I have been on the Pacific Crest Trail for one month now. One month! It feels like yesterday I started, I was back in Campo without a clue about what I was about to do, but no, I've traveled over 600 miles on foot. 600, wow that number is crazy to me! I can't believe that nearly one fourth of the whole trail is now behind me. And still I continue without much of a clue.
This first fourth of the trail is considered the desert section, and before I actually experienced it, I imagined it so differently than it turned out being. While there have been plenty of truly hot days with little shade that tested my resolve, I also hiked through so many different areas that weren't desert at all. Lots of high passes through pine tree zones, most notably that areas around Wrightwood, Big Bear and Idywilld. And other locations really reminded me of where I grew up in Carmel Valley, the smell of the oak trees, the chirp of the grasshoppers in the tall grasses, the rolling brown hills...it made me really miss that area. Also in this desert section, I've swam in lakes, relaxed in a hot spring, collected and used snow as a way to cool off, and seen the stars like I never have before. It's been truly a unique experience.
That being said, I can't wait for the next leg of the trip, the Sierras! No more 20-30 mile sections without water, no more days without shade and hopefully no more sand, just bears, high peaks and cold nights! Can't wait.
Another aspect of the trail that I've thought a lot about is the balance between the mental and the physical. Before this trip started I would have thought that balance skewed more to the physical, now I know it's the opposite. You need a basic level of physicality, definitely, but out here it's all mental. The walking uphill in the sand, the sun, the switchbacks, the long heavy water carries, the blisters, the setting up a tent in the wind, the food you're sick of, the gnats, the unknown, the everything. All those difficulties are being achieved by every type of body out here, but we all have our different ways to cope. My ways continue to evolve, sometimes I grit and bear it (which usually ends up with me in pain), or I just stop. I stop, I sit down, I eat something, relax, and realize that if I don't do whatever it is I'm doing at whatever pace, it will be completely fine, the trail will always be there.
Hike your own hike.
Now for some photos.