Trail Angels are a special breed. It’s likely that most people have never heard of them — but it’s a given that anyone who has completed a long-distance trail is not only familiar with the term but may have even met one of these elusive characters.
Hikers who have been on a trail for a long time may find they owe a great debt to these life-savers. Anyone who has experienced the feeling of being exhausted, hungry and thirsty after weeks on a trail can admit that the prospect of a hot meal and a little civilization might be just what the doctor ordered.
That’s when people like Lloyd Gust step in to save the day — they can prove to be the difference between a wonderful experience and a trip-ending disaster. Lloyd has provided services along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in Oregon ranging from north of Crater Lake National Park to the Mount Hood region.
So what exactly does a Trail Angel do?
…Picking up weary hikers and shuttling them into town for supplies — then back to the trail after a good night’s rest — just for starters. Over the course of 20 years, Lloyd has provided thru-hikers with things they find they need the most: a hot shower, laundry facilities and a nice selection of comfort food. (In his personal kitchen, pizza and pasta are considered favorites.) He jokes that specialty beverages have also been popular — in particular, beer!
He has been a well-liked fixture in the PCT community, known for his service along a rugged stretch of the PCT that grinds through the Pacific Northwest and challenges the best of hikers. As a young man, Lloyd completed the entire PCT, hiking it in sections, and took dozens of shorter trips on the trail from his home in Bend, Oregon. As the years advanced, he found it difficult to complete longer walks and decided instead to offer transportation and emergency services to other hikers each summer.
Lloyd has been an emergency responder in some serious medical situations as well. A nurse in her thirties who had been hiking the PCT had seen Lloyd’s number posted at a trailhead and called him in a panic, after finding she had a broken hip from a fall. Owing to the fact that he knew the trail route well, he was able to direct Forest Service personnel to her exact location. He later transported her to a hospital in his own vehicle, saving her upwards of $10,000 in ambulance fees (due to their remote location).
Another hiker had a spiral fracture and Lloyd took him to the E.R. where he was treated. He later personally shuttled him to the airport where the hiker flew home (a rare occasion when Lloyd actually ended someone’s hike, rather than extending and enriching their experiences on the trail).
Even though the average thru-hiker takes great pride in self-reliance and mobility, at times it can be helpful to have access to some wheels!
To ensure people know he was there for them, Lloyd posted signs along the PCT and handed out business cards at events like the annual Spring PCT kick-off.
Lloyd recently announced he is retiring — only because he turned 90 and figured that would be a good time to stop driving. He reports that he already misses being a PCT Trail Angel and he surely will be missed by those who relied on him (though he did see to it that he had a replacement before agreeing to retire).
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Lloyd for his many years of service and to thank all the other angels like him throughout the country… We salute you!