Ephraim native breaks her hip but doesn’t give up on hike of more than 2,600 miles raising funds for cancer
By Robert Stevens
LEHI—A woman who grew up in Ephraim and who took a hike to raise money for cancer awareness ran into angels walking alongside her on the trail, including one who carried her to safety on his back.
Last Friday, May 11, Signe Gines, 54, completed her 2,650-mile hike along Pacific Crest Trail from Canada to Mexico.
The hike, undertaken to raise money for cancer research, had gotten stymied last summer when, at 2,300 miles, she fell, broke her hip and ended up having a hip replacement.
But she couldn’t stand to give up. Several weeks ago, she returned to the spot where her leg had given out and proceeded about 300 miles to the end of the trail.
Gines went to Manti High, then Snow College. Today, she’s a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher at both Lehi High School and Utah Valley University.
In 2015, he was diagnosed with large B-cell lymphoma—and beat it. The experience motivated her to help raise cancer awareness, and in 2017, she decided she would accomplish that goal by doing what she loved.
Gines is an avid backpacker, hiker and mountain climber. She made a plan to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and called her fund raiser “A Hike for Healing.” She raised more than $10,000 through Crowdfunding, which she pledged to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Gines planned meticulously for the trip, and set out on July 14 of last year.
The trip went wonderfully for a long time, and along the way, Gines met real-life angels, or “trail angels,” as they are known to avid hikers.
Trail angels are people who help out the hikers and adventurers who traverse giant trail systems such as the Pacific Crest Trail. They re-supply hikers, give them rides to the nearest town, cook hot meals for them and even let them sleep in a real bed for a night.
“They truly work magic—trail magic,” Gines says.
Gines admits she didn’t get to take as much time as she would have liked to explore the areas surrounding the trail system because she had to adhere to a strict deadline in order to beat bad weather. She stuck to her schedule, rationed her food and made good time along the hike until one day she took a fall.
“I remember some dust on a rock, and my foot slipped off,” she says. “I got back up with a few cuts and bruises, but I mostly thought I was ok.”
She hiked on, and as miles passed, she noticed one of her legs began feeling weaker, and aching.
“After it got worse, I really started to worry,” says Gines. “I was thinking, ‘What did I do to my leg?’”
Not long after realizing her leg was damaged, Gines met a few more people along the trail—one of whom became practically a saving angel.
Tim Toomey, 51, had a lot of reasons to relate to Gines. An ex-Marine, Toomey, like Gines, was on a fundraising hike, only his was to raise money for veterans.
Before they met, and part way along his own hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, Toomey learned that his mother was in the hospital dying of cancer and breathing her last breaths. He took a break from his hike to be by her side and at the funeral. Then he returned to his hike to help veterans.
Gines and Toomey met along the trail after her fall and his mother’s passing.
According to Gines, while hiking the trail, Toomey told her, “I think my mother wanted me to meet you.”
By then, Gines had finished most of the hike. She had traveled 2,300 miles. And until then, things had gone very well. Then her odyssey fell apart.
“I remember taking a step, and (feeling) a sharp, stabbing pain,” she says. “The next thing I know, my legs gave out on me.”
Unable to walk, and far from any roads, Gines was stranded, but her trail companion, Toomey, was not going to leave her behind. Toomey hefted Gines onto his back and carried her nearly 1.5 miles to a place where she could be safely transported to a hospital.
Back in civilization, Gines found out the severity of her injury.
“The doctor took x-rays,” she says. “He told me, ‘You’ve come to the wrong man. You’re going to need an orthopedic surgeon.’”
Gines had completely blown out her hip, and if she wanted to be active again, the only option was a complete replacement. She wasn’t getting back out on the trail any time soon.
But fast forward to months later, and Gines was still thinking about her trip. She had left it unfinished.
“I just couldn’t let it go,” she says.
Gines threw herself into physical therapy and training to get back into hiking shape. She says regaining her flexibility was the biggest hurdle but also one of the most important contributors to enabling her to complete her hike.
Gines returned to her trail—to the exact place where Toomey had picked her up and started carrying her, hiked the remaining 300-plus miles and finished two days ahead of schedule.
“I want people to know they are capable of doing so much more than they think,” Gines says. “The just have to get out and do it.”
Gines says her Hike for Healing taught her that God is all around and present in many things we may not expect.
“I know it for a fact now,” she says. “It’s not just a feeling. When good things happen, it can be just a coincidence, but when you start to see them all around you, you begin to recognize them as His work.”
Gines’s mother Norma says she is so grateful Toomey was there for her daughter in her hour of need, but she is especially proud of Gines for the tenacity to finish her journey.
“We are so proud of what she has accomplished,” Norma says.
Gines says she feels proud to have walked alongside angels, and calls one of them, Toomey, a new lifelong friend.