Synchronicities are a dime a dozen on the trail. Somehow, just when you desperately need it, the universe manages to serve all the correct ingredients at the right time to make you stop and think, ‘huh, now ain’t that special.’
Some synchronicities make you wonder how much time the trail gods have on their hands because the meticulous planning involved in bringing people or acts of nature together at a particular time is often astounding.
I experienced my own trail timing this week when I passed through San Diego on my way back to Vancouver. It’s the beginning of the hiker season, and I bumped into a woman named Jan who knows Scout and Frodo, two infamous trail angels in the San Diego area, who take hikers in and help them through their often scary and nerve-riddled Day Zero.
When Jan told me they were looking for drivers to take folks to the Southern Terminus this weekend, my eyes lit up. She also invited me over to Scout and Frodo’s for dinner on Friday night to meet the hikers who were staying with them.
I won’t lie. I was also riddled with nerves. Partly from excitement, partly from the idea of being in a big group of hikers when I’m not a (current) PCT hiker, and partly because I was borrowing my friend Donna’s standard 4X4 and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to drive it. Oh, and directions… I didn’t have data on my phone so no Google Maps.
The dinner at Scout and Frodo’s was a beautifully executed operation, an A+ in my humble event planning opinion. But what I loved most were the hikers. Some were madly arranging their last bits of gear, others were helping with dinner, and some were merely basking in the afternoon sun in the back yard focussing on their journeys ahead. There were the shy types, the loud and obnoxious talkers, and the quietly confident hikers who had at least one thru-hike under their belts. I felt instantly connected to them all.
That night, before my 4am wake-up call, I also read in the PCT’s Trail Dirt newsletter that two extraordinary people would be volunteering at the Southern Terminus the next morning. If you followed my PCT adventure, you’d remember the glow stick hike UB organised from Hiker Town along the aqueduct for a fellow hiker named Glow in the Dark. Glow in the Dark and her husband 3-Guy were hiking sections of the trail in 2013 amidst her cancer treatments. Patti has written an incredible book about her battle with cancer and her journey along the Pacific Crest Trail called Hiking Cancer, which includes in the glow stick hike and photos from the event.
Glow in the Dark had no idea I was going to be there, yet the moment she spotted me, her eyes lit up with recognition, and we fell into an emotional embrace. It’s funny because Glow in the Dark and I had never actually met before, though we’ve communicated so much through my blog and via email that it felt like both her and 3-Guy have been friends for years.
Once the main group set off from the terminus, I set off on my own, hoping to spend some quality time alone with the trail to reflect on my experience six years earlier. It’s amazing how many things looked familiar, and yet how much I completely didn’t recognise. I forgot how many buildings there were near Campo, and that I didn’t feel like I was in the middle of nowhere until after mile two.
I’d organised to meet Glow and the Dark and 3-Guy back at the terminus at noon for lunch, so I decided to walk as far as I could in the three hours I had. At one point I felt like I’d been transported back into trail life when I noticed there was no artificial sound, and all I could hear were the birds and the breeze whooshing through the canyon. I could feel my loose strands of hair caressing my cheeks, and remembered just how meditative hiking can feel when you’re completely removed from civilisation.
Every hiker I bumped into during my eight-mile sojourn became an instant friend. That’s the beauty of the trail community on the PCT, there’s such a profound sense of belonging you never feel alone out there because everyone’s connected, not only by a physical pathway, but their common goal of reaching Canada. I think of hikers on the PCT as electrons travelling down a wire. The trail harnesses an energy I could feel so intensely I could have run all the way home to Vancouver instead.
The timing of my reunion also held significance. I finished draft five on my manuscript the day before, and it’s been almost six years since I began my PCT journey on April 15, 2013.
I took the below video to articulate the exact feeling of this reunion, and I think the hardest reality to swallow was the notion it’s almost time for me to move on from this experience and step into a new chapter. It’s a tough thing to do. It feels akin to breaking up with a beloved partner or the death of a life that once was. But part of me will always be on that trail, whether I’m walking it or writing about it in my memoir.
As Ravenson said in 2013, “Though we take the memories with us, we leave part of ourselves behind.”
Happy trails class of 2019!