I met CD in 2006. He thru hiked the PCT in 2004. His first day on the trail was April 28. I remember it because it also happens to be my birthday. At this point, I advocate celebrating the anniversary of his first day on the PCT along with my birthday.
He kept a trail journal and has offered it to me. This is just the beginning.
I know very little about his time on the PCT. He has told me that the first few weeks were a time of transition and learning. He went from hiking with a friend to hiking alone. He re-organized his pack and overhauled his food plan.
He told me that prior to being on the trail, he imagined walking and walking just to see what was over the next hill. He underestimated the people and relationships that make up the trail.
Walking over 2500 miles by yourself in order to better appreciate human relationships seems counter-intuitive. It is also an interesting topic in light of the past 6 weeks of physical distancing in the face of pandemic.
CD tells me that he experienced his first trail magic just a few days into his hike.
He states: I was hiking through the hundred-plus degree desert sun and contemplating how much water I didn’t have. I had been reluctant to hike too far off trail for water and was pretty sure I could make it to the next source. I laid down on the side of a dirt road, put my feet up on an embankment, and tried to make my own shade.
Despite the heat, a family was settling in for a picnic up the road. Within a short time, the father came up and asked me where I was hiking. He was quite excited to learn that I was, indeed, on my way to becoming a PCT through-hiker He gave me water, fruit, and Gatorade. It was just the sign that I needed to let me know that I was on the right path.
With this, CD had his first glimpse of how much larger the thru hike was than just the trail alone.
He went on to Warner Springs, feeling lonely but not as thirsty as he may have otherwise been. Fellow hikers offered him a room to share. Being early in the trail, there were more questions than answers. He wondered: How fast should I hike? How long should I rest? How much should I interact with people? What was my larger goal? Was there supposed to be a larger goal?
It sounds like all of these questions were a collective work in progress during the next four months.
So, happy PCT kick-off anniversary CD. Lets walk around the block and see if we find some trail magic. I bet we will.