If I was under the illusion that hiking from Mexico to Canada would make me a more interesting person, my actual experience on the PCT has only confirmed how boringly normal I am. When it comes to colorful character, I can’t hold a candle against the other hikers I’ve met.
Consider this anecdote from a rest day Kristen and I took in Julian, California. We were lounging on the patio of a cafe that caters to PCT hikers, where a young man we’ve gotten to know made a crude joke about slapping his friend’s mother. I didn’t hear the exact joke, but I did hear, along with everyone else sitting around, what came next: A woman hiker called across the patio, “Would you like to slap my mother?”
Our bewildered heads swiveled toward the woman as she reached into her backpack and brought out a small vase. She gestured towards her mother’s ashes, which she is spreading along the trail, and again asked, “Would you like to slap her? I have her right here.”
For the first time since we’ve met him, the young man who made the joke was speechless. After a moment, he bashfully said, “Wow, are you sure? I’ve never actually slapped anyone’s mother.”
The woman walked into the middle of the patio and held the vase in the air. “Go ahead.”
By now the patio, boisterously loud moments ago, was dead silent. The young man walked into the middle, and with everyone’s eyes upon him, he gently, dare I say reverently, tapped the vase holding the ashes.
“What an honor,” the young man said. “Are you sure she wouldn’t have minded?”
“My mother was a cranky old woman,” shrugged the female hiker. “In fact, she probably would have liked it.”
I’m sitting there, my mouth literally agape, just beginning to realize how weird someone must be to want to talk for a 10 hours a day with 35 pounds strapped to your back. The people we meet on the trail are often as memorable as the sights we see.
Another man we met hiking the PCT actually walked to the trailhead in Campo, California… from Texas. Channeling Forest Gump, he said he just wanted a change of pace in his life so he started walking. His backpack weighed around 70 pounds, and mysteriously, he always wore a headlamp, even during the day.
So I’ve come to peace with my relative non-eccentricity. Although we have a lot of hike ahead of us – maybe I’ll absorb some of the local color.
Thanks for reading! We are at Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino mountains, with 275 miles behind us and a mere 2375 miles ahead of us. Here is a photo of Kristen as we enter the San Jacinto wilderness. We ended up summiting San Jacinto, which at 10,700 feet above sea level, has been our highest elevation thus far.