Wild Within (Wild at Heart #1)

Wild Within (Wild at Heart #1) by Christine Hartmann Page A

Book: Wild Within (Wild at Heart #1) by Christine Hartmann Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christine Hartmann
additional water cache, how to detour around a bridge that washed away in a flash flood, and the containment status of a wildfire near the trail. It was her first taste of the PCT’s grapevine.
    “This guy had to be helicoptered out because he fell off a cliff while hiking. I didn’t see it, but I heard it was amazing. They said the helicopter’s dust cloud could be seen for miles.”
    Or, “You know how when you’re in Yellowstone and there’s one car parked by the side of the road? And then all these other cars start pulling over ’cause the people think someone spotted some amazing wild animal? Well, right when the herd was starting out at Campo, there was this guy bent over looking for something. Soon there were, like, fifty thrus all bent over, digging in the sand. Crazy. Turns out he was looking for one lousy M&M.”
    And, “This year’s PCT party group gave themselves alcohol trail names. Bud, Gordon, Stoli, Ecstasy, Southern Comfort, Bacardi, and Margie. Margie’s short for Margaritaville. I got a look at Margie before I took off. Between you and me, I would love to search for her lost shaker of salt.”
    That first evening back on the trail, the orange glow faded from the horizon over Little Tahquitz Valley as a young couple from upstate New York, Chow Hound and Teva, joined Grace. This was their second thru-hike, they said. They had hiked the Appalachian Trail together the summer before, beginning the day after their engagement.
    “That seems like a rough start.”
    “Not really.” Teva draped her socks over her dusty shoes and stretched her toes. “We were counselors at a wilderness camp. Our kids were not exactly little angels. They were always fighting with kitchen knives and burning down tents and running away. It was kind of like working at an outdoor detention facility. So when we got out on the AT, we kept saying how quiet and peaceful everything was.”
    “Then it’s too bad you weren’t here a few nights ago. A big storm went through. It was anything but peaceful. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I would have loved some company. I wouldn’t have been picky. An escaped convict or two would have been welcome. Plus it was freezing. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to die from being hit by a falling tree or from hypothermia.”
    “Sorry we missed it.” Teva leaned against her husband. “Chow Hound here never gets cold. But me? I’m always shivering. That’s why we share a sleeping bag. So I can cool him down and he can warm me up.” Chow Hound handed Teva a power bar and she munched it in the increasing darkness. “So, what brought you out here all by yourself?”
    Grace hesitated. “I haven’t made up my mind yet. I thought I was doing this for my brother. He wanted to hike the PCT. But…well…he can’t now. So I guess I’m hiking to figure out what to do with my life. It also sort of feels like a survival odyssey.”
    “Because you have to eat the same food day in and day out?” Teva held up a stuff sack bulging with rectangles. “Chow Hound and I let ourselves get hungry. That way power bars taste better.” She smiled, shrugged, and ripped open her second. “It saves weight, not having to cook anything. But that’s not what you’re talking about.”
    Grace shook her head. “No. I’m getting used to the food. It’s more about not having people around to talk to. Or going through something like that storm. By myself. Then I wonder why I’m not back in my comfortable office in San Francisco. Knowing what to expect every day. Back there I have friends. Out here I meet people I like and then they disappear. Like you guys. It’s great to sit around tonight, but I’m sure you’ll be gone in the morning. I’m not complaining. And, obviously, I haven’t quit yet…” Grace trailed off.
    Chow Hound and Teva exchanged a look. Chow Hound excused himself and began setting up their tent at a sociable distance. Teva watched him clear the area of stones, twigs, and

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