A Pop-Up Cafe Caters To Hikers Along The Pacific Crest Trail : The Salt The 2,650-mile trail is grueling. But for a few weekends each season, hikers on the stretch near California's Sonora Pass encounter a hiker's dream: fresh fruit, cakes and other goodies for the weary.

A Pop-Up Cafe Caters To Hikers Along The Pacific Crest Trail

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Every year, hundreds of hikers take on the grueling Pacific Crest Trail over the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. This adventure is not easy. The new movie "Wild," which opened this past week, shows what the months-long journey can be like. Reporter Lisa Morehouse visited the trail last summer and talked to hikers who had finished the whole 2,650 miles of it, and she found the only thing they talk about more than their aching feet is food. They have to carry it all, except when they get surprised by a little trail magic.

LISA MOREHOUSE, BYLINE: At a really beautiful but tough, steep patch of the Pacific Crest Trail near the Sonora Pass in California, a slight blonde woman in a cowboy hat carries a huge backpack. Her name is Shannon Pepper.

SHANNON PEPPER: AKA Pan from Missoula, Montana. (Singing) Saying hard times ain't going to rule my mind, sugar.

MOREHOUSE: Pan's been hiking for more than two months.

PEPPER: When you're on the trail and you're carrying all of your own meals, it can get really scary when you are close to being out. And I feel like I have a little better perspective on what it really means to be hungry. And we live in a society of plenty, and there isn't plenty when you have to carry all of it.

MOREHOUSE: But plenty is what Pan finds when she walks into a picnic area where Hank Magnuski, trail name The Owl, has set up the Sonora Pass Cafe.

HANK MAGNUSKI: I'm The Owl. I'm your host here.

UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #1: Oh wonderful.

MAGNUSKI: Help yourself.

MOREHOUSE: Magnuski smiles as he brews up gourmet coffee on a portable stove.

MAGNUSKI: Folks are doing 25 miles a day. It's like a marathon every single day for six months, and trail magic helps alleviate the pain.

MOREHOUSE: Trail magic. That's any serendipitous help offered to hikers - water or free rides or hiker-friendly food. Magnuski's actually a Silicon Valley engineer, but he's volunteered on a trail crew at the Sonora Pass for years. He realized how barren it is, even this picnic area.

MAGNUSKI: There's nothing here but trees and a privy, the thought of a full-blown cafe in the middle of the wilderness just seemed like a neat idea.

MOREHOUSE: So about a decade ago he started setting up the Sonora Pass Cafe a few weekends each season. Today, Pan and other hikers with trail names like Gotta Walk, Pesky and Laugh Track gather around.

MAGNUSKI: Got to do what you're told.

UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #2: Hey, this is a crazy surprise.

PESKY: We have the classic, like, beautiful like fresh fruit.

PEPPER: And he's got delicious beer.

PESKY: There's a chocolate cake that you can't even imagine on the trail.

PEPPER: Also Wi-Fi, so currently I'm blogging.

CAT ADDISON: Here comes the cookie.

MOREHOUSE: Cat Addison, trail name Cat Dog, is from Bend, Oregon. She hasn't come down off the trail to rest or replenish her pack in nine days.

ADDISON: When I got to the trailhead on the other side and I saw this little side that there was trail magic, I started to cry because I was so tired, so I'm so glad to be here.

MOREHOUSE: Addison's 62, and she's thru-hiking the trail for the first time.

ADDISON: The Sierras have kicked me around a little bit. I mean, I've had a couple meltdowns, a couple face plants. It didn't feel too good. (Laughter) People always say the trail provides and sometimes it does.


UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #2: Cheers to trail magic.

UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #3: Three cheers to trail magic.

UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #4: Three cheers to Hank's Sonoma Cafe trail magic.

MOREHOUSE: Now there's color in the cheeks and light in the eyes of the hikers as they throw on their packs and head out for a few more hours on the trail.

MAGNUSKI: Congratulations on that thousand miles.

MOREHOUSE: For NPR News, I'm Lisa Morehouse at the Sonora Pass.

MAGNUSKI: And it's all downhill from there.


UNIDENTIFIED HIKER #6: To the Columbia River?

MAGNUSKI: To the Columbia River, that's right.

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