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Behind The Starting Line

April 20th, 2023 – Today marks the official commencement of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I awoke in the Backcountry Inn Motel, conveniently located 25 minutes away from the Southern Terminus at Mile 0. Despite having only 4-5 hours of sleep once again, I was up and ready to embark on this journey. I took my final shower, recognizing it as a daily luxury we often overlook. While getting dressed in the comfortably heated room—a further luxury—I roused my son, who was tasked with driving my SUV back to Las Vegas.

The journey to the PCT unfolded along a winding road, adorned with sharp turns and an old backcountry ambiance, passing through small settlements. Observing the GPS timer as it counted down the minutes and then mere seconds before reaching the Southern Terminus, marking the official starting point of the PCT. The presence of a border patrol vehicle trailing behind us began to make sense as we approached the border wall.

Upon reaching the PCT start, the Southern Terminus, the distinctive large pillars symbolizing the commencement of a lengthy odyssey came into view. A table set up by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) awaited, attended by a woman in a blue puffer jacket. Inquiring whether I was thru-hiking or section hiking, she requested my permit. After verifying it, she made the endeavor official by presenting me with a hard plastic tag secured by a zip tie. Resembling a sticker but crafted from durable material, this marker signaled my status as a thru-hiker. The realization struck me. It felt like a right bestowed upon me, a task, or a challenge.

It Took 548 Days to Start Day 1

Initially I didn’t experience overwhelming joy, and quite frankly, there were no intense emotions as I embarked on the trail. The challenges I faced over the last year and a half were numerous, and just reaching this point was a significant accomplishment. In the months leading up to my start date, particularly in the last few, I grappled with difficult decisions and uncertainties. It became apparent that all the struggle and challenges ultimately led me to this moment. From the long-cherished idea of hiking this trail, through the miles of running and overcoming setbacks, to dealing with various obstacles, I witnessed the journey transform from a fading dream to a tangible reality.

As I trekked along, I passed by the Shuttle station adorned with tempting offerings of coffee, snacks, and more. The place was bustling with friendly faces, each person introducing themselves. Zeus was already making his grand impression, and I anticipated we would be remembered on the trail, given the presence of my husky companion.

Continuing our journey, I unexpectedly found myself breaking down. My eyes welled up, and articulating my thoughts became challenging. I was truly feeling this moment. I could distinctly sense the effort it took to turn this dream into reality. An overwhelming emotion flooded over me; I had made this happen, and now I had to follow through with it.

The steps felt burdensome, but not due to the weight of the 75lb pack. Instead, the heaviness stemmed from the trials I had endured—the time spent trying to mold myself into someone I wasn’t. That approach wasn’t working for me, prompting this change. Label it a mid-life crisis if you will, but my physical abilities are far from declining. I’m not seeking a sports car or material possessions; rather, I aspire to hold achievements that one can’t simply buy but must earn.

Well, How Was Day One of Hiking?

On day one of my hike, I covered 6.63 miles from 7:30 am to 11:45 am, reaching the last water source before Hauser Creek. With 3L of water in my pack and another 3L on Zeus, we had no need to replenish. At the water source, I made lunch and attracted a group of people, including a filmmaker from Northern Ireland who wanted to capture Zeus on her GoPro. Eventually, I sought shade under a bush with Zeus, waiting until 1:45 pm to resume hiking towards Hauser Creek, 9.8 miles away.

During my hike, the need to constantly take off my backpack and adjust the troublesome strap behind me, dictating the placement of shoulder straps, became a recurring annoyance. Despite being a pain, I saw it as a potential positive, forcing me to pause and take brief breaks. Taking advantage of the time and the fact that it was 4:20, I indulged in smoking a joint on the trail to stimulate my appetite, compensating for the absence of breakfast. However, my trail woes escalated as my hiking pole got stuck in deep mud during Zeus’s strong pull, and the chest strap on my bag broke since he was connected at that point. Frustration set in on day one, but resourcefulness kicked in as I utilized a paracord leash, weaving it between my shoulder straps and securing it with a clip, successfully restoring functionality. While contemplating the challenges ahead, the thought of ordering a new bag crossed my mind, but a desire to embrace the essence of the journey and conserve funds led me to opt for repairing the existing one.

After a day of hard work, I cooked dinner, battled bugs, and experienced cramps while enjoying the sounds of the nearby creek. The date is the legendary 4/20, so naturally, I engaged in some recreational herb appreciation. The night brought a surprise visitor—a persistent spider in my tent. The comedic battle ensued, involving attempts to flick it outside with various items. Finally, as I settled in, I hoped for a peaceful night under the stars, reflecting on the challenges and triumphs of my first day on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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