Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Trail angels

This woman and her child live in St. Julia de Bec, France. I don’t know their names or their story, except on Wednesday they were my trail angels.
To long-distance hikers, trail angels can be life-savers or just someone who makes the sojourn more comfortable so you can make that summit or even get back home.
I was in the middle of a 19.8-mile round-trip from Quillan to 2,600-foot Mazuby, known locally as "the elephants" because of its hump topography, when I ran out of water. It was 91 degrees under a cloudless sky.
No problem.  I had planned to refuel in nearby St. Julia. However, I had forgotten to check for restaurants, bars or stores there before setting off. Walking through the small village I came across the woman and asked where I could buy water and food.
No place near, she said.
Le Tour Mazuby? she asked.
Eau? She made the motion of drinking from a glass.
Non, I said pointing to empty bottles.
She motioned me to come inside her home. She pulled out two store-bought bottled waters, one with bubbles and one without. I didn’t want to take water she bought.
Tap, she said.
Oui, merci.
She filled a glass of water. I finished it in three gulps. Then she filled my bottles.
Fruit? she asked
S’il vous plaît.
She handed me two peaches and a banana.
I left her a few euros for her kindness over her protestations. Like in the U.S., Good Samaritans in France don't expect payment. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. I gave a couple of merci beaucoups, waved and left. Only down the trail did I realized I hadn't asked their names.
The peaches were the sweetest I’ve ever had.
I’ve encountered trail angels hiking in Appalachia, like the elderly guy who parks his pickup along a road that splits a trail to pass out oranges and water to hikers, or the local couple who drops you off at a hotel in town.
Now, it’s good to know they’re an international phenomenon.

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