Thursday, August 4, 2016

Reaching for Freedom

May 6, 2016

The time I've been awaiting since last getting off the trail in 2014 is finally here! It was a rough time through all those months on the trail, and I thought that I had sworn off hiking forever. But once I returned to the "real world," I quickly missed the richness of life that I was immersed in daily along the trail. And so, here I am again on the Pacific Crest Trail, yearning to visit places that I haven't seen and eagerly delving into the lessons that are already starting to unfold.

Millie, Bob Riess's "princess," visited me often in my room.
When I left Moab, I was afraid at the thought of hiking solo. But once I signed the trail register at the southern terminus of the trail at the Mexican border, near Campo, and began to walk, I knew that everything would be okay.

At the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail, near the Mexican border.
Trail angel Bob Riess brought me and a new friend from the Netherlands to the trailhead. He had picked me up from the airport a few nights before, and I stayed at his home for 2 nights. I enjoyed a private room with a balcony, view of Tijuana, and frequent visits from his "princess," Millie. Eighteen years ago, Bob became the first trail angel in San Diego. He had been on a hike around the Yosemite/Tahoe area with his son and met some PCT hikers along the way. Later he read some of their trail journals and found that it was fairly unanimous that their worst experience on the trail had been in San Diego - many were stranded in bus stations and on the street with nowhere to stay. So he decided to take in these hikers. He taught for most of these years and would take hikers to the border early in the morning before school, and up until the point of retiring, he never was late for work.

Posing with Bob Riess.
A woman from the Netherlands peeking through the fence at Mexico.
Bob stayed until we signed the trail register, and then we were off for an adventure that would last for months - though it felt like a dream that would lead us back home in a week. But over time, through all the joys and hardships shared with new friends, the trail would become home. I walked up and down the fence at the border and took photos, being interrogated by border patrol a couple minutes later because of all the footprints I left. And then, as a raven saw me off, I walked on in the rain through the most spectacular show of desert wildflowers I've seen by far. The sun peeked through the clouds and a rainbow spanned the sky, a promise from God that everything will be absolutely glorious in the months ahead. And then it rained some more... and hailed. I met many friends throughout the day as I made the unwise decision to walk a few more miles than I should have on my first day - 20 miles to Lake Morena. I remembered once again the pains of the trail, though I would get accustomed as time went on.

But now I have so much joy again and more appreciation for the hike than ever before. I'm a bird released from the cage! I am tasting some freedom once again!