I got up fairly early, because I wanted to try to make it to where the trail crosses the highway.

I was almost out of food.

And my sleeping pad leaked last night. As in, every 30-45 minutes I had to reinflate. The night before, I had to reinflate every 2 hours. Tonight, I suspected, it would be no good at all.

You see, without inflation, there is no cold insulation. It would just be me on the ground, with all my body heat seeping out into the earth.

The earth doesn’t need my body heat.

Let’s try to make it to the highway, so we can hitch to a town and regroup.

Except.

I’m in the midst of a mountain range. There are no short cuts. There are no flat paths.

Just up a mountain. Down a mountain. Up a mountain. Down a mountain.

Repeat. And repeat.

The landscapes are stunning. The trail is unrelenting.

I bet I’ll be proud of crossing this mountain range one day.

I bet tonight is going to be awful without ground insulation.

In the distance, I hear a rustling. Probably a wild horse moving along the path. I’ve seen it before - it’s fascinating watching them traverse the inclines.

I search with my eyes - oh! It’s a human.

I wonder where they are heading.

I...want to say hello.

So I start my jog. Run even.

It takes a while for me to run down the switchbacks until I see her - then I slow down, and speak up.

Section or thru-hiker?

She turns around.

“Just this section. But I just finished the PCT”

Excellent. That means she understands my predicament.

She asks about my thru-hike, and I tell her about my meanderings, including my food situation.

Oh! We can take you to the highway from the trailhead.

“Thanks! That would be great!”

That’s what I say.

Internally: THANK YOU OMG

They’re both experienced thru-hikers, but have never completed the AZT. Her name is “sogood”, and her boyfriend is “cake”.

I don’t think we ever exchanged real names. I ask them all the things, including how they handle food at night.
They agree with Mowgli. They store food in their tent.

Interesting.

They drop me at the highway. They’re heading south, and the nearest town is north, so we part ways.

Thanks guys. That little social interaction rejuvenated me.

Had I not had their help, I would have gotten to the highway after dark; it’s unlikely that I, looking the way I do, would get a hitch after dark.

With their help, I’ve got an hour until sunset to get picked up.

Let’s see how this goes.