Alive.  Pantsless.  More on that later.

First thing’s first.  If ever you find yourself to be a Canadian, and you have in your possession a device called a “Smart Phone” that is ostensibly not a virgin (not a Virgin), or not perhaps a Verizon phone you bought off Ebay (my phone kept autocorrecting that to Evay), then – and here is the important part – do not spend a week after purchasing a SIM card and a plan at a Verizon retail outlet in San Diego assuming you might be able to actually use that purchase for anything other than hours of frustration with tech support and constant “no service” messages in place of the 5 little dots, only to be told by tech support that “of course you cannot activate a non-Verizon phone on our network kind Sir” and then refused a refund by Daniel (last name Verizon Supervisor) who doesn’t appreciate that you are talking to him via skype because you don’t have a working phone (oblivious to the fact that indeed the phone in question is the one registered to the afforementioned Sim card and plan) from the smallest town (population 52) in all of California.  On the other hand, if you do find yourself in that unlikely scenario: Don’t panic.  Did you remember your towel?  If indeed you did remember your towel (wipe off the dirt first) it would be prudent to first call Keisha at the Verizon National helpdesk and graciously admit what an imbecile you are, then use the towel to wipe the sweat from your by now very moist brow.  There you are, all better.   It seems Keisha holds no grudges and not surprisingly owns her own last name (as well as the appropriate level of creativity afforded those free of the “of Verizon” so Locutus mantra).  The growing though bubble (rage bubble) that was hanging over me like a 4th wall reminder that I probably don’t want or need phone service right now, has now been emptied (mostly to my embarrasement all over Daniel, though it should be noted that he most definitely was not listening anyway).  Thankfully, Kathryn did manage to find some licorice twists and peanut butter cups, and even knew better not to buy a large bag of Dutch mints covered in chocolate (because clearly those are only edible twice on Sundays).  Crisis averted.

Back to our storey from where we left off.  Ignoring the above, our start on the PCT has been wonderful.  There are two so called “Trail Angels” who are former PCT hikers who’ve taken to helping would-be PCT hikers get a good start.  Scout and Frodo are two of the kindest and most generous people we’ve thus far met.

Scout’s van.  Kathryn is in the front seat, and Frodo is driving.

They open up their home to sometimes 30 hikers every single day (avoiding the temptation to insert periods after each of those was won by the attrition of many footsteps), and educate, shake-down, and feed this crew.  Every single day.  Hiker season is March through July.

We were fortunate to be given a guest bedroom in their house because of marriage* (it’s why we are gathered here today … or rather mawwiage “skip to the end”).  *Kathryn said to me yesterday “If you get blown over the edge remeber to yell “as you wish” during your fall”#. #I’m too lazy to write this at the bottom.  #Garfield.  (Note, the first hashtag was in place of ** because I thought that might get confusing.  The second hashtag was to  commemorate a trail name we gave to Scott Totty (the former he accepted and the later he refused)).

The majority of single hikers are set up on the astro turf in the backyard.  Scout and Frodo are very conscious of our impact on this delicate place, and the 5th year of severe drought in California, so they don’t tend lawns or flush down anything but the brown (which echoes part of the familiar rhyme recited by our hosts or other Angels performing the ‘house and facility tour duty’ if Scout or Frodo are otherwise occupied when new hikers show up.  Scout was incredible enough to pick us up at the airport in his van waving the chatacteristic yellow pompom on the passenger window.  A few other hikers were already in the van.  It felt like the first day of school and Scout was the bus driver.

Eliot (who is a very impressive, kind and gentle soul).  Roel who also wishes for a stroopwafel.

The monument looks as you know it, but the area surrounding and bordering the 10foot wall this side of Mexico is a lush and green chaparral.

The monument.  The fence behind us.  The beautiful southern California.

There was a cohort of about 30 of us that started on the hour (~7:46am).  I hooked up my desert umbrella and felt cool under its (proven defunct claim: because convective circulation negates the benefit) reflective covering.  The shade provided by any umbrella – reflective or not is however about 10 degrees cooler at mid-day.  They are also good for about 10 times the frustration in anything but a mosquito’s fart.  Light breeze?  Might as well add 50 pounds to your pack.  Fifteen miles went by in a hurry, but not quite as fast as the first mile led us to believe.

So fresh.

We camped in a small shaded valley at the base of mount doom with about 10 other hikers.

Doesn’t look like much.  On a hot afternoon this is enough to kill an even 5/7.

Garfield and Memphis didn’t mind our 4am waking to hike the hill before sunrise.  Pre-dawn hiking is incredibly pleasant when the weather is quiet.  Birds and lizards go about their business, and sleep during the heat.

Some plants along the way.

After the climb, We took their cue and ducked out of the sun meeting up with Roel and Stefan in Lake Morena (which is now an idiosyncratic name). Lake Morena is the most remote of all San Diego’s reservoirs.  The campsite diagram on the welcome board lists a beach area and a boat dock – neither see much use in the vacancy left by consumption.  Kathryn and I carried far more water than we needed.

The trail to Lake Morena in 1 and 2.  “Lake” Morena in 3 and 4.

Stefan’s feet were decimated by the previous day.  The balls of his feet were blister, and he walked like his ankles were broken.  He quite smoking the morning we left but there is no evidence in his upbeat smile (not that his teeth are yellow,they are quite beautiful, really.  He is just a great hiker with a good attitude. I’m Im not sure I needed to spell that out, but I’d hate for him to read that and miss that I was inferring that he held no self pitty in his smile.  Language barriers.  No hashtags )

We all chose to push on in the ealier morning to Fred Canyon.  A very beautiful day with so many surprises in the scenery and flora.  I had expected dust in my sun tan lotion.  Didn’t get either.

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