Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 1: Let the Hike Begin!

April 23: The day has come. It was time to start my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. I woke up on a couch in Riverside--my sister's couch. A quick family visit to show off my shaved head. She'd never seen me without any hair, and didn't recognize me at first when I knocked on the door the night before.

It was my mom driving me out to the trail. This is the first time I've done a long distance hike where it would be relatively easy for my mom to visit me on the trail. Originally, Amanda was supposed to see me off as well, but she was delayed to that volcanic ash cloud, stranded in Manchester, England. She had finally made it back into the United States, but still needed to stop in Seattle to take care of bills, pick up mail, and run a variety of errands. She'd catch up with me soon, though.

We stopped at IHOP for breakfast--my last meal before my hike begins. I ordered blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, and hashbrowns. The blueberry pancakes were excellent, just in case you wanted to know. The rest of the food was good too, but those didn't have blueberries either.

The trail wouldn't happen immediately, though. It was still a two hour drive, and we had another stop to make at the Lake Morena Campground where the Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off (ADZPCTKO) was in full swing. A place for thru-hikers to meet and swap stories, a place for former thru-hikers to catch up, and a place for trail angels to mingle with the thru-hikers. It's a gathering of hikers, by hikers, for hikers, about hiking. I reserved a campsite for us in all the mayhem, and I wanted to stake out our claim and set up our camp while it was still light out. The campground is FULL--so full, in fact, that everyone is expected to share campsites. Eight people were assigned to our site, #76, although one of them included Amanda who, alas, couldn't make it.

We set up camp, browsed the display of gear being sold, and I bought my mom one of those fold-up maps of the entire PCT for 50 cents so she could better keep track of my location on the trail. =)

We watched Ceanothus give a presentation about the flora and fauna to be found on the trail (including the plant she named herself after--ceanothus). We watched the water and snow report (lots of water, lots of snow, and don't be in a rush to get ahead because the snow pack is deep this year).  We actually drove past pockets of snow along I-8 just before the turnoff for Campo. Southern California? Snow? It's a strange combination....

But finally, it was time to get my feet dirty. It was time to stop talking about the trail, stop listening to other people talk about the trail, and get on The Trail.

We drove through the small town of Campo, down a dirt road, that ended at the Mexican border. The monument marking the beginning of the trail rested at the top of a small hill, and the border fence stretched off in both directions as far as the eye could see. A barbwire fence stopped us from going into a small No-Man's-Land, while a larger fence on the other side presumably stopped illegal immigrants from jumping over. I imagined land mines buried in the No-Man's-Land, with motion detectors that would alert a border patrol agent nearby. A plane flew overhead nearby, presumably watching for suspicious activity.

I signed into the register on the back of the monument, my mom took lots of pictures of me at the start, and we watched a border patrol vehicle drive past. Then I picked up my pack and started hiking.

My mom drove off, to a point 2.2 miles up the trail where it crossed Highway 94, to wait for me. It was fairly late in the afternoon, and I only planned to cover the first 2.2 miles of the trail, mostly a ceremonial hike. While walking, I pulled out my cell phone--my newest luxury device for the trail--and called Amanda to tell her that I had officially started my hike.

One mile down the trail, they stuck a mile post with the number 1 on it. I had completed the first full mile of the trail. I took pictures, still while talking to Amanda. Yes, that is a cell phone pressed to my ear, and I'm talking to Amanda. One mile down, only 2,649 to go! (More or less.)

Then I lost the trail. Or rather, the trail lost me. (I never get lost--only the trail does.) The trail eventually led back to the town of Campo and followed alongside the road. I saw what looked like a trail leading back into the chapparal and started following it, but the trail was thin and faded and overgrown, and I decided that this couldn't be it. I turned around back to the road, pulled out my map, and tried to figure out where to go next. It looked like a short road walk, so I followed the road. If worst came to worst, I thought, and I missed where the trail went back into the brush, I'd just turn left at Highway 94 and road walk the rest of the way on the road. Not ideal, and not an auspicious start.

I did find the trail back into the brush, however, and the rest of the hike was uneventful. I just completed 2.2 miles of my hike--approximately 0.1% of the trail by my estimates, and only got lost once. Hmmm.....

We returned to camp and watched more presentations, including one by Dicentra about her One Pan Wonders, a rousing welcome by Strider (the top banana for the event), and a series of entertaining video shorts. Eric Ryback also said a few words--he was the first person to thru-hike the PCT back in 1970, writing the book The High Adventures of Eric Ryback which first popularized the trail. Admittedly, there is some debate about whether he truly hiked the entire trail or accepted rides for part of the distance, but his name is linked in the PCT lore like no other.

After the video shorts, I pretty much crashed. I was tired. 


A Pack said...

Yeah! Can't wait to read about your adventures on this hike and follow your progress especially as you get near our area (there is a road crossing about 10 miles from us).


Owen said...

Loved following your adventures on the Appalachian Trail, and can't wait for this one!!


Anonymous said...

Woo-Hoo, Ryan! Hey, everyone--take a look at the tan and navy backpack in the photo of the monument. Ryan made that backpack all by himself! You should see it in person--very professionally sewn. I was SO impressed!


OhanaTribe said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading about your AT hike and wished we'd known at the time -- about half of those 500 Virginia miles wind right around us! Hope you have a great PCT hike & we're looking forward to following along!

Okie Dog said...

Love the pic of you bald! Sure shows up that smile! Hope you're still smiling when you get home. Break a leg! in theater talk, or Good luck! Hope nothing gets broken, scraped, or attacked, either. Attacked by fungus, poison,animals, insects, or humans.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Tortuga,

It's Bob - one of the guys who hiked along with you on the first leg up to Lake Morena. I'll be following your blog as I thru-hike vicariously through your posts. Have a great adventure!

Fair winds & following seas...

Travelin' Shutterbug said...

Hey Ryan, Best of luck on your hike! I sure hope you have some exciting stories to share with us, but keep safe!!

Dicentra said...

Hey cool! Thanks for the mention! :) Good luck to you on your journey!