Starting Off on the Left Foot: Mile 0-77
We did it folks, made it to trail. Well, not actually as I type this on my last day working my regular job. Fittingly, a slow day in the orthopedic trauma department has me daydreaming again. Instead, I will attempt to piece this as a two-way conversation with my soon-to-be future self. Basically, I am trying something a little off the rails but hey, isn’t that pretty much thru hiking in a nutshell?
So future Quinton, how did your biggest fears play out?
Starting the trail my biggest fear is actually getting there in one piece and with all my gear. I, like many others, am flying into San Diego and catching the Southern Terminus Shuttle to CLEEF for the evening. Following morning I pop some mugshots with the monument and I am off towards Canada, at least in theory. My biggest concerns are all the airline BS that we all have to deal with. I have never flown before so the whole airport thing is super intimidating. As the true midwesterner I am, I always drive whenever possible. Our semi-annual roadtrip to Colorado has been sponsored by Kenny Loggins and the 1982 sensation “Africa” by Toto and 18 hours of driving is worth having all your gear with you at all times.
So I guess what I am getting at is simply, I want to get to San Diego on time and without my pack being lost in the hellscape of airport baggage claim. Then it’s all about getting to the transit center on time for my shuttle. Once I get on the shuttle I am confident the rave reviews of the Southern Terminus Shuttle will hold true. Quick pit stops at REI and the Green store in Campo to pick up fuel and a bic mini. Then on to CLEEF for the night.
The weather is not going to be great for my start with overcast and a low of 40 degrees. This is probably a good thing for me. I will be getting to the airport in 30-degree weather and was worried a hard change to 85 would be a little too much. Hopefully I can ease into the desert heat.
What actually happened:
Well this was actually less stressful than I originally thought it would be. I showed up early to the airport in Milwaukee on a balmy 30-degree morning wearing shorts, more fitting for my SoCal destination. The flights were all on time and my delicately prepared pack was slammed into the now-famous IKEA bag and dropped off at the desk. To much relief I saw it sliding down the claim as I rounded the corner. My biggest fear was then gone. I was standing in San Diego with all my gear, whew.
Next, I caught a bus to the transit center, and then “Just Paul” scooped me and a few other hikers up and dropped us off at the border. The Southern Terminus Shuttle was a breeze and I highly recommend their services. So it was a lot more bark than bite in this case.
What I didn’t predict was the anxiety that came with a fast transition into the hiking world. For the last two years, I have been working nonstop, in both my professional career and side jobs to fund my hike. When going from the nonstop hustle and bustle to the simplicity of hiking and sleeping, I found myself rather overwhelmed. This was unexpected and really quite shocking. I continually told myself I was fine and it was just a little culture shock. Getting a phone call to my wife did wonders as well. Her always reassuring advice was exactly what I needed, and within a few days, I was settled into my new lifestyle. Now the smiles are endless, and the company I get to spend my days with are simply the best.
My second biggest fear is my left ankle holding up.
I am a little over a year out from ankle surgery to repair a ruptured tendon and small fracture due to a hockey injury. True to my heritage I was playing stick and puck with the boys and caught a skate blade to the ankle. Long story short it left me with a ruptured posterior tibialis tendon that had to be repaired. This is in fact the tendon that controls and supports the majority of your arch. Overall surgery went well and I have been able to hike a 100-mile section with zero pain. That being said, post-operative pain is complicated and intermittent swelling is not uncommon for up to a few years.
While I have been back to full activity and crushing miles for a bit now, the PCT is a marathon, not a sprint; well 100 marathons to be exact. I am sure my “squeaky wheel” will need some extra attention at some point. I just hope it’s nothing more than what elevation and compression can manage. I think the most important thing is to pace myself at the start, something I am terrible at. Logistically speaking, the desert is much easier to manage if you can hit big miles. This would not matter though if I am out of commission from hitting the ground running.
This will likely be a common theme for myself. I am a perfect example of “do as I say not as I do.” With a degree in athletic training, I have the knowledge to manage and treat injuries on trail and am more than capable to do so. The issue I have is taking my own advice and actually listening to my body. We’ll see if that’s a skill I can work on out there.
After 77 miles my ankle has given me the green light.
This was a relief, to say the least. I had one day of mild swelling but other than that the wheel has felt great. I have done a decent job and holding off on big miles but we did squeak out back-to-back 20s on day four and five. To counter this our crew pulled back and hit a light eight-mile day to the Scissors Crossing Bridge. We spent the rest of the day laughing and telling stories about anything and everything. Shoutout to Lt Dan for dropping off a loaded cooler. Hanging out with my fellow hiker trash under that bridge was one of the best days I can remember. Who knew under a random bridge 12 miles outside Julian, California you would meet the most kickass group of human beings.
That pretty much sums it up. A sketchy start has led me to the greatest group of hikers and for that I am grateful. The miles have been light and the smiles have been plentiful. Loving life out here.
Greatest Trail Name I Have Heard
I thought this would be a good end to every post from the trail. The best trail mame I have heard in my first 77 miles belongs to a delightful Dane I actually started out with on day 1. A simple mispronunciation of his name has landed him the rank of royalty.
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