Here We Are.
Well. We’ve arrived at the point I knew would come sooner than I’d like. And of course, it did. But I’m ready.
Michael has been ready for weeks. Oh, there have been a few last-minute changes and unplanned trips to REi and a mad dash yesterday to apply for a passport. But by in large, he’s been planning and preparing for close to nine months and while he’ll admit to being nervous, I know that he’s ready and excited and anxious to get this thing started.
People have asked me if we’re taking Michael to California to start the trail, which of course always makes me feel guilty and question my decision to let him go alone. But seriously, what 20 year old wants his mom dropping him off on the self-discovery trip of a lifetime? And then I read this: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/environment/sdut-san-diego-pacific-crest-trail-angels-2016apr15-story.html
Angels help Pacific Crest Trail hikers
Someone rings a metal triangle and a couple dozen people dressed in colorful hiking clothes make their way from a backyard covered in backpacking gear to the dining room.
This evening’s dinner at the University City home of Barney and Sandy Mann is organic soup. But the main course is actually the conversation — the sharing of anecdotes from the trails, the swapping of tips for making coffee or filtering stream water, the laughing that’s a sign of giddiness about what could be the trek of a lifetime.
Every April and May for the past decade, the Manns have shared their home, time, food and other resources with hundreds of people preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail — a 2,650-mile journey from Mexico to Canada that stretches through California, Oregon and Washington. The route is billed as the world’s longest continuous hiking trail. This spring, the Manns anticipate hosting close to 600 people. That would be an annual record high for these so-called trail angels…
I don’t know that these are the people Michael will stay with tomorrow night, but if they’re not, he’ll be staying with other kind souls just like them. Whoever they are, they’ll pick him up at the San Diego airport, and along with about 20 other hikers from heaven-knows-where, they’ll all stay the night, have dinner, talk about the trail, fill their water bottles, and have a launch party together. That’s way better than Mom driving you.
I’ve really worried about Michael being alone. Anyone who knows me knows that I speak often of the need for community and if I have one underlying belief that fuels me (other than love and faith) it’s that the power of community can overcome all adversity. It’s certainly been true in my life. So I’ve really fretted over the idea of my son, who I think of as a shy man of few words, being alone for five months. I’ve particularly feared him sleeping alone on the ground in the woods (must be the mother in me. Or my fear of snakes.)
But he explained to me the other day that this won’t be a lonely experience. He will start off with people he knows, thanks to his trail angels on Friday night, and he said people tend to stop and camp together, and that he’s looking forward to camping with other people, sitting around at night, sharing stories. They give each other trail names, and catch up with one another along the way. Perhaps this is more of a community experience than I’d thought.
I’ve been plagued by that film Into the Wild, fearing that’s what my son is about to head off to. It’s helping me today to realize I am wrong. That’s what I’m choosing to believe, anyway.
*Photo credit for the tarp-tent picture above goes to Jocelyn “Patches” Songer, PCT 2014 et al. You can read her terrific blog at https://resonantliving.wordpress.com/2014/12/24/the-gear-that-got-me-thru-pct-gear-list/