I signed up for a hike here in Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. Or rather I should say I signed up for a shuttle ride to the trail head. As I was walking toward the meeting place with a backpack full of emergency supples and a gallon of water (at that time, I was the only one signed up for the shuttle, and I wanted to be prepared for a long solo hike in the heat), a guy on a bicycle stopped and asked if I were going on a hike. I explained about the shuttle, and he asked if there would be room for him. At my assent, he pedaled off, and a few minutes later met up at the rendezvous point. He was a nice fellow, a born again Christian who prayed for me whenever I faltered. The amazing thing to me, though, is that before he knew anything about me, he said it was his mission in life to help the fatherless widows. Well, that’s me, though why fatherless widows are mentioned in the bible as needing help, I haven’t a clue.
At 4.5 miles, we stopped to rest in a small patch of shade at a crossroads so I could catch my breath and change my socks because I felt a blister coming on. A fellow came down the side path and stopped to talk. For some reason the two guys got on the subject of motorcycles, and we all ended up walking back to the campground together. The new fellow, Roger, even volunteered to carry my pack, which he thought was laughably light.
Later that evening, Roger brought a bottle of Grand Marnier to my camp site, and we sat under the stars, talked, and sipped the liqueur. (Is it a liqueur? I’m lamentably ignorant about various spirits because I seldom drink, and I’d never tasted Grand Marnier before.) This morning, he stopped by on his way out of camp to say goodbye and he kindly allowed me to take a photo of him with my VW. After he left, I sat at the picnic table, too tired to break camp, and looked for an excuse to stay another night.
While I was sitting there, a woman stopped by and said she’d heard that a woman in a VW was traveling across the country, and she wanted to meet me.
We chatted about our adventures as women tent campers traveling alone (she’s been doing this for five years), then got down to the basics. “Where are you from?” “Denver.” “Me too! Where did you go to school?” And unbelievably, it turns out we went to the same high school several years apart.
She wanted to get together later to have a beer and visit some moren so I paid to stay another night.
And oh. I even got a medal for having hiked at least five miles in the desert.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)