|Flash was here too but I don't post pics of people (except from the back, ha ha) without permission!|
The night before at the trail angels' house, I had felt like the other hikers were skeptical of us. Two of them even mistook us for volunteers, since we were helping with dinner ("we help because we are middle-aged women," Flash said, as we took in the oblivious twenty-somethings staring intently at their phones while the angels, using their own time and money, went out of their way to provide abundant food and shelter for no payment in return). But Flash and I knew that we would outwalk them all and we did. We never saw any of them again after Day 2.
We hiked along through live oaks and sand, passing the remains of unknown tragedies: cowboy boots and underwear, abandoned backpacks, bottles of water. Regardless of how you feel about illegal immigrants, the truth was here in our faces. We were out here for a week's vacation, choosing to carry six liters of water through the dry landscape. Other people were not as fortunate.
Casualties of another sort soon littered the trail. Three Liter Girl, hiking with only that amount of water, struggled along as we passed her, bent under a heavy pack. A young guy implored us for water, though we could tell he was embarrassed to ask. "I just wasn't ready for this," he said. As we headed down toward Hauser Canyon, an older man hailed us with the news that his water container had broken and could we spare some water? He looked defeated already, trying to walk himself into shape.
The scariest of all was C, who wavered unsteadily as he held out a plastic army canteen and croaked out, "can you spare some water?" Wearing jeans and a flannel, with a pack we later learned topped seventy pounds, he was walking the line between life and death. In the end we gave out three liters, and probably saved some lives. I am not a fan of water caches, as I believe that all the plastic is bad enough and that hikers rely on them too much, but the cache at Hauser, fifteen miles in, undoubtedly prevented a few helicopter rides.
|Why does this sign show someone drowning?|
As for us, we felt strong. I had wondered if I could pull out a twenty mile day on Day One in eighty degrees, but even the climb out of Hauser Canyon was not overly taxing. A high cloud cover helped, and by 4:30 we dropped into the busy Lake Morena campground. You can drive here, and it appeared that everyone had. Music blared, some campers drove around blasting a cow horn, and kids peered at our gear. This was hiking the PCT? It was so...different than our other sections.
Here a camping incompatibility arose. Flash and I are a remarkably good team, but Flash likes to have tasks completed immediately. While I like to sit at camp for a moment taking it in, she wants the tent up, her stuff organized, the lay of the land figured out. We hadn't shared a tent before, so this incompatibility caused us a few tense moments. Another thing had happened that I didn't tell her was that a weird pain had arisen in my hamstring and up and down my leg. Almost like a spasm, it had appeared as we descended into Lake Morena, and I fretted. Stress fracture? So I wanted to sit, but didn't want to say anything, because saying it might make it real. (Fortunately it went away the next day. So now you know, Flash. I wasn't really tired)
Tent dithering aside, I felt good about us. We had gotten the scary part over--the first day, the day everyone talks about, how much water you had to carry, how hot it would be. The trail, though so different than Washington, felt good. It felt familiar. But now there were hot showers to take! (Some advantages of a real campground) I settled into the tent, blissfully unaware that the next days would bring a sight that could not be unseen, a camp of desperation, winds so strong I thought they would carry me away, and the longing to stay on the trail forever.