Start: Off trail in San Francisco
Finish: On train headed north to Dunsmuir, CA
Total mileage (including detours): 3.1
I wasn’t eager to leave San Francisco today after the enjoyable, lazy sunny day Alissa and I spent walking the streets and fantasizing about the future, but I was eager to get back on the trail. I longed for the quiet of a night out on a mountain ridges, the splendor of silhouetted hills fading into the fog, the majesty of snowy peaks piercing the sky. I just wish I could take my friends and Alissa with me so we could experience these sights together.
Unable to bring friends along for this trip, I did the next best thing by starting to hatch plans with Alissa for our next trip. We have both long wanted to travel around South America – diving with seals and walking among giant tortoises in the Galapagos Islands, exploring the upper reaches of the stony Andes, floating down rivers in the forbiddingly thick Amazon jungle. Alissa has been to Bolivia, and we’ve both been to a few Central American countries, but for the most part we are ignorant of the continent to our south.
Over a surprisingly appropriate breakfast of fried cheese, plantains, and eggs at a local establishment on Mission Street, we started to hatch plans. We would need many months – perhaps even a year. First, we’d have to figure out which countries we’d want to visit and what times of year were best for those areas. Then we’d need to identify more specific sights to see and the time we’d need in each country. Finally, we’d need to put together a possible route and price out our options.
The planning alone would likely take about a year, and we both wanted to improve our Spanish, which could take two years, so we wouldn’t be taking off anytime soon. That said, I was still excited, and while our conversation wandered throughout the day as we walked through parks and street fairs, we kept coming back to the topic of this new adventure. We could already tell that it would be one of the highlights of our life.
About 8 p.m., I had to leave Alissa and San Francisco to catch a train to Oakland, where I would then take an Amtrak train north to the small town of Dunsmuir. There, I was only five miles from mile 1497 of the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t know what to expect once I got there, but I knew it would be more beautiful trail, more painful evenings as I pushed into camp, and more wonderful strangers who I’d get to know.
As I walked toward the train station, there was a six-piece brass band on the corner belting out “I Feel Good.” It seemed like the right soundtrack for my departure and a bounced on the balls of my feet as I passed them. My toes were feeling good – I had barely felt them as I walked around the city today. The trail promised serenity and magnificence ahead. And now I had even more to look forward to when I next returned to the Bay Area, even when my leave of absence was finished. I would not be returning to work as normal, my hike a mere intermission in a life centered around career. Rather, I would be returning to an intermission of work between the adventures that made up my life.