Rule #1 of PCT Planning: Be Ready to Change Your Plan from Day One
Week one complete!
As I sit here at Warner Springs, having just taken a bucket shower and soaking my feet in Epsom salts, I’m trying process this week. Since it’s my first post on trail let’s start with a vocabulary lesson.
Before We Begin: Trail Culture
The trail has a culture, and it is glorious. Like any culture there is a fashion (if you want to call it that), stories and legends, and language. Here are a few words or phrases that might help as we get started:
PCT: Obvi, the Pacific Crest Trail. That magical 18 in strip of land that runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada that I call home right now.
AT: Appalachian Trail.
CDT: Continental Divide Trail.
Triple Crown: A hiker achievement where they hike all THREE of these trail.
Zero: A day when you hike zero miles.
Nero: A day when you hike ALMOST zero miles.
Trail names: Most hikers adopt a trail name given to them or taken due to something on the trail.
Trail angel: People who help out hikers with snacks, drinks, a place to stay, a ride to town, or any number of things we need along the way. They’re my heroes.
Trail magic: The awesomeness that trail angels provide.
OK, that should do it on vocab for at least this post. Let’s roll onto the fun stuff.
Holy $h!T, today is the day! I sprung out of my old bed at my parents’ house in Buffalo and put on my hiking clothes. It was 4:30 in the morning and I was awake. I had been planning for months and I was ready. I had a plan and we were going to stick to it! God decided to start teaching me a lesson early. I was delayed for three hours on my layover in Detroit. This is when I knew we were going to have an interesting start.
That night I was staying at Scout and Frodo’s. Scout and Frodo are trail angels who host PCT hikers the night before their start date, feed us, and take us to the start in the morning. After calling to let them know I was going to be late I relaxed a little. That turned out to be a good thing. Heather “Anish” Anderson picked me up from the airport. Anish is a thru-hiker legend! She’s a Triple Crown hiker and has set fastest known times for the PCT and the AT. She’s amazing!
That night, the 22 of us staying at Scout and Frodo’s ate dinner, got to know each other a little, and heard Scout’s famous night before speech. Then we all set up for bed under a few big catering tents and pretended to sleep. I slept maybe two hours that night. It was like being a kid on Christmas morning.
Today was the day. The energy in the air was palpable. Excitement, nerves, gratitude, terror, and pure joy. Knowing we were about to walk to Canada, we drank coffee and stuffed our faces with food, and got ready to go!
We piled into several cars and we were on our way. The adventure of a lifetime awaited. Since the first 700 miles were mostly desert, and I am in good shape, I planned to pull 20-mile days from the start. I’d get used to my gear before we hit crazy weather, right? WRONG. Mother Natch had other plans. It rained all day. At around 2 p.m. I called it a day. I sat in my tent and cried. Fifteen miles in and already I was defeated. I couldn’t give up on day one. Tomorrow had to get better.
As I rolled up my tent it started to rain again. I hiked out as a mist rolled in. Cold and wet, I stumbled into Lake Morena where my new friend, Firesocks, was waiting for me for breakfast. It’s amazing what a bacon breakfast sandwich will do! We hiked out strong and by midday it had cleared up. We pulled 21 miles and stopped right before Mount Laguna. I cried again. This time because I was grateful and happy.
Third time’s charm. I woke up on day three and felt strong. I felt powerful. The weather was perfect. For the first time since I started I was confident my gay ass was gonna sashay all the way to Canada! I was too tired to even journal cause I hiked 24+ miles, so I just set up camp with friends who had been ahead since day one and slept hard. I also learned not to go into a campsite store hungry and in a hurry, but the freeze dried lasagna might have been worth the $16 that night.
Each day I feel more and more like a thru-hiker. On the fourth day I had a number of firsts and met some amazing people. I saw my first rattlesnake. My new friend, Scooby, scared him off. Scooby is fast as hell so I doubt we’ll see him again. I also met Prom King. He’s only 18, and went to senior prom right before coming here. I wish I was that cool at 18. Hitchhiking for the first time was kind of scary, but with the promise of free pie, we packed five hikers into four seats and hitched to Julian. Mom’s Pies in Julian did not disappoint. I ate my pie and ice cream in seconds, knowing full well what it would do to my stomach and that I was living in the woods. Worth it!
Days Five and Six
We then got our first taste of the desert heat. After hiking a bunch of miles, we found a water cache. Around 1 p.m. I realized I’d made a mistake. I was hot, sunburned, and dizzy. They say the trail provides, and it does! As I rounded a corner and found a cave. Praying there were no critters or a mountain lion who wanted to eat me inside, I crawled in and took a long nap. A few hours later I got out and hiked past the 100-mile market. Yaaaas queens I’m feeling my hiker trash oats! Then I set up camp with a bunch of other new hikers, knowing what awaited today. This morning I got up early, hiking eight miles, only stopping for pictures at the famous Eagle Rock, and got to Warner Springs. Warner Springs is a little thru-hiker oasis. I took a bucket shower (buckets of water overhead), did laundry, another bucket, and had doughnets and Dr Pepper. The local school was selling tacos as a fundraiser. As I sit with my feet in an Epsom salt bath, planning the next few days, I’m sure. There is nowhere I’d rather be.
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