A 5:15 AM alarm at Girlscout’s house began our first day on the trail. After months and months of preparation (and literally years of thinking about it), it’s kind of crazy to suddenly have it be here like that. We dressed (in hiking clothes, of course), put our all-too-heavy packs into the back of his car, and off we went. The night faded into the grey of dawn as we drove…I don’t honestly remember the conversation much, because
I was too aware of everything that lay ahead of us.
As we approached Campo, the small town where the trail begins, I felt a growing excitement. I was about to see the start of the trail for the very first time! When we finally pulled up the long dirt road and I saw the monument ahead of us, like I’d seen in so many pictures, it was suddenly all completely real. We were about to start really doing this thing!
We took lots of photos, signed the register, and took a group photo with Girlscout — the man is amazing; who knows how many of those he has by now. And, with one last hurrah, we were on our way. I’m not going to lie: I teared up a little at the beginning as we started walking away from the monument, down the trail, because it was finally all real. All those years of dreaming, all that hard work, and it was finally here.
Our first day hiking taught us about desert hiking. This isn’t the saguaro-and-tumbleweeds desolation of Road Runner cartoons; in fact, there’s actually quite a lot of vegetation everywhere, some of it truly beautiful. (There were vastly more flowers than I ever expected, for one!) And it’s hilly — “mountainous” would be an overstatement, but there are some serious hills, and we gained and lost a couple of thousand feet over the course of the day.
What’s it like, though, you ask? And the answer is: it’s still far too soon to really tell. We met probably two or three dozen people over the course of the day, some of whom we’d met last night at Scout and Frodo’s for dinner, all of whom started the trail today. It’s all friendly hellos and getting-to-know-you chatter so far, but I suspect the real knowing and connecting will happen later, with time and shared tribulations.
We’re camped this evening at Hauser Creek, mile 15.4 of the trail. It’s a dry camp — the first water is almost at mile 20, Lake Morena, and there’s no point in rushing ourselves this early on. Our bodies ache (not having hips to really rest a hipbelt on is a serious liability for me, and carrying a nearly 50-pound — with food and lots of water for the dry camp — pack digs into them intensely), and there’s still so much unknown out there. But we’re excited: so, so much lies ahead! Tomorrow will make it ever so more real, and the next day even further, and so on.