Days 1-2: US/Mexico Border to Hauser Creek

Distance: 15.4 miles

Markers: 0 – 15.4

On the afternoon of March 14, after a short car ride from my cousin’s home in Oceanside, I arrived at the US/Mexico border just south of the small town of Campo, California.

There was nothing unfamiliar about the place. I’d stood at the same spot just two years prior. Not only was this section of the border not unfamiliar, the first 1,000 or so miles of the Pacific Crest Trail will be as well. For that reason, there was no sense of euphoria or excitement felt at that very moment.

You’d think, that at the onset of a 2,650-mile, six-month trek, that one might expect to feel something. But for me, this endeavor is completely rational and, after several prior long-distance hikes, somewhat routine. So why do it at all? Exercise, mostly.

I started walking north at 2 p.m. A couple of hours later, I found a small campsite and laid out my ground sheet, inflatable sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. As the light faded, I continued listening to a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and stared at the sky. I identified a few stars and constellations, Venus, and the occasional satellite cruising along at 17,500 miles per hour in low-Earth orbit. Throughout the course of the night I’d wake to sometimes find clouds, then stars again, and at about 5 a.m., a full moon.

I slept in until 10 the next morning. I ate a rice and bean burrito and set off for the distant Hauser Creek; an 11-mile day.

The day’s hike consisted of a gradual 1,000-foot incline followed by a 1,000-foot decline. Nothing technically challenging.

Along the way a few other thru-hikers and I proceeded to leap-frog past one another as we took breaks at different intervals. The chief subject of discussion during these passings and goings concerned the impact that coronavirus might have on our hikes. Restaurants, bars, schools, and entertainment venues across the country are being shuttered and it seems that most of us are anticipating the closure of all National Park Service lands. All national scenic trails fall under the NPS.

There’s a split of opinion in the greater long-distance hiking community concerning whether or not the trails should be closed. While some find the trails one of the best places to be during a pandemic, others believe that an infected gaggle of hikers might threaten the communities along the length of the trail. I obviously, and admittedly selfishly, fall into the former group.

In most years, thru-hikers and trail towns have a mutually beneficial relationship. We rely on the towns for a bit of rest and resupply, and in return, we contribute to the local economy. This year the math isn’t so easy.

I don’t think anyone is certain how long it will take this virus to work its way through the world or even what impact the virus will ultimately have. Regardless of the severity, I’ve already arranged to have family and friends deliver supplies in-person or by mail for the first 400 miles of the journey. As long as the post offices and roads don’t shut down, I should be able to reduce, to a minimum, my chances of acquiring or spreading the virus. Ethically, I find it a safe and sufficient compromise.

The trail is surprisingly wet at this time of year. In 2018, I hauled a gallon and a half of water to make it the 20 miles to Lake Morena. A liter of capacity has proven sufficient. There seems to be a water source every few miles.

Tonight, I’m camped out beside Hauser Creek with about ten other hikers. My view of the stars is blocked by sprawling oak trees reminiscent of the live oaks of the Southeast, but the snoring of my fellow hikers is being masked by the croaks of dozens of frogs. It’s an acceptable trade-off.

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