“Mary was just crying and crying, so then I was crying too. Mom obviously wasn’t crying, because Mom doesn’t cry, but she seemed kind of nervous too.” Laina has never been away from her 12-year-old sister Mary for more than a couple weeks, so saying good-bye to her family didn’t make the first day easy.
Laina, Mary, and their parents Paula and Sheom drove from their home in Northern California to the Mexico border together. There, just this side of “the big medal fence,” there is what people call the starting monument.
Several white pillars that mark the beginning of the trail. And the first trail register.
“Everyone signed the little book,” Laina said. “I think I wrote something like, ‘Through hiker, see you in Canada.’” The family hiked the first four miles of the trail together, but then Paula and Mary turned around and Laina and her dad kept going.
Sheom would be hiking the first month of the trail with Laina, to see if it was feasible for her to hike on her own.
And Laina was glad to have her dad with her the first day.
“We hiked 20 miles that first day, we started at 9 and ended at 9, wearing headlamps.”
They stopped for the night at Lake Moreno and set up tarps to sleep under in the poring rain.
“Dad broke his trekking pole the first day, his pack buckle had broken, and when he took out his cooking pot the bottom was all smashed in,” she laughed. “We were like ‘Whoa, if every 20 miles is this bad we’re not going to have any gear soon.’”