Day 1 – 5.9 miles to 5.9
The first day on trail was one to remember.
I was awake on Tuesday 24th at 4:45am for the third consecutive time and at 7am I called the courier who apparently had been given my bag as of 9pm last night. Instead of waiting for them to deliver it I went with Scout on a morning hiker pickup to downtown San Diego and the airport and he took me the extra distance to the courier where I was ecstatic to see my missing hold-all (or rather, the contents thereof). Once we got back “home” I was able to combine that gear into my pack and pack a box to go to Kennedy Meadows containing my favourite shoes (now discontinued sadly) and get ready to leave, all in a fairly frantic 30 minutes.
The reason for the rush was that I’d hatched a plan to be able to get on trail today rather than wait and go with the group tomorrow morning. Sure, I wouldn’t get on trail until around 6pm so mileage and time gains were marginal to say the least, but I often like to zig when others zag and this meant I would probably hit the trail alone and get a few miles in and spend the night on trail, which I much preferred to another shared tent situation. Today, Tuesday 24th, was my original intended start date and the one I hold a permit for, so it felt good to actually start on the right day even if it was 12 hours later than normal.
Monique, one of the kind volunteers at Scout and Frodo’s, gave me a ride out to the trolley (tram) stop at Old Town and then it was just a simple case of taking a trolley to El Cajon Transit Center, walking 0.6 miles to a Denny’s diner to wait out two hours until the next bus could take me to Campo (which is the town nearest the southern terminus of the PCT), riding a packed hard-seated bus for 2 hours and then walking 1.5 miles out of town to be able to actually reach the trail. Like I say, simple.
While waiting with all the locals at the bus stop I heard a yell of “PCT!” and turned to see a guy who was as obvious a thru-hiker as you could wish to see. His pack was smaller than even mine was in the AT and he boasted the ultimate ultralight (non-) accessory – no hipbelt. Respect is always due to someone about to hike a long trail who doesn’t even need a hipbelt to help carry the weight. His name was Scooter and he’d also hiked the AT in 2016 though we’d never met. We had a long chat about gear (obviously), food storage and bear canister strategy (which will remain classified) and generally sharing the excitement of finally getting back on trail.
The other 30-some passengers on the bus made it feel like we had already entered Mexico and even my phone service was convinced, which meant I had to turn off data roaming to avoid the risk of receiving one of those newsworthy roaming bills.
After a nausea-inducing twisting mountainous bus ride we finally arrived in Campo which, at four buildings (that I could see) might be the smallest town near the trail.
Scooter wanted to get some dinner and stealth camp in town as he’d just flown direct from Philadelphia. I headed off down the road towards the southern terminus of the PCT. After less than
10 minutes walking though a car stopped and asked if I wanted a ride to the terminus. I jumped in and said hello to my first on-trail trail angel! His name was Mike and he’d just dropped his cousin Reuben off to start his thru-hike. He volunteered to take my terminus picture.
He took pictures for me at the terminus and left me his details in case I wanted any help in SoCal. Then he drove away. I put my hand through the metal fence into Mexico (I checked and it looked the same on the southern side of the fence as the north) and went to head off. Mike returned. One of my water bottles had leaked over his stuff in his car. I apologised. He didn’t care. He just wanted to make sure I still had enough water. He had a large container so insisted on refilling my empty bottle. What a star!
I made about 6 miles in 2 hours before making camp and I was enjoying hiking so much I raged against the dying of the light. I was so glad I had pushed hard to start late today instead of taking it easy and starting with 30 others early tomorrow.