Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thank You Random Man...

     Five months from the start date, May 1, 2016, I made my way down to Southwest Florida to stay with my mom while I work to save for the trip. The first week I was here, I looked up the local brewery and mentioned to my mom how I wanted to try it out. When we walked in and sat down, the bartender came over, set down a couple coasters and welcomed us in a relaxed accent. After the first beer, my mom asked him where he was from, him making us guess. "Portsmouth, England," he said. But apparently he'd been in the states for nearly twenty years. Midway through the second beer, my mom started (what I later learned was going to be a routine affair midway through the second beer) casually mentioning to the bartender, or whoever would listen, that I was going to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the spring and wasn't that so cool?! A lot of the times we got blank stares, many people either didn't know what it was, or did't believe that hiking from Mexico to Canada was "so cool." However, this unsuspecting bartender replies how he himself is traveling cross country with a few buddies. Going all the way to San Francisco in April. How he would be stopping in New Orleans, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, among a few others. My mom turned to me, turned back to him, a smile creeping across her face. "Yeah, we're renting a van and it'll take a couple weeks, but we have plenty of room if you'd want to join." I smiled, commented how great that would be, putting it to the back of my mind, laughing at the absurdity of riding out west with this man. We cashed out, walked to the car and I got in the driver's side waiting for my mom. I sat there, shook my head and couldn't believe I was actually thinking about passing up the offer.
     The next couple of weeks, I managed to get two jobs, get Christmas shopping taken care of, go to the beach a few times, all the while going back and forth whether I should go back to the brewery and see if the guy had changed his mind, whether he was being friendly and giving two blondes in a bar some entertainment, or whether he had actually meant it. Yesterday, I went back to the brewery, the same bartender behind the bar, ordered a West Coast IPA and sipped. As I was drinking, he kept looking over at me, knowing he had seen me somewhere, but couldn't place where. Three quarters of the way through my first beer, he walked over to me and said, "You're going on a hike, aren't you? You were sitting here with your mom a couple months ago!" I smiled, nodded my head and asked if he was still planning on making the trip out west. He nodded, "Yeah, yeah! My buddy's wanting to come a little sooner so that he has more vacation time." I laughed, "Oh, I'm sure. You wouldn't still be offering a ride, would you?" He grinned, nodded and asked where I needed to end up. San Diego, I told him and he assured me it was right on the way.
     Now, I can imagine the responses I'm most likely going to get from friends and family, from readers, if there are any. Why in the world would I EVER ride out west with some guy I met twice when I could easily get an airplane ticket, most likely for the same price? The thing is, they're stopping in New Orleans. Right now, if I could pick somewhere to stay a year, anywhere, that's where I would be. I could tell you it's because of the parties, the street performers painted in silver and gold, dancing on milk crates, the magnificent architecture and the most amazing food ever, but really, it's because of these violinists playing in the square-- a guy, young and skinny who played in a way that made you believe that if you looked away, the music would be gone and you couldn't bear to think of leaving that sound. When I walked closer to the wall beside me where I would be in a little more shade, I saw her. A young girl playing her violin under a large umbrella and when she turned, only slightly, there on her back was a baby with ear phones on, asleep and rocking along with her mother's movements.
     For the rest of the day, there was no amount of garbage in the streets, or tourists pushing past that made me forget the feeling of those two violinists with the baby. I want to say taking a ride from this bartender (let's call him T) was based solely on my hatred of flying, or because really, it was quite convenient. Truthfully though, I couldn't pass up Nola.

Just So You Know

A little info if you didn't know:
     The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the big three, stretching from Campo, CA to Manning Park, BC. The other two trails that make up the big three are the CDT (Continental Divide Trail), and the AT (Appalachian Trail). Coming from the east, the AT never truly captured me, even though I've always kept non-fiction and guidebooks about the trail on my bookshelf, however the PCT and CDT did.
     I guess I should start out telling you why I would ever want to walk over 2600 miles. Why I would want to trek through desert, stumble up over mountains and sludge through rain and snow. I have a ton of people, who, when I tell them what I'm wanting to do, reply with, "Oh! I just watched Wild." I smile and nod and back away slowly. For me, it didn't begin with Cheryl Strayed's Wild, it began with the John Muir Trail and the High Sierras.
     When I heard about the JMT, I had just arrived in Tallahassee, Florida to finish up school. That day, I went into a few bookstores around town and asked all of the salespeople where they kept their backpacking guides, all to no avail. At the time it made me extremely mad that nowhere in that town could I go and pick up a book about walking. Walking with a backpack! What most of the kids in the town did anyway to get to school. I couldn't believe it wasn't even a thought to have a couple travel books in a place that spews out broke 20-somethings every semester, most of whom have no godforsaken idea what they're wanting to do.
Anyways, by the end of my stay in Florida, my dad had gotten me latched to the idea of biking the Great Divide trail, which we ended up doing in the fall of 2015. At the end of that trip, I set my mind to hiking not only the JMT, but the whole PCT the next summer, that is, if I could make enough money to do so.
     I texted my best friend, Melissa, while on the Great Divide how I was actually starting to think about hiking the PCT the next summer and her response was one that didn't surprise me whatsoever. She threw out dates and places we might be able to stay along the way and whenever I would text her from the trail, she'd admit her yearning to sleep on a hard ground and be in a constant state of filth, aware of being unkempt and miserable, but be in a spotless state of happiness nonetheless. That's what the trail is. It's maddening and addictive. It requires you to submit yourself to the trail and nothing else and truly, that's what started me out on this, was my mirrored yearning to be dirty and pitiful, finding others in the same plight.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Packing List...So Far.

Pack/ Shelter
Osprey Ariel 55 Backpack
Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2
Thermarest Prolite Plus Sleeping Pad
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Footprint 
Big Agnes Roxy Ann 15 Sleeping Bag

Marika Tek Workout Capris
American Eagle Soft and Sexy Tank Top
SmartWool Bottoms
Button Up Long Sleeve Shirt
Teva Hurricane XLT-Sea fog
Keen Voyageur
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Marmot Minimalist Rain Jacket
SmartWool PhD Outdoor Medium Pattern Crew Socks
SmartWool PhD Outdoor Light Micro Socks
BUFF Headband
Brimmed Hat

Maps/ Permits
Halfmile's PCT Maps
PCT Long Distance Permit

MSR Windburner Stove System
MSR ISOPRO Canisters
Platypus GravityWorks Filter
MSR AquaTabs Water Purification Tablets
Sawyer Mini Water Purifier
CamelBak Antidote Reservoir 100 fl. oz.
Nalgene Water Bottles (2)

Energizer 200 Lumen LED Headlight
Timex Unisex Expedition Trail Series CAT Watch
Olympus Stylus Tough TG-4 Camera
InReach Satellite Phone w/ Charger
Garmin Edge 800 GPS
Samsung Galaxy w/Headphones

Hygiene/First Aid
Bar Soap
PackTowel Ultralite Towel
FirstAid Kit
Pills (Advil/Midol/Benadryl)
Toilet Paper

Trekking Poles (opt.)
Pack of AAA Batteries
Bear Mace
Notebook w/Pen
Ziploc Bags
Duct Tape

GoChia! Chocolate Chunk Chia Bites
Peanut Butter
Trail Mix (almonds, M&M's, cashews, granola)
Dried Fruit (pineapple, ginger, banana chips)
Cliff Protein Bars (Chocolate Peanut Butter)
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Beef Jerky