I wake to the sounds of the lapping water. There are clouds and misty rain this morning. I’m happy for a Seattle morning. I hiked too far yesterday and my ankle is letting me know about it. I decide to do a short day to El Cajon Pass and stay at the Best Western there.
This day and yesterday are filled with man-made interjections into the natural landscape: dams, trains, and public works. I feel in between these two – a tiny blip, slowly moving across the screen of the terrain.
I spend this slow time thinking about my relationship to the trail and the hike. I think about getting to Canada, my pace, keeping pace, competitiveness, hiking your own hike, and the quote, “right way to do the PCT.” I’ve heard hikers claiming, “we’re the fast kids from Kickoff” and “if you’re not crushing at least 25 miles a day, you’re doing it wrong.”
It’s easy to get caught up in keeping up. This is one of the ways the trail is simply a 16 inch, 2,650 mile microcosm of everyday life. As I walk, I try imagining walking deeper inside myself. I do my best to dig past the fear and expectations connected with the hike. I wrestle with all the versions of the PCT experience that my mind had created and offered as fact. I do my best to dismantle them.
With this deconstruction, things start to appear a little more beautiful. A little bit of lost wonder comes back. I take some days off from hiking in Wrightwood. I meet and talk with more trail town dwellers – a water engineer, an Argentinian expat, a retired couple riding their BMW motorcycle up the West Coast. I allow a more natural flow of time to be re-inserted. Breathe in. Breathe out. My hike will be my hike.
A trail angel named Laurie is generously letting me stay at her cabin. Gil is in town too. We make dinner in the cabin’s cute kitchen and talk about the challenges of hiking your own hike. He has been thinking along a similar vein. We decide the challenge is not so much getting to Canada, but hiking towards Canada as yourself.
The next day is Memorial Day and Wrightwood is yard sale heaven. I cruise around, chatting with folks and looking for a small stuff sack. Instead I find guns, ammunition, stuffed animals, fishing poles and toilets for sale.
I then duck into the Evergreen Café for breakfast, possibly my favorite place to eat on the trail so far, and learn the proper way to eat pancakes.