Trail Angels

Since writing this post in early June, just a few days into her thru-hike of the Continental Divide Trail, Mary has struggled to keep going. Diagnosis: pes anserine bursitis. Her hike began in South Pass, Wyoming. Destination: Encampment, Wyoming, a distance of 250 miles.

By Mary Anderson

Sometimes it's my friends back home that keep me going. Other times it's the people on the trail. On this day it was the Prairie Dwellers.


My knee had been hurting for a few days and I was beginning to feel discouraged. I reached a high point and stopped for a late lunch, deciding to check for cell service. I was thrilled to find my emails come in, until I discovered that most of them had to do with really unpleasant legal issues surrounding my upcoming divorce. It threw me into a tailspin, and I called a friend who helped me stay centered. I forced myself to hike on. I was expecting to meet up with a friend I had met while hiking the southern half of the trail last year. Melissa was coming to meet me for a few days, hiking with me and providing support. I was expecting to meet her any minute. She had offered to carry much of my pack weight out to the trailhead where her car was waiting with my first resupply. I walked and walked, limping along, searching for the relief the sight of her would bring.


By the time I made it to the trailhead, I knew that my worst fears might have been manifest. Not only had she missed me on trail, her car was nowhere in sight. She must have gone to the wrong trailhead. I didn't know what to do. I did not have it in me to push another mile.

I pulled out my phone, hoping for service. I struggled to type a message on my satellite device, knowing if she did not have service she would not get it. That is when the Prairie Dwellers appeared.


First it was their barking dog who came from under a camper parked off the side of the trail. Then Mr. Prairie Dweller, as they called themselves, appeared asking if I needed anything. I explained my predicament, and the first thing he offered was water. Desert dwellers know the importance of this. He followed this offer up with a question. "Would you like some dinner?"

Of course I said yes.


The man, Steve, carried my pack to their camper. He introduced me to his wife, Kathy, who I learned played violin for years in the Wyoming symphony orchestra. "You looked like you could use some help," she told me before setting a glass of water and a plate of fried chicken and potato salad down in front of me. They then pulled out some binoculars and spotted a jeep on the horizon. While Kathy plied me with water and more food, Steve went off in his truck in search of Melissa.


By the time Steve returned with Melissa, Kathy and I were well on our way to becoming friends. My aching knee was getting a much needed rest, and the kindness of these strangers helped me put aside the distress and pain I felt about the legal matters. I was connected with Melissa and my next food supply. It's wonderful how a simple plate of food and some kind actions can make such a difference in someone's life.

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