Southern Terminus to Lake Morena
Mile: 0-20 (20)
Last night I was picked up from the airport and delivered to the home of Scout and Frodo, a couple of trail Angels that I contacted via email two weeks ago. “Once you’ve landed, go outside to the P-Zone, and wait for the car with a yellow Pom Pom hanging out of the window,” they instructed me. So that’s what I did.
Myself and another hiker named Dimitre, a soft spoken Texan from Houston, were greeted at the house by “Guy Who Rides Buffalo” and “Action Packed.” The two PCT vets showed us around the house and fed me a generous meal of vegetarian lasagna, salad, and some sort of flakey spinachy thing. There were eight or nine other PCT hikers lounging around the house, flipping through maps, scrolling on their smartphones, and fidgiting with gear. Tomorrow would be the big day for all of us, the day we stand on the border of Mexico and look north with hopeful eyes. At exactly nine o’clock, Frodo announced that everyone needed to turn out the lights and think about going to sleep. “Breakfast is at five-thirty and we leave for the border at six,” she said with the tone of an mother who knows best. So that’s what I did.
And here I am. After years of daydreaming and months of planning, I’m finally standing with this geometrically-challenged monument at the southern terminus of the PCT. What’s it feel like? Another daydream. When will it “hit me,” I wonder.
A couple dozen other hikers are at the monument this morning, all heading north with the same goal in mind. I’ll be part of a northbound bubble, or herd, of thru-hikers for the next couple of weeks, until we start to spread out and scatter along the trail, like lemmings lurking up the west coast. I spend the day leapfrogging with Dimitre. I meet Cheese, Toes, and Dude, a giggly trio of bearded men from the east coast. Cheese is also from Burlington, Vermont. How about that? I walk with Tali, a young woman from Israel. “Tal is Hebrew for morning view,” she tells me.” I chat with Baggins, a kiwi who has an assortment of small bags attached to his chest. I hike with Andy, a chatty Kiwi who lives in Colorado. “I wanted to know what it would be like to hike forever,” he says. I meet so many people, all of us heading for Lake Morena, twenty miles up the trail, for the annual PCT Kickoff, an informative gathering of PCT enthusiasts.
The sky is covered with overcast, and a mist of rain comes and goes all day, creating an unexpectedly comfortable climate for the desert. The trail twists this way and turns that way, up and down, over and over again. Ridges are rarely breached, but an assortment of chaparral flora is constant. Sage is everywhere and the smell swirls around my head, like an invisible blanket.
The PCT Kickoff is a hive of past and future hiker trash. There are Dozens of gear vendors, a post office, and an endless intel for the class of 2015. “He looks like he’s gonna make it,” a PCT vet chirps, while I look for a spot to pitch my tent. “Yeah, it’s those little gators with the skulls on them,” another adds. “No, It’s these fine-ass legs of mine,” I chirp back. At five-thirty, a burrito dinner is served. I line up with a swarm of others for a 12-inch tortilla wrap, stuffed with retried beans and cabbage. Salsa and sour cream drip out of the ends and make a beautiful mess of everything. I compliment the meal with a giant chocolate brownie and then it hits me: twenty miles on my first day and jet lag from my coast to coast flight yesterday. I disappear inside of my tent. I’m done