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…