The Last Day

Some people are always well prepared to do whatever it is they are heading out to do. They make a list of all the things ahead of time, then one by one cross all of the things off of the list. They plan well, in case something is delayed. They leave early, in case there is a problem along the way. They double check everything is as it should be. Some people do that. And then there is me. I tried. I really, really tried. But alas, I’m still me.

An Emotional Time in Dulceland

I made it into Inyokern by 2pm Monday afternoon. This was not at all how my last day before getting on the trail was supposed to go, but if you know me, you  wouldn’t be surprised. I found the quasi- hidden turn off the highway onto the familiar dirt road, the road down to my couple acres of desert, my winter hiding spot. Only, I hadn’t been there this winter and instead of heading for my place I parked my truck in front of my neighbor’s house.

This year, I was treated to similar spectacular views of a blooming desert as I was when this photo was taken in 2019.

Vickie opened the door and I was greeted by her dogs. The last time I had been there, there were three. Today there were only two. I sighed, remembering now that I’d heard that news at some point. That’s how things go, I guess, but I don’t have to like it. I realized how much I had missed them, my neighbors, missed my not-winter winter life.

I stepped inside her house, cool against the afternoon heat of the desert, and broke down into tears. I’m not the sort of person who likes to be overly emotional in public, but I couldn’t stop myself. The relief I felt to have made it to this oasis, the last stop before my big hike, the last stop before the next six month adventure, was overwhelming.

Vickie let me have a moment while Mike made his way from the bedroom. Hugs abounded. The dogs got scritchies. Then these awesome people let me fill their living room full of my hiking gear and boxes of food.

The Week Before

I should have done my final prep the previous week, when I was off work and supposed to be at my aunt’s house in Colorado. The plan was I was going to go down and together, all of us were going to spend four or five days doing the final sort of everything.

Those plans, however, changed when both of my aunts tested positive for the ‘rona. My mom and sister were negative and diligently wearing their masks. Everyone is vaccinated, so it wasn’t a crazy big deal, but I decided I’d rather not be in the middle of that and opted to do the last of the prep from home. I’d drive down there Saturday, set up my stuff, pick up the tent and pad my mom had for me, and then we’d all start our drive out to Cali on Sunday. It seemed like a good plan.

I ended up spending the week doing some things I realized late I should do before leaving. I also spent some last quality time with the boyfriend. I sorted and packed and weighed stuff then sorted and packed again. I seriously contemplated all of my food. I finished the extra hipbelt and shoulder padding for my pack (I’m a bony human being, sometimes things just don’t work for me like they are supposed to). As the days of that last week ticked by I began to see that I still had too much to do. However, I was still hopeful I’d make it.


Things were going to be tight, time wise, but OK. That is, until Saturday morning happened.

I had been looking for the right someone to stay in my house for months. It came with a decent job for the summer (if needed/ wanted) and would only cost feeding my horses their grain once a day and maybe some dog sitting. I kept finding people for whom I thought it would be a terrific situation, but nothing panned out. I widened my search a bit, still to no avail.

Finally, finally I found the perfect person. They knew horses and dogs and were working for a nearby ranch. They knew my horses, my vet, the people to call if there was a problem. They were happy to work on some of the never ending fencing issues, do some never ending dead brush removal and water my flowers. I felt relieved to have it all set to go.

Then, on Saturday morning, the day I was supposed to leave, it all fell through. It would have been perfect for pretty much everyone involved, but alas, not meant to be, which left me scrambling to get a new plan in place. In a day. My stress level shot through the stratosphere.

I cobbled together a new plan. It’s working out for now because I have an amazing group of friends back home making it work for me. I can eventually repay them the money, but I’m not sure I can ever repay them their effort to help me get here. If any of you guys read this,  know I appreciate what you’ve done, what you’re still doing for me every single day.

But for now, back to the story.

Salvaging the Situation

My Saint of a boyfriend, seeing how my day was going, simply started sorting out food for me. He portioned a bunch of stuff out and packed it into boxes to be shipped down the line.

In the end, as I was working on plan X, almost everything ended up going with me out to Inyokern instead of Colorado. I had already been planning on leaving my truck with my neighbors and stuffing our Sierra gear in a trailer of mine that conveniently lives out there. Dropping a few more boxes in the mail didn’t seem like it should be too big of a hassle. I hoped.

Saying goodbye to these two was hard!

By Sunday morning, it seemed like things would shake out OK so I started piling all of my six month condensed world into my truck. My dog watched in sadness as I packed boxes of food into his spot. He knew he wasn’t going along and he was not happy about that. But I also know that many people around Centennial understand his plight and will throw the stick for him endlessly (which he loves) and that Nate will still feed him bacon tacos (which he might love more). With one last teary hug and kiss to Matty (my awesome boyfriend) I climbed into my truck and started her up. A thousand miles worth of driving lay in front of me. Familiar roads. An old destination. A new adventure.

Back to Inyokern

Somewhere along the drive I had come to the realization that I might have set up my food boxes incorrectly. Once I had the whole mess inside, I confirmed that I had, indeed, managed to almost screw up one of the super important things; my food! I had set up all the boxes to resupply myself, but not actually left out any initial supply. Not sure what I was thinking I’d hike on those first few weeks… I’ll just blame it on the stress.

