Mary Garber-Williams didn’t know what her future held when she decided to trek the Trail — Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), that is, in 2019. She had sent her daughter off alone on the John Muir Trail in the Northern Sierra Nevada in 2015. It was a heart-stopping moment for her as a mother, but when all was said and done, Mary decided she would like to do the complete PCT. A little like Cheryl Strayed of “Wild” fame, Mary had lost someone dear to her to cancer — Hal, her husband of 42 years. Step by step trekking “trail,” as the hikers call it, she was experiencing an adventure that taught her valuable lessons that would guide her future.
Although she was unable to complete the trail in 2019 because of a stress fracture in her back, she returned in 2020 to complete another section before wildfires in Northern California closed some of the trail. While on the trail, she learned of the excitement when coming over a rise and finding unexpected “trail magic” (more hiker lingo).
The magic can appear in a variety of ways: a water cache in the middle of a long desert stretch, a surprise hiker picnic serving up freshly cooked meals, or even a magical woodland toilet. These special events help boost morale when a hiker is feeling down on the trail because of lack of food, water, companionship or sunshine.
Even a more welcome sight is one of the many “trail angel” sites dotted along the entire trail where a thru-hiker can plan on stopping for respite, to receive resupply packages, and find a safe place to sleep and recharge. Many of the sites are well known such as Hiker Heaven and Casa de Luna. Others are known by the trail name of the trail angel.
Mazama is the home of such a trail angel site. Carolyn “Ravensong” Burkhart was the first woman to solo hike the PCT in 1976. Thirty-eight years after her solo hike, she established Ravensong’s Roost just off Highway 20 in Mazama to give back to the hiking community. She spent the next six years hosting and helping hundreds of hikers. Last year, she decided to sell Ravensong’s Roost and pursue some other “bucket list” wishes like spending a year in Norway to identify her ancestors.
At the same time Carolyn was posting her trail angel property for sale, Mary was searching for the perfect property to take the baton and continue servicing hikers. She bought Ravensong sight unseen and arrived on Thanksgiving Day 2021. She laughs as she describes how she and her friend, who was helping her move, could only find a burrito at the gas station for their Thanksgiving dinner.
Mary feels an affinity to Carolyn, as Mary was the first female paramedic in Nevada in the same year Carolyn was the first female solo PCT hiker — 1976. They appear to be made of the same stock!
Mary thoroughly enjoyed her first Mazama winter and began preparing the place, which she now calls by her trail name “Lyon’s Den,” for her first guests of 2022. Her inaugural guests arrived in numbers over the months. When the Pasayten fires closed the trail, she had upwards of 100 hikers camped on the property and made many ferrying trips to Harts Pass to bring them down.
Lyon’s Den is as comfy as a hikers’ place could be. The Hiker’s Hut has a fully supplied kitchen, a sleeping loft for use in nasty weather, a sitting area complete with acoustic guitars and a computer with Wi-Fi. Outside there is an enclosed outdoor shower, a Saturday night movie “screen,” a rack of Hawaiian shirts and dresses for hikers to wear while their clothes are washed.
Mary does laundry for the hikers, as her research revealed it was better to personally operate the machines rather than have to repair them, if inadvertently not used correctly. Hikers leave donations for the services, if they are able, and when Mary receives a large donation, she pays it forward by buying hot dogs and hamburgers and feeding the gang. She is a true angel.
Hikers come from all around the world. Mary said there were many Germans this year, enough that she felt she could have learned to speak German over the summer. When hikers arrive and get settled, they are asked to paint a stone from among those Mary has gathered. Each painted stone is unique to the hiker. They also sign their names on a cloth titled “Class of 2022” — the number of names giving a good indication of how many guests Mary hosted.
On the property are bicycles (some donated) that hikers ride to Mazama “proper” for food, supplies and a cold beverage. Mary is hoping the Mazama Store will name a sandwich “Lyon’s” next year for the 1,200 hikers who bought their sandwiches and baguettes by the dozens.