PCT Desert Day 1: Solo

Mile 0 to 15.36

I sleep restlessly, my body feeling the pre-hike jitters and waking me up to get my brain in on it too, at 2am, 4am, 4:30am… In the morning, my mishaps continue: I leave my hiking clothes on the counter while I shower, and afterwards I discover that my shirt collar was just far enough under the automatic soap dispenser’s sensor for it to trigger regular squirts of soap during my entire shower. Lavender hand soap puddles all over the counter and my shirt. I emerge after rinsing my shirt in the sink and tell P., “It is time for me to go away from this world.”

We stop to replace my lost smartwater bottles (I am sending an eyeroll emoji to myself), then head to Campo. The hills rise up around us, big boulders and sandy soil and green green green. I say, “I hope I see every rattlesnake that is near me and I hope I don’t see a single mountain lion.” We see many border control agents on the way in, and I feel angry. I tell P. again how sincerely fucked up it is that I can walk here freely where others cannot, and how I feel the fundraiser for the Border Angels [Link added by me, since I’m doing a bit of editing while Toby’s on the trail but cannot actually consult him on changes. But, you know, donate and/or share if you can! –Cyn] is literally the very least I can do to offset that fucked-upness.

Near the trailhead, the PCT runs right next to the road, and I see some hikers starting out. But when we arrive at the southern terminus, we are all alone, and I am glad. The wall at the border, which I have seen in photos many times, now hits me like a ton of bricks and I can barely look at it. This wall — and all the policing power attached to it — exists entirely to protect whiteness, and therefore to protect me, no matter how much I am repulsed by it as an individual. I take a picture of it. I stand with my hand on the terminus monument and have A Moment. I sign the trail register. I had intended to write in Lucille Clifton’s poem “i am not done yet,” which I kept on my wall all through college and beyond, and which is still one of my favorite pieces of writing. But everyone else has only entered their names and hometowns, so I do the same. (Nearly a mile into the hike, I almost go back to write NO BAN NO WALL NO RAIDS under my name.)

And then I am hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. I see P. drive away as I’m hiking next to the road. Bunnies skitter across the trail, and the big power lines sizzle and crackle as I walk under them. I hit the one mile marker and check my watch: 20 minutes. The trail doesn’t feel familiar yet — a few more miles, maybe. I have to pee, but there’s nowhere to go without crashing through a lot of brush, and I’m too scared of possible rattlesnakes. When I cross the railroad tracks, I see I’ve done three miles in exactly one hour — to the minute. Maybe I’ll be able to do ten by ten (ten miles by 10am) soon! I walk down the tracks until I find a little hidden spot to pee.

About five miles in, at a water source, I find other hikers for the first time — I recognize one, Lionheart, from her blog (and I’d seen her name in the trail register), say hello, and hike on. Later I meet Brian (or possibly Bryant, I should check) and Cami, and still later Courtney, Julia, Tomas, and Kara-oke. Kara-oke and Lionheart are the only ones with trail names so far. I’ve decided not to introduce myself as Cocoa, the trail name Cyn decided on for me last summer, so I can see what name the desert might give me. Though I will probably have to stop being so much of an introvert for that to happen.

In the morning, the trail is just a series of gentle undulations, but by 11ish it’s a steady uphill. Not too steep, but up up up. The views are beautiful up here, even in the burn area everything is eerily beautiful. It’s been cloudy all day, and we’re all thankful, but it’s still warm out. I find a granola bar wrapper on the trail and pack it out. I pass a few more folks and stop for a snack. When I start again, my hips hurt. They feel tight. I try to adjust my pack but it doesn’t help. I think about how my friend J., a bodyworker, has me practice walking after a zero balancing session, and try to do that now, smoothing out my stride. This helps a little.

Every single living plant is blooming. It’s unreal. In a “normal” year’s late April, you’d have no water source for the first 20 miles. This year, there’s water all over the place, flowing strong. I started out with nearly four liters and could have carried half of that, or even less. I consider the importance of water, think about the desert, Flint, the pipelines.

My feet start burning on the downhill into Hauser Creek, where I plan to camp. A fews tenths from the creek, my left big toe suddenly feels like it’s on fire and I curse what must be an enormous angry blister, but I carry on — I’ll tend to it at camp. I’m one of the first at Hauser, a little after 3pm, and pick one of the many tent spots clustered under the trees. Pitch my new tent (not a perfect pitch, but serviceable), say hello to some of the others camping here. Everyone (and their gear) looks so shiny and new. They’re all friendly, but I’m feeling the lack of sleep and crawl in my tent to eat and then examine my feet. Surprisingly, there’s no blister, just some red skin. I decide to tape it in the morning, and silently praise my toe socks + Altra Lone Peaks footwear combo for taking such good care of me. People are still trickling into camp — it’s a big group, almost as many as that night at Red’s Meadow. I might have to find a more solitary place tomorrow night, but it’s kinda nice to have companions on the first night out, even if everyone is much chattier than me. Lots of folks saw snakes today, including a few rattlers, but I didn’t.

I walk for a long stretch away from camp, dodging the poison oak, to ensure I have a private spot to pee. I’m just gonna be honest here, the bathroom issue is not any better for trans people out here than it is in the off-trail world. Maybe I’m underestimating my fellow hikers camped here (it would be great if that was the case), but this bathroom trip is the most unsafe and vulnerable I’ve felt all day. I wish Cyn was here to be a lookout for me. I wish Cyn was here in general, even though I do also enjoy solo hiking (I am relieved that today’s miles confirmed this). But I have so many things to tell her, and I find myself wondering what we would have talked about today if she’d been hiking with me, what jokes we would have come up with, how the day would have been different. It is a bummer to have a whole lot to say and not be able to talk to the person you most enjoy talking to. But I am feeling good otherwise, and grateful to be able to do this amazing beautiful thing all on my own. No blisters, sunburn, or snakes = a solid first day. Tomorrow I have a big uphill first thing, into Lake Morena where I hope to have pancakes for breakfast!


I have to put photos at the end because phone blogging is annoying. This is the (current) border wall.


At the southern terminus.


One mile down!


Three miles in an hour. I will not be able to sustain this pace.


The pretty.


This had to be crossed. (An easier crossing point was a few feet away.)


I saw about fifty lizards today but this was the coolest one. So flat, such a stubby tail!
“i am not done yet” by Lucille Clifton

as possible as yeast

as imminent as bread

a collection of safe habits

a collection of cares

less certain than i seem

more certain than i was

a changed changer

i continue to continue

what i have been

most of my lives is

where i’m going


2 thoughts on “PCT Desert Day 1: Solo

  1. I just found your blog from your comment on Vanessa’s (Scissors) blog, and I’m so excited to see a fellow trans person doing the PCT! I’m a friend of Vanessa’s and love hiking and have been so inspired by her blog and others so far. I’ve got my own hiking goals for the summer and have been wondering about how other trans folks handle trail stuff, since this will be my first summer where I’m starting to “pass” and not be read consistently as male or female. And I often hike with my partner, who is a trans woman. So many more considerations now. So, I’m happy to have found your blog and will be following along 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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