I woke up suddenly to the crunch of hikers passing my tent. I grabbed my phone. It was 7 am. I’d made camp in a sandy spot off the trail at 3am after my Uber ride. “Are you sure this is okay?” The driver had asked, peering through the fog to where the pavement ended. “It’s fine,” I told him, trying to sound braver than I felt. When the car left, the night had become thick and dark. I turned on my headlamp and the beam reflected off the fog swirling through the air. I tried very hard not to think about that opening scene on the moors in the old werewolf movie and made myself walk up the dirt road till I found the spray painted sign pointing out the trail crossing. I’d set up my tent and huddled in the doorway, too keyed up to sleep, hyper alert for noises in the night.
Of course, the desert looked perfectly safe in the morning light. I was pleased to be waking up there, no longer traveling, seeing the desert for the first time.
The stream of morning hikers was long gone by the time I’d stuffed all my gear in my backpack. I’m used to having four bike bags, not one bag smashed tight like a burrito. I checked my pct app and realized that the monument was in the opposite direction I’d thought it was. Thanks, technology!
I was surprised by a burst of emotion when I finally set eyes upon the monument at the beginning of the PCT. It felt like a special moment to be able to touch it. I signed in with the volunteer. He gave me a rousing speech about LNT ethics and helped me take some goofy pictures. He also accepted the bag of trash and recycling I’d been toting around. Thanks, Phantom!
Then I was walking the PCT. In no time at all I was passing my campsite and then there was mile one. I had a feeling of instagram dejavu from the months of “research,” aka reading all the hiker blogs and looking at pictures. Here are all my pictures at the places.
I was really gulping down my water. Luckily there was a stream still flowing at mile 4.4. I pulled out my Sawyer Squeeze and walked over to the biggest pool. I stuck the bag into the water and.. ur … wait, how do you get the water in the bag? I’d practiced with a hose, not a pool of water.
“It’s hard to get the water in, isn’t it? Works better if you pour it in,” said an older hiker nearby. “I guess I could use my pot,” I said and dug into my burrito bag. That did the trick. I filled all my bottles and marched on.
The desert is really pretty and mostly I was distracted by the scenery but after awhile my body really started to hurt. In all sorts of places but mostly my shoulders and around my hips. I kept finding reasons to stop, take a drink or a little stretch, lean my pack up against a big rocks to relieve my back. Tracking my progress on my hiker app, I knew I was in no shape to make Lake Morena. I set my sights on making it into Hauser Creek by sundown.
But really it was after sunset when I hobbled towards the bunch of trees that marked Hauser Creek. I was feeling weary. The sound of voices and laughter reached my ears and my instant reaction was do I have to socialize now? After all that? Haven’t I done enough for the day?
Maybe I’d make friends tomorrow. At the moment, all I wanted was a warm sleeping bag and the privacy of my own tent walls. I found an unoccupied spot on the outskirts of the tree thicket. “Hey bro,” came a voice from a patch of weeds. There was another small tent stashed back there. “Hello.” I responded. Even though I’m not a bro, it seemed weird not to answer. “Uh, hey, need a light?” Said my neighbor. “No thanks, I got it.” That was the extent of my socializing for the night.