I’m in LA! The beginning of my Pacific Crest Trail adventure. For those who don’t know, it’s a 2650 mi / 4265 km trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border, and runs through California, Oregon and Washington. I’m planning on walking the entire thing in the coming five months and I’m excited. I’ll be doing daily blogs and will be uploading them from towns along the trail. They won’t be as crafted as my previous blogs but they will be very off-the-cuff instead. So keep reading along!
In LA I get to see my friend Dana who I only see every few years, so it’s a great excuse to stay in town for a few days. Dana drives me to REI where I ordered a load of gear, the craft store to hunt down the perfect pair of tiny scissors and the supermarket for my first resupply. When I’m ready to go I meet up with Speedy again, who I met on the TA in New Zealand. We figured it would be nice to start the PCT around the same time, so we get on the Amtrak train to San Diego together.
In San Diego we stay at Scout and Frodo’s, who are trail angels (people who help hikers) and they open up their house for three months out of the year to host hikers, feed them, educate them on trail etiquette and take them to the trailhead. It’s a tightly run organisation and it’s an amazing place to start the PCT. We get picked up from the station and receive a tour of the house and get shown how everything works. There are about thirty hikers at the house, and 25 will be going to the border the next day. And we are two of those.
Once were at Scout and Frodo’s I still have a lot to do. I figured hiking in the US would lend the perfect opportunity to order gear from US ultralight companies and I had it all sent to San Diego. All my big items are here – my backpack, tent, quilt, jacket alongside a range of smaller items. I spent the week before worrying about my tent from a US company called Tarptent – when I checked the postal tracking, it appeared to be stuck somewhere. A priority package that should been delivered within three days was still in transit after 14. I panicked and contacted Tarptent who sent out a new one at the very last minute. So the first thing I do at Scout and Frodo’s is check the shelves of the garage with all the packages – and there are two tents. They both arrived.
I spend the evening in the living room organising my gear. Scout and Frodo are brilliant and tell me they will look after returning the second tent. Then I’m on the floor and find myself in a little crowd of amused hikers watching me open things and try and allocate everything in stuff sacks and then into my new pack. It’s stressful to do this at the last minute, but everything fits. Except I have too much food. I tried to bring just what I needed for the first three days but a lot of the packaging was larger and I didn’t want to throw anything away. Now I look at it and know it’s way too much.
I weigh my pack. My base weight is about 5.5 kilos (12 pounds) and with all the food and 1.5 litres of water it’s jumped up to 12 kilos (26 pounds.) It’s a lot. The good thing is that there’s been a record rain year in the desert, so we don’t need to worry too much about water – in any other year I would’ve had to start out with at least 5 or 6 litres.
People start going to sleep in the large tents set up outside, while I still struggle to arrange everything. It’s well after ten when I’m the only one still up and I’m in the garage trying to activate my Straight Talk SIM card. It doesn’t work. The package comes with a few different SIM cards from different providers and I try several, but none of them work. I paid over $300 for a six month service plan and it won’t activate. I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m about to head into the desert without a phone. I go to sleep and don’t feel ready at all.