I woke up to my alarm screaming at me at 5:30AM: “Get up! Get your gear! Get up!”. Okay fine! Despite all the nerves and butterflies, I actually slept pretty well. Saying goodbye to the bed was a difficult moment for me.
I took a shower and got all my stuff together. What should have taken me 10 minutes took me an hour due to my freaking out. Am I ready for this? My pack is so heavy with 6 liters of water and all my food. I kept delaying things to help wrap my mind around the fact that I’d be starting the PCT today. This is what I’ve been waiting for for 9 months, so why the sudden apprehension?
Regardless, I got everything together and my dad and I drove down to the border from El Cajon. When we arrived all I could do was stare out the window at the terminus until I got a burst of adrenaline fueled energy to hop out of the truck. I bolted uphill and did the usual picture thing. I walked to the side of the terminus to write in the register. I didn’t put any thought at all into what I should say, so I settled with “I’m finally here! Water is heavy!” Yes, inspirational.
I said goodbye to my dad and started the walking thing. The first few miles were a pretty mellow stroll through and around Campo. It winded through some rolling desert hills, over train tracks, through greenery, and finally started winding uphill. I was still feeling the adrenaline and kicked it into high gear over the first few ascents, the trail just a blur around me. “I’m on the PCT! I’m on the PCT!” ringing through my head. Suddenly I’m at the mouth of a canyon, Hauser Creek looming below. I’ve heard a lot of things about this place, terrible mostly. Time to find out what the deal with this place is.
Hauser was the worst. The descent to Hauser ‘creek’ was nice enough, it was lush with plenty of hide-away campsites tucked in the greenery, but the ascent out of it was hot. It was hot. HOT. I was completely exposed to the sun with no chance of even curling under a bush for shade. By the time I got to the top I was pretty well whimpering. I stopped and looked around and saw rocks to my right to sit on. I went off trail and climbed on top, just as I did the most amazing breeze blew by, I damn near cried right there. The trail delivers.
Feeling reguvinated, I hopped off ‘Mercy Rock’ and went back to the trail. Again the trail delivers, there was shade through most of it. I neglected to put on sun tan lotion and was feeling a little more than burnt. I made my way uphill and came to a tree beckoning for me to sit under. Why not? I threw my pack off and plopped down into the dirt. I don’t know how long I sat here, but I got up soon enough when I realized I was being attacked by a hoard of fire ants. I guess it’s time to go?
I pressed on until I could see Lake Morena in the distance, a beacon of hope. The day was almost over, I could set up my tent and curl up under my quilt. I reached down deep into my reserve and found some energy to bolt down the hill to this oasis next to Hauser. I navigated through the campground and found the ranger station to purchase a camping permit, then meandered over toward all the Hiker Trash set up in the PCT campsite. It was crowded and I was feeling a little apprehensive. I set up my tent on the outskirts of Hiker Trash City, ate potatoes, and went to bed.
20 miles down.