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North Texas


In the 24 hours before hitting the trail I was driven to and from my school's graduation ceremony by Brantley, driven to the airport by Daron, flown to San Diego, then was driven from the airport to the trailhead by a Trail Angel named Carrie. At the end of all that, I was ready to be moving on my own power. After an obligatory photo at those starting point, we were off. For the first few miles, I was so excited that whenever the trail went downhill at all, I was running.

After one mile I came to the water spigot at Campo and filled up all my bottles entirely. That added at least 10 pounds of weight to my pack, but I was so excited I didn't care and barely noticed. Kept pushing along at a high speed, eager to show this trail what I was made of.
The first few miles melted away.

I had almost forgotten how meditative and peaceful hiking is. After going ten months straight listening to loud people on a daily basis, this was a breath of fresh air. Finally, I could quietly do something uninterrupted.

Because my flight had been delayed over an hour, I was starting the trail at 3:00 in the afternoon. Originally, I had planned to crank out 15 miles. Those hopes to were all but dashed. But after making good time early on, it looked like that might be possible, especially since the moon was in a waxing gibbous phase, perfect for night hiking. As luck would have it, in the early evening, clouds rolled in. There would be no moonlight for night hiking.

I pressed on anyway and covered the last couple miles jogging downhill holding my cell phone in one hand as a flashlight. Finally made it to Hauser Creek after dark and managed to set up my tent. Luckily, I've set it up hundreds of times, so it was no big deal. Slept peacefully underneath the trees, next to a creek which didn't exist.

The next morning I met what I presumed was my first thru hiker. He was camped out on the other side of the creek the night before, and I hadn't noticed when I got there in the dark. I waved as I walked past his tent. He was still sitting inside, packing up his stuff for the morning.

Before you knew it, I was at Lake Morena, five miles up the trail, where a lot of people try to get in their first day. There was a sign posted:

All PCT hikers must check in at the ranger station.

I walked half a mile back to do so. When I got there, the ranger explained hikers only have to check in if they're planning to camp. Still, the ranger was a cool guy, so I was glad I at least got to meet him. He asked how my feet were, then pointed out I was still smiling.
"You got this, man, if you're smiling, you're winning!" Then he directed me toward a gazebo where the hikers tend to hang out.

I went over there and met two other hikers who were still packing up their stuff for the morning. They were both big guys and looked like they'd gotten their butts kicked the day before. They'll either make it as heroes or won't make it at all.

About noon, I made it to a public campground where I set up to eat lunch in the shade. There was a water spigot, but I still had half to water I'd filled up in Campo almost 24 hours earlier. Maybe I don't need to carry so much. I didn't add any more. That may have been a mistake.

The rest of the day was a long, long, slow, steady, and especially hot climb with essentially no shade. It was at this point I realized I left my hat behind when I packed up camp this morning. No way was I going to backtrack half a day, then hike the same half-day all over again (a third time) for a hat. I did my best to rub sunscreen on my scalp, through my hair.

Halfway up, in the only shady spot all day, I met a small group of hikers. Two of them were from Portland, one from San Antonio, and another from Pittsburgh. His name was Garfield and he had hiked the AT before. The two from Portland looked like they were getting their butts kicked by the Sun. One of them had developed plantar fasciitis.

After several hours, in early evening, I made it to high enough elevation to see trees again, and the occasional creek. I sat in the shade, drank the little water I had left, and filled up a few bottles. Only a few miles up there was a public campground, and for a dozen miles after that, wild camping wasn't allowed. I'd probably have to stop at the campground.

Once there, I spent several minutes searching for the ranger station. All I found was a dropbox for camping fees and dozens of screaming kids. Yeah, like hell I'm paying $25 to listen to this all night. I decided to get outta there and do my best to stealth it.

Just went I was about to leave the park, I asked some campers if they knew how to get back onto the PCT. They pointed to a side trail right next to their campsite, then asked, "Are you hiking the PCT?"
"Where you plan to camp tonight?"
I shrugged. It was about 7:30 already.
"Do you want to camp here with us? We got two sites and half of us aren't coming because they thought it would get too cold."

I looked around. I hadn't seen any screaming children in this part of the campground. Yeah, I could do this.

I set down my pack and was promptly handed a glass of red wine. That was followed up with a salad, some badass teriyaki glazed chicken, more wine, and s'mores. Two days in and I already knew this might be the best meal I have on the entire trail.

The group, whose names I sadly forgot by the time I wrote in my journal, were from San Diego and were going camping on Memorial Day weekend. I was lucky enough to bump into the right people. Quite a few of them wanted to hike part of the PCT, if not the whole thing, so they picked my brain for a while, in between talking about the public education system. Seems like everyone supports their local schools, but no one is happy with the system. Almost everyone has an idea or two, and most of them are good. But if nobody likes the system, who is tailored for?

I got up well before the group, and by the time I left, I hadn't heard them stirring at all. Got a beautiful view of the desert early in the day.

Mid-morning I ran into a group of college students and, through no one's fault but my own, followed them up the wrong trail, adding about a mile to my day. That wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't also, by far, the most difficult hill of the day.

I met another hiker and we leapfrogged each other a few times in the morning until we finally started hiking together around noon. His name was Nevin, from Calgary. We stopped for lunch together, after which I split off, intending to make some big miles today. I left him with my instant coffee.

The rest of the day was a long steady downhill, so it should have been easy. But it started getting hot again, and there was no shade whatsoever. By the end of the day my lack of a hat was noticeable; I could feel my scalp and neck burning. I tried rubbing sunscreen in again, to no avail.

On the way down, I kept meeting hikers on their way up. What were they doing out here, on a day like this? And why were they all going uphill? One couple, Carmen and Dwayne, were unusually excited to see a real, live PCT hiker. OK, I guess...I'm basically the same as them, but smellier. They were also easily the most chipper hikers I met all day.

With about five miles left to go, I met another hiker, Monique, from France. We conversed in French briefly, but not for long, because I pressed on at a quicker pace. Finally I made it to a water cache and decided to set up camp there. A beautiful full moon was rising over the desert, now illuminated in purple hues by the last time rays of sunset. I wished I still had my hat.

When I started setting up my tent, I noticed a problem. I didn't have my stakes. I must have left them back at the campground this morning, lying on the ground, having forgotten to pack them up. I'd have to make do without them for about a week before getting to a town where I could buy some more.

May 27, 2018
from PCT South
Jerry Harp...Linden, Tx.
Looking forward to more of your adventure. Good read.

Jun 04, 2018

I am a carbon-based life form.


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