Australia, Long-Distance Walking, USA
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Kicks & Giggles: Lake Morena, 2010

A year ago today I was at the Lake Morena campground, settling in with a few hundred other excited hikers for a weekend of fun. The ADZPCTKO — Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick-Off — was underway at last.

A piper greets the campers on Sunday morning, Lake Morena

It was a convoluted and protracted journey for me just to get to the little settlement of Campo in the arid border country east of San Diego, even before the walk to (well, towards) Canada had begun. I’d flown to LA from Brisbane, then got a local flight to Louisiana to hang with some old AT friends for a few days, then back across to San Diego. The flights were shambolic and stressful — I don’t have a very high opinion of American domestic air travel — and in comparison the hiking looked like being positively relaxing. Lots of steam to blow off.

I was lucky to have a couple of hiker-volunteers waiting for me at the S.D. airport; promptly ferried to the lovely home of Scout & Frodo, trail angels par excellence, I joined a dozen or so other waiting hikers. Soon a convoy of angels loaded us into their cars for the trip out to the Kick-Off and the beginning of an incredible adventure.

Anyway, it’s Easter and I’m waiting for my friend Chris to turn up in his sister’s car so we can head south-west for a few hours to Sundown National Park and a few days of camping and exploring the gorges snaking off the Severn River. While I wait with my freshly loaded pack, here are a few shots from the Kick-Off 2010. Sweet memories indeed. Best of luck to the Class of 2011!

I didn’t notice till I got back from the Trail and started looking through my pictures that among that group in the right foreground are several hikers I wouldn’t meet for several hundred miles but who would become great friends: Trouble, Dude, Granite, Terrapin, Fidgit and Rif-Raf:

Trail friends -- as yet un-met

Hikers are a motley bunch. There was even a crew of wayward trail pirates at the Kick-Off. This one, ‘Argentina’, I later met again at Kennedy Meadows on the southern edge of the Sierra:

"Anybody seen my parrot?"

One chilly afternoon I was standing on one of the big boulders on the edge of the lake clutching a tepid beer. There was another hiker up there who turned out to be ‘Freebird’. I told him I’d been reading his blog posts about the awful snow up north (he’d hitched down for the Kick-Off). He confirmed that there was a lot of the stuff. A LOT of the stuff. Here’s Freebird on the left of the boulder:

Hikers like standing on things when they chat

I asked him if he was the same Freebird from the Appalachian Trail in 2004 — he was indeed. “I used to read your entries in the registers,” I told him. “But I was never able to catch you.” He was fast. We did some A.T. reminiscing and he shepherded me back from the edge of the boulder. “You have to be careful where you stand, especially when that stuff is involved,” he warned me, indicating the beer. Jesus, he was right — one backward step and my hike and probably my spine would have been history. Good advice. Freebird took this shot of me with the trail north in the background:

Lake's edge, beard-free and innocent

The Kick-Off was really well organised. On arrival I was given my “backstage pass”:

I felt so special

Hikers gathered in their hiking year for the commemorative shots:

Class of 2009 reunited

Another chance meeting: Shin, a Japanese hiker. We talked briefly about Japan, met again at Kennedy Meadows, and ended up doing much of the Sierra together, with his friend Tacoma:

Shin, from Tokyo, and Mt Fuji

The night before my arrival, wretched weather had struck the campsite upending tents and unnerving quite a few hikers, who were given an early demonstration of the kind of treatment their shelters would have to stand up to. My home-made tarp (see GOAT GEAR, above) passed the test overall, and I didn’t end up getting wet till a couple of awful nights in northern Oregon:

My campsite, Lake Morena

People were on their best behaviour — so many trail angels had put in so much work to feed us. Even a sight like this failed to spark a riot:

A battalion of brownies

Three meals a day, all free. It was glorious:

Trail chefs

It was weird leaving this instant community for the relative solitude of the first few days on the Trail. But long trails are themselves ragtag, fluid communities. I liked my solitude, but long before journey’s end I had a bunch of trail compadres I’m happy to still call friends…

Piper heralding the dawn of a great adventure



  1. Catherine L.M. Trouble Murray says

    Hey thats ME in the green rain coat! I knew it was fate all along! You saw how cool we were and were stalking us from the beggining…… It all makes sense now! But truly, who could resist Figit and I?
    Miss you terribly! Come out to see The Dude and I soon, OK?
    – little missTrouble

    • Yeah, Trouble, it was a pleasant surprise to go through the KO photos and find all those people I would befriend hundreds of miles later!

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