A common sight in Mazama this time of year are Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers either at the Mazama Store or hitchhiking up Lost River Road. Most commonly, the hikers are at the tail end of their trek and are hairy, dirty and hungry. Much like children at the end of summer vacation, minus the hungry part. Just a little bit, um, feral.
Giving the backpackers rides up toward Harts Pass is just a part of life in Mazama and the reward is learning a little bit about all types of people from all walks of life. Some of them have exciting stories from life on the trail and some have stories about what their next life chapter might bring now that their journey on the PCT is almost over. This year, however, we have seen an unusually large number of southbound hikers, or people beginning at the Canadian border and making their way to the Mexican border. They are referred to as SOBO (southbound) hikers, as opposed to the more common NOBO (northbound) hikers.
On June 19, Ken Bevis, a local biologist, was heading up Lost River Road to the Riverbend Campground to help with a lab class. He encountered two young people all loaded up with giant backpacks hitchhiking. Ken pulled over to give them a ride. He asked where they were headed, and the woman answered, “Mexico.” Ken clarified that she was indeed a SOBO PCT hiker just now beginning her trip. The woman, Charlene, was from Anchorage, and her hiking partner was from Portland. They met in college and had just graduated.
“How did you get here?” Ken asked. They drove her car.
“Where did you park?” further inquired Ken. In the Trailhead lot in Mazama.
“When will you return?” October or November.
This is where the needle on the record screeched.
Ken told them that the car will be seen as abandoned. They had not thought of that. But thankfully, the right person had picked them up and Bevis offered to help.
Charlene told Ken to take the keys and find a good place to leave her car. Ken asked if she should at least learn his name first. She said, “OK, but you seem trustworthy.” Which apparently he is. They exchanged contact information, Ken dropped them off and they walked away leaving Bevis with the keys and the assurance that this perfect stranger would find a secure place to park their car for five months.
Ken contacted his pal, Jon Albright, from Methow Trails, who confirmed Ken’s suspicion that the car could not sit in the parking lot for that long. But he told Ken that they could find a place. With the two of them asking around, they found a spot in no time. Our own radio hero, Don Ashford of KTRT, offered up a great place and there Charlene’s car sits awaiting her return.
Ken and Charlene exchanged texts about a week later when the hikers had reached Stevens Pass and all is well with all parties involved.
As Ken wrote to me, in other places this would all seem far-fetched, but this is how we do things here. We help each other. Pass it on. And I agree.