Where do you spend your last full day in civilization before starting a 2,650-mile hike? The obvious place: at the mall, of course! Better yet, a big, fancy suburban Southern California mall. And then go see Fast [and the Furious] Seven, to see lots of incredibly expensive cars get blown up.
Not-quite-intentionally (and not-quite-unintentionally), that’s exactly what we ended up doing. We had a set of errands to run involving a car rental, REI, and UPS — which just means you end up at a mall. And then, well, Clare’s a huge fan of movies (and loves the Fast and the Furious series)…so why not? And that’s how we ended up sitting in an air-conditioned movie theater, eating popcorn and sipping giant sodas, watching millions of dollars’ worth of cars explode on screen in truly ludicrous (but also completely fun) fashion.
(Also amusing: at the mall, we saw a line at least 30 people long, with people clearly camped out. Listening in, they were all waiting to preorder the new Apple Watch — 40 hours from then. You can preorder online; these were people just waiting to be able to actually play with one in the store, even though they won’t get it any faster than people ordering online. As big of an Apple nut as I am, these people are kind of crazy.)
Something I haven’t talked about here yet is the phenomenon of “trail angels”. That’s the name given to folks who, just because they like supporting hikers (and often because they’re former hikers), will show you immense generosity and bend over backwards to help you just because you’re hiking. “Girlscout” is one we got in touch with online, and he’s picked us up from the airport, taken us to dinner (twice!), given us great advice and conversation, and whose place I’m currently writing this from — before he takes us to the trailhead tomorrow morning, 90 miles away. Oh, and he does this for 3–4 hikers a night, 5–7 days a week, for two months straight. Every year.
And dinner was at Scout and Frodo‘s place. They’re both previous hikers, both retired, and run something that can only be called an operation. Every night they host between two and five dozen hikers, picking them up from the airport, taking them in, feeding them, giving them tons of good advice, letting them stay — take a look at the photo of their back yard; it’s got huge tents, a treehouse, and tons of space to sleep out in (and a luggage scale permanently affixed to a doorway, for the
glory shame of weighing your pack), as well as rooms in their house they fill with hikers every night! — and arranging caravans of up to a dozen cars to ferry them to the trailhead in the morning. All, y’know, just because they like hikers.
I have seriously never felt so much the recipient of just plain kindness from strangers before in my life, and it makes me feel incredibly humbled (if I can only be so generous sometime in my life!) and loved. These are just plain great, great people, and it’s so good to be with them.
This also means we met our first fellow hikers this evening, and I’m excited to meet so many different people! Young folks, old folks, people from LA, people from Germany, couples, brothers…you name it, and it’s just the beginning. It’s really exciting! I love it that they’re all different kinds of people, and yet they all have something big in common with you, too: the insanity to do something huge like this, too.
Oh, and when I say we had dinner there, I mean we had: salad, barbecued chicken, salmon cakes with dill sauce, baked beans, and rolls, plus brownies, cookies, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. (No, I did not eat all of that, although I’m sure it’ll only be a week or two until that seems like a completely reasonable thing to do.)
I’m closing this day feeling incredibly excited: we’ve made all the preparations we possibly can, we’re completely ready to go, and nothing but the trail awaits. I’m also feeling very cared-for by all the great people who have taken care of us just from sheer generosity, and really excited by all the people I’m going to get to meet over the next few months. And, finally, I’m thinking of everybody else — back home, spread around the country, all around the world — who might be thinking of me or reading this blog over the next few months.
Take care, y’all, and I’ll see you out there.