Photo by Mandi Donohue
It finally looks like fall out in Lost River.

By Mandi Donohue

The perfect fall morning always shakes me to my core in happy-dance gratitude, and this one feels like none other. Last night before bed, I began to hear the showers on our rooftop. When I woke up this morning to the crisp air, gorgeous sunlight and blue skies, I was over the moon to watch our cats scamper over dampened gravel and lush green grass. Rain! Regardless of wildfires, my soul has needed it.

Our summer consisted of a lot of painting, huffing fumes and too much HGTV. Now that home renovation is done and the realty waiting game begins (are you looking to buy? Have we got a cabin for you!), it is almost like a gift of the gods that I have this incredible down time to fully enjoy Lost River — the quiet, the beauty, the way Last Chance greets you every morning at the end of the road like wisdom. So, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit overly sentimental this week, adding a little gratitude to my oatmeal. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to breathe and I am taking it all in.

On my way to Hank’s Harvest Foods yesterday, I saw two young men trying to catch a ride to Winthrop. They looked like trouble — the kind of trouble that tutors young kids, plays on a tennis team or prays nightly for facial hair. So I picked them up alone, my first ever hitchhikers.

I was curious and impressed to learn that they had just graduated from high school and were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) this summer. (This curiosity stems from the memory that my mother panicked every time I had to drive four hours to get to college in Boston, let alone hike long stretches of wilderness with a buddy). Their dad was meeting them the next day but in the meantime, they were gonna spend the day in town.

In their sophomore year of high school, they began talking about the trip but had only begun packing and planning two weeks ago. Prior to this trip, they’d only done a two-night backpacking trip in the woods. Oy vey!

“We really had no idea what we were doing,” one said.

“Yeah, we packed way too much,” said the other. And “mom” texts constantly. Every time they get to a town, there is a series of texts that are able to come through that say, “Call me right now.” I was happy to hear that.

On average, like most PCT-ers, they were doing about 20 miles a day. In the first month, each young man had lost 20 to 30 pounds. They had already done Washington and parts of Oregon, skipping some trail segments due to the fires. But walking to Winthrop?

“When you’re on the trail, you don’t mind,” they said. “On a road, it feels miserable.” Can’t say I blame them.

After a quick visit with their dad, they are headed to California, though they doubted being able to get through the Sierras. I asked if they had any concerns, doing a long stretch this late in the year, knowing that finding water in California can be a sticky widget in the trip. Leaning toward off season means there are fewer “trail angels” to drop off water where it’s scarce. They were a little concerned, too, as they both seemed pretty bright. Hopeful, they collectively agreed that they would cross that bridge when they came to it.

We said our goodbyes in Winthrop and I told them my name. If any of you are praying or mindful folks, feel free to send up a quick prayer or good vibes for “Kingpin” and “Wizard” (those names kill me) in making their journey a successful one.

I found the exchange a nice reminder. Having worn a pack of my mother’s fear a majority of my life, it was nice to see young people being raised with an attitude that life can be experienced rather than lived as an anxiety attack of what is most certainly impossible. Go get ‘em, boys.