Week 5: Mind Set
Week 5 was a little different – I was on trail for only 3 days before taking a vacation from my vacation for the rest of the week to go to my cousin’s wedding (congrats if you are reading this!) in Salt Lake City. Both the time on trail and the time spent getting off, being off, and getting back to the trail were particularly thought provoking.
What am I doing out here?
During those three days on trail at the beginning of the week, Dino and I had some really thoughtful conversations about why we are hiking, and if not why, what we see ourselves as doing out here. I found that my “why” is really more about a “what”. What am I doing out here? I mean of course on some level I am hiking the PCT, but I am also taking my break between school and the beginning of a career. So, the question became how to join those two things. Which brings us full circle back to a why: why did I choose the PCT? I landed on the idea that I am taking a very long vacation in order to do something I love and be somewhere where I think I am my best self. That is to say, I am spending 5 months outside, hiking and appreciating nature. The PCT is a guideline (fairly literally) on which to do that.
This is different than a lot of people who came out to make a continuous footpath or strictly to hike the PCT whatever that brings.
I landed on my what/why both through these conversations with Dino, and through interacting with nature by myself and with her.
One of my favorite moments of this was stumbling upon a tiny lizard carrying a caterpillar it had caught down the trail. I pointed it out to Dino and we got to watch as it gulped down it’s lunch.
My What In Action
Having come to this conclusion, Dino and I rolled into the well known McDonalds at Cajon Junction. Well, we didn’t really roll in, we were strongly shoved in that direction by the wind absolutely ripping down the canyon we were hiking down.
With the wind roaring outside the (fairly disappointing) McDonalds, I checked the weather. Dino and I took to debating if we should continue on that night and risk the wind warning that was in effect coupled with the potential for precipitation. I can survive high winds at night best by not setting my tent up, and simply cowboy camping. But, the potential for moisture means that that would risk getting all my stuff, and most importantly my sleeping bag, damp or wet.
With my newly discovered why in my head, and Dino seeming to feel a bit down, as well as myself having a minor freak out about getting bitten by a tick that day, we elected to get a room at the Cajon Junction Inn for the night. It had throw pillows instead of actual pillows, but we could ice our feet and stay out of the weather.
The next morning, fueled by a giant container of fruit that I bought from the fruit cart guy outside the hotel, Dino and I made our way back to the trail – which was a bit of a journey.
A common phrase thru hikers use to describe themselves is the phrase “hiker trash”. I didn’t truly understand what it meant until I felt it deep in my core on that journey out of the inn. To avoid crossing the very large busy highway overpass, we decided to try for a dirt road that google maps indicated was there. Carrying my plastic box of fruit, we walked off the road, under a bridge and then into the brush by the side of the highway. I then understood what hiker trash felt like. If I had seen myself, I may have though I was crazy. We walked through a culvert, by an RV with dozens of cats inside, across railroad tracks, and eventually back to the trail.
It was a misty morning, and we had a big water carry to do to get into the town of Wrightwood the next day, but I was feeling pretty strong charging up that hill.
I don’t know if it was partly because I was getting off trail the next day for a wedding, but for the rest of the day and the next I was filled with a complete sense of pride in my body. I have certainly been proud of myself for physical activities before, but I had never felt that complete pride in my body before. It was a perfect mental place to be before going places (town, LA, the wedding) where I would be asked lots of questions about the trail.
Before I could get the those places though, I would be relying on the generosity of strangers again.
The final trail mindset that played an important role this week was that of the people of Wrightwood. It was incredibly hiker friendly. Dino had arranged to stay with a trail angel so we stopped in there and the trail angel showed us around. Then after showers and lunch I headed over to the hardware store where they cater extremely well to hikers. I used their trail angel list to make a couple calls to find a ride down to the San Bernardino area to catch the metro into LA. Within three calls, another trail angel said he would pick me up in half an hour.
Feeling the love from the community, and feeling incredibly grateful for it, I began the journey to the wedding.
To Salt Lake City
Because this is a blog about the PCT, not my life, let me summarize. The trail angel brought me to the metro where I took a train into Union Station. There, I walked to a bus stop where I caught a bus to a different cousin’s house in LA where she was hosting me for the night before my flight out. The next morning I ubered to REI to try on new shoes then bussed to Burbank airport where I got on a plane to Salt Lake, where my parents picked me up. Merriment ensued, vows were exchanged, and I even did my resupply shopping for the next couple towns, sending boxes in the mail to Acton KOA and Hikertown.
Then, I did approximately the same journey in reverse, and returned to the same trail angels house where I had showered previously to spend the night before heading back to trail for week 6.
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