Day One: Blisters and Blooms

Mile 0 to mile 15.4

15.4 miles hiked

I wake up in Scout and Frodo’s backyard at 1am, 3am, and then again at 4:30am. I finally let myself stay awake at 4:45. By 5:30am I’m packing up and inside eating breakfast that Scout, Frodo, and some other volunteers miraculously have ready for us. And I’m not talking about some random cereal selection – there’s a frittata, bagels, muffins, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, oatmeal…it’s a feast. I can’t accurately express how incredible Scout and Frodo’s hospitality is. I’m really blown away by it.

At 6am we all go outside to load up the cars. Another thing Scout and Frodo do (can you tell I’m in awe of them?) is organize volunteers in the area who want to drive hikers to the PCT trail head in Campo. It’s a good hour and a half south from where they live, so it’s quite a commitment. And yet, there are always enough volunteers.

I ride with Erika (hi Erika!) a kind, chatty, funny woman who hopes to hike the JMT for her 50th birthday in a few years (ideally with her kids!). Cate and Mike, a married couple from Virginia who I met yesterday, also ride with us, and Elyse, a woman from France who is here with her boyfriend (but he’s in another car). Erika tells us that she lives vicariously through PCT hikers because she’d love to do this trail. I ask if she plans to but she explains, “Nah, I’m kind of all in. You know, kids, house in the suburbs…” I thought that was a kind of neat way of saying it — “all in.” I’ll think about that a lot as I hike later in the day – what does it mean to be all in? All in on what? What do we each go all in on? And what about when the thing you committed to, “all in,” means you can’t do other things you’d love to do? I don’t have any firm answers – I just like thinking about it all. 

Our car is one of the first ones to arrive. We immediately see the wall that sits at the Mexico border and, of course, several border control vehicles cruising around. Later in the day, when I get to camp, I’ll hear border control helicopters circling above me and the other hikers as we sleep. It all makes me so mad. I want to take this moment to remind everyone about No More Deaths, the organization Carrot currently works with and Nora recently fundraiser for. The work they are doing is so important – please check it out and learn more about it

Anyway, the wall. Erika asks if we want to go touch it/see it, so we do, so we can say we officially started our hike in Mexico. Then we walk up to the monument to take pictures, a hiker tradition.  

A sweet girl, Lydia, who has the same teal Purple Rain skirt as I do, notices my gaiters on our way over to the monument and compliments them. “Scissors! Are you a hair dresser?”, she asks sincerely. I pause for just a split second before deciding to go for it: “Nah, I’m gay,” I say. Everyone laughs, including me. It feels nice to decide that it is okay to be obviously out with this group of people, even if I’m not going to be hiking with them indefinitely. I feel like it sets the tone for how open I’ll be as I continue up the trail, and that’s exactly what I want – to be out and proud and open. And my scissoring gaiters are really really awesome.

We take a million photos at the monument. I am really vigilant about making sure people don’t accidentally cast their shadows in the photos I take and the photos people take of me – whenever I look at PCT terminus photos I cringe if I see a million shadows in the shot. Get outta there, y’all!

I find a random dollar bill on the ground and laugh a lot because Alex helped me make a Manifestation List for this adventure before I left Portland and when I talked about wanting to call in financial abundance and ease for the journey she said, “say you want to find money on the ground!” So I said “I want to find money on the ground!” And here on my very first day, I do. I silently thank Alex for being magical – thank goddess for my friends. 

After we finish taking all our photos a PCT volunteer, Terminus Tom, answers our questions and gives us some last minute info. People start to head to the trailhead after that, but I still have to pee and take a film photo of the monument, and then a man who is dropping off his daughter recognizes me from my blog (!), and when I finally mosey down to the orange traffic cones marking the beginning of the trail I am all alone.

I put my feet on the trail and start to hike the PCT!

I’m surpassed by a few people in the beginning but I just keep my pace and soon it feels as though I am the last person walking in a long spread out line. I don’t mind that at all – I love being at the back when hiking because I feel more comfortable setting my own pace and pausing whenever I want that way. I hadn’t expected to hike alone all day – I don’t know what I expected but I mean, 50+ humans left the monument at around the same time this morning – but I do, indeed, end up hiking alone for almost the whole day. And I love it!

The first few miles are easy. The desert is so green right now, thanks to our unusually wet winter, and the flowers are blooming and blooming and blooming. I have to be strict with myself about how many photos I can stop and take because if I take the amount I really want to, I’ll never reasonably make it to camp tonight, let alone to Canada. I keep thinking of Gibbs and Diana, because they’re the best of all my friends at identifying wildflowers. There are just so many colors – pinks and yellows and whites and oranges and purples and and and. I take a few photos but they do not do the sheer number of flowers blooming in the desert right now justice. It’s incredible. I also see lizards and a bunny and a bird/moth that I initially think is a hummingbird but is actually totally unidentifiable to me. If anyone knows what I mean please tell me what it is!

