The Pacific Crest Trail is no easy hike.
It stretches 2,600 miles or so from Canada to Mexico and part of it runs through the Central Cascades.
Unfortunately for the “Through-Hikers” doing the border-to-border trek this summer, there are several major trail closures to navigate.
In this area the biggest of those closures, more than 20 miles, is the fire scar left by the Lion’s Head fire which burned west out of the Warm Springs reservation into the Willamette, Deschutes and Mt. Hood national forests.
Local “Trail Angels” often come to the rescue.
We followed Woody Keen of Bend as he helped four hikers get where they needed to go and get back on the trail.
They connected by Facebook, on the “Central Oregon PCT Trail Angels” page, where many hikers and drivers get together.
Alyssa and her uncle Steve from New Jersey, Craig from Texas and Charlie from Vancouver, Wash. all needed help.
Woody picked up the first group at a motel in Bend then snagged Charlie in Sisters where he had spent the night in a city park.
Woody, a longtime hiker and backpacker, has been a Trail Angels FB page administrator for four years.
“It just seemed like a good Samaritan thing to do” he says “and it’s fun getting stories and getting to know people.
You don’t know them for very long at all but it’s always interesting.”
For the hikers, the PCT is a bucket-list adventure.
Alyssa Condell says she wanted a chance to learn about herself, to reprogram and slow down after years of school.
“I just graduated college and it was my first chance to just do whatever I wanted,” she told us as she prepped to re-start her hike at the Mckenzie pass trailhead west of Sisters where Woody dropped the group.
She thought hiking the PCT would be a rather solitary adventure but soon learned that volunteer Trail Angel groups do much more than just offer free rides here and there and help knit the hiking community together.
“Trail Angels are amazing. they just show up on trail randomly. They give you snacks,” she said. “You’ll have a really hard day and maybe you’ll just have a beer with a Trail Angel and you didn’t even know they were going to be there.”
The Angels often leave small caches of supplies along the trail; water, canned food, fresh socks, even an occasional beer on ice.
Hikers call it “Trail Magic.”
Craig Parliament from Houston Texas echoes Alyssa’s praise for the Trail Angels.
He has hiked the Appalachian Trail on the East Coast and has been glad to find similar volunteer help on both.
“It’s like a big family. Everybody just helps out when they can,” he said.
It’s common for hikers like this group to offer gas money and just as common for Trail Angels to turn it down.
More of the same from Charlie Bambroook, carrying a massive backpack that has earned him the trail nickname “Overhaul.”
That unexpected appearance of trailside water has helped him more than once on the way south.
“It’s like going home,” he says with a grin, “or going to grandma’s house.
“Thank God for Trail Angels!”
Woody and his fellow volunteers expect to answer a lot more calls for help in the next month and help a lot more hikers reconnect with the trail.
A big bulge of Northbound walkers (“Nobos“, in trail lingo) who have finally found their way around the California wildfires are now coming our way.
“Giving them rides as we’ve done today, giving them a place to stay for the night, feeding them a meal. It can be a wide range of different things. Just to make their lives OFF trail a little easier.”