The night before heading down to the Trail head in Campo, CA I was a nervous wreck. Alone in a hotel room in San Diego I packed and re packed my backpack about 10 times, freaking out that it was way to heavy. My nerves were through the roof, I tossed and turned all night unable to sleep. When my alarm went off at 4am Friday morning I had already been awake. I got out of bed, put on my hiking clothes, met up with Rick and Aliah and off we went. Rick drove us down to the trail head about an hour away, the nerves just got worse during the dark drive… then something changed, driving down this bumpy dirt road we saw the southern terminus right at sunrise. The same terminus that I had only seen in pictures and dreamt about for years. Suddenly, the nerves were gone, we were here. We are doing this! After a quick photo shoot on the monument we were off. Spirits high and adrenaline rushing we were on the Pacific Crest Trail!! The trail was soft and sandy, and to my surprise there was lots of foliage and shade. The desert wasn’t as dry and desolate as everyone made it seem. The first day we hiked a pretty easy 11.5 miles where we met about 15 different thru-hikers along the way and made camp with our new German friends. We all shared stories about why we were hiking and where we were from, made our individual dinners and talked and ate in a circle and as soon as the sun went down we all went to bed. Out here, we wake and sleep with the sun, we were all exhausted and asleep by 8pm. There were lots of snores happening in the camp that night, myself included.
On day two, we hiked to Lake Morena, a short but unforgiving 9.6 miles. Straight up and straight down, our legs were killing us. 4 new blisters for me and some knee pains for Aliah. Luckily there was a malt shop with free WiFi where we could call and update our loved ones while enjoying a delicious vanilla malt and some french fries.
The next few days weren’t as easy as the first. Longer miles with more aches and pains than I thought there would be in the beginning but we met some amazing women along the way. To my surprise, we have met more women on trail than we have men. It’s really empowering to meet so many strong and courageous women out here, most of them taking on this trek solo. We all kept pace and camped with each other over the next couple days. It feels nice to get to camp and see familiar faces and be able to decompress and talk about the days ups and downs. My favorite day so far was when we reached this super rad campground where we found a sweet little water hole just a short walk down a side trail. Dipping our feet and washing our clothes in the stream, we all were so grateful for each others company and for this little sanctuary in the sun after a long day.
On day 4 we faced our first real challenge, a wind storm with 50-60mph winds with gusts as high as 80mph. Aliah and I raced down the high desert hills to find a more suitable place to camp. To our surprise we hiked about 7 miles in about an hour an a half (so speedy!) with the winds at our backs down to lower ground. Half the time I felt like I was going to just blow away with the wind, it was insane. Luckily I had my heavy pack to weigh me down. No one slept well that night as the wind carried on into the next morning as did the loud flapping of our tents.
Day 5 was a real struggle for me, the aches and pains in my feet and legs were overwhelming during a long downhill hike. Hiking at about one mile per hour I cried my way through the last 5 miles of the day down to camp. It felt like knives were going through the arches of my feet, my knees felt like they were going to burst through my skin and I think I pulled a muscle in my quad. I hated day 5. Luckily the people at camp help make everything a little bit better. Everyone takes care of each other out here, we make sure we are all fed and hydrated and have the right gear to get us through to the next town. Trail angels leave wonderful surprises on long and waterless stretches of trail, offer free beer and pie in town, and make sure us hiker trash are taken care of.
My first ever hitch hike was to the town of Julian, a previous thru-hiker named “Professor” picked us up and drove us 14 miles up the mountain to reach town. Professor moved out here to maintain the water cache and offer PCT hikers rides to and from town. When we arrived in Julian, a wonderful woman named Carmen welcomed PCT hikers only into her restaurant where she offered free beer, laundry, and foot soaks. She also cooked me up a phenomenal bacon cheese burger and fries. After eating dehydrated food all week, this burger was much needed, I ate it in about 3 minutes. Aliah and I decided to get a hotel so we could shower and rest our feet for the night before heading back out to the trail.
So far… I’m dirty, my hands and fingernails are almost always black. The smells my body is producing are rank, I’ve never smelt so bad in my life. Wearing the same clothes and not being able to shower for days on end is a new thing for me, same with bath rooming outside. Packing out your stinky toilet paper is not ideal but definitely necessary. Leave no trace people! My body hurts almost everywhere and sleep does not come easily. I miss my dog, my friends, family, and boyfriend so much! I can’t believe I won’t be seeing them for the next 4-5 months. However, the people I’ve met so far are amazing, the views are beautiful (sunrise is my favorite) and my heart and soul are so so happy. I can’t wait to see what comes next.