Three Days and a Wake-Up. We are finally all three together – Ashley, Natalie, and myself – at Grandpa and Grandma’s. I think maybe it’s a good time to finish the last of our preparation for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. So Natalie takes off for a blues dancing event in Portland and to see her friends from Seattle one last time. I re-engineer my NeoAir sleeping pad. Trim about 18 inches off the length with scissors and iron it back together. Saving a little weight. Ashley sorts her trail food, paints a water color postcard, and sews a silk liner in her wool hat. Late afternoon and Ashley remarks, “I’ve been inside all day and the tree leaves came out. I missed spring. I hope I don’t miss summer and fall.” Well, dear, I don’t think that’s going to happen where we’re going.
Two Days and a Wake-Up. The girls get up late morning. Ashley likes to sleep in. Natalie danced blues with her friends until 1:00 a.m. We’re supposed to visit my mom around 1:00 p.m. But first we have to find some internet access and Ashley needs to shop at REI one last time. We load and shoulder our packs. Ashley gets to carry the laptop – simulates the weight of her food bag. We ride the Max light rail to downtown Portland. On the way, Ashley announces, “I’ve got a compass. I don’t know how to use it. I know it points north, but you can’t follow it because it swivels.” Wisdom. This should be fun.
We find wifi at a coffee house and then at a brewpub a few blocks from REI. The first wifi didn’t work so well thus the move to the brewpub. The girls take turns on the laptop and my smartphone, which we call the gadget. We have no phone or data service, so the gadget is just a wifi ready mini-computer. Ashley and I walk to REI where she selects some socks and a sleeping pad. After more internet time, I remind them Grandma is waiting.
We finally get to Mom’s after 5 p.m. We get a deserved scolding, and then sandwiches. Thanks, Mom (Grandma).
One Day and a Wake-Up. We all get up early. Palpable, excited, nervous tension. Check and pack gear and food one more time. One more trip to the post office to mail bounce boxes and map resupplies. I buy some meds for the cough and cold brewing in my chest. A few more errands and then an hour ride on light rail to the airport.
I look at my pack. I am holding all my possessions in the world for the next few months on my lap. Makes me feel … free.
I finally start to relax on the flight to San Diego. As arranged over a month ago, a man named Girlscout meets us at the airport, takes us to his house, and feeds us pizza. We meet other hikers.
Girlscout is a trail angel. He gives to the trail community by hosting hikers and driving them to the trailhead. Girlscout gives us a pep talk of sorts. He says he used to think you had to be a Lance Armstrong-like super athlete to hike the PCT. But when he hiked a section of the desert portion of the trail, he saw all types attempting and met many who completed a thru hike. So, soon after, Girlscout also hiked the entire trail. Pretty much anyone can hike the trail if they are willing, he says.
Mind over matter, perhaps. Like I learned in the service. If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.
A pep talk and them some sleep.