When PCT hikers invade!

I also needed to go through my gear again, pare down the extras. I needed to set up the tent I had picked up from my mom when I had passed them on the road earlier in the day (they were headed to San Diego for their last night). I needed to this, I needed to that. I needed to sleep at some point. Maybe.

Vickie ran into town after some dinner for the three of us, as well as a few things I had forgotten. Mike sat in his recliner chuckling as their normally skittish dog Scout took great interest in me when I had all my food laid out. Being a broke vegetarian, I wasn’t sure what food I’d find on the trail or if I could afford what I would find. There was also the big question mark around what we would do at the San Jacintos, how much snow gear did I need??

Eventually, I managed to get it all sorted out, or so I thought, and finally caught some sleep on the pad I had never used before, also picked up from my mom earlier in the day. It was fancy and new and pretty comfy and I was exhausted, so I slept great, finally feeling ready. Then O-dark-thirty in the morning came and I tried to get everything into my pack.

Morning in the desert

I trimmed off a couple more things. That helped. I was sad, as I really wanted my fancy little 1lb chair, but a whole pound! I got everything stuffed in and on my pack. Mike wanted to know how heavy it was so I made a final weigh. I was still heavy.  I had A LOT of food. Like two weeks worth of food. The amount of food I thought I’d eat before getting my next resupply box at PVC (Paradise Valley Cafe). It made my pack heavier than I wanted it to be, but not out of the realm of what I had been training for all winter. I’d just eat the heaviest things first and I’d be OK. In hindsight, now I know better.

The Last 300 Miles!

The neighbors and I and Scout all loaded up in their pickup and headed south. It was later in the morning than we had meant to leave, and Southern Cali always has traffic, so we sat on the 15 for awhile. Though there was some slow going, we were having a grand road trip and we were having fun! I was doing a few last minute things in the truck on the way down, like changing out the thread on my little sewing kit card and taking the knee patches off the breeches I wanted to hike in. Yes, I’m hiking in riding breeches and loving them!

Mike and Scout on our trip south. Mike says he’ll get Facebook when he can see it on his flip phone. We all had a good laugh about that.

Working our way south, I began to understand why my neighbors had agreed to take me to Campo. They had both lived down there before moving north. It was a trip of nostalgia for them, I think. Mike kept looking around, shaking his head at how much things had changed over the years. Cruising  down I-8, we casually drove under a bridge. Mike recalled a story from his youth of buying a donkey (I’m pretty sure it was a donkey…) from the other side of the road and riding it miles home. This included convincing it to cross the same bridge. He’d had more than one adventure back in the day, so it wouldn’t surprise me to hear he’d roamed trails as a kid that have now become part of the PCT. I think maybe now he would have liked to have hiked at least a section back when he could. I think a lot of people I know feel that way.

Are We There Yet? Are We There Yet??

As we made our way into Campo, the anticipation of the start of my hike grew to a fever pitch. That is, until it dawned on me what I had forgotten back in Inyokern. It’s inevitable that something will be forgotten… For me, this trip, it was my hiking poles. I’d left them sitting on the “stay” box, out of the way, shortened for travel. Yup. I knew I was going to regret that. Vickie was kind enough to get those in the mail to me the next day, after they made it home.

When we passed C.L.E.E.F., nearly to the spot, my self anger at my pole situation dissipated, replaced by a growing excitement. We passed people with backpacks. We passed a trail marker. We guessed correctly which road we wanted to get us up to “The Wall”. We climbed one last hill to arrive at our destination.

After so much, there it was, in all its glory! Two girls sitting at a folding table, checking people off the list, handing out hard plastic PCT tags, stickers and black plastic toilet paper bags. And the southern terminus. I had actually, finally, and with a tremendous amount of help made it to the southern terminus. We all ate tiny chocolate bunnies in celebration.

My incredibly awesome Inyokern neighbors drove me 300 miles to the border to see me off on my journey.

For the second time in less than 24 hours I let a tear slip in public at the relief I found that I was here. Truly, a peace washed over me. At last, I was here. I got a photo with my neighbors, my personal trail angels. I got a photo of me hugging the terminus with my overstuffed pack. I don’t know if you can see the tension release, the relaxation in the photo, but it was there. I found no worry or anxiety about what lay ahead of me. Camping for months on end, I already do that. Mountains, streams, deserts, rivers, heat, storms, wind; I can deal with that. All I’d have to do is walk for the next six months. That’s the easy part. I can do that.

I’ve finally made it! Nothing but peace and relief to be out hiking at last.

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Comments 2

  • Robert Abraham : Jun 9th

    Nicely written post. Hoping to read more of your posts esp. from stretches of PCT I have encountered in places I have backpacked way back in the seventies and eighties when I lived in SoCal. Moved back to Colorado from Montana recently and wondering if any PCT folks look at that Northwest Scenic Trail???? Keep on trekking, eh?

    • Dulce Wassil : Jun 10th

      Hi Robert! Thanks for the comment! This has been something of a strange year on the trail, as best as I can tell. I would guess at least half of the people I’ve met are from a different country. I haven’t heard much talk about other trails, outside of the Appalachian Trail. However, my mom, aunt and myself do hope that we can inspire others to get out there and go hiking, be it on the PCT or any other trail. Cheers!


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