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[pct-l] From Today's LA Times

Tuesday, July 7, 1998=20

              Blessed by 'Trail Angels'=20
                 For those hardy enough to take on the 2,650-mile Pacific
Crest Trail,
              volunteers are the unsung heroes who often mean the difference
              making it through and bailing out.=20
              By DARRELL SATZMAN, Special to The Times
                        Setting a tall glass of iced lemonade on the patio
table, John
                           Krall takes a look at his surroundings and
smiles. "This is
                      great," he said. "I really needed this."=20
                           One month into a planned four-month solo trek
from the
                      Mexican border to Canada, and one day after his first
shower and
                      cold beverage in more than a week, Krall looks as
though he is truly
                      in heaven.=20
                           And why not. Hosting his brief respite from the
rigors of life on
                      the Pacific Crest Trail are Donna and Jeff Saufley.
The Agua Dulce
                      couple, along with their 13-year-old son, Thomas, are
among the
                      newest and most gracious "trail angels."=20
                           Scattered indiscriminately from the Mojave Desert
to the
                      Olympic Peninsula, trail angels offer hikers a
lifeline between the
                      wilderness and the world they left behind. For those
hardy enough
                      to take on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, trail
angels are unsung
                      heroes who often mean the difference between making it
                      and bailing out.=20
                           From water, shelter and tips about local terrain
to rides to the
                      hospital for medical treatment, the Saufleys say there
is little they
                      won't do for hikers in need, as long as the visitors
leave a message
                      in the family's guest book. Perhaps most important,
though, is the
                      Saufleys' willingness to lend a friendly ear and offer
weary trekkers
                      encouragement to keep on going.=20
                           During Krall's 24-hour stay in Agua Dulce, the
32-year-old from
                      Mukilteo, Wash., showered, washed his clothes, ate a
                      enjoyed some good conversation and, most important, he
                      recharged his batteries for the long walk ahead.=20
                           "The description of the next section in the
guidebook sounds
                      pretty awful: hot, waterless and ugly," said Krall,
who left his job
                      with Boeing to realize a childhood fantasy of spending
months alone
                      in the wilderness. "Jeff and Donna are great," he
said. "They've
                      given me the break I needed to face that."=20
                           * "Relaxing on a soft couch. Rocking out to Jimi
Hendrix after a
                      warm shower. It doesn't get any better than this."=20
                           --Mike Rothery=20
                                             * * *
                           'Welcome to hiker haven," says Donna Saufley,
greeting a
                      visitor. For two years, the 1 1/3-acre family property
has doubled
                      as a way station for more than 125 trekkers. "Some of
the hikers
                      have dubbed it the Agua Dulce Hilton."=20
                           With two of the family's five dogs at her heels,
Saufley proudly
                      shows off the air-conditioned two-bedroom trailer that
from May
                      through July is reserved for hikers on the trail.=20
                           Among its amenities, the 30-year-old trailer
includes fresh
                      towels stacked neatly in the bathroom, a telephone,
                      refrigerator and stereo.=20
                           "One of the things they usually miss is music,"
Saufley said.=20
                           Two "hiker boxes" containing a trove of materials
left by
                      previous visitors trying to shed weight in their packs
are up for
                      grabs. The contents of the boxes range from tin plates
and granola
                      to powdered Kool-Aid and energy bars.=20
                           The trailer has no working kitchen, but the
Saufleys, who own
                      an electrical contracting business, often invite
guests to dine with
                      them or drive them into Santa Clarita to an
all-you-can-eat buffet.=20
                           "It's amazing," Jeff Saufley says. "These guys
come off the trail
                      and they have voracious appetites."=20
                           Most of the those who make their way to the
Saufleys have
                      been tipped off by other hikers or hear about the
trail angels at a
                      nearby real estate office that serves as a pickup spot
for supplies.=20
                           Stays can range from an afternoon nap to five
days or more in
                      the case of those slowed by injuries or inclement
weather. Most
                      hikers stay one or two nights. However long the stay,
the Saufleys
                      never charge for their hospitality.=20
                           "All we ask is that they write in our book,"
Donna Saufley says,
                      pointing to a small journal filled with thank-you
notes, poems and
                      drawings. "It's such an incredible journey that
they're on. To get
                      some kindness, some support, you can see it in their
eyes how
                      much they appreciate it. That's enough for us."=20
                           * "Dear Abby, Dear Abby, I've got poison oak.=20
                           I can't find the trail and my toes are all broke.=
                           Each mornin' I wake to a terrible smell,=20
                           If I weren't agnostic, I'd think this was hell."=
                           --Andrea Gabriel=20
                                             * * *
                           "When you come out of the wilderness with only a
pack on your
                      back, and you smell like a week on the trail and for
all intents and
                      purposes you look like a vagrant, it's so important to
have someone
                      know who you are and what you're doing," says Bob
Ballou, the
                      executive director of the Pacific Crest Trail Assn.=20
                           The 2,600-member nonprofit group helped get the
trail built and
                      now exists to protect it from encroachment and provide
the public
                      with information about trail conditions.=20
                           Throughout its journey, the trail holds to the
crest of the
                      mountains and includes some of the most rugged and
                      terrain in California, Oregon and Washington.=20
                           According to Ballou, about 150 men, women and
                      attempt to hike the entire trail each year. Only a
dozen or so usually
                      make it all the way. This year's El Ni=F1o condition=
led to an
                      unusually heavy snowpack in the Sierra, making a
complete traverse
                      of the trail all but impossible.=20
                           Ballou said that without the assistance of trail
angels, even fewer
                      hikers would complete the trail.=20
                           "Having that kind of support along the way can
help you get
                      through the mental challenges, but it's also so
important from a
                      physical standpoint," he said. "When you've been out
on the trail for
                      500 or 700 miles, you can really use a little help."=

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                      Copyright Los Angeles Times=20

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