Wednesday, 20 May 2015

PCT Day 1

Day 1 - It begins...
I wake at 4am and doze till 5am. My sleeping bag is damp with condensation and I notice a camera up on the wall opposite me, luckily it's facing the other way. I'd arrived in Campo the night before and slept in someones back garden. I'd tried to sleep under a large tree on the outskirts but found it swarming with biting ants...
I was weary of the Immigration Police driving round and didn't want to arouse suspicion so ended up tossing my heavy-ish bag over a fence to sleep in someones back garden.

I hop back over the fence for 5:30 just as dawn is breaking - my first on the trail and begin walking to start. It's a cool morning as I walk alone along the edge of the road. A few cars pass me and I hope I don't stand out. A part of me can't believe it, I've made it. All my planning and gear preparation. I'm getting closer to the start line to begin my journey of 2650 miles up the Pacific Crest Trail. I smile slightly nervously but with eager anticipation.

I hear a car behind me. It slows and pulls up next to me. I turn to see a smiley woman and an older man driving. The man turns out to be Bob, a Trail Angel and he's making a final trip to the iconic wooden start. He's been ferrying hikers there all spring. 

"Hop in" he says thumbing behind him.

I pile in the back and meet 2 other hikers. Bob is an ex-Navy Office, no nonsense kind of guy who points out stuff as we go. He also boldly asks why I haven't asked around for Trail Angel help to get me to the start instead of making my own way there...

My fellow hikers are called Sarah, Dan and Stefan who are all as optimistic as I. We cruise along at a steady speed, the road getting bumper as Bob heads onto the dirt road along the fence. The wooden pillars come into view and our beginnings for the summer.

We pause to take our photos beside the post and sign the Trail register behind it. I run my hand along the metal wall of the border between America and Mexico. It's rusted and old and made from recycled metal. I peered through a hole in the middle and see that it looks exactly the same on either side.

An excited tingle peaks in my stomach and I can see the sun trying to join the dawn. A pale cloud lingers over the horizon and the air feels cool.

We set off at 6:15 am and pretty much blitz the first part of the day, the sun doesn't shine till ten so were able to maintain a decent pace. There are so beautiful flowers which somehow manage to bloom and survive in this arid environment. We ascend gently and head up into the rocky, sandy hills. The heat begins and our speedy pace slows. We walk beneath buzzing telegraph towers and watch birds of prey soar above in the blue sky. We pause for a break from the sun. It's 1 pm and were 5 miles from the end of the day. We chill in the shade and sat in silence. Then within the space of 2 minutes a dark snake slithered by followed by a yellow and red one, both as cool as anything.

We press on and meet our first water cache. We don't need any water since the sun had been late to make an appearance but it did bode well for the trail seeing a water cache on the first day. We slowly then begin to ascend our first steep 1000 ft/300 m climb - up Morena Butt. We end up splitting up, then Sarah and I begin leapfrogging each other as we solo hike till the campsite. I can see Lake Morena to the left of me, the blue sparkling waters looking so welcoming but the campsite doesn't go near it so I plow on and reach the top. It’s so hot now and I can feel my skin sweating with the heat. I'm covered from the head to toe but it's still scorching.

I turn off and head towards the campsite. I reach a sign blocking the path saying that the campsite is closed starting from today due to spraying pesticides. Darby catches up and we debate what to do. We venture in regardless and find the place deserted. We park up beside a picnic bench. It is 5$ to camp the night but with no one around so we just camp anyway. I head in and use the showers, they feel lush and I stand there for a while. One day down 100 odd to go. I rinse my clothes and rub at my dusty legs, the water turning brown. My face is a little red but not sun burnt. Dan and Stefan roll in an hour or so later, then a fifth hiker called Kyler walks into camp with a middle-eastern white cotton hat - good thinking. We chill and eat our meals, everyone having stoves. My meal for the evening is cold cous-cous which I better get use to.

We mill around the bench eating, chatting, laying our clothes out like a yard-sale to dry. We nurse our feet, only one blister for me - a good start. We then dissolve into conversations about why where here, what we do, where we come from etc. Even though it's only 8 pm we all begin to succumb to sleep. Amazingly Sarah packs up her bag and hikes on. I pitch the inner net of my tent slightly weary of rattlesnakes and scorpions but as soon as I slip into my 3 season ultra puffy sleeping bag I'm out like a light.

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