My last day in Portland was agonizingly stressful. Gutting, cleaning and scrubbing down my apartment just a day before I was to fly out was ill timed and, well, that's what I get for procrastinating. Rider my boyfriend helped immensely. It was a tense few days, but everything got done, all goodbyes were said, last emails sent.
We drove together to a cheap hotel off 82nd. Our last night together until I walk all the way back to Oregon. I hardly slept that night. Anxiety has been pulsing and building in my body and it would manifest physically. Feeling like I couldn't breath, my gut in knots, my entire intestinal tract a big angry mess.
We woke together and I showered. It was sad, and I delayed a little. Thinking that the lines at the airport wouldn't be too bad, as they usually aren't.
In the lobby of the hotel I get coffees for us that are too hot to drink. I feel woozy, sleep deprived, sadness for knowing that I will miss him. We load up and drive in the darkness of morning holding each other's hands and letting go as he shifts gears.
It's busy at the airport. It 4:45 am and my flight is out at 5:55. We huge goodbye and I am tearful. I eye the cascading plants off the walls of terminal, everything becoming more and more real. We say goodbye, then I turn and I am alone with my pack and my bag of electronics.
The line for my airline is massive. I wait with stress pulsating through my body. "It's gunna be fucking fine" I tell myself. Hopefully.
I check my pack and run to security. The line extends through more than half of the airport. I almost have a melt down.
Eventually I am through and running to my gate, literally the last one to board. I sit and allow everything to settle.
I won't be settled and relived until I'm hiking and I know it.
I gaze out the window over the Cascade mountain range. Hood, Jefferson, Sisters, Crater Lake, all coated in white. Will it be gone by the time I get there? Will I even get there?
After I land I find my pack. I rip off the plastic bag it was stoed in and, my body relaxes. I heave it. "Let's go, friend" I say to it. My home I will wear on my back.
After wandering a while, I find a short silver haired man named Bob next to a white Dodge Caravan. We eye each other, he gives me a knowing look and I shake his hand. The original San Diego PCT trail angel. He hosts hikers and takes them to the trail head at dirt light, the reason I wanted to stay with him.
"5 people who have come through my house have had to end their hikes. Do you know Ellen?"
"Uhh, yeah. I met her in Portland."
"She sprained her ankle a mile in."
My heart sinks for her. She was a like minded cool person who I was really looking forward to being on trail with.
"She's staying with me, figuring out plan B. Always have a plan B. This is going to be a very tough year." He tells me.
I begin to wonder what I have actually gotten myself into. Like, ACTUALLY.
His house is huge and more or less totally set up for hikers. Everything I could possibly need is there. Two fellows, one from Sweden and the other from the Chezck Republic and finishing their resupply in one room, Ellen is icing her foot in a RV outside. Maria, a gal I'd been chatting with on instagram arrives. We all talk. Unpack and repack our bags too many times to count. Sorting and resorting. Making sure it's all there. It feels overwhelming, strange, all these items. My pack feels huge. All my fears and worries being stuffed into plastic bags.
Maria and I make a run to the grocery store. We buy very specific water bottles that fit well in our packs and work best with our water filters. A sadness washes over me that I have to part with my blue water bottles, the same I carried on the Oregon coast. A weird sentimental attachment to home.
The smartwater bottles really are nice though. After a while, my pack feels complete and I feel comfortable with it. Even though it's 27.4lbs with everything in it. Fuel, 5 days of food and 2.5 liters of water. All of this I will carry into an unknown land. The souther California desert. A magical and mystical landscape in my mind.
Ellen and I get into witch talk. We discuss astrology and we both recognize it's Beltane the high holiday of fire and fertility. We slip into the moody lighting of the RV. "Can I put on some sad boy music?"
"Of course," I say. I pull a few tarot cards for her, then she pulls her own. Then I pull my own.
The Magician, Temperance and the Knight
of Cups. The Knight of Cups says to tread thoughtfully, carefully and touch those watery places, my emotions. This is exploratory, this hike and especially of my own mind.
Another hiker arrives, named Seinfeld* he's excitable and young, he hiked the Appalachian Trail a year ago. He just went through a breakup. We all pad around barefoot, picking at food and laughing and being nervous about the big day. A large golden retriever roams the house named Millie. It feels strange, but it's a safe place being in this strangers house.
We all bed down. Maria and I share a room. I sleep on the floor. We'll rise at 4:15 and leave for the trailhead at 4:45am.