The sun continued its passage across the sky; there were no clouds this day to offer shade, so the heat was intense. As it began its descent to the west, I was only seven miles from possible trail magic, and the thought of food and drink was a real motivating factor in hastening my footsteps.
During the last few miles of the day, I was walking through heavy forest, with a steep forested canyon off to my left. It was quiet, and then I heard rustling and voices in the bushes. The sounds were coming from the underbrush of the forest off to the side of the trail. I waited and watched. Presently, two Hispanics emerged from the underbrush and stepped onto the trail. I was surprised to see them; I’m not sure if they were surprised to see me. They were in their late teens or early twenties, well dressed, and carrying no packs or water bottles. It was very unusual to see them in this relatively remote terrain, and my first thought was that perhaps they were checking on a marijuana grow, which would not be unusual in these mountains. I asked them if they were hunting, although I could see they had no firearms with them. They answered in Spanish. I then spoke to them in my high school Spanish and asked if they spoke English. They mumbled something. Not wanting to waste time with them, I turned around and headed on down the trail, but their presence on the trail was disturbing.
From high on the ridge, I caught my first glimpse of Highway 178, and I strained my eyes to see if I could see any movement of people. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see people, but I did spot a speck of blue, which I felt sure was the blue of a blue tarp/canopy, which most likely meant people were congregating under it. It was getting late, and I found myself walking as briskly as I could force my legs to walk, without breaking into a jog. At last, I passed a BLM trail sign that said Walker Pass Campground, with an arrow pointing the way, and attached to the sign was a handwritten note that screamed - Trail Magic!
The Walker Pass Campground was partially hidden from view by shrubs and other foliage, but when I finally stepped out of the bushes and onto the gravel parking lot, I beheld a sight like I’ve never seen before, and I knew I was going to be happy for the rest of the evening. Clustered under two massive blue tarps that protected the contents of several picnic tables was a throng of genuine Pacific Crest Trail hikers engaged in eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and resting in soft camp chairs – about twenty in number. I unbuckled my waist belt and slid my pack to the ground, adding it to a pile of other smelly packs, and then walked towards the group of happy campers. Some called out my name and said,
“Hello, Rabbit Stick, welcome.”
I waved, acknowledging their salutations. Even before stepping onto the cement pad containing the picnic tables, someone thrust an ice cream bar into my hand and said, “Enjoy.” In a moment, Happy Feet was standing in front of me, offering me a huge bowl of spaghetti. He said,
“I saved it for you; there’s not any more.”