Chapter 0.5: Pregame
Chapter 0.5: Pregame
After landing in San Diego with our wonderful entourage, Bob and Brenda Duncan, we reunited with our hopes and excitement. Almost there. On the way to the hotel, we spent some time at REI gathering what last minute bits we needed (and thought we needed). They were fresh out of mixed fuel canisters but luckily the general store in Campo had a stash. Leaving REI, we noticed several shoppers had on their puffies. It was cool, but not freezing. Apparently a cold front had rolled in.
The rest of the day was spent stuffing our faces with as many preliminary calories our stomachs could manage, and fine-tuning our massive packs.
On 3/5 we drove towards the border admiring just how green and mountainous Southern California actually was. A desert, yes, but a beautiful desert. Arriving in Campo, the Duncans drove us to the southern terminus to see what the fuss was about. After a few miles of washed-out dirt road, there she was, shadowed by the monstrosity of the rusted wall separating Mexico from the United States. The terminus stood just around 6’ with 4 pillars of varying height. We didn’t go into or touch the monument yet- it felt taboo to do so before we were actually starting the trail. 2 PCTA representatives greeted us as they stood near the terminus with a small table of logs and PCT paraphernalia.
Snagging one last bite before “the drop off”, we hoisted our 40-45 lb. packs out of their van, and said our farewells. As they hurried away back to the San Diego airport for their flight to CO, a stream of dust could be seen kicking up from their tires. The dust rose, just as our anticipation did. We were left on the side of a dirt track, our last chance of going back already a half mile down the road. All in now!
CLEEF- an equestrian camp in Campo with an area for and hosted by the famous hikers, Legend and Papa Bear, was our home for the night. We walked to what we assumed to be the area designated for hikers since there was a tent pitched already, all slanted. A younger hiker decked in all black emerged from the tent and introduced himself as Midnight. The name felt appropriate. He showed us around and we pitched our tent near a grand old tree just as it began to sprinkle. The temperature dropped and the rain increased. Was this a PCT welcome?
Sitting in our tent for a bit, the rain slacked and we were introduced to Legend. A legend he was…describing the difference between a thru-hiker and the rest by eating a wedge of pizza off the ground, and then showing Marie a quarter magic trick.
That evening we piled into Papa Bear’s camper after introductions- just the two of us, Papa, and Midnight. He brewed us coffee and set us to work chopping celery and vegetables for the daily spaghetti dinner (yes, celery went in the spaghetti). Conversation with Papa set our minds at ease and cheered the spirits. 2 hours later after the ceremonial spaghetti dinner was almost prepared, Legend pulls up and offloads 4 hikers half traumatized by that “cold front” previously mentioned. For them, that front had meant cold rain and hail on trail, in the desert, with them having nothing warmer than a rain shell. We all shared in a warm meal and a pep-rally from the trail veterans before retiring.
That night I slept like a fat, full baby. Marie barely slept a wink. The plot of sloped land offered to hikers at CLEEF left her sliding into the corner of the tent as anxiety to start our journey built. T-minus 8 hrs to packing, pancakes, and departure. It was finally happening.
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