After a month of planning, stressing, and wondering what I've gotten myself into, I'm finally here. A one way ticket to San Diego and a dream that will carry me North. Besides that, it's just the unknown, waiting to be explored.
We hiked a full twenty miles today; farther than I have hiked in a long time. We arrived at the trailhead two hours later than expected at 10 am (after getting a little lost at the Mexican border in our unmarked white van....) and pressed our hands against the wooden southern monument. I felt the thrill of adventure rush through me, but also a deep unease that wondered, am I really ready for this? Can I really hike 2,600 miles?
At that moment, Canada seemed very, very far away.
I took a deep breath and signed the register: "Let's do this." I was the 36th one today to sign my name. And how many of those ahead of us would complete the trail? How many would become good friends? Only time would tell.
Bryan, Katie's boyfriend, had given us a ride to the trailhead and now wished us well. We took pictures, gave each other hugs, took deep breaths.
And then we started hiking north.
The desert wasn't what I expected. Instead of sandy trails and great expanses, we walked over rolling hills and through low lying shrub brushes scattered through boulders. It was greener than expected, and surprisingly beautiful.
At 1.4 miles, Bryan stopped the car and met us with a candy bar. Our first trail magic. We saw him again at mile 4, and then we headed into desolate wilderness. Except... It wasn't desolate. It was mountainous, and beautiful, and hot, and dusty. I couldn't believe so much dust exited in the world. First there was just sand everywhere. On my legs. In my shoes. On my palms. In my eyelids. Behind the bed in my knee. Then when the heat created sweat, the dust turned to mud. Running in my eyes. Lining the hatch marks in the palms of my hands. Turning my toes to bronze. I was filthy. I thought I would never be clean again.
We didn't see many other hikers. In fact, for the first few hours, we saw no one. At one point we thought we spotted someone off trail with a red backpack, but when Katie got excited and cried, "look, a hiker!" I realized we were seeing an illegal immigrant hiding in the bushes, and I tugged on her shirt, pulling her quickly along the trail. Katie, that's not a hiker... We scurried northward.
Later in the afternoon we ran into a southbounder and discovered that we were the 87th and 88th hikers he had passed today. They must have all started early. But our pace was quick, the sky was overcast and not too hot, and by mile ten we had caught up with many of them. Some were AT hikers from last year, some repeat PCT hikers, and some brand new, like us, naive and excited.
The first fifteen miles were actually quite pleasant (besides my heavy pack) with gentle, rolling grade, but the final five miles were torture, straight up a mountain when I was at my most tired. When we arrived at Lake Morena campground for the night, it wasn't a moment too soon. It had taken us a full eight hours, but I was proud of us, for we had passed many hikers who had started earlier and had only made it fifteen miles their first day out.
And there was Bryan, waiting with drinks and food. A good trail angel. :)
We took camp showers and by 8:30 we were tired enough to pass out. Tomorrow is our first zero day in camp as we enjoy the vendors and clinics that the campground is putting on for us thru-hikers.