Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back on the Trail

Each year, over the last weekend of April, there is what is known as ADZPCTKO, Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off. Basically, a small reunion and workshop for the coming year’s thru-hikers including snow reports, water info, trail conditions and the other important things for new hikers to know.

For those not familiar with the term ‘thru-hiker’ that’s someone who will attempt the 2,670-odd mile walk from the Mexican border, Campo, to the Canadian border at Monument 78, in one straight shot over a 4 to 6 month period.

I attempted a thru-hike in 2006 and filmed a documentary of sorts on my journey called “Walking West with Freedom”, but I was stopped cold by one of the biggest storms to hit Washington. In fact, the storm wrecked the wonderland trail for a bit. I knew it was over when it snowed for days and the ice storms wouldn’t cease. Someday, I’ll make up those 200 miles.

But, as for this year, there is good weather expected, for the most part. The high passes in the Sierra, San Jacinto, Badin Powell and a few other high points still carry dangerous snow and ice, but should be passable soon. Since I was only out for 8 days this round, I hitched around these spots.

South of Silverwood Lake, I was taking a break in the afternoon shade at a closed picnic area and as I am just resting quietly something catches my eye. Without sitting up I look over to see what has the stride and size of a hyena. I sit up and look closer at this thing walking across a parking lot fifty feet from me. It’s a big dog! “Hey buddy!” I say with a whistle, the thing looks over. Not a dog but a large, cat with a long tail. Mountain lion! Awesome. He studies me for all of two seconds, turns and struts away in no particular hurry. I am stunned and in awe. What a great thing to see!

When you hike, you always share info, water distance, road distance, good camping or just a story and a smile. And it’s funny to me that for the most part, hikers will undersell the distance to the next landmark. “How far is the water?” “Oh…ten fifteen minutes.” Figure forty minutes. But time is relative when you hike and all situations and conditions are subjective to your day.

The closer I get to the border, the more hikers I meet. I met strangers telling me they have BOTH of my documentaries and that they have watched all of my clips on YouTube about hiking and tell me how they inspired them to get out. Wow, how humbling and energizing it was to hear that, it means a lot. I truly appreciate that what I love affects people in a good way.

The stars out here are amazing. You can sit back and see the roundness of the horizon, each corner filled with stars. And the included star chart in the Obi 1P I am carrying comes in handy when trying to recognize the constellations, pretty cool bonus! The wilderness is without question the best place to fall asleep. I feel safe, loved and comfy.

Onward into the heat as we drop in elevation toward lake Morena for the kick off. I arrive to see old friends and new ones. As soon as I step from the trail to the parking area I am invited to a cook out by Shroomer’ and Boomer. We drink eat and cheers the hike. I find my site and rest for a bit after getting registered. There are a few things I want to see, mostly the films, and my buddy Jester’s ‘WIZARDS OF THE PCT’, since I’ve yet to see it all. It’s going to be good to sit and laugh with pals. All around the campsite I see various NEMO tents. Good to see people are getting the net on the designs and durability as well as the weight, which most hikers put first.

The first two days go by quickly – shows, presentations, hiker Olympics, food (thank you PCT crews!) and of course, late night fire party…which I sat out the second night, it was SO COLD. It must have been 40 degrees when we all watched Jester’s film that night. I ran back to my tent and called it a night, I could hear a few people laughing in the distance and I wish I was there, but my Obi and my sleeping bag were so cozy that I didn’t see the point in getting up and getting cold again. There’s always tomorrow, right?

Sunday, the end…where did it go? Well, some trail angels and very close pals of mine, The Andersons, Joe and Terrie, rent out a spot nearest the trail so they can welcome people in as they make their first twenty-mile day. It’s also an excuse for all of us to relax one more day. We have fun, eat Terrie’s world famous ADZPCTKO chili, drink and make merry. The end of the evening is capped by a game called Edward 40-Hands, wherein you get two 40’s of Mickey’s malt liquor taped to your hands and you have to be the first to drink them without going to the bathroom. Yeah, hiking ain’t all work. And when the night was done, there was my soft Zor™ self inflating mat waiting on me inside my tent….oh baby, I do love the outdoors and hiking and the people that inhabit its world. Really, if you don’t get out much, get out. Soon.

In fact, as soon as I finish typing this, I’m heading out for five days! See ya out there!

~Lion King

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