Column: Hike for charity continues through the desert
Hot! Well, that’s what they said the desert would be like. It’s 7:30 in the morning, Thursday the 9th of May, and I’m shivering. There’s a dense fog surrounding us as we stand on the north side of the border with California and Mexico; we can hear automatic rifle fire coming from the distance on the southern side. Our nerves are high and our minds drift in contemplation of what may lay ahead. This is it. This is the moment we have been planning for over the past year. Had we set aside enough time and money? Can our bodies really stand up to the punishment of walking 20 to 25-plus miles a day for weeks on end? Are we really going to try to walk 2,660 miles? Maybe we are crazy.
The previous day was spent purchasing food supplies for the next four days and weighing our packs, trying to strip as much as possible without giving up any necessities. My pack weighed in at 25 pounds without any water. Andy’s, my brother, weighed in around 27 pounds, our friend Abe’s was around 25 as well. We stayed at the home of two persons who had already hiked the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) a few years earlier. They went by the names Frodo and Scout. Scout had picked us up from the train station, provided us lunch at their house, showers, dinner, a bed, breakfast and a ride to the trailhead the next morning. All of this was done without want or request of any reciprocation at all.
I had expected the desert to be a dry, dead waste of land filled with little more than sand and venomous snakes, but everywhere I look there is green. The desert isn’t dead at all. In fact, it is a vibrant oasis of life. Sure there are some scary animals like rattlesnakes that may cause a hiker to have their entire life flash before their eyes when walking upon one, but there are many other animals that are a true joy to see. Everyday we come across rabbits with ears so long one wonders how they can hold their heads up, lizards that scamper in front of us across the hot rocks, eagles that can catch the wind and float suspended in the air, motionless.
At night the desert really starts to come alive. As the sun sets and the temperature drops everything seems to pop its head out to see what’s going on. Often we can hear coyotes in the distance performing an ancient call and response across canyon valleys the same way they have done for thousands of years. The desert is beautiful!
Though trees are sparse there are many different bushlike plants that cover the land in all directions. One of the most common of these bushes seems to be sage, its fragrance fills the air as we walk and brings on thoughts of roast chicken as our stomachs grouch about the lack of food being offered during our long days of walking. It doesn’t take long at all for one’s hunger to peak during an extended hike. The amount of calories we are burning per day is at least double the normal amount, and the more food we carry the more calories we burn.
Hunger aside, the pain of blisters put out of mind, and the thought of a hot shower at the end of the day ignored, we are having a fine time. There are many new and interesting people to meet and many unknown adventures remain to be had. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring is part of the joy of a thru-hike.
Aaron and Andy Agnew are using this hike as a means of raising awareness to the efforts of the Faith in Action Food Pantry of Keyser. They will be posting weekly to their website www.pct4hunger.com and monthly through Graffiti.