee and give him an update on my progress and anything else of interest, and then he would write a column for his paper.  After being shipwrecked on a small island in the Bahamas, and losing all communication with the outside world for five days because I was on a freighter with no satellite phone, Lee’s editor sent him to Miami to try and locate me, something like Stanley’s search for David Livingston in Africa. 

Before leaving for the PCT journey, I talked to Lee and asked if it would be of interest to him to do a story about a seventy-year-old senior walking 2,665 miles – Mexico to Canada.  He was enthusiastic about following my journey.  I said,  

“Okay, but let’s wait until I’ve been on the trail for several weeks to make sure I haven’t quit.” 

At my spot on the trail this evening, with good cell reception from the Lancaster area, I was able to place a call to Lee.  We visited for nearly a half hour and at the end of the conversation, I noted that I had used more than three-quarters of the phone’s battery power.  

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