Getting ready for any trip, only bigger

After a last beautiful Saturday in Seattle and celebrating Stacy and Kevin’s wedding it was time to get ready for a trip, well the trip. In someways this morning was like any other morning apres a hike, scramble, climb, or ski tour: finish packing the last odds and ends, add a few more snacks to the “go bag”, make sure Gracie (our kitty) has what she needs, check the stove, check the light switches.

Only this morning we weren’t leaving for the day, or two, or even a 10-day vacation; today we we’re leaving for 4-5 months! Both Gabriel and I felt a little nervous for some unexplained reason and Gracie seemed to sense that this trip departure was different from the usual good-byes. Hence, she was standoff-ish (atypical of this kitty) and this made us feel a little more guilty and a little more nervous. But then, our taxi arrived and it was time to say good-bye to our lovely home and view of the Sound.

Our taxi driver ended up being the same man who drove me to the church the day before. What a juxtaposition between trips. Yesterday, I had a bridesmaid dress and heels in tow. Today, Gabriel and I had our backpacks and hiking clothes on…the majority of what we’ll need for 4-5 months. Traveling along the Viaduct we admired the sun’s morning glow lighting up the Olympics and the calm, deep rich waters of Puget Sound. A gorgeous spring day in Seattle, it also hinted that we’d have good views on the plane flying south.

Our flight down to San Diego followed much of the PCT and with only a few clouds in the sky we got to see much of the trail’s route! From Mt. St. Helens down I could look out the window and follow the chain of volcanoes and lakes that are vistas and destinations along the PCT: St. Helens, Hood, Jefferson, the Three Sisters, Crater Lake, Shasta, Lake Tahoe, the Sierras and the deserts and hills of southern California. It was a beautiful flight and I couldn’t help but marvel that here we were, actually traveling down to San Diego to hike the trail of our dreams.

Once more, the thought ran through my mind that it was taking us 2-plus hours in a plane to travel the distance that we’ll be hiking over the next few months. During the plane ride, Gabriel mostly napped, waking up when I started to get all “marmot-ed up”about certain mountains or landmarks.

We landed in San Diego around noon, got our backpacks (thank you Alaska Airlines for keeping them with our flight and all in one piece), and walked out of the airport to 80 degree temperatures and bright sunshine. We knew we weren’t in the Pacific Northwest anymore. Gabriel found a nice shady lounge spot and we waited for Scout and Frodo. These trail angels whom we’d only corresponded with via a few emails we’re coming to pick us up at the airport. They’d offered to let us stay at their house and intended to drive us to Campo… no other contact needed. Gabriel hadn’t heard from them that morning by email or phone, so we wondered if we we’re still on their list of hikers to host. Little did we know how much these trail angels had been busy with getting hikers to the PCT’s kick off event, the Annual Day Zero.

Soon enough Scout drove up with Oregon Ducks pom poms streaming from a mini van and we we’re whisked away to the pre-trail staging ground of Scout and Frodo’s house. These trail angels are truly amazing! They graciously host 100’s of hikers throughout April and May, picking them up from the airport or other depots, taking them to the trail, feeding them dinner and breakfast, and have all the amenities to take care of last minute needs in close proximity (in our case: tortillas, cheese, stove fuel). They listen to the eager talk of soon-to-be hikers day-in and day-out and let 20-plus people at a time sleep in their house or camp in their backyard. They do this all with smiles on their faces, hugs, and love for fellow hikers and the PCT itself. It is incredible to experience this kind of generosity from (one-time) strangers and it really does inspire one to do more for others (on or off the trail). Already I feel a renewal in appreciation and faith in humanity.

Scout and Frodo’s home welcomes hikers with a PCT flag over the front door. They provide cotton clothes for those who want to experience cotton fabric “one last time”, have scales to weigh gear, extra plastic baggies, hiker boxes to trade or contribute gear to, and much information about the PCT.

We completed our last minute shopping errands and got our packs organized. Both Gabriel and I hadn’t actually weighed all of our gear in our packs at home-as we don’t have a scale that goes above 11 pounds. We we’re both pretty excited when we weighed our packs and learned that my base weight was 13.1 pounds and Gabriel’s was 14.1 pounds. Not too shabby, considering we had a few luxury items with us. With water and food, our packs weighed a little less than 30 pounds, which is lighter than they’d typically weigh if we we’re going off for a climb. In this case, it was time to hike three days through the desert, chaparral and forests of the first stretch of the PCT.

Besides the welcoming setting from Scout and Frodo, they also have neighbors who assist them from time to time by hosting hikers with a delicious dinner. We we’re fortunate to come on one of those nights when neighbor and fellow PCT hiker Jan and her husband “Sherpa Jim” provided such a meal and evening. We enjoyed appetizers and easy conversation on their beautiful backyard deck that looked over the chaparral canyon and attracted oriels, humming birds and other birds that reminded us were were in San Diego. Our dinner was full of trail talk, hiker experiences, Fred Beckey and the mountains of the Cascades (Sherpa Jim used to live in Seattle and climb there too). It was also a nourishing meal of squash, farro, sauteed portabella mushrooms, salad, and brownies with strawberries for dessert. So delightful! Especially thinking about the meals we’d have in the days to come; nothing as fresh or as delicious this dinner. Jan and Sherpa Jim thank you for a wonderful evening and may we continue to help others on-trail and in life.

We walked back to Scout and Frodo’s in the warmth of the evening under a dark sky of many stars. Soon after watching the “big news” of this day we were in bed, trying to sleep with the excitement of the day to come.

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