A wet winter also means lots of good water sources in what is usually a waterless stretch. I stop to gather water at a deep, hearty creek at mile 4.4 and at a fast flowing cricklet at mile 7.8. There are numerous other opportunities to fill up water bottles, I just don’t need to be carrying more than 4 liters and with those fills I have that amount. It’s a real gift, the water – usually the stretch to Lake Morena is said to be so challenging because it’s dry, so everyone is carrying 6-8 liters when they start out. Not this year!

Which is not to say that this section is not challenging to me. It is! It is very challenging! I want to officially go on record saying that: I think the PCT is hard so far!

At 3pm I reach mile 11 and to be honest, I’m ready to stop. But I know Cate and Mike will be at Hauser, 4.4 miles ahead. I want to get there to camp with them! “Are you letting your hike be influenced by other people?,” I ask myself in a rhetorical way. I have to hike my own hike! But also, I reason with myself, it makes a lot of sense to camp at Hauser, because then I’ll be set up nicely to climb it in the cool breeze of 8am tomorrow. So I push myself on, and I make it. It takes me 3 hours to do 4.5 more miles, but I get there. 

When I arrive at the site a lot of people from Scout and Frodo’s are there and Sarah and Lynn (two friends I made yesterday) and Mike and Cate all cheer for me and it feels really nice. Right after my arrival everyone does “group stretching” which sounds amazing actually but I’m so physically exhausted and my left heel feels like it’s going to explode so I throw my tent up (very poorly, it looks horrible and I’m only half convinced it will stay up tonight) and crawl inside. I lie on the floor of my tent for a long time, maybe half an hour, not moving. Finally I get up and crawl over to Mike and Cate’s tent. They’re eating dinner and I’m jealous of their prepared meals – the kind of trail food I told myself I didn’t need and wouldn’t want. I want it now. 

We chat about a million things and then Mike says, “I have a trail name suggestion for you but I’m not sure you’ll like it.” I’m excited – I’ve wondered a lot what my trail name, the nickname every hiker is given on trail based on a funny story or personality quirk, will be, but didn’t want to force it – it will find me on the trail, I’ve told Alley for the past couple of months. Is it about to find me? “Well earlier when we were wondering where you were, I asked if anyone had seen you. And Sarah said ‘oh, Scissors?’ But then she was like ‘uh oh I’m not sure if she’ll like that, is that offensive?'” I burst out laughing. “Like it? I love it! Yes, I accept!” We all laugh. I’m Scissors. 

I eventually crawl back to my tent and attempt to make my dehydrated mashed potato flakes. I add kale and olive oil and salt. I was so hungry when I arrived at the site but suddenly I’ve lost my appetite. I have to force myself to eat – it’s kind of gross and also the back of my throat hurts, like it’s been scratched. Is that a sign of dehydration? (That’s a real question – please weigh in!)

I finish my gross dinner and assess my body: I have several blisters, my right foot hurt for part of the day but feels okay now, both knees have been better, and the back of my throat is still inexplicably really sore. I roll my eyes at myself. Definitely went easy on myself, definitely didn’t wanna break myself on day one. Insert eye roll emoji here. 

Thank you again for all the kind messages y’all sent after my last blog post and just in general all the support I’m receiving. I’m realizing it will probably be impossible to respond to each comment/email/IG message individually in a timely fashion, but they seriously encourage me so much and make me feel really loved and special. I’m grateful. Thank you. 

It’s 9:25pm, 25 minutes after hiker midnight. Time for bed. 

Goodnight! And with that I’ve logged my first day on the PCT! Only 160ish more…

34 thoughts on “Day One: Blisters and Blooms

  1. themountaincrone says:

    We have those moths in Arizona. They’re Humming bird-Hawk moths. Your throat could just be extra dry from hiking in the desert? Hard candy helps. Happy Hiking! You’re amazing!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you!! A friend of mine who is about to start her hike (hi Jess!) just told me she’s sending me a care package of hard candies to Warner Springs! EVERYONE IS SO NICE IT MAKES ME CRY EVERY DAY. ❤

  2. lmichelescott says:

    I like that hard candy idea – gives you a little sugar boost too.

    I love the way your write and will definitely be following your journey here. Did you have signal at Hauser to upload this and the photos? What are you using – your phone? Tablet? Curious!

