Pre-trail thoughts, first day feelings

On the eve of the grandest adventure of my life, I’m a mess — so is my sister’s spare room. 

Less than two weeks ago, I walked the stage at my college graduation — the biggest milestone of my life. Now, just nine days later, I’m getting ready to face the next biggest challenge. 

I’ve packed, repacked, weighed and reweighed my pack all day long. I’ve laid out all of my resupply boxes. Among the lineup of REI receipts are Rubbermaid totes filled with the remnants of my college apartment. They’ll sit here for five months — I’ll be back. What I need for now sits in a small corner; my pack is filled with gear and my clothes laid out right next to it like a child excited for the school field trip the next day. 

My emotions are just as scattered as the room. Some moments, I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, eager and ready to hike. A moment so fleeting, though, as I am soon to feel a pit of dread in my stomach. Admittedly, tears have welled in my eyes a time or two. 

I drift off to sleep, but soon after the three a.m. alarm jolts me out of my light sleep. Fueled by adrenaline, I go over the mental list of things I told myself to “sleep on,” left a few more things at the house, and load up.

“What am I doing?”

A teary goodbye with my dear sister left me with my pack, camera and boarding pass. My peers are all pursuing graduate school, getting married or starting their dream jobs. I’m boarding a one-way flight to San Diego.

But just as soon as my feet hit the sand in Southern California, I feel at ease because of the company I am surrounded with. I take the PCT Southern Terminus Shuttle down to Campo. With One Speed behind the wheel, my class and I discuss gear, fears, triumphs and challenges while learning each other’s names. 

At Camp Lockett, we are greeted by more smiling faces and jolly laughter. I’m surrounded by some of the best athletes in the world, but their humility masks any trace of arrogance. 

Under my Topo Athletic Traverses is the sandy loam, and there’s 2,653 miles ahead of me. Day one left me physically exhausted a persistent pain in my hip flexor left me feeling nervous. Thankfully, pack weight was mitigated by the plentiful amount of running water on trail; the amount of oases in the desert feels unreal. For lunch, the biting flies feasted on me as I fought for a bite of a day old sandwich under the relentless sun.

16.19 miles was no easy feat. Yet, the beauty of California wildflowers and rolling hills left me breathless. I’ve hiked all day with Victoria, Abby, Erik and Maks. Hauser Creek is where I lay my head, meeting friends like Joe over a packet of Pad Thai and discussing dreams and ambitions.

It’s only day one, and I have many more of these ahead of me. But for now, I am feeling content. My fear has turned into excitement and I look forward to what’s ahead. 

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