March 25, 2014
Mile 0 to Mile 19.5
As we drove to the border today, the sky was purple and full of mist. On the way south, we passed the Lake Morena camp ground where I am now sitting and eating my delicious peanut butter jar full of cold-rehydrated black bean, vegetable soup.
Five thru-hikers left the southern terminus at the same time this morning, and we played leap frog for most of the day as we passed and were passed.
Katie and my dad hiked with me for the first 6 and a quarter miles, which was an excellent way to spend our last couple hours together. When they turned around, I was sad for a few minutes. But that feeling soon gave way to an excitement stemming from my new independence. I control my pace now. When I decide to take a nap in the shade, I’m not holding anyone up except myself. My sole concern is averaging 20 miles per day to reach Canada by August 20th. That way I can experience the entire trail and still make it back to civilization in time for school. I’ve read and heard a lot about the struggle of reentry into normal life after the trail, but that’s not an issue I need to think thoroughly about on my first day. Instead I’ll recall a few things I learned on the trail today.
As the trail contours around rocky buttes covered in chaparral, the vegetation slowly transitions from the tiny prickly shrubs and yuccas that dominate the south facing slopes to slightly less tiny thorny desert plants. When looking for a spot to rest, it’s often best to wait until the trail traverses to a north facing slope so you can take advantage of the increased likelihood of shade.
It was on just such a north facing slope in the shade of a large madrone that I learned my next lesson. I had stopped and had spread out my foam pad to lounge in the shade when I noticed a tick sucking on the back of my calf. Remembering nothing about tick removal except that it’s bad to kill the tick without getting it’s mouth out of your skin, I immediately meditated and placed myself in the tick’s mind, asking, “what could ever make me spit out this sweet, sweet blood?” In a moment, I had my answer and had returned to my own perspective. I quickly daubed the tick with hand sanitizer and pulled the squirming arachnid from my leg (I’m pretty sure I saw him spit out the sanitizer). I’m usually on board with the idea of “live and let live.” But that guy was feasting on my lifeblood, so I gooshed him on a branch. At last I have a use for hand sanitizer.
The hardest part of today’s hike was the climb out of Hauser Creek. As I rested in the shade, I watched another hiker across the canyon get picked up by an ambulance while a helicopter circled above. I know nothing about why the person needed rescuing, but I was happy to be carrying more than enough water to get all the way to the campground.
I’ll sleep early tonight to relieve some of my preparation exhaustion. I’m hoping I won’t be too sore in the morning.
March 25, 2014