On the way back to the car from Mammoth Hot-springs, I saw an older woman off of the paths and sidewalks, inching her way down the shoulder of the road. The first thing I noticed was her awkward gait, as if her hips or her feet bothered her; the second was the "I think I'm about to drown" look on her face; the third was that she wasn't wearing sensible shoes.
I looked and Larry and Larry looked at me and then we were crossing the street to help her. By this time she had found a rock more or less stool sized and was almost panting. There was a small breeze, but the sun was beating down on the rocky sinter cliffs. There were no trees to offer shade.
Larry and I greeted her, asked if she needed help, and offered her water and our steadying arms. She said her name was Estella; she was Peruvian, but had lived in LA for the past twenty-something years. She'd apparently gone off on her own from a tour bus. She wiggled her feet to free some gravel out of her heeled sandals and we continued to walk along the margin of the road. I looked down at her feet and marveled that she was able to walk at all--her feet had bunions the size of my thumbs and the joints of her big toes pointed outward like misplaced ankles. My feet ached in sympathy.
We took another rest. Estella drank some more water, and apologized for drinking all of it--she hadn't and I encouraged her to drink as much as she wanted. Larry went off to connect with her tour bus. When he came back, she said she'd rest and wait for her bus to pick her up and shooed us of.
We hadn't gone twenty-five feet when she got up and started walking again; so we came back and insisted on escorting her back. We figured she was embarrassed or possibly worried that two (younger) men were helping her.