The following is Part 2 in a series of posts concerning my experience with the Pacific Crest Trail. The previous part can be found here. Each part will have been adapted from journal entries, most often written in the wild. Note that the date and time listed are when the journal entry was written. Thank you, one and all, for your varying support before, during, and after this endeavor. Though little went as I anticipated, it has been a blessedly memorable year.
21 April: Saturday
God did not calm the storm on Black Mountain, but did He make His presence immediately known in the form of a small outhouse. As a runner, there is often a heavenly glow over civilized restrooms, which includes porta potties. Most people do not seem to fathom how blessed that kind of shelter and toilet paper can be. Against the tempest of Black Mountain, this outhouse was a holy sanctuary. I was wet. I was tired. I was in a state of entry-level hypothermia. And I was hungry.
I used the outhouse to first get organized in a dry manner. Aware of the danger of using propane in an enclosed space, however, I propped the outhouse door open, which served well as a windshield. Thank you, Jetboil Flash Cooking System. Hot soup has never been so welcome. I next assembled my tent partially inside the outhouse—a feat that would have been immensely miserable otherwise. I did still have to keep hold of the tent as I assembled it; for sticking halfway out, but protected by the open door/windshield, the wind sought to suck the tent into oblivion. It made me think of a mild tornado. With the tent completely assembled, and the stakes ready in my pocket, I held the solo tent firmly in both hands and walked out resolutely into the churning darkness.
It was still difficult, but I managed to secure the tent while keeping one hand on top of the frame. Some spots of ground were too soft, which would later force me to leave the tent to rescue the rain cover. The first time would be just after I had settled comfortably into my warm 15F sleeping bag.
The wind continued to be truly relentless. I lost a lot of sleep due to noise—gusts of wind and rain—and concern over moisture breaching the tent and damaging my 600 fill-down sleeping bag. Due to the bare nature of the mountain, and the angled site of my tent—which the ranger claimed was probably the best option—the wind and rain were able to find their way under the rain cover. This would require a lot of air drying the next day. Furthermore, the next morning I discovered that my tent was leaning slightly to the side from the incessant brawl with nature.
It rained until a few hours after dawn. My departure routine was slow, particularly because of the wet conditions. I returned to the outhouse to get organized and have some breakfast. Equipped to the fullest, I eventually left the backpackers camp around 11:00. By then the mountain had calmed. A gathering of does dined nearby. The landscape was moist and beautiful. This is why I am doing this, I thought: for moments like these.
The journey back was about 16 miles, but it felt as long as the day before. The winding descent of Montebello Road was lovely, but I was very tired from the sleepless night. And being on a paved road once again reminded me of my slow pace.
Fremont Older was very muddy. The trek across town was uninspired. I hope to never feel that way on the trail. Not to mention being reminded of the frustrating labyrinthine nature of suburbs. I experienced a few failed shortcuts. Another good lesson for someone with little energy: stay on the known course. My body was thoroughly exhausted. The trip did serve its purpose well, but I was thankful to soak my feet in warm Epsom-salted water later that evening.
* * *
The days that followed, like the days before my aforementioned backpacking trial, were a bustle of trying to complete various preparatory tasks. This last Wednesday night, April 18, I was up until 3:30 working with Mama to complete my food resupply packages. I really am a mountain runner posing as a mild-mannered backpacker. What an amateur.
Thursday’s drive to Los Angeles was good. The highlight was a lunch stop in Pismo Beach, one of my favorite California coast towns. The day was bright and warm. The sand glowed. The ocean dazzled. In such a place I find rest. To me, the mountains offer adventure while the oceanside offers serenity.
Now I am in San Diego at the Marriott Hotel on Scripps Highland Dr. Due to weariness and a sore throat, I have delayed my start date another day. Tomorrow I depart. I pray for rest today. I pray for success in completing my remaining tasks. I pray for the will—courage, strength, and wisdom—to do what is necessary. Soli deo Gloria. Amen.
What are you afraid of?