The desert? Sort of. The upper end of a thousand miles through arid dry country with little reprieve from the sun, and even less natural water.
I started my hike up the West Coast on May 10th. Heaps, John, and I slept under a bridge the night before near the terminus, near the Mexican border. We knew it was going to be extremely hot the next day so the goal was an early morning start. Unfortunately this type of environment is not just known for the heat of the day, but also the frigid nights. Waking up wasn’t easy, but my excitement to begin had me moving. John was there to shuttle, and see us off. He’s a great friend, and also happens to be an amazing cinematographer. He’d later proceed to follow me the following week filming. I’d cross a road, and he’d be there. I’d hike past a thick bush, he’d be in it. On the toilet, he’s there too. OK, not that last one but you get the idea. I’m nearly impossible to get ahold of so it was amazing he caught me so many times, and it was great to see him.
The water here is scarce. If it weren’t for kind locals there may be sections of trail without a running spring, stream, or lake for upwards of a hundred miles. Liquid is heavy so I try to plan my next stops well. Not well enough because I keep coming up short. The weather has been so strange from hot to cold that I can’t figure out how much I need yet. These things come in time. So naturally I’ve been quite thirsty some days. No water to fill up on for 6 miles and I’m running on empty? Sucks but I thank my Florida hiking experience, pushing what I once knew what was possible, and becoming quite intimate with the feelings of heat stroke and dehydration. At least with this trail there’s tons of people around hiking so worst case isn’t all that bad. Won’t find that in Florida. Due to the unpredictable nature of people, even when the maps say there’s no water for 20 miles chances are someone has left some along the way. A good and bad thing as this is almost encouraging to push what I should or shouldn’t do.
As I proceed I can feel myself getting stronger. My muscles hardly ache climbing. My lungs, though still working very hard, I’ve gotten mostly used to. And my joints all feel good. If it weren’t for a pesky tendon issue in my right foot I’d be in heaven. Though it hurts I know all to well that the light on the other end shines so incredibly bright. I remember spraining my ankle 400 miles into my 5,000 mile Eastern Continental Trail hike. It swelled up to twice the size and turned purple. I think we all know how that eventually went. I recovered, and continued to do what so many told me I couldn’t. Literally a guy at mile 0 sitting near the terminus in Quebec said I’d never make it. Suck it, guy on bench whom I wish I asked for an email address. This reminds me of a sentiment I had then. While others look for reasons to leave, I look for reasons to stay.
The trail has been beautiful. Winding and snaking the hills. Open and clean with views of the all encompassing surrounding mountains and valleys. I move on my own choosing to experience this without hiking or camping partners. It’s just not that kind of trip. Not for me, not now at least. Every morning I’m walking by 6 and stopping around 8. Searching for ridge tops to catch the first and last light of the sun, and sleep among the giants.
Though most have a hard time finding me I try and try every day to call my girlfriend back home. Nobody said being in a relationship while out here would be easy, and I knew that, but I love her. I know that this time here is finite and overall very short in the grande scheme of the cosmos. This first month I’ve collected post cards from towns I’ve visited, wildflowers from the trail, and little trinkets I’ve found along the way to send so she knows I’m thinking of her. Though I love being out here I love being with her too, and very much look forward to a long hike together. Among all the other things I’ve been dreaming about while I walk.
One of the best parts of these hikes is all the head space, the time to think and consider what’s important. I make lists and take notes. I know these thoughts can be fleeting and I want to remember everything.
Into the Sierra I go. Serious mountains.