Tears by Mile Two
I was just shy of three weeks from my start date and the only gear I owned were my shoes and three pairs of socks.
For anyone as indecisive and as much of a procrastinator as myself, my only advice to you is to start putting out applications ASAP for another half who is a wizard with compare and contrast research and that will adore you enough to be coerced into basically becoming your personal assistant. Honestly, if it weren’t for my girlfriend I dread to think what I would have turned up to Campo with, or more like without, on April 12th.
The final weeks until my departure we were both working full time, squeezing in as much final socializing with my family and friends and attempting to have some quality time together. Somewhere in between all that we made a collaborative effort to research and order every single item of gear I needed in the two weeks leading up to my departure date.
San Diego bound
When I touched down in San Diego five days prior to my start date, I was greeted with a mountain of boxes at my aunts house. One by one, I crack open the boxes like a kid at Christmas and much to my joy everything was as expected and all the clothes fit. Phew, so at least I can look like I know what I’m doing when I hit the trail, right? Where in fact, the reality was, I had never used my stove, a sawyer squeeze sounded like a stress ball to me and my Garmin inreach was very much out of reach in terms of my lack of knowledge on how to operate it. But it’s fiiiine, I have 5 days to become a prepared thru-hiker.
One of the first things on the list was a trip to AT&T to get an American sim. To spare you the boring details, 3 days later I had to buy a new phone due to a lack of compatibility issue with my old IPhone and any US phone provider. With so much time invested in the phone palaver, I now had two days left to become a prepared thru-hiker.
I set up my tent in the garden, I weigh EVERYTHING (because are you even a thru-hiker if you don’t know your base weight?), I test my stove, I try out different ways of packing my bag, take the obligatory gear photo. Slowly but surely I make it through the never ending to-do list.
I had planned to start at the terminus early-ish morning but after a 3am bed time the night before from cranking out the last of the to-do list and the minor detail of still needing to set up my Garmin, safe to say that did not happen. When we do finally make it into the car, I’m still downloading the FarOut maps, googling how to add contacts to my Garmin, messaging home trying to come across like I have it all under control, all the while internally freaking out – Where am I sleeping tonight? Where will I next get water? Where even is the terminus? IM A FAKE HIKER. I don’t know what I’m doing. WHY AM I HERE?
Arriving at the terminus
Before I know it, on a little mound, there stood the terminus. We drive right up to it where a fella stands with a table and one other hiker with his family. Turns out the other hiker doesn’t start until tomorrow, he’s just here early to check out the terminus. A day early to the start line?! I couldn’t even get there by my planned time of 8/9am-ish. It’s now 12pm, the volunteer at the table hands me my ‘thru-hiker’ tag, asks me to sign the log book, runs through the leave no trace rules, wishes me well and packs up. I was number 48th to the terminus that day and starting much later than most.
The terminus is calm. The views are calming. It’s so quiet and peaceful. You really feel in the middle of no where. My aunt expresses concern about leaving me here and she asks if I’m scared, and much to my own surprise I’m not at all. Not one bit. I say my goodbyes, and before I know it I’m at the terminus completely alone with all I need to survive in a bag on my back.
I’m shocked at how good it feels. 6 months of uncertainty finally becoming certain and weeks of stress transforming into calm.
The first mile I’m on cloud 9. I’m in disbelief at how right it feels. The first mile marker appears remarkably fast and I joke with myself if every mile goes that fast this will be an easy 2653 miles. Then moments later all my emotions transform into tears, I feel such an intense sense of gratitude towards my girlfriend. Despite having her own travels to plan for, working and the fact she’d rather I wouldn’t be away from her for 6 months she selflessly spent hours helping me get to where I was right now. My tears were complete and utter joy to have a human like her as a part of my life, combined with utter relief that I actually wanted to be on this hike I’d doubted SO much was actually right for me.
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