Once again it’s the day I leave to find my way down to the Mexican border in Campo and to the southern terminus of the PCT. It doesn’t feel real this time. It didn’t feel real last time either, but this time I’ve spent so much energy and time telling myself not to let myself get my hopes up that I’m not thinking about it as leaving home for 5-6 months. I spend time in the morning before we start driving planning the classes I’m going to take in the fall, as a back-up plan if my foot doesn’t allow me to hike.
My good trail friend Drippy came to Reno on Wednesday. He’s driving down with my mom and brother and I to Campo, and starting the same day as me and Ziploc – aka Rick, who I hiked around quite a long time last year, bumping into each other every now and then in between Julian and Tehachapi. I’d talked to Drippy on Instagram before the hike last year, and then we hosted him in Reno when he got off-trail to head home. Together we are team do-over, or we’re not exactly a team, but whatever. It sounds cool.
I say goodbye to my dogs and hold back tears. They are so soft! And warm and smell good! They are concerned that we are leaving on a big trip of some kind with all of our packing.
We stop to say goodbye to my dad at his work, and then continue south on 395. Once we get past Carson City, it’s less routine and slowly more nostalgic. Last time I was on this road, my foot was broken and painful and swollen beyond belief. We have lunch at Burger Barn in Lone Pine, and peer up at Kearsarge Pass and Mt. Whitney as we pass by.
We stay at the Best Western in Tehachapi, the same Drippy and I both stayed at, and walk through town to the Thai place I went to with Cotton Candy and Twinkle Toes. Last time I was here I had a foot that displayed the first signs of injury, though it wasn’t bad yet.
Then we sit in our hotel room and watch bad TV. The TV starts up on a game show called “The Joker’s Wild” with Snoop Dog hosting. It’s mindless and stupid and amusing.
The next day we pack up back into our car and drive to the SaveMart to pick up some food to do some trail magic: lemonade, orange juice, cupcakes, a veggie tray and watermelon. We drive through the desert and the forests of windmills to the trail near Acton KOA, and set up in the semi-shaded picnic table.
A hiker named Bookworm shows up first, and then Chameleon, and Wallet, and Safety Chute and Dirt and Your Highness and and… too many names to keep track of. Safety Chute recognizes me from Instagram. We follow each other. It’s fun, and we shuttle them to the KOA or Acton after they’ve eaten their fill. I want to hike so bad. I want to start walking with them.
Then we’re on our way to LA again. We pass Vasquez Rocks. I went this way with the shuttle from Hiker Heaven to the REI.
LA is huge and overwhelming. There are too many cars and people and it scares me that this can all exist, it seems too much to exist at the same place. We find our way from the Highway to the birthplace of Los Angeles, Alvera Street, and wait in line for parking. Everything is dirty and busy and filled with people and trash. We wind our way through the busy cobble alley-street stuffed with vendors selling Mexican art and bags and food and clothing, until we finally decide to go into a bustling, loud restaurant to eat. There’s a mariachi band serenading tables. We order. The tacos I get are delicious, and I eat it all, and get stuffed.
Back on the highway, the traffic is constantly shifting and the road never seems to end, a shifting maze of highways compared to Reno’s measly two. I’m exhausted.
We reach San Diego and find a motel and crash our room. Then we leave to find some food to eat for breakfast tomorrow, since we’re planning on leaving at 5, before anything is going to be open.
I need a haircut but have put it off, and now it seems like I’ll just have to make do- until, as we’re crossing the road, I spy a hair salon that looks like it could be open. We walk over to check it out, hovering in front to read the hours. It’s closed, but then the woman inside comes out and tells me she’ll cut my hair.
So we come in and I sit down in the chair. We tell her about the PCT and she’s intrigued and excited, and asks a million questions. She cuts my hair a big short, but she’s so sweet and excited that it’s fine, honestly. It’ll just look weird for a while. It now matches the short length I started with last year.
We buy some food at the grocery store and walk back to our motel room in the dark. And we set our alarm and sleep. I’m going to miss my mom and brothers and dad and dogs and home. But mostly I want to hike. I want to hike so bad.