Elevation- 4,475 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 38.4+ miles
Distance Traveled Total- 1,715.2 miles
Weather/Temp- clear 70s 80s
Pain level- low
Spirits/Morale- Holy Crap
Days without shower- 0
Today was probably the most random, strange, eventful, and incredible day of the journey so far. I’m really at a loss for words, as well as what to think. Myself and the other hiker named Trigger, saved a woman’s life today; no exaggeration.
We all got an early start at about 6 am. Despite this early start, we still took two very long water breaks that put us getting to the Oregon border, over 12 miles away, slightly after 11 am. That’s the only downside to hiking with multiple people; your break times are terribly managed. We spent 40 minutes at the border before I finally hiked ahead at noon. I really wanted to have 15 miles done by noon today, especially with a 6 am start.
Reaching the Oregon border felt 10x better than reaching the halfway point. After nearly 1,700 miles of California, I was ready to be somewhere new.
While taking another break at a water source, Trigger caught up to me. We decided we were going to push the rest of the way into the town of Ashland today, for a grand total of more than 38 miles.
Trigger is the only other hiker I’ve met out here capable AND willing to do 30+ mile days every day. He’s a faster hiker than myself, but my strength lies in the fact that I need very little rest, and take very few, but short breaks.
We pushed on together, sometimes in silence, sometimes in conversation. We maintained more than a 4mph pace without problem, taking turns leading. Although the day had began slow, by 7 pm, we only had 6 more miles to reach interstate-5, the way into Ashland.
It was around 7:30 pm that things took a turn for the crazy.
We were trekking along in silence when we both heard a strange noise and stopped simultaneously. It had sounded like a distressed animal or cat. We didn’t hear it again, so we began moving. After several seconds we heard it again, stopped, and heard it very briefly one more time before silence. The last noise sounded like a moan, and I honestly thought that somebody might be getting their romance on somewhere off the trail. We were only 4.5 miles from the Interstate, and I’m sure there were roads all through the forest here.
Still, something didn’t feel right. We were about to keep moving, but I decided to call out, just to be sure nothing was amiss. “Is everything alright?” I called at the top of my lungs. Two seconds later “Help me, please help me!” Called back clearly, yet distantly above us in the thick forest. “I’m stuck” the voice added.
As soon as I heard it, I got goosebumps. The response just didn’t sound right. It sounded rehearsed, not frantic, and it put me on edge. The forest above us was so steep, so thick with bushes, manzanita, vegetation, and pine branches, that it seemed impossible that anyone had walked up there. I assumed maybe there was a road, and someone had driven off it. “Are you in a vehicle?” I called. “Yes” the voice replied, “I’m stuck.”
At that, I immediately began scrambling over the thick bushes that were taller than myself. They were as thick as hedge bushes, but much, much taller. “I’m coming up!” I called, “hang tight!”
“Don’t call 911 yet” I told Trigger. “Something still doesn’t seem right.” Part of me was still not buying that this was a real emergency, and not some kind of prank or trap. It just felt too surreal, like a movie.
I had to climb, crawl, and pull myself through more than 75 feet of those bushes/small trees before the forest gave way to thick pines, manzanita, and decades worth of pine branches strewn across the steep mountainside. So steep that I was bear crawling up much of it.
I couldn’t see anyone so I called out, “where are you?” “Please help me, I’m stuck, I can’t move!” The voice replied. It was closer, and straight above me. I was looking for a vehicle, but there wasn’t any that I could see. At this point I could hear Trigger making his way over the vegetation as well.
I continued to crawl up the mountainside and quickly noticed a set of foot holds dug into the bank above me. I got goosebumps again. “I’m not the first person to come up this exact way” I thought to myself. I began to think this was a prank or trap again, thoroughly beginning to worry. “Are you in a vehicle?” I called out again. “No” the voice responded. “What is going on?” I thought to myself. Then the voice called out again “I’m 90 years old, if someone is really coming, you’re going to save my life.”
The voice hadn’t sounded that old, but when she said she was 90, everything made a little more sense. I doubled my efforts to get through the vegetation and debris, and after close to ten minutes of trying to reach this voice, I finally laid eyes on the woman, more than 100 yards from the trail up this mountainside.
She was sitting on a pile of old pine branches, clutching a book, dirty, scratched, legs cut, dripping blood soaking her sock. Surprisingly, she looked very calm and comfortable now that she saw me.
