Pacific Crest Trail
I remember sitting at my desk, watching my desktop wallpapers rotate from one beautiful scene to another. I wondered, "Will I ever see such beautiful places?" A few months later in Kalamazoo I hopped on a train bound for San Diego in order to begin hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I ended up hiking 1,094 miles from the border of Mexico to Echo Lake. I saw a lot and hiked a lot. I learned a little. It was an experience I would love and hate.
Twenty four miles behind me since sunrise and I encounter my first trail magic—salad, cookies, a chili dog right off of the grill, and seemingly the world’s coldest and most refreshing Gatorade, given to me only because I hike; for no reason other than someone took the time to remember (or to put themselves in the shoes of) the hardships of hiking.
Timing is everything. I hit a known trail angel's home on the night of the 4th. Rumor was, the next day he was throwing a big Cinco de Mayo party. I couldn't resist a zero day with a supply of hot food and cold drinks. It was time to put up my blister worn feet for a day.
Below is my setup for each night, generally speaking. To cowboy camp meant not having to set up and take down a tent every night. And sleeping with nothing between you and the night sky just felt better. Scary at first, yes. But many things are scary at first.
I slept great—as I did every night on the trail—with the exception of waking up with a bright light shining in my face. Turns out that bright light was the supermoon. You know you either have a bent toward complaining, or that life is good, when you are wishing the moon were a bit dimmer so that you could fall back asleep.
While you're generally away from civilization when you're on the PCT, you can't help but enter it now and again. Whether you're crossing an interstate, or hitching a ride into town for resupply, you can't live your entire trail life without reminders that this is all a vacation.
Below: a monument to the two firefighters who died in the wildfire of 2009, referred to as Station Fire. To make things extra sour, the cause of this blaze is suspected to be arson.
The Saufley's ran a heck of a pit-stop for hikers. They had permanent tents, a trailer with a kitchen, bathroom and entertainment, and even an internet connection. I was traveling without music, and I remember the privilege of being able to listen to Sufjan's nineteen minute track: Djohariah. It was bliss. Having rolled my ankle the day before arriving, I ended up staying for four days.
Ironically, after the respite of the Saufley's, the Anderson's offer another haven for hikers just a day's hike away. The difference between the two hosts are immediately perceived. But their kindness is kindred.
I didn't meet anyone who longed for the desert. Everyone longed for the Sierras. I was no exception, but the desert holds its own beauty. It teaches you to appreciate every drop of water you have. To value shade. To be glad the whole world isn't one big desert.
There are many dependable things that one can count on as a thru-hiker. Some of which are: you will be filthy. You will lose weight. You will not resemble the man you are off the trail. This proved so much to be the case, that as I waited for my laundry, I was approached by a Salvation Army worker, asking if I needed directions to the local homeless services. I figured right about now I was the pride of my mother
After 700 miles, I was nearing the end of the desert. Soon enough I'd be entering the Sierras; a veritable Promised Land. The desert provided a lot of beauty. But it's harsh, dry and hot. How would the mountains contrast my experience so far, I wondered.