Gravity and Graduation
Day 22 (cont)
Trail Angel Rich drove us out to the trail head at Inspiration Point and hiked in with us for about an hour. He got really excited about the trail and possibly preparing for his own future thru hike. The PCT has a magnetic energy and I think we all could tell that Rich is getting close to taking that first step.
I felt so lucky at the Inspiration Point trail head. A fellow trail runner from LA left me some trail magic -- fresh fruit and treats -- under the sign. This gift reminded me that I'm close to home, and that people are paying attention and really do care. Thanks Chris!
We hiked 8.5 miles straight up Mt. Baden Powell and camped at 9,304 feet. We made it just in time to watch the sunset. We cooked our dehydrated dinners as the natural light began to fade, and the glow of the city surrounded the mountains.
The moon was bright, the food was warm, and once again I wondered "Is this for real?!".
I laid in my tent listening to Bob Dylan. I remember the soothing sounds of 'Corrina, Corrina' and at some point I must have drifted off to sleep.
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Aaron's drone!
LA Aaron returned to catch us hiking around Angeles. He tested out his new drone to get some shots for our big time documentary. We impressed the local hikers for sure.
After 8 miles we found ourselves at Islip Saddle, and Aaron's car. We were treated to fresh watermelon, avocado, and beer. While we were sitting, and waiting for Prickles and Utah Aaron, two separate random deliveries of trail magic arrived. First, an older man who claimed to be a "registered trail angel". He confidently walked up to our picnic table and said, "I don't have any food but I grow my own weed and I'd like to give you a bag". I guess being outdoorsy comes with a certain assumption. We just sat dumbfounded and confused.
Later, another gentleman arrived to drop off a bag of oranges. They were devoured immediately.
I met a man named Eric who was taking children out to train for a hike to Havasupai. He leads trips for inner city youth in Los Angeles. We talked about the greatness of using nature to teach leadership and confidence building. We talked about the lack of resources for these types of programs in Los Angeles. Our conversation brought me back to my other passion of working with kids, and the thought of connecting nature to the work I do sounded incredible. Hopefully I will reconnect with Eric when I return from the trail.
While we waited at this picnic area I got a surprise. A new pack! Aaron brought my new Boreas bag, and I traded out my worn small bag for a fresh medium.
Eventually, Prickles and Utah Arron showed up. They made a wrong turn and added four uphill bonus miles to their daily total.
Upon their arrival we came up with a plan for the next part of our journey. There is a PCT closure coming up due to an endangered frog, and hikers have two options:
1) Take an alternate along the road.
2) Take the OFFICIAL trail alternate which goes through one of my favorite areas, Devil's Punchbowl, and adds 13 more miles to the section.
Excited, and surprised, my crew was down for option 2. We hiked down to a campsite, made a fire, ate dinner, and slept to the sound of flowing water in the Punchbowl.
This morning started off with a strenuous climb up the Burkhart Trail. On the way up I chatted with new friends. Jake and I geeked out about gear. "Happy" (who didn't seem so happy with the ascent) was excited to find out I was from Silver Lake, his former home.
Most of the day I hiked alone, and by late afternoon I was relieved to have found my family sun bathing in a pool near Buckhorn campground.
I was so happy to find them. We rested, sun bathed, and hiked on.
We decided to go about six more miles before camp. It was magic hour and the the mountains were putting on a great show. I was hiking alone when I peered over the cliffs edge. I laughed out loud at the beauty of my local mountains. At the faded daytime moon that sat on top of the peaks, waiting for its turn to shine.
The crazy thing about living out a dream is that sometimes it still feels like a dream. I am 400 miles into this journey and I still can't believe I am here. I am hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
I AM HIKING THE F**KING PCT!!
I continued to walk and suddenly tears filled my eyes. Maybe it was my hormones or maybe the endorphins, I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. I stood still at a mountain pass and stared at that moon. I looked down and the descent that I was about to run down, full pack and all. I thought about my mom. I thought about Aunt Dona. I thought about my Grandma. I thought about everyone that I love and I felt so lucky. To be able to breath. To be able to move. To be in the mountains, to feel strong, to do what I love everyday.
