PCT Day 0 – Travel and trail magic!

A summary of the travel involved in getting from Brooklyn, NY to Campo, CA to start my adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail.

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As most of you know, I moved to Brooklyn on February 22nd after leaving my job as a process engineer in Elkton, MD that same day. So, that means that I officially lived in Brooklyn for 11 days before leaving for (not-so) sunny San Diego! Sorry to leave you so soon after finally moving in, Emily.. I love you, and April will come. I promise!!

The fact that you’re hearing from me right now means one thing: I’ve been EVER so fortunate today. But, it hasn’t all been easy..

I flew from Newark, NJ to San Diego this morning through Dallas. The flights were mostly uneventful. But the morning travel from Brooklyn to Newark airport.. holy moly.

After “waking up” at 1 AM in my apartment in Bed-Stuy, I stuffed the last rations into my funky cuben fiber food bag. Aka, I scraped some quinoa from the food dehydrator trays and shoved it into some baggies with already cooked and dehydrated beans.

With my food bag finally full with 7 DAYS worth of trail food, I set off into the frigid AM hours on the quick 1 mile jaunt to the A-train.

I made it with no problems, but it quickly became evident that I would be getting plenty of funny looks and inquiries from the very innocent bystanders of the city world. After a long local train ride up to Port Authority, I found out I had missed the last express shuttle to Newark airport by about 3 minutes. To plan B!

I hopped right back on the E train downtown to the World Trade Center station where I caught a PATH to Newark Penn Station.

As it was now nearing 4 AM, and my flight was supposed to leave at 5, I bit the bullet and paid $11 for an Uber to Terminal A where the nice lady at the check-in counter informed me that it was too late to check my bag. Damn.

Now, I’m no stranger to arriving later than I should at the airport, so, this was not news to me. In the end, I just hopped in the quite-short security line knowing that they typically fail to check backpacks to ensure that they will fit in the overhead bins. I guess most people don’t walk around with overstuffed, 58-liter behemoth backpacks.

Long-story short, I tossed my Squirt (little teeny pocket knife) in the garbage knowing I could pick one up when I arrived in San Diego and ended up being the last person to board (also not the first time that’s happened). When sitting down, the flight -attendant offered me a row all to myself, and I passed OUT. Oh, and the backpack did end up fitting in the ginormo overhead bins of the brand-spanking-new aircraft I lucked into.

The Dallas airport experience was far less exciting. The flight was full, but I had a window. I spent much of the flight checking out the Guadalupe mountains, sprawling salt flats, Tuscon, Phoenix, the Salton Sea, and Joshua Tree. I spent the waning minutes of the flight surveying the San Bernardino National Forest and surrounding mountains: my home for the coming week or two or three. Seeing landscapes from above gives me an intense feeling of longing. It’s not often that I get to see the landscape and then get to immediately go and explore it so intimately as I will this time around. That got my trail-lust thumping.

We touched down around 10 AM California time (12 hours after I had left my Brooklyn apartment), and I grabbed an Uber Pool from the airport to REI. The driver picked me and a nice woman up from the airport and dropped the woamn off at BEAUTIFUL UC San Diego on the way. They were both wonderful to chat with! One had seen Free Solo, and the other had seen The Dawn Wall, and both couldn’t get enough of my adventure plans.

After being dropped off, I spent way too long wandering the store, as I always do when put in the dreamy world that is the land of outdoor outfitters. I’m going to have to grab one of these at some point before I head home..

I used the store Wi-Fi to download the Guthook guide to the PCT through Southern California, I grabbed a replacement Squirt (the pocket knife I lost in the early AM baggage faux-pas), and I asked some dude where I could find a bite to eat. He pointed me back to Clairemont, which was about a mile walk down the road.

I didn’t end up making it to the spot he had pointed me to, as I happened upon George’s Camera. I needed a camera case and a spare battery for my fancy new (to me) point-and-shoot. I picked up a used RX-100 Mark IV last week from B&H Photo in Manhattan. I found both a case and extra battery with no problems.

