Day 5: Never the Same
It’s just now occurring to me that Michael may look and sound very different next time I see him. That makes me happy and sad at the same time, in that confounding way that only grown ups who love children can understand. Because you know what’s happening to this person is good but still, you fear losing the person you love. The child that you love. Even while that child finds himself.
My sister Shelley was the first to suggest this to me a few days ago, when she saw photos of Mike and said “That’s not the preppy Michael I know!” And its true. Even before he left on Friday, this adventure had changed him.
Today, I am completely happy about it all. These first five days of walking have gone really well. He’s had cell service, his phone battery is holding up, he’s walking and camping with a small group of friends he’s made already, his shoes don’t hurt, he’s sent a messaging saying he’s OK each night and called from both towns, and the first box was there for pick up, like clockwork.
For those of you tracking him, he left the trailhead Saturday morning at 8am. Its just south of the mountain town of Campo, California, on a path that winds to the US/Mexico border. He walked 20 miles on Saturday, set up camp, nursed some sunburned calves and hands, and slept out under the stars, he said. By Monday, he’d made it to his first stop, Mount Laguna, and collected his first box. As of today, he’s traveling with a small band of new friends, camping together every 20 miles or so. He should be at Warner Springs, and Box 2, by Friday.
You can see a much clearer version of this at https://www.pcta.org/discover-the-trail/maps/
Today he called from the small mountain town of Julian, just off the trail. He was at the home of a “trail angel”, along with 20 other hikers. Thanks to these kind people, he took a shower, did his laundry, and was about to head to town to eat pie–something apparently people come to Julian to enjoy from all over California. It looks to be a delightful place: http://www.desertusa.com/cities/ca/julian.html
Because of the sun, he and his band of friends have taken to walking in the morning, stopping to sleep awhile during the heat of the sun, and walking again in the late afternoon into the early night hours before setting up camp. I asked him what he loved best and what was most difficult–he said the people were the best part, and the walking is the hardest part. He said he loves that he’s carrying a tarp rather than a tent. So far, he hasn’t set the tarp up at all, he simply sleeps on the Tyvek paper under the stars.
His voice sounds different. Calmer, slower. On Saturday, when he called after the first 20 miles, I said to him “Can you believe, after all this planning, we’re talking and you’re actually on the trail?” He said “no. I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable.” By today, all he said was “this is so much fun.” He sounds like he’s been there all his life.
In five short days, my son has gone from being a kid with a plan to being a Pacific Coast Trail Thru-Hiker. There’s only one path in front of him right now and its a path that makes him happy. I couldn’t want more for him.
Keep walking, Michael. I can’t wait to meet you when you come home.