To feel so happy.
This morning we hiked into 3 Points trailhead. We sat at a picnic table, took a short break, and chatted with a forest ranger about hiking.
The last time I was at 3 Points I brought trail magic and sat with a family that was hiking together. I've come out to this section of the PCT tons of times to run. Every time I've come out in the past I hoped that I would run into thru-hikers. To get to feel a part of the magnetic trail energy. To feel a part of someone else's adventure. To share space with the wanderers -- those that are brave enough to step off the beaten path -- to take the less socially acceptable route. In my mind their journey seemed more like a movie than real life. I remember feeling sad the days I would come out to run and the trail was void of any hikers.
Now I'm here. I still can't believe I'm here.
Last night Kim accepted a new trail name. She has evolved from Prickles to Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! (not to be mistaken for the musical group). If you met Kim the first things you would notice are her big beautiful curls, her smile, and her enthusiasm. Whenever she gets excited her whole face lights up and she proclaims, "Yeah!!! Yeah, Yeah!!! Yeah!" This reaction could come from anything. Being offered a tasty treat, coming up with a hiking game plan, or just deciding to sit and enjoy a moment. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Definitely suits her better.
Anyone who has looked closely at my knees knows that I have problems with gravity. Today I took my second spill scraping my right forearm and left knee. Minor wounds, but painful nonetheless. It was a grueling hike to the next rest area, but it felt good once I got there. I found my friends sprawled out, napping and relaxing. And, we enjoyed cold sodas (thanks to trail magic).
It was dark by the time we got to the Indian Canyon trailhead when Steve pulled up unexpectedly. Steve was an innocent bystander looking for a bathroom, but when we saw headlights our faces lit up like we were going to be saved.
Steve knew what we were. He walked out of his car and with a friendly smile said, "I am sorry but I am not here with any snacks, I am just looking for a bathroom." We chatted for a bit, but it didn't take long before Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! asked, "But are you our ride?"
He could see the desperation in our eyes. Steve chuckled and happily offered to take us to the grocery store in Acton, CA and then back to the trailhead.
We spent the night eating REAL food at a picnic table. Drinking wine. And unsuccessfully avoiding the fire ants that came in the night and feasted on our bodies while we slept in the parking lot.
As per usual, the day started with Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! and Utah Aaron taking off early and Cosmo and I lagging behind. We had a moderately easy stroll through Vasquez Rocks. I was hiking along, alone when I started to hear a somewhat loud buzzing noise. I looked to my left, just off the cliff and there it was...DRONE! I smiled excitedly and to the drone I said, 'Hi, Aaron!"
We hiked into town, ate lunch at the diner in Agua Dulce and then headed over to The Saufley's, aka Hiker Heaven.
Hiker Heaven has ALL the amenities. Internet, laundry, space for tents, and good folks all around. As soon as we walked in through the gates I looked to the left and found 4 dogs and dog beds. That is where I remained until we left.
After we got our resupply boxes Aaron let us all pile into his car and took us back to Los Angeles.
It was surreal to have my new trail family in my actual home. It felt really special to share a bit of who I am when I'm not on the trail. And, of course, to introduce them to my babies.
One month ago I promised my students that if I could make it back to the area by their graduation I would do my best to attend.
I showed up wearing my hiking outfit underneath my graduation gown. I was nervous to be back, but was immediately greeted by one of my students, Esmeralda. She ran up to me right away with open arms. 'Ms. Lani! You made it back! How is everything going?'
I got caught up with my co-workers and felt incredibly welcome. Mr. Delfino, school principal, gave me a shout out in his opening speech letting everyone know that I walked 453 miles to be there. I felt shy, and slightly embarrassed, when he asked me to stand up for a second to be recognized in front of an auditorium of people. But, I was quickly comforted by the cheers and support of my students. I've missed them tremendously.
I feel so happy to have gotten the opportunity to see these kids grow from 9th-12th grade. To be part of their journey, and to see them walk that stage, diplomas in hand.
It was bittersweet afterwards. There is never enough time to catch up with everyone, or to say goodbye. But they all knew that I had to go back to the trail.