I chatted with the folks at the store for a few about my plans, as I had done with about 15 people to that point in the day. It’s really hard to avoid those kinds of conversations when dressed in full-on, over-technical hiking gear.

People I have run into generally think I’m crazy, or nuts, or somewhere in between. But, they are always excited for me if they listen long enough to hear why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I ended up at Lolita’s, which is a nice name for a greasy burrito joint. I ordered the Monster (aptly named) and sat down to what I thought would be a long, much-needed rest.

I fiddled with my newly acquired equipment, taking tags off and such. It was a wonderful 10 minutes respite from the non-stop moving of the previous 14 hours.

Then Tony came into my life. He had been sitting just 15 feet from me since I had sat down and started eating my burrito. When he got off the phone, he approached me with a knowing, “you headed out to the PCT? I guess it’s that season isn’t it.” Little did I know that Tony was about to be my first experience with trail magic.

We chatted for a few minutes about his affiliation with the area and the PCT trail community, my plans, my preparedness-level for a fairly early start to a thru-hike, and more. An older gentleman named Richard turned when he overheard “Kennedy Meadows”. Richard wished me luck, asked me to let him know if and when I make it, and said he’d follow along here. Hi Richard!!

Tony volunteers his time to help run a search-and-rescue team in the region, and he just got back from an avalanche safety refresher in Tahoe. He gave me a few pointers, signed up for blog updates (Hi Tony!!! I forgot to get a picture with ya!) and then headed out.

Two minutes later, he popped back into the restaurant and asked me for my number saying that he had reached out to a group he’s involved with, asking if anyone was potentially able to give me a ride from San Diego out to the trailhead near Campo, CA (more than an hour drive) the next morning. He said he’d let me know if anyone responded, but before he could even leave, a friend of his named Kristin replied with an excited, “Sure! What time?”

He got her on the phone right then-and-there and she ended up not only offering a ride the next morning, but a couch to crash on at her place in downtown San Diego for the night! After I got off the phone with Kristin, Tony and I chatted a bit more. I thanked him profusely, and he went on his way again. Only to call a mere 5 minutes later offering me a ride back to downtown San Diego! He showed me the Padre’s stadium, a few cool places to get a drink, and then dropped me at the public library to kill some time until Kristin, my generous host for the next 12+ hours, is able to get home.

And, at the public library I’ve stayed. I’ve been writing this post and checking in with family and friends back home who have all wished me the journey of a lifetime. Thank you all for journeying with me. It’s going to be quite the ride!!

If every day of this trip is like this, I don’t know how I’m going to make it.. hahaha. Luckily, I don’t think I’d be able to create this much chaos on the trail if I tried. But, what do I know..

Don’t expect to hear from me every day. Not at all. Future posts will hopefully include much more in the way of pretty pictures. But, I couldn’t not share the ups and downs and all-arounds of day 0 of this wild adventure.

Yours sincerely!

The pupper.

7 comments on “PCT Day 0 – Travel and trail magic!”

  1. I am proud of you my friend. I plan to follow your journey very closely. May God protect you and keep you filled with blessings.. I tip my hat to you for your determination. High regards always!

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    1. Hey Tom. Thanks so much! The trip has been great so far..have definitely been tested a time or two..but loving it!

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  2. Justin, Tony here… Stoked to see the picture Kristin sent to me of you at the terminus! Vaya con dios, mi amigo. Hang onto my cell number in the event you find yourself needing anything.

    T

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    1. Tony!!! Happy to see you here! Thank you again so so so much for hooking me up with Kristin. That could not have been more perfect. I’ve got your number, and will surely let you know 🙂

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  3. Justin. Sounds like you are well on your way! I love it! Have the experience of a lifetime! By the way, did you get those books I sent? They should keep you interested for a bit. Have a blast!

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    1. I got the books! Didn’t bring them, just because weight is an important factor for me these days haha
      I’ll be sure to read them when I get back!
      Slept under a bridge last night to hide from some rain. I’m getting savvier by the day!!

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