(Lacrecia, right where I found her, smiling cheerfully after I asked if I could take her picture) “Oh thank you for finding me, you’re saving my life” she exclaimed. “I’m Lacrecia, I’m almost 90 years old, born January 10th, 1929, what’s your name?” “I’m kyle” I said as I shook her hand. “Nice to meet you Tile” she replied. I didn’t correct her. Trigger reached us after a couple minutes and also introduced himself.
The woman said she’d had an argument with her husband, went for a walk, but had no idea how she’d gotten where she was. Trigger and I both checked Google maps on our phones. There were no roads, or trails above us, and no houses. The closest path was the PCT about 100 yards very steeply below us.
How this woman got herself to this spot at her age is beyond me. Had we not heard the faint noises she was making, she would have been up there all night and most likely died of exposure if no one else found her.
We made the decision to help guide her down to the trail, then get help from there. She kept asking us our names over and over, repeating her birthday, as well as remarking “this isn’t the way I got up here” over, and over again. It was sadly obvious she had dementia.
She refused to be carried by us, citing each time we offered “oh dear, you can’t carry me, I’m 5 foot 10” she was the sweetest old lady ever. She had an arm slung around each of our necks and continuously worried and asked if she was hurting us. She was the one being rescued, but all she cared about was not hurting us. “Don’t you worry about us” we constantly assured her.
After 30 minutes of painfully slow progress and clearing/stomping brush and branches to make the easiest path possible while simultaneously propping her up, we heard another voice call. “Are you looking for Lacrecia?” I yelled back. “Yes!” A male voice responded. “We have her up here, come help us” I replied.
It took the middle aged man named Dan, who turned out to be a family friend, about twice as long to reach us as it did for us to reach her. We were losing light fast, and still had the worst of the vegetation to get over before reaching the trail.
It was an absolute nightmare. Dan took my position under her arm, and I took the responsibility of clearing the most direct path. I held bushels of tree branches at bay, and pinned down manzanita and giant tree like bushes for them to walk over. Still, the progress was nearly non existent. Darkness fell and we were using our headlamps.
The vegetation was so thick that even when I had the branches and boughs pinned down, there was no way for her to traverse them. Many times (to her great displeasure), we were forced to pick her up. Since I was always below holding back/down branches, I took her legs (which were covered in blood) resulting in me getting myself covered in blood as well. Her skin was tissue thin, and soft as silk; not for the woods.
All in all, it took us more than two hours to get her down to the trail. It was one of the hardest, most nerve racking things I’ve ever done. The going was so slow that it felt completely hopeless more times than I can count. I wanted so bad not to see this woman in pain, but getting her down through there was almost impossible without causing her more discomfort. To her credit, she was one tough old lady. I was very impressed.
Her husband and Son (who’s name she couldn’t remember) were waiting on the trail when we finally got to it at approx 9:45 pm.
(Lacrecia’s legs; taken at the parking lot)
They didn’t rush to her aid, or take over the duties of assisting her. Trigger and I helped support and guide her for another half hour down the trail to a dirt parking lot where an SUV eventually met us another half hour later. It was very, very strange. I only hope they got her to an urgent care, because some of her scratches and gashes were pretty deep and bleeding heavily, but not life threateningly.
In this time of more than 3 hours that I spent with Lacrecia, I had a plethora of conversations with her in an attempt to distract her from the situation, as well as keep her from repeating herself. I’ve written them down, but it’s too much to put into context on the blog at this time. I will save them for a later date.
Long story short, I got to know Lacrecia quite well, and I uncovered some coincidences/synchronicities that absolutely chilled me to the bone. I’m getting goosebumps now just thinking about them. The universe was speaking to me again; what it was saying, I do not know, but it has my attention.
I’ll never forget this night, and I’ll look at life even more differently than I already do from this day forward. There is a lot more to this story still to be told.
Despite the family offering us rides into town, Trigger and I declined. We were happy to help, and exchanged information with them, but wanted to finish our big, eventful day on our own two feet.
We practically jogged the last 4 miles to interstate 5, arriving around 11:30 pm, standing under an overpass. A college aged kid picked us up and dropped us off at a motel.
I’m still processing everything that happened. I’m looking forward to a couple days off…