Day 0: Starting a Day Early

Memories from April 20, 2016

Tonight, coyotes are intermittently singing me to sleep. Yesterday, I fell asleep stressing over the unfinished contents of my pre-departure ToDo list. I like tonight better.

This morning an unexpectedly harsh 5:00am alarm jolted a reminder through my head: I’d forgotten to shave. A true trail beard should start from a clean slate if it is to truly represent one’s accomplishments. Departure for the airport was delayed for a frantic 15 minutes of face scraping. An electric hair cutter, three disposable razors, and one band-aid were used in the process.

The information desk in SAN helped me figure out which ticket to buy from the MTS Compass Card vending machine. Unfortunately the machine was broken so they sent me to another terminal and gave me a $5 food voucher. The info desk in the other terminal pointed out that it was cheaper to just pay cash for the bus ride and changed a $20. It turns out that there isn’t really any food at SAN for $5 or less.

Got in touch with two friends who expressed interest in hiking in the Sierras with me. Maybe they can resupply me instead of paying $70 to get a bucket shipped by boat and donkey to Muir Trail Ranch which doesn’t open for resupply until 4 days after I’m scheduled to get there. Of course, I still need to coordinate details with only a smartphone and intermittent service. Did logistics just get easier or harder?

I met Daniel and John on the MTS Rural 894 bus. Daniel is doing about a week on the PCT and John is going to Canada. We hit it off. John has a 60lb pack but has 14 days of food and 8 liters of water. Daniel appears to have the kitchen sink but only 5 liters of water for 3 days. We talk him into buying more.

My permit starts tomorrow (4/21/2016) so I look to kill an afternoon in Campo. The railroad museum is closed. A museum in a stone building is closed. The old mill is 2 miles away and also closed. I eat lunch, check e-mail, and try to find AAA Li-Ion batteries. The grocery store sends me to the hardware store which doesn’t have them either. I still need to kill time so they send me to the bar.

The bar is actually a VFW (officially Veterans of Foreign Wars but a guy at the counter also calls it Very Few Women to which the female bar tender responds that Thursdays there are a lot of women and so they call it Very Fine Women). I am not a veteran, much less of a foreign war, but I’m welcome as long as I’m respectful and pay my bill. Maria is the bartender. I never got the name of the first guy but claimed that Campo is for people who don’t like town. I try to counter that Campo itself is a town to which they point out that it’s just a two stores and an VFW. I ask about the local industry and eventually receive a marijuana, meth, cattle, and Camel Back assembly in that order. Eventually the four other patrons leave except for Oso who takes the seat next to me and we make smalltalk and he tells stories. I’ve concluded the Bellevue needs bars like this. Mug Shots is the only thing in the same category and it just doesn’t cut it. Eventually I decide that it’s cool enough to walk and so I’m starting whether my permit lets me or not.

The Southern Terminus Monument is very anticlimactic. The scenery is actually quite pretty but the border wall, accompanying road, power lines, and smattering of trailers just doesn’t meet my expectations of a holy, sacred place whence great journey are birthed. Also, border patrol drives by and asks whether we’re planning on leaving soon.

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The first few miles of the PCT are so close to Campo that they seem more like a walk in a city’s trail system than a wilderness experience. The area is chaparral which is the same environment in the hills south of where I grew up so it seems familiar.

I hike as the moon rises and try to use my GorillaPod for a long shutter exposure which captures the serenity of the scene.

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Finally, here’s where I camped for the night.

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