Trail Angel Delight

Fresh from what some would call a revitalising, and others an exhausting, stretch from the Saufley’s to the Anderson’s, it’s about time we paid this significant part of the trail experience a little attention.

To put it bluntly, trail angels are incredible people. Whether that’s full on meals and board (with a little bit of debauchery) or the odd cooler holding some much needed water on a dry section of trail, these are the people who can put a real smile on your face.

We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the kindness that people who live along or near the trail have shown us (and the 1,000 or so other hikers). We always drop at least a little something something in the donation jars but it’s also started the conversations as to how we could angel in the future.

All hikers get a real slice of love from the trail magic provided, but it also seems like the angels also get something back, else why do it?

Trail Angels seem to fall under a number of different banners, each one of these as exciting and pupil dilating as the next/last. I guess this is a blog about “the works”.

Scout and Frodo, The Saufleys and The Andersons are just a few of the families who have invited us in to their homes and been our trail parents for a short while.

Scout and Frodo set the bar high before we’d hiked a single mile. Scout picked us up from the train station in San Diego and drove us to his home, all the while regaling us with stories of his time in Wales and his writing for Backpacker Magazine. The guy is a dude with an awesome moustache.

Meanwhile, Frodo has been knocking up some grilled shrimp and pasta for the 20 or so hikers that will be staying that night. These guys run a tight operation and set you up perfectly for your departure the next morning, a relaxing nights sleep and the trail doesn’t seem so daunting.

They even get you up early, fill you with frittata and drive you to the start of the trail. We caught a ride with their friend Jan to the border, she’s a lovely lady and had even been to Devon, she obviously has taste.

I’ve always subscribed to the idea that my parents gave me roots and wings. With Scout, Frodo and their army of volunteers, I definitely felt the confidence of being grounded, enabling me to fly knowing there was someone there to catch me. For that, they have my sincerest thanks.

500 miles on and our needs are slightly different.

Being only 24 miles apart, Saufleys and The Andersons often get lumped in together. They both offer a space to sleep and somewhere to relax, but definitely from two different perspectives.

The Saufleys have it down. Your dirty clothes are removed upon arrival and replaced with clean loaners, your package (if you have one) has been filed alphabetically in their garage and you put your name on the list for a hot shower. These guys and their minions (by that, read highly capable and helpful volunteers) are great, you feel safe in their hands.

The Andersons also have a place you can pitch your tent (in an enchanted forest) and fill up your water, but there the surface similarities end. Terry and Joe Anderson are a hoot and a holler and also fill your empty stomach with taco salad and pancakes. They are beautiful, loving people with big softy dogs.

This place is described as hippy daycare, where the beers are opened early to ensure maximum frisbee time out on the street. Conversations with new found friends can go on long in to the night, with “I’m a Cookie” jokes getting funnier with each IPA.

Back around the 200 mile mark, Ziggy and The Bear also run this kind of deal, but seeing as we only grabbed a quick sit down in the shade and an apple, I feel under qualified to comment. It seemed like a great place to spend some time though.

In the evening at Hiker Heaven, it was great to hear Donna and Jeff Saufley tell their story as to how they became the trail angels they are today. It sounds like hard work but they really get a kick out of what they do, even if it does mean 1,000 smelly people sleeping in your yard.

Maybe in the next couple of years, we’ll grab ourselves a van and camp/section hike some of the trail. If we can throw a few veggies, some cold sodas and plenty of water at the hikers we encounter, then it will be a trip worth taking.

The Angels kept us fit and strong through the desert (and provided services so fundamental to others that they may not have survived without them). The trail would most definitely be a different experience if there were no angels, but to experience extreme kindness from strangers leaves an imprint on your soul. Unfortunately, Henley’s angel quote bag is sparse, but, to put it crudely, we can’t help but feel like we’ve been carried by ethereal beings throughout much of this trip.

Peace out x

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