Day 112 (Sunday, August 29): 1726, Callahan’s Lodge/Ashland to 1734
What is it that makes us tick, surge with adrenaline, or simply, smile? Most of us probably take these things for granted. On the trail, it can be those extra things in my resupply that I absolutely, positively forbid my parents from putting in my boxes. It can be a hot shower. Or the chance encounter. Today was one of those days that I’ll remember for many years to come.
Please understand that things have not been going badly. I’m happy, even in my constant pain. But this morning, in the comfort of a bed in a motel room, my body ached terribly. My feet, back, neck, shoulders, everything,… everything was crying out for a full zero day. Did I grant it? No. Instead, I woke up early, blogged, indulged in motel coffee, cheeriyoos, and bananas, and struggled to pack up my things for an 11AM check-out. Flyboxer, who preferred not to spend the previous night in Ashland, had relented, and we split the room at the Knight’s Inn. This was a good choice. It had been stormy and cold. The weather people had issued an ‘unusual weather alert. This morning, I wanted a zero, but gave in. It was somewhat sunny, warm, and there was no need for a zero. This meant we had to be out by 11.
I was aching for spiritual food, but the Catholic church, Our Lady of the Mountains, was about a mile and a half away. The address listed ‘Hillview Ave’ and alarm bells went off. No hills- no way. Instead of trying to walk, I made a sign with the name of the church and stood on the corner and held up the sign. Within a minute., Steve pulled over and drove me up to the church he had just left. Instead of being late and sweaty, I was 15 minutes early.
The 11:30 mass was the Spanish mass and, had I had a choice, it I would have donated an arm for English, but that was that. Regardless, I got to hear the Gospel, recieve the Eucharist, and exchange signs of peace with my Latino brothers. I will admit to having daydreamed once, imagining that at least one father or mother in that church had come in from Mexico and into California on the PCT, braving the heat, snakes, and Border Patrol. And now they had a beautiful family to show for it, bringing the entire family to Mass. After Mass, I asked Ralph for a ride back to Albertson’s, and he gladly agreed. I had gotten to go to Mass without having to walk any town miles. I had walked my share of them yesterday.
Flyboxer was outside the Subway at a table, and at the next table, Swayze and Dinosaur, who I hadn’t seen in weeks, since Sonora Pass. Flyboxer had resupplied, so I went into Albertson’s to pick up a few things, one of which was a rotisserie chicken. The plan was to devour the chicken, clean to the standards of a starved vulture.
When I got back to the outside tables, Flyboxer was talking to this 19-year old runaway named Jeremiah. He was hitchikng up and down the west coast. Flyboxer offered to get him a sandwich at Subway. Meanwhile, I shared some of my rotisserie chicken. The legs were his favorite part so it worked out well. The last thing to do was to grab my backpack from the motel lobby and pack up the few things I had bought.
The best spot to thumb a ride was about a 2 minute walk from the Knight’s Inn, where there was a freeway entrance ramp and two gas stations. We were going to take turns, so I went first, sticking out my thumb. Five minutes in, a weather worn-looking gentleman appeared out of nowhere and offered 3 gas station hot dogs. He could have been homeless or pulled off to the side of the entrance ramp and ran over. At about the same time, a man in his Sunday best and driving a long white truck started yelling my name “Indie, Indie. I can’t believe it!” He was waving me over to where he was on pause at the entrance ramp. Something inside said “Go” even though I didn’t know him. When I came over to the window, again, he said “Indie. I’m Scott. I’ve been reading your blog for months. Get in!” By this time, Flyboxer had come over. “Flyboxer, is that you?” “Flyboxer, Indie, I can’t believe I am finally meeting you!” I was blown away. Flyboxer was blown away. Scott was in a state of shock. We had never met before but it was as though we knew eachother.
To be called by name by someone you’ve never met is a supernatural experience. Jesus calls us BY NAME to his banquet. So, here we were in a truck with Scott, who knew us both from my blog. Scott said over and over about how he couldn’t believe that he ran into us. Scott had left a comments two months earlier on my blog, stating “when you get up to Ashland, dinner at Callahan’s Lodge is on me.”
Scott knew every detail of our thru-hike from reading every blog post. He was inspired by the thru-hike, something he repeated over and over. It’s hard to find the right words to express how inspired I felt as well. The blog had struck a popular chord with Scott, a PCT fanboy since 1981, and seemed to resonate with him. He had been following our progress north, toward Ashland, but with Internet so sparse and blog posting so infrequent, it was hard for him to gauge exactly where we were on the trail. Somehow he recognized two hikers standing on the edge of a freeway ramp and made the connection.
Scott drove us up to near where the PCT was, but turned off near Callahan’s. He offered to buy us dinner several times before we finally agreed. Dinner was absolutely amazing. I opted for a mountain salad, three-layer cheesecake, and a local beer, Caldera Ashland Pale Ale. Scott was as captivated by our story as we were by his interest and excitement. “You guys are my heroes!” Scott even asked Flyboxer how his fingers were doing. He had read a blog post called “Fried Fingers,” in which Flyboxer had grabbed a rock out of a campfire and burned two fingers. Scott also told us about his hiking adventures with his Ashland-based family: his wife and six children. We were three Christians that had been brought together not by fate, but by faith. He even asked us to sign the back of his receipt from dinner. Scott got to see something most people don’t: our trail signatures: my trail signature, where the second i is upside down, and Flyboxer’s fly with a black eye.
When Scott dropped us off, we hiked on in disbelief of what an amazing encounter it had been. I had by the swtiched out of my Sunday best into my Lawrence of Arabia outfit, as soiled as it was. There had been little time to do anything in Ashland. Laundry was the way it was when I left as it was when we got there. But that has nothing to do with anything. What had been meant to happen in Ashland had happened: a little chance to rest and a chance for three people who had come out of the woodwork to share a story and a smile.