    Keep hydrated and keep walking. It’ll get easier, but definitely rest when you can!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thank you! Nope, no service at Hauser – I’m writing posts in the “notes” app on my phone and then putting them into WordPress when I’m in town. I hope to schedule a few posts at a time and then they’ll publish while I’m out of service on the trial. Not sure if it’ll be sustainable the whole hike but for now it’s working! And yeah, no tablet – just phone. Not ideal but it’s okay. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Erika Lawson says:

    Hey there Scissors! Wow, I’m in your blog – I’m famous now!!! LOL 🙂 Glad to hear your first day went well. I just got back from dropping off another carload of fresh clean hikers. Yes there are always trade-offs in life; I’m relegated to shorter hikes and camping trips for now but I get to introduce this lifestyle to my kids, who have learned to be pretty good at roughing it. PCT retirement plan maybe?? 🙂 I love your blog and am excited to keep reading!!

    • Vanessa says:

      Thanks so much, Erika! You helped me start my hike in such a sweet way and I’m honored you’ll be reading my journey! And yes, your trade off sounds rad – PCT retirement plan and awesome camping family for now? Living the dream!

  4. Lifelongwalk says:

    If your pee is lighter in color than lemon/lime Gatorade, you’re, ahem, golden! Agree the throat thing is probably due to dry desert air. Don’t take this the wrong way, but are you a mouth breather? I’m a nose breather – except when hiking uphill. Then I basically pant/wheeze the whole time (😂) and that can make your throat raw. You’re fortunate to have all the water. Hauser was trickling, just trickling, one year I hiked and everyone was shocked!

  5. Jenny Bruso says:

    Are you really going to do a day-by-day? Damn, girl! This is all SO EXCITING! I’m happy you’re getting all of this feedback. I know it must help. Honestly, I can’t even imagine how hard this shit is, so I hope you’ll let yourself HYOH. I’m about to post an update on unlikely hikers!

  6. Rebecca says:

    Go get it, “Ne”! We are so proud of you and can’t wait to meet you at some point on the trail in Oregon. Perhaps Finn can learn about wildflowers while you hike this stretch 🙂 Sending love

  7. Simon cluley says:

    Glad I found this blog. I usually am late to the party and come across them the day before they finish. Good luck and enjoy it. One day I will do it but have to be content with cold damp Britain for the time being.

  8. Torre says:

    I was telling Danny that hiking the pct seems like a thing I never would want to do. But tbh, you are inspiring the the tiniest spark of personal interest somewhere deep inside me. Not to say you aren’t just massively inspiring in general. ❤️

  9. Ray says:

    I read this post aloud to Hayden and we both laughed when you got your trail name! Love it. Been thinking about you every day, so excited for your next post! I hope the throat thing worked out and your food becomes more appealing! Also, I think pushing yourself to hike longer because you want to camp with other folks is totally part of hiking your own hike.

  10. Christine (Eclipse) says:

    A trail name on your first day? Wow! You’re ahead of the curve. 😉 I agree the throat thing is probably just dry desert air and dust. I know the feeling of having to choke down dinner – that often happens to me my first day or two of a big hike. Soon you won’t be able to get enough!

  11. mandy friedman says:

    Love your blog entry and I love you!! May all the blisters be healed very soon – take good care, my angel – love and xx ❤

  12. Joy de Beyer says:

    Hi Vanessa, I was at school with your mom, and good friends with your Aunt Tessa. My younger daughter lives in Oregon (Corvallis). Im loving your blog and FULL of admiration that you could walk all day, and write a fabulous blog, and go to sleep knowing you are going to be up at 8am for day 2 of many many more. Cheering you from San Diego! Cut it Scissors!!!
    Thank you for sharing your adventure. Joy

  13. Ilana Silverman says:

    Hi Vanessa..This is your mama’s new BFF, Ilana :)!!!! SO thrilled to read about your first day.. I’ll enthusiastically be following you on this great adventure!!! Hope it’s all you’re hoping for…take care and have fun!!!! XOXOX

  14. Tanya says:

    Love your blog Vanessa. You’re an inspiration! Often think I’d love to do something like this – but most of us never do – good on you for just doing it. It’s that “I’m kind of all in” you mentioned – constrained by getting too caught up in daily life, mortgages, children, etc. that prevents one embarking on an adventure.

  15. Ian Joseph says:

    Vanessa, love your blog and congrats on the first day! Great to read, love the writing. Maybe we will be able to meet you somewhere and help with provisioning or other needs somewhere in NorCal?

  16. Jaxxsj says:

    Oh my gosh, I love that Scissors became your trail name! Good luck on your journey. I’ll for sure be reading along as you go and cheering you on from home until you make it to Canada!

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