I barely sleep. None of us are sleeping. I wake every half hour it seems, tossing and turning. Bolts of anxiety and excitement course through me. At long last it's 4am and Maria rises from the bed, I follow suit.
I dress and pack quickly. We're all wide awake and the nerves that we all have are palpable. We run around with coffee and bagels in our mouth. I grab tangerines. My gut feels like death. We forget last minute things. Eventually, we're all in the car. Me, Maria, Seinfeld, Vladimir and Fredrick. We all feel sick with nervousness, and laugh at each other.
Then, we're flying down the road and soon, driving through Campo. The momument rising up out of the sky and we all collectively and most dorkily all expel the release of build up to this moment.
For me, a moment I have worked 2 and a half years to achieve. It's here. I don't even know how to feel. It's so overwhelming, so exciting, so scary!
WHAT AM I DOING?
In true Aries fashion, and without even trying I am first to sign the register for the day and to begin my hike. I heave my pack like the good and trusty friend that it is and I'm off, alone.
I check in and feel everything in my body. My left knee has a slight sensitivity to it, my feet feel alright. My right shoulder feels tight. My shoes feel ok, a tiny bit tight around my toes along the side. I wonder of blisters, but I can only find out.
Soon Seinfeld joins me. Then another named Brook. We hike at a good pace into the cool morning and incredible landscape. Massive rocks, rolling hills and plants I don't know pull at me, but we move along.
"We're doing it!"
"We made it!"
"This is surreal."
We all explore basic questions about each other and talk while we walk. The hills roll up and down and the sun begins to climb up in the sky. At 5 miles in, we stop for a break in the shade and change our clothes. Heat is beginning to build. One of the hikers dog is running around and getting dirt on things, he chews on my pepperoni stick a little and his human chides him for it. He's a Germanshort hair pointer named Ragnar.
Maria and I linger together when she arrives for a break. We decide to hike off together into the heat. We climb and climb. Neither of us really accepting that what is happening is actually real.
"I built up this feeling I thought it would feel like," I say. "And it's totally different. This is real."
We pause to find shade and some water. It trickles down off a boulder and it's cold. Fredrick the Swede shows up, and in one of our first acts of thruhikers, we bunch together under a sliver of shade and eat snacks.
A few other hikers pass, and we get up. The trail climbs a bit as we move through an old wildfire burn. I can hear an elusive rock wren laughing, hidden somewhere. The trail then levels out and I'm hiking at a good pace, it's only getting hotter though. The sun presses down on me. So this is how it'll be.
Eventually, Maria and I stop at a little cove in the shade with two other hikers. It's hot and we're cranky. We've done 10 miles by 11am. Not bad for a pair of new hikers. We eat chips and pick at our feet. The other two hikers are Idan and Brook. They step out into the heat. Maria offers me avocado and a tortilla. I mush in the avocado and add ruffles "all dressed" potato chips, then I roll it up. It's delicious. Maria drops her fresh avocado chunk into the dirt.
"Eeeeat it!" I say. And she does. She then becomes known as, Dirty Avocado.
She suggests the name Magic to me, but I don't know how I feel about it. The right one will come, and I will know.
We get up, the rest does wonders for us. We head out into growing heat of the day. The trail meanders, dipping and climbing here and there. It's beautiful. I find my groove. The caffeine pill I took earlier is buzzing in me.
I come upon my second water source. There's so much water in the desert this year. Most of this area is usually bone dry. The water is a blessing, it keeps our packs light. I meet a girl named Fran. She has a raccoon on her hat and she seems cool. It's her first thruhike. I gather my water and decide to push it into Hauser Creek, my camping destination for the day.
I feel so very good. The hike is beautiful and it's hot, but tolerable.
I pass many other hikers. We say little aloof hellos in passing and size each other up. Who is going to become my trail family? Will I have one? Will I make friends out here?
I step out into a road and begin the small descent into the creek, a buzzard rides the drafts coming up through the small valley. A hiker catches me from behind and he tells me he's out of water and thirsty, so I offer him some of my own.
When I reach the creek, there are lots of people there taking a break. Many will push up over the high hill into Lake Morena. I am choosing to keep my mileage lower rather then pushing it. I feel good and my feet are blister free!
I lay in the grass. Watching folks gather water and eat. I talk with a Canadian named Denied. I show him my chips "I call these Canadian flavor." A nearby man looks at me weirdly. I feel strange and misunderstood all of a sudden.
Maria and Vladamir arrive and we move into the trees to find our spots. So many hikers are there, 20 or more. I touch my things and wander kind of aimlessly. Poison oak is everywhere. I don't really know what to do. It's still very light out with lots of sun.
I pitch my tent and sit in the dirt to make a meal. Fran is next to me. The expression on her face is exactly how I feel. Sad, bewildered, wondering why I am even out here. Will I actually want to go through with this I think. Like am I mentally capable? Especially with the doubts being sown over this high snow year and what waits for us in the Sierra.
I can barely eat my mac and cheese with tuna. I think I have poison oak on my leg. I kinda need to poop, but I don't wanna force it. A very strange melancholy washes over me. All these people here, and I feel so lonely.
I look at my legs and feet, they're so dirty. After just one day!
I turn into my sleeping bag and, have mixed feeling and I listen to the sound of border patrol helicopters flying above me.