Our Easter morning started out as any other day on trail. We’d camped at a lovely flat overlook of the Tule Creek Valley, large enough for our whole family and more. We only had 6 miles until the water cache, with another well maintained water cache 2 miles from there. So our 14 mile day to the Idyllwild highway crossing looked like a smooth day ahead.
Upon arrival at the water cache at Mile 143 at 10am, a lady was also arriving via truck to put up a sign. The sign read: “Trail Angel Mary is hosting an Easter Dinner from 11:30 to 2:30 just two miles ahead at MM145, all hikers welcome. This is not an April Fools Joke.”
Is this real?! I was just thinking a few miles before how it’s odd to carry on with your day on trail while it’s a major holiday in the outside world. Then here was this trail angel offering to prepare a meal for us dirty hikers. Even though we’d be there early, we set off straight away to see if we could assist in the preparation of the potential feast. (Which every offer was met with a stern “No, go rest & enjoy”)
We arrived at the well-known oasis that is Mary’s Little Desert Library & water cache to find a beautiful sight. The Easter bunny had arrived to deliver some holiday trail magic. Just off the dirt trail through the hilly desert landscape, there were 3 awnings set up with table and chairs under 2 and a full out grilling kitchen set up under the 3rd.
We were greeted with a welcome sign and the Easter dinner menu. What a treat we were in for:
Since we were early, we had plenty of time to explore her oasis. There were plates of fresh cut fruit and gallons of water & lemonade to enjoy as an appetizer. Each year she picks a new theme for the oasis, with this year being dedicated to the 150th anniversary of John Muir’s arrival to California.
Her trail guest book had a new twist on it this year, asking hikers, with a John Muir quote, whether they are hiking or sauntering? Proves for good thought provoking material. Her little desert library was full of books recommended by previous hikers and on the topic of great western explorers.
She had just completed a new outhouse named the ‘Muir John’, which would be the focus of the “out-house warming toast” at the beginning of dinner. She also had a bucket shower available for us to use and a much welcomed hand washing station. The Easter bunny had delivered some hidden eggs with treats in the Easter tree. The oasis alone was a wonderful repreive from the desert heat. Little did we know what this dinner was about to entail.
At the beginning of dinner, about 15 hikers had trickled in to join the holiday meal. We started the meal with a champagne toast to officially christen the new outhouse and start the festivities.
One of Mary’s friends, Renae, was our official server, decked out in a white tuxedo shirt and bowtie. She took our order of either steak or fish. Then, her other friends, Roberto & Martha, brought around red & white wine options. As the meal was being cooked, more hikers had seen the poster at the previous water cache & hustled over to join in before the food was gone. By the end of dinner, there were over 30 friends and hikers gathered in camaraderie.
Our meals were being made in real time, as if from a gourmet kitchen. The meals started arriving and the steak was literally the size of half the plate and an inch thick. These were delicious, melt in your mouth, hardy, char-cooked steaks accompanied by soft, buttery potatoes, and green beans with almond slivers. Then the salmon dinners arrived with beautiful grilled salmon on a bed of couscous with grilled asparagus alongside. We were passing around various pieces of meals to ensure all the guests got food as they arrived late in the meal. Amazingly, though she only anticipated maybe 15 people, all 30 people received a good meal.
The meal rounded out with 2 options for dessert: a berry tart with *hand-whipped* whipped cream or cheesecake with a chocolate sauce & fresh berries. Then some fresh baked cookies appeared out of no where as we started to gather our belongings to depart. Since we had been there for 3 hours, and we knew we still had a 6 mile hike ahead of us, we decided staying too late would be a bit much. We thanked Mary profusely for her kindness, and after a final decline of our offer to help with clean up, we headed out back on trial to beat the crowd that had gathered at the oasis.
What an unbelievable and unexpected holiday haven in the desert. Steve says hands down the best trail magic he’s experienced on both the AT & PCT. Thank you again Mary, Renae, Roberto, & Martha for your amazing hospitality and delicious giving.
See what Mary had to say, plus more photos and description of her trail angel activities at: