I barely get any sleep – my mind’s constantly bouncing from one incidental to another, and it’s hard to get it to calm down. I know it’s really just avoiding the real start of my journey – leaving Colorado, leaving Spesh, leaving home. Another thought crosses: maybe if I never go to sleep, then tonight will last forever! But I don’t want that, I want to go, want to hike, even if it’s throwing my life into a shambles to do so. Or, at least, the state of my apartment, all a-covered in gear.
I don’t remember getting any rest, but my alarm goes off at 9, and it seems I don’t hate everything, so that’s good. Spesh is still asleep, and I have emails to write to Backpacker1, so my thumbs crash their way across the tiny screen to write out a gear list that seems more involved than the 14.009 pounds actually in my pack on the couch2.
When Spesh wakes, he’s awake, grinning ear to ear to hide his melancholy. We have a pretty tight schedule today – I have to set up the Mountain Hardwear3 tent they gave me for the first time4, shower for the maybe-last time (at least in a while), go get printed maps and permits at the FedEx store, eat at my favorite Thai restaurant. Then it’s the airport and… nebulousness. My mind kind of refuses to go down that path.
Time forces my hand in that regard, and soon enough the tent makes sense and I’m as clean as I’m gonna be and the maps are sitting on the restaurant table as Spesh and I stuff curry into our faces, scrutinize each other to memorize the lines on the other’s face. Nigh-on a half year is a long time.
We trade truths: I’m scared, I say. Of everything and nothing. You can do this, he responds. I’m so excited for you. Some of that excitement echoes in my heart, but the butterflies soon reclaim their territory.
The ride to the airport is shorter and oh-god-longer than I feel like it should be – of course I did math wrong, and I’ll have barely enough time to check my bag and get disgruntled at security and make a mad dash to the gate before the plane leaves. Still, for a moment, it’s hard to care – the most difficult part of my day is letting go of Spesh and walking into the airport.
Five months. A trail lifetime away.
I get to be sad now, I think, as I take my sunglasses off to dry my eyes in the baggage line. Soon, I’ll be happy – there’s an adventure waiting.
Assuming I actually make the plane.
The guy at the counter who takes my pack seems confused as to how to attach the label to the amorphous cover it’s engulfed in, so I’m praying my luggage makes it while I rush to the gate – to wait for a plane that isn’t quite there yet. Womp womp. My mother, on the phone, is holding it together admirably, though I’m amused that we’re both trying to be strong for the other.
Then it’s up up and away to San Diego. Or, as it turns out, Sacramento first, and then San Diego5. Once we’re finally headed south, there are mountains – mountains I assume are the Sierra. They look enormous, even from 39,000 feet, and I gawk at them while the man next to me watches, amused. Maybe he’s guessed what I’m about, what with the odd clothing. Maybe he just likes that people still gawk at mountains.
Landing in San Diego is somewhat anxiety-inducing – we’re literally right beside high-rises, among the buildings that make up the city, but no one else seems to be concerned so I swallow my fear and it all turns out alright. Greg’s there soon enough to pick me up and take me to Scout and Frodo’s place – they’ve offered to let me sleep in their yard, give me a ride to the border in the morning. Greg’s lovely company after the awkwardness of being in an airport in hiker clothes, and the ride to the house is a short one. He quickly shows me around the place – it’s almost hiker midnight6, and most everyone’s already tucked in. Before I settle myself, I get reintroduced to Scout, who I’d met at the last two Kickoffs. He doesn’t remember me, but it’s hard to forget Speshul’s name – particularly since he was one of Scout and Frodo’s first hikers to come through back in 2006, back when they hosted a grand total of 17 hikers. Me, I’m one of 620, so I don’t expect much, but they’re warm and awesome and make sure I have everything I need before they leave me to settle in. Breakfast is at 5:30, and we travel at 6, so it’s a leap into my sleeping bag and a few goodnights to folks around the country before I
wrestle with my sleeping pad for the next 8 hours finally sleep.
 The first of my posts for them should have gone up today, in theory – I’ll post a link as soon as I find it.
 I had it down to 13.823 pounds, but while I talked my mother out of the necessity of bear spray, she insisted I carry the SPOT again. Ah, the things we do for love.
 This sponsorship is amazing for a number of reasons – not only do I get to write for Backpacker in exchange for a stipend, but Mountain Hardware also sent me a bunch of gear to use. I promise this won’t devolve into a Mountain Hardwear commercial, but they do make some pretty baller down products, like the Ghost Whisperer jacket so popular among thruhikers. They’re legit.
 Which is amusing, because one of the first “rules” of thruhiking – if such can be said to exist – is to make sure your gear works for you before you set foot on trail. The gear delivery didn’t allow for such runs before it was time to bounce.
 $98 flight woo
 AKA 9pm. Seriously though, it’s a sin to talk after 9.