When your major task each day is to walk, your feet become your most important bodily faculty.  If those are doing great you can deal with shoulder pain, knee pain, random aches, lack of fitness and even sunburn.  But when your feet fail you, suddenly it doesn’t matter how fit you are or how light your pack is.  Your pace slows to a crawl with every step shorter than the last.

The number one ailment in the backcountry, blisters, are friction induced bubbles of fluid just under the outer layer of skin and can be caused by moisture, ill fitting footwear or even debris caught in the shoe. Heat is a major factor hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in southern California where temperatures range from 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. So sweaty feet are common and many hikers are struggling with blistered toes and heels. Tommy “Chatty Kathy” Freeman was one such hiker. Starting the PCT in the same type boots (and same size) he used hiking the Appalachian Trail, he soon discovered that such intense heat causes your toes to swell so much that your feet grow a half to a full size bigger. His boots quickly became too small.
So limping into Warner Springs, CA, 109.5 miles of trail covered, Chatty decided he could go no further in the boots he was wearing. But getting to an outfitter on trail is difficult. You can’t just hop in the car or call a friend to come and pick you up. The dilemma was that the closest outfitter was 40 miles up trail or an hour hitchhike up a highway.
As we were discussing our options a hiker named Tim “Saint Croix” Tabat was sitting beside us and mentioned that he has family somewhere in the area. He wasn’t sure exactly where because he hadn’t seen them in 26 years. Even though we had only met 2 days before, under a shade tree, Saint Croix offered to call his family and see if they would be willing to help us out.
Much to our surprise, Saint Croix’s family was more than willing to drive an hour to pick us up off trail, take us to their home and meet their 5 children, put us up for 2 nights, take us to an outfitter, and drive us an hour back to trail.
These amazing people are Trudy and Miles Kaplan of Murrieta, CA.  We call them Trail Angels–people who help hikers in big and small ways. This could be anything from a ride into town, to water jugs at a cache, to providing a cooked meal, to first aid or a place to stay the night. As long distance hikers, each of us on the PCT will be helped along the way by countless Trail Angels.
We can’t thank Trudy and Miles enough! They offered us great company and conversation, they opened their home to us and by the time we left we felt like family. Chatty’s blisters were well on their way to healing and outfitted with a pair of new shoes that leave room for swelling, Chatty has been able to enjoy the hike and take a full stride. Our Trail Angels may have just saved our hike!
–Jaala “Sacagawea” Freeman