My final week on the Pacific Crest Trail, south bound, started in the quaint town of Warner Springs. I picked up my package from the post office, for the last time. I found an awkward place to charge my phone, for the last time. Eventually I got myself back on trail, for the last time.
I devised a plan to make the last 109 miles go by at a true slug pace. My goal was to walk a mere ten miles a day. In order to make those relatively few miles take as long as a regular day of hiking I decided to go barefoot. I wouldn’t want to walk barefoot to my car in a Safeway parking lot, but out here it feels right.
Soon after I ran into one of the most well stocked water caches I have ever seen. With nearly two full pallets of water no hiker left this place thirsty. As I settled in for the night I was treated to yet another glorious desert sunset.
The next day I walked fast, the town of Julian was just ahead. After practically running the remaining 13 miles I arrived at Scissors crossing and hitched a ride into town. Julian was bustling, a rare sight for towns along the Pacific Crest Trail. As usual I made a beeline for the library, after a stop at “Mom’s Pie.”
That night, back on trail, the stars were gleaming, whispering, “You are going to miss this when it is all over.” Whether they meant the trail or something larger I was not sure, but I was sure they were right.
As a week turned into a few days and the distant mountain ranges of Mexico came into sight, the bitter sweet realities of getting off trail seemed more real than ever before.
On one of my last days I ran into a group of hikers I had last seen in Washington. Exchanging stories and emotions about the past three months, since we had last seen each other, gave me a glimpse of the past 1,460 miles. Doing this trail ‘backwards’ social run ins are a rare treat, walking at a slug pace they are even rarer.
After being left in the dust (as per usual slug pace procedure) I arrived at Lake Marino. It is a trail landmark and often the first campsite for northbound hikers. As I camped near the trail famous reservoir, I recalled my first night on trail, near Stevens Pass. My tent had more condensation, that night in Washington, and perhaps I was a bit cleaner but my outer circumstances looked very similar. However my inner state was a far cry from what it was that fateful night four months ago.
After over four months of hiking I ‘arrived’. Being at the border was surreal and exciting. I put all of my emphasis on the journey, as opposed to the destination, but this destination was too big to ignore. The end of every trip marks a beginning. For me it is the beginning of a road trip up the west coast. Slowly working my way up Highway 1 and giving my feet a break, will provide me the time and space to process my trip, plan for the future, and acclimate to civilization.