Trail Angels of the Pacific Crest Trail

There is no formal Wikipedia entry for trail angels. Before I started hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I thought they were kind people who lived near the trail and offered water and indoor plumbing to the dirty, tired hikers who passed by every spring.

But there’s more to it than that. Trail angels come in many different forms. Some leave jugs of water at key dry spots along the trail, like Scissors Crossing, Rodriguez Spur, and much of the stretch north of Agua Dulce. Others make regular trips past PCT crossings at major roads, offering hikers rides to the nearest town and saving them an unpleasant and often long walk along the side of the road. In the apple-abundant town of Julian, Mom’s Pie Shop offers PCT thru-hikers free pie and ice cream. And just off the trail in Warner Springs, volunteers have created a haven of books, maps, coffee, and wireless-enabled computers for any hiker who wanders into their double-wide trailer. (There’s also a big shady stretch to pitch a tent for free just behind it.)

In a month of section hiking the PCT, I’ve already experienced the magic of trail angels on just about every part of the trail I’ve covered. In Mount Laguna, Nica Knite, owner of the Pine House Cafe, extends her hours for thru-hikers from March to May, offering hearty $5 meals to anyone who shows up. She also lets hikers fill up on water and reserves a big space for all their gear on the front porch. Even if you miss the $5 meals (the offer ends in late May), it’s a welcoming place for hikers year-round.

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Pack parking at the Pine House Cafe

Farther north along the trail, you’ll meet Chery Owens, who runs Mountain Valley Retreat, a 2-acre yoga retreat 1 mile east of the PCT on Montezuma Valley Road. For $25, PCT hikers can pitch a tent on the serene property and have full use of the ultra-clean kitchen, bathrooms, and showers, plus all the purified water one can pack up. She also cooks vegetarian-friendly meals upon request for $10 a person and waits on you like royalty on her lovely back patio. If you have to pack up before the sun rises, she may just leave brewed coffee and oranges waiting.

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Camping at the Mountain Valley Resort

Laura Randall
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