So many awesome things have happend in the past 36 hours. The community and culture around the Pacific Crest Trail is like nothing I have ever seen.
The fun started outside the San Diego airport terminal when I met my first PCT hiker. He was waiting for the same trail angel as me and we had a great chat about gear and planning. Shortly after we got picked up by "Action Pack" in an old beat up van with 4 other hikers going to "Scout" and "Frodo's" house for the night.
Confused yet? Let me explain all of this gibberish. So, "trail angels" are a network of volunteers that put in varying amounts of time, money and, energy into helping PCT thru-hikers. This work can range from hosting hikers at their homes, driving them to the trail head, making them food, and stocking desert water caches. Most of them have thru-hiked the PCT which means they have established trail names. Trail naming is a big part of the thru-hiking community. Every thru-hiker receives a trail name at some point. The purpose of trail names is to make it easier for everyone to remember who they have talked to and who they are referring to. For example there is a guy who's name is Gary, but he goes by "Monkey Wrench" on the PCT. That nickname is easy to remember and there is no other "Monkey Wrench" you could be referring to.
Another reason for trail names is to perpetuate the sillyness that is thru-hiking. People who decide and go thru with hiking long distances are the most easy going and fun loving people you will meet. Everyone is so used to adapting and dealing with challenges that when they aren't walking they are looking to have good time. Trail names are apart of the charm. The only rule with trail nicknames is that you cannot give one to yourself. I'm still waiting for mine.
My first expereince with trail angles was "Scout and Frodo's" house, which is an institution for PCT thru-hiking. They spend the entire spring and early summer hosting hundreds of hikers in their home for free. They pick every hiker up from the airport, feed them dinner and breakfast, and drop them off at southern terminus of the trail. I was blown away by alll of the effort that they put in. They work non-stop from 5am-midnight everyday to make our experience great. Their house was bursting at the seams with excited hikers during my stay and most of us cow-boy camped in their backyard.
We left "Scout and Frodo's" for the border around 6am after a big breakfast of eggs, fruit, and muffins. The border is about an hour and a half from San Diego. This was the busiest day for thru-hikers starting the trail and their was about 30 people in our group picture in front of the monument. I took a few pictures there and mingled but mostly wanted to get hiking so I took off.
At 8:40am the desert was already super bright and warm. Very comfortable for hiking and enjoying the scenery but you could tell it was going to get really hot. Everyone was carrying 5 liters+ of water because there is 20 miles before the next water stop at Lake Morena. I hiked alone for a good portion of the morning just soaking in the magnitude of the journey I was beginning. By 10:00am the desert was getting hot and taking a noticeable amount of energy away from me. In the Ozarks I would take around 3-4 short breaks a day but yesterday I took about 3 long breaks and 15 short breaks just to get out of the sun and prevent heat stroke. I will do my best to not hike in the afternoon anymore but yesterday a late start was unpreventible. It is just way too hot and hard for my skin and body to be exposed in the afternoon sun here. I also decided to get anumbrella because the buff I am using is way too hot.
I hiked the afternoon with a few other people and the conversations made it allot easier to deal with the heat.
I made it to Lake Morena campground and the kick-off party around 5:00 pm. Besides being really hot and having a shin-splint on my right leg(Ozark Trail leftover) I felt good. As soon as I got off the trail I was given a beer and a pat on the back for making the first 20 miles. Everyone here is awesome and hugely supportive and helpful. Tips and advice are everywhere to be found but no one is telling you what to do or how to best thru-hike. The best way is what works for you.
I've been really surprised to find that I have the smallest and lightest pack that I've seen. I am the only person that I know of that is sub 10 pounds. Can't help but be a little smug about this.
The kick-off party runs until Sunday but I think I will be taking off on Saturday to get ahead of the crowd and get some miles down. Besides my shin splint I feel good and I hope it heels up on this day off.