An Intro to Life on the PCT!

I flew out to San Diego with a friend of mine that I went on my first hike with. It seemed almost fitting that she would accompany me to start my first thru hike. The night before we left for Campo, the dreams I had were… interesting… to say the least! I woke up well before my alarm, somewhat jittery and so unsure of what was to come. I packed up my pack, put the things I was sending home with my friend together, and got ready for the day. 

“Today’s the day…” Ready or (mostly) not, here we go.  

Getting to the terminus felt so surreal – almost as if I had entered an alternate reality. Is this real life? In the years and months leading up to starting the trail, I had envisioned what I thought that moment would feel like. What it actually felt like wasn’t what I had expected. What I felt was pride, excitement, and an eagerness paired with calm – I didn’t expect that last one! The border wall is so much taller than it looks in pictures! It felt like an ominous reminder of what it is – a barrier. I took pictures at the monument and spent some time with my thoughts. I was beaming!

It came time to say my goodbyes with my friend and the terminus and start my trek north. The trail follows the road to the terminus for about a quarter mile, so I got to walk while my friend drove for a short time. Watching her drive away, I was confronted with a feeling that I hadn’t felt yet that day – anxiety. The all-consuming feeling of “now what” sank in and I started thinking “am I really ready for this?” I replayed my preparation in my head and came to the conclusion that I trust myself and my abilities and that everything will work out. 

First encounters of the trail (angel) kind 

All the anxiety I had melted away about a half mile into the morning. I came across a table of trail angels greeting hikers, giving water reports for the first 5 miles, and setting up a support system that sets the tone for the rest of the hike! I spent some time with them and talking about the trail. Feeling supported so early in the trail eased so much anxiousness! Legend, Papa Bear, & Dodger – thank you for what you do! 

After leaving the campground where the trail angels set up, I felt a new pep in my step and continued up the trail feeling on cloud nine! I felt amazing! My body felt good! Things were going smoothly! I tackled the first 4.4 miles in just a few hours! I got to the water source at mile 4.4 around noon and sat in the shade and drank some cool and fresh water (filtered of course!). While I was at the stream, I had met some hikers that stopped to fill up too. We sat and talked for a bit – asking the usual questions: where are you from? Where are you going today? Why are you here? We stayed at the stream for about 30 minutes and then decided to continue on.  

The beginning of a love/hate relationship with the sun 

Leaving a shady spot to hike on in the middle of the day is (I know now) not a great idea. I had planned on getting to the campsite at mile 7.4 and seeing how I felt – if I still had fuel in the tank, I would continue; if not I would camp. It took me longer to hike the remaining 3 miles for the day than it had to hike the 4.4 in the morning. Hiking through the heat of the day zapped all of my energy. The last mile was especially grueling. I found myself checking the FarOut app every .2 miles begging the universe to finally let me get to camp! Eventually, I made it to camp and dropped my pack and sat down on a rock. The thought of setting up camp seemed like cruel and unusual punishment. I felt dead.  

I felt as though I was starting to melt and that in any second, I would slump to the ground in a pool of hot wax. Not too long after I plopped down at camp, the sun began to set behind the ridge across from my camp. As soon as the sun ducked behind the mountain, the shivering began. The immediate temperature switch from feeling like I was sitting on the surface of the sun to feeling like I was dropped in the Antarctic Tundra is unlike anything I had experienced before. I had been told that the desert was an environment of extremes, but couldn’t fathom what it would feel like until I was actually in it.  

Facing Fears 

Once I acclimated to the new environment after the sun went down, I set up camp. One of the biggest fears I had coming into this trip was camping alone. The idea of being in the wilderness alone is something that I had never done and was really uncertain about. Up until this point, the day had been quite a roller coaster and I felt that I had learned so much already. The day definitely set the tone for how the rest of my hike would play out.  

I had seen a couple more hikers pass by my camp, but they were all planning on hiking a bit more. As the sun set more, it seemed more and more like a reality that I would be hiking alone that night…. umm… ok. The day had already felt like a roller coaster of emotions and lessons! As I settled into my tent and cuddled up into my sleeping bag, I reflected on the day. I knew the trail would test me and push me past my comfort zone. I just didn’t expect is on Day 1!

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Comments 14

  • Josh : Apr 2nd

    Congrats on day one! Just keep on putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll make it all the way!

  • Sherylyn Asch : Apr 2nd

    I am so excited and inspired by you. Just to take the challenge on is such a victory in and of itself! I got my eye on you girl!

  • Dani : Apr 2nd

    “It ruined my life in the best way possible.”

    I FELT that!!! Same here 🙂 Hiking is (especially long-distance trails) all I can think about, talk about and read about. Maps are fun for me 🙂

    Good luck out there and I look forward to following along!

  • Tom brown : Apr 2nd

    Best wishes for a successful adventure! Opportunity of a lifetime!!

  • Trudy : Apr 2nd

    You took that first step, what an inspiration you are. I am cheering you on Victoria. Stay safe!

    • Amanda : Apr 3rd

      Great first day! When I hiked the pct ten years ago, it was about a week before I had to camp alone, so kudos to you for getting that big mental hurdle out of the way quickly! Can’t wait to read more about your adventure!

  • Elle : Apr 3rd

    Go Victoria go! Learning about your adventures on the trail is inspirational. Stay safe, enjoy yourself and please continue to share.

  • Jeff W : Apr 4th

    You’re so amazingly courageous. I prepared for the PCT over at least two years. I did the Wonderland Trail in ’13 and some solo hikes in the Cascades in ’14. But like you said, one can expect much to change the most detailed plans when you actually begin the thru hike. One thing that worked for me: keeping expectations at a sane level and living in the moment (mindfulness). Savor every step and look forward to the next one!

  • Ronnie : Apr 4th

    It’s a solo journey but you’ll make great friends and lots of friendly strangers. Sleep well and adventure on!

  • Kitty : Apr 5th

    This is my dream! I want to do half next year! I’ve been pining for years! I’ve done some weekends on the PCT (all SoCal) and 100% envious! Will be following! Would love to Trail Angel to meet you!

  • Rafter Jack : Apr 6th

    Sooo enjoyed your story Victoria! Went north from Campo May 5 2004. Thinking 6 quarts water suggested … to get to county park where they hold the gathering … if that’s what it’s called? I knew better, had 3. Attitude. TWICE had to ask for water – ended up being same (3) people (from Quebec, I think … sooo generous!) At the campsite maybe 3 miles short of the park, where I ran out the second time, gave myself a severe talking to “ … you think you’re going to hike 2,600 odd miles? Think again!” Will be traveling with you already a legend with me.

  • Annette : Apr 8th

    Wishing you a safe and successful adventure Victoria! I too aspire to do some serious thru-hiking but am intimidated by doing it alone. I am excited to follow your journey!

  • Beckie : Apr 11th

    Hi Victoria, I see you are from New England. Your name is familiar. Didn’t I wait on you at the post office earlier this year? Good luck and have a great journey and stay hydrated! Beckie

  • Ralph Mendez : Apr 11th

    You go girl. I am proud of you. It has always been a dream of mine. I plan on taking that journey in 2024. Had a kidney transplant 28 Feb 2022. Need to heal and i am off on that journey
    Stay gold. I admire you. Keep the journal going, much love and respect.


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