Last summer (2016), I finally looked myself in the mirror and realized: I’m going to do it. Next year, I’m thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
After completing my AT thru-hike by summiting Mt. Katahdin in October 2015, the insatiable desire to be back on trail slowly but surely overcame me. I would reach out to old trail friends time and again to reminisce. I even did trail magic for some of the 2016 thru-hikers. None of that was enough; the trail was calling and I heard it loud and clear. I began working several jobs to save up enough funds for my next 6-month adventure, barely having any time for a social life. It didn’t matter, though, because I knew the synthetic world could never be enough to fulfill my desire for another adventure.
In the midst of my frantic saving, one of my old “tramily” (trail family) members, Perk, called me up from his home in New York. He said he heard that I was thinking about hiking the PCT. I told him if I could possibly make the money work I would be out there the following year. There was a brief silence on the phone and then he said, “You want a gym buddy?” He too had been hearing the call of the trail, but didn’t feel motivated enough to start alone. It was then that we loosely agreed to start the PCT together in 2017, if all went well financially.
On March 27th, 2017, Perk arrived at my house in Alabama from New York. My living room had gear slung all around it, and I apologized to him for the mess. I still didn’t know that my gear would even fit in my new pack and I still had to do my taxes before we left. He laughed as he brought in totes of backpacking gear from his car and his W-2’s, because he was not exactly prepared for this new journey either.
The following morning we had a “taxation is theft” party, sifted through and weighed all of our gear, printed out permits, and after being up all night, we finally headed west! We took shifts driving and napping. Even with lack of sleep, we made it safely to our targeted stop in Denton, Texas.
The next morning we stopped in at Burleson, TX to see the “hiker fam,” a family of seven who also thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2015. They fixed us lunch and as we sat around reminiscing, we shared laughs and future adventure plans. They will be hiking a portion of the Camino de Santiago in Sapin this summer while Perk and I are walking through the desert of California.
After lunch, we waved goodbye and they wished us well. Perk and I both agreed that we would truly miss seeing them on this trail. Honestly, they were like a family to me and helped me not miss mine so badly while hiking the Appalachian Trail. If I am ever fortunate enough to have a family of my own, I can only hope that I will be half the parent to my children as Queen Bee and Bumble Bee are to theirs.
That afternoon, as we continued our west-bound journey, we finally began noticing the change in terrain. I realized as I watched green canopies fade into the brown vastness of west Texas that this is exactly what I had wanted. When people asked why I wasn’t going to fly from Atlanta to San Diego and instead chose a road trip, I simply told them I wanted to see the desert arrive instead of being abruptly deposited into it.
The next day as we approached El Paso, I jokingly played Marty Robbins’ songs, “El Paso” and “El Paso City” over the car stereo. I had passed through this city a couple times before and had always done the same. Perk asked if I thought Rose’s Cantina, the main setting for the story in the song, actually existed. I told him I had tried looking it up in the past, but had never successfully found one. We were both surprised that nobody had capitalized on that opportunity yet. I decided to try looking for it once more–and the third time was a charm! So, guess where we had lunch?
Although no gun fighting broke out, it was still a wonderful experience! Our server was extremely hospitable. We ate wonderful Mexican food beside the Rio Grande and even had one tequila drink–because that’s just what you should do at Rose’s.
On March 31st, we arrived in Phoenix, AZ at Linda and Tammyra’s house. Linda and Perk knew each other from their time in the Navy. While planning this road trip, Perk had asked Linda if he could leave his car with her while hiking for six months and she willingly agreed. We stayed one night, had a BBQ the next night and at 2am Perk and I were on a Greyhound Bus headed west.
After about an 8-hour bus ride we arrived downtown San Diego, CA. I was truly getting anxious, nauseous, even. Doubtful thoughts stormed my mind. “This is what I wanted, right? Do I even remember how to live this life? What do I know about the desert? What if I hate it? What if I get it by a rattle snake? Is the snow in the Sierra’s impassable?” I tried to push away all of the worrisome questions and decided I’d think about them later.
I kept a smile on my face, although my heart was beating as I climbed into a car belonging to trail angels, Scout and Frodo. They are known for shuttling thru-hikers to their home in San Diego from the bus station or airport and putting them up for the night.
We arrived and Scout and Frodo’s around 11am which gave us time to look over our gear once more and actually test it out in Scout and Frodo’s backyard for the night. They fed us lunch and dinner, and Scout even sang to everyone just before bed.
After breakfast the next morning, all of the hikers nervously gathered their things and got ready to be shuttled to the trailhead. I went to the bathroom to change and looked at myself in the mirror while braiding my hair. I had changed so much since the end of my AT thru-hike. My clothes were new, my skin pale, and my hands soft, but I knew up under this odd surface a strong and determined woman named “Dixie” was just itching to reemerge and conquer another quest.
As I heard them calling for the last of the hikers to get on the shuttle, I smiled at myself in the mirror and whispered, “let’s do this.”
Stay tuned for my first post from the trail!