Becoming Home: 2 weeks in a fantasy world
It’s been over 2 weeks since I first pitched my tent in the dirt and dust of Southern California. I’ve become a PCT hiker now for just shy of 200 miles and it was exactly the path I was destined to take.
My body and my mind have adjusted to the trail easily. Perhaps it is how badly I want to be the trail, the sheer joy that I am out here, the months of training hikes over challenging terrain and mountain passes in Aotearoa, but I wake up excited and happy to be out here, and when I eventually manage to drag myself from my cosy sleep system, eager to see the what new challenges the day will throw at me!
The desert is beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful. I traverse rocky mountains, fields of wild flowers of every colour pave the way, cactuses brimming with pink and yellow flowers. This is spring in the desert. Lizards dart from trail to rocks, always too fast to take a photo. Shiny snakes lie in wait, bathing in the sun, before slithering off afraid of the vibrations of the trekking poles. Sometimes I skip along the trail, my heart so full with happiness, disbelief that I get to live this life of walking through this part of the world. I had been excited for the desert, it being one of the parts of the trail that I was most intrigued to explore, but the first 2 weeks have beyond exceeded my expectations. I found my place, I found my community, I found what I wanted more than anything.
Until it comes to water. I don’t find enough of that.
Life becomes simpler on the trail. Most of the day becomes focused on survival. Survival in the heat, siestas taken in shady spots, lazy lunches cooked over the stove or cold soaked in the hot sun. I enjoy reading on the kindle app on my phone, airing my feet out, drying sweat dripping salt crusted clothing in the sun. Sometimes I take my siesta alone, other times with other people. The best ones are taken close to a water source, lack of water is the main threat of the desert. It’s a constant fear, the focus on the day. Mostly walking from water source to water source. I continuously question Have I drank enough? Do I have enough with me? Will there be enough? A couple of times I have arrived at a water source dry mouthed, panicked after the last couple of dry miles, humbled by the desert, so grateful for the trail angels who provide water for hikers. It’s a constant reminder to not underestimate the desert, to not get comfortable, to respect that this is not our natural habitat and that it is an honour to walk this dirt path.
To avoid the heat I have tried waking up 4am to hike and again walking at night. By natural nature I am not a morning person and being a bad sleeper means a siesta does not come easily. I am still working out my best solution but I have been experimenting with night hiking. It was the night of the eclipse and as I walked I watched the moon vanish into a deep red haze and the cotton candy colours of the sunset over the mountains in hues of pinks and blues, an overwhelming sense of joy came over me. My head torch picked up the glittering black beetles, the fireflies and the spiders which sparkled like diamonds in the gleam of the night. The trail had become a different world again.
I love how dramatic and diverse the landscape is. How when there is more water available on the trail, there are new challenges of steep elevations, scrambling over fallen tree trunks and dodging poodle dog bush. I love how the more the trail throws at me, the stronger I feel. The day before I walked into Idyllwild, filthy and exhausted with aching calves and only a bag of unappealing peanuts left to eat I started to feel like a thru hiker for the first time. I even loved waking up to a scorpion on my sleeping bag the night I cowgirl camped, as that earned me my new badass trail name. I am now Scorpion Queen.
It also turns out that I am also a purist. This means I aim to walk every step of the trail, sometimes after a hitch to town and back I turn around and walk backwards to do the 200 or so steps I may have missed. I am aiming to not skip any section of trail unless it is for fire closures or health and safety. (Like an angry bull standing in my path). This is my personal choice and I appreciate not everyone has the same beliefs in what a thru hike means.
Hi! I’m Scorpion Queen and I’m taking a town day!
I am taking a town day. I will collect new shoes from the post office and rush around town to resupply my food and items such as gas and toilet paper. I will scrub the fine layer of dirt from my body and shake out my gear. I will soak and wash my socks and rejoin society for a day or two. I will eat as much town food as my body allows. I’m looking forward to a town day, but mostly because it will restrengthen me for the next section of trail. The trail has become my home.
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