I get off the train and make it onto the last bus. I’m wide awake, the mixture of the strong coffee I brought with me and whatever hormones my sympathetic nervous system is pumping into my bloodstream is quite potent. The LA Union station proper, Santa Ana, Irvine, Oceanside, and finally San Diego. It takes 5 hours to go through all of them and get to San Diego. I sit listening to my music, my leg pumping up and down, my hat covering my face as I try to sleep. Or not even try. There’s a taco place called “Taco Llama,” which I think is amusing, and a place called Doc’s Inn, which is neither an inn or a doctor’s office, but a cocktail bar.
My tailbone aches against the bus seat, my stomach feels bloated and gross. Finally as the sky is starting to lighten we reach San Diego and pull off the freeway. The bus hisses to a halt in front of the Amtrak station. I get my pack from the stow, and look for the Starbucks which I’d heard from Scout and Frodo’s email was across the street. The bathroom is locked so I order some mint tea and get the passcode.
Washing my hands and face in the sink instantly makes me feel better. I settle down at a table with my pack and open my Uber app. I enter Scout and Frodo’s address, and send out the call for a ride. Suddenly there is a black dot on the map somewhere by the intersection, so I decide to go wait by it. But where is it? A little car symbol zooms around and I try to find where I’m supposed to wait. I’m about to cross back to where I think it was when the driver calls me, and eventually finds me. I had no idea Uber was so fast. I get in, checking my maps app to make sure he’s actually taking me the right way.
Here San Diego is hilly, slopes bushy with exotic and bright plants none of which I know. The driver drops me off in front of Scout and Frodo’s house with its big PCT banner, and I spill my Trader Joe’s bag contents out in order to find my wallet to tip him.
Then I nervously walk up to the front door, where someone sees me through the window and lets me in. A volunteering veteran thru-hiker named Peppa gives me the tour. The long night is finally catching up to me and I’m exhausted. The ground sways back and forth under my feet; I have train legs. After I’m done with the tour I eat some of the remaining jalapeño frittata and a piece of banana. Then I claim my spot in one of the big white shade-tents out back and unpack. I hide under my sleeping bag for a while and get an hour’s rest before getting back up and talking to some of the other people. Many of them are foreign, from Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Taiwan.
Two new people arrive and I get to talking to them. Their names are Jono and Rachel, and it turns out they’re unschoolers too, from Seattle, although they’re in college-ish stages of life right now. We talk for a while and then volunteer to go help Scout go shopping for food at Costco. We fill two huge dollies/flat carts with food for all of the hikers. Then we head back and I wander around talking to people and watching people get pack shake-downs from the veteran thruhikers. I talk to Jellebel from Belgium, Adam from England, Alex from Oregon, and others.
Then we have dinner. There are some pasta and chicken dishes, so I get fruit and some broccoli salad and I pick the bacon out. Scout and Frodo give their talk about LNT and trail advice.
It starts to get cold outside and everyone starts slowly dispersing to get ready for bed. Everyone seems excited to start, but I’m just super tired and miss home a bit. Is there something wrong with me for not really being excited at this moment? Does this mean I won’t enjoy the trail, I don’t actually want this, what? Why can’t I just feel excited, or anxious, or anything? I’m confused and I hope everything, including my emotions, will get sorted out tomorrow.