Lloyd Gust has never met a hiker he didn't like, and he's met a lot. Gust has been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail since 1946, or if you ask him, "back in the stone age." For the past 11 years, Gust has volunteered his time as a Pacific Crest Trail Angel, helping hikers on the trail by providing them with water while also bringing them into Bend and Sisters for medical care, a warm night's rest and plenty of beer, food and entertainment.
Each year Gust helps between 200 and 250 hikers who are in need in his area of the trail, which stretches from Windigo Pass, near Crater Lake, to just south of Mt. Hood.
"Some of them are in serious condition, others just need to come to town, go to REI, come to the Ale Trail. They really love beer when they get off the trail and they really love food," says Gust.
Gust loves Bend and loves bringing the hikers here and stresses that doing so is also an economic driver for the city. Once the hikers get into Gust's trail area, odds are that many of them have already walked nearly 2,000 miles and by this point, they need supplies, so he brings them to Bend where they spend money on shoes, tents, sleeping bags, as well as food, lodging and lots of beer. Gust says it may not be a big weekend event, but people come through all year and are able to experience what we all love about living in Bend.
Gust, who himself has hiked the entire length of the Pacific Coast Trail, from Mexico to Canada, has met a variety of people in all different kinds of situations. He's encountered people from all over the world, and luckily enough, he speaks multiple languages and has been able to communicate and help hikers on the move. One time he met up with a young man who didn't speak any English, only Japanese, and it just so happens that Gust is fluent in that language, so they got along famously. He doesn't always luck out like that, but has still been able to help people from Switzerland, New Zealand, The Netherlands and Americans from every state.
"What they really want is a good shower and they need it by that time because they smell," says Gust.
Now in his 80s (he only gave his age as "more than 80 and less than 90") Gust has led an incredible life. He's lived on every continent in the world, with the exception of Antarctica, but he's been to the frozen continent, of course. Gust's career working for a liquor distributor's acquisitions department took him all over the world looking for new facilities. Later in life, Gust and his wife, Barbara, started a travel tour company in Seattle marketed toward senior citizens, specializing in meeting their unique needs. With his background of living all over the world, Gust knew where to go, where to stay and what to do abroad.
Each week during the prime April-to-October hiking season, Gust makes the 150-mile roundtrip to refill the water caches he keeps at Windigo and McKenzie Passes. Always on the lookout for new volunteers, Gust says they are often hard to come by because no reimbursement is offered, and with rising gas prices it's going to be a tough year. Gust doesn't ask for much, just a simple thank you, which is why he has a book full of thank you notes.
"Some of them consider me a real angel and I get a real reward out of that," says Gust.
To most of the hikers Gust encounters, he truly is an angel, and no doubt a hero. Some of the hikers are without funds, or have very little and he arranges motel accommodations for them at a discounted rate and even takes people back to his apartment on occasion and feeds them pizza and beer.
"I even promise I can sprinkle some pine needles on the bed for them," says Gust.
Age: "More than 80 and less than 90"
Occupation: Retired. Former owner of a travel tourism
company for seniors.
Personal hero: "A number of people in my church. The people at REI are tremendous people and I can't say enough about them, and the motel people for helping me help the people."