It was freezing cold when I woke up this morning. I had no motivation to get out of my sleeping bag until it got a little bit warmer. This morning was the first time I used my gloves on the PCT. I left camp before Angus and Rainbow. Before leaving I checked the map for the day and the terrain looked incredibly easy. It was. I skipped the first and only water source we had for the first 17 miles of the day. Since I already had three liters there was no reason to get anymore. The trail was super gentle and followed a forested ridge next to the town of Big Bear. I was able to get a view of the lake we hung out at yesterday. 5 miles in I was taking a break and stretching when Angus appeared. He said he had friends who were going to see him on the trail in about 8 miles if I was interested in hanging out with them. Angus is from the UK so it is crazy that he would know someone from home who could come visit him in America.
8 miles later I found myself sitting in a dirt road pull off with Angus, Rainbow, Dirt Magnet , and Cam. We laid around in the sun waiting for Angus’s friend Josh. After a while Angus realized his friends must be lost so he went down the first road to look for them. He returned in a Tesla which was really funny. Josh and his friend Golchang brought us some beers and we hung out for a while with them. They were very fun to get to know.
In the late afternoon we all pushed on to camp together. It was fun hiking with Dirt Magnet and Cam they are both from the UK was well. We all camped near a pretty creek. I pitched my tent tonight since I was so cold last night. I learned that my filter has a crack in it today and it has been leaking all over. I need to contact the company who makes it in town and look into buying a steripen. Filtering water is my least favorite thing to do on trail ever. They seem so much easier to use if the water is clear. I fell asleep shortly after we got to camp since I was so tired today. I didn’t sleep well in town.
I woke up early at Kenny’s despite trying to sleep in. I took some time to catch up on my blog and post on social media. I’ve been so checked out of the internet it was hard to make myself post anything. I just haven’t been inspired. Or maybe I’ve just been having too much fun. Kenny made all 15 of us a massive breakfast of potatoes and spices, waffles, fruit salad, eggs, and sausage. He did all this before driving everyone around all day. He drove hikers back to the trail, into town, and to the post office. It’s hard to believe one man could do it all.
I spent a little bit of time in the town of Big Bear to buy some post cards and have lunch. I had one of my favorite meals here so far. It was a lox and cream cheese bagel with capers! one of my favorite meals ever. I hung out on the beach with Angus and Rainbow while we waited for Kenny to pick us back up and bring us to the trail. He dropped us off around 5pm. I felt so well rested. I was genuinely sad to leave Kenny’s just because he was so nice and kind. I’m so glad I decided to stay with him!
Back on trail I hiked six more miles to camp with Angus and Rainbow. It was super easy hiking. I could tell it was going to be a cold night before I even laid down. If I had to guess it did get below freezing.
I woke up at 5am under the massive tree where I cowboy camped with Angus and Rainbow. 23 miles to Highway 18. I wanted to get there as early as reasonably possible just so my feet could have a long recovery time in town. I left camp first and hiked for 9.5 miles straight before taking a break to stretch and eat. I kept asking other hikers around me if they had seen a girl named Passport. Passport is someone who hiked the AT the same year as me in 2019. We have some mutual hiking friends and I have talked to her a lot through Instagram. I knew I was very close to her and wanted to make sure I didn’t pass her up by accident. A few hikers told me they had saw Passport early this morning.
At my break I texted Kenny. A Trail Angel in the town of Big Bear who hosts hikers at his house. I had my packages sent to his place. Kenny said there was room for all three of us tonight. I was looking forward to being picked up by him! After my break I continued on. I took my next break at a picnic table with a bunch of other hikers. I thought it was the water source since I saw a faucet but it wasn’t working. Here I got to meet Passport finally! Angus and Rainbow met me here as well. It was 11 am and we only had 10 miles to go after taking some nice long breaks. What an easy day!
We all easily made it to the road by 3pm taking two more breaks in the shade. A lot of other hikers were going into town today too. I texted Kenny when we were 30 minutes from the road like he asked. When we got there we hung out in the shade for a little bit. Kenny pulled up in a blue car and asked if anyone was looking for him. The three of us got in his car and he handed us all a cold soda the second we sat down. Amazing.
Kenny is the sweetest trail angel I have ever met. He drove us back to his house where he dropped us off and gave us a short tour before going to pick up some other hikers. Kenny’s house was filled with musical instruments and photos of his kids. He showed us some left overs from Cinco De Mayo so we could make burritos for lunch. He also gave me my two packages I had shipped to his house. A resupply package from my family and a box of Protein Pucks sent from Protein Puck! We all hung out and ate food while we waited for Kenny to come back. As soon as he did we all got started on showers and laundry. We all ended the night in Kenny’s hot tub with some drinks. We got to meet a tramily named the Happy Campers who all started together a week before us. They certainly were happy campers.
This morning I got out of camp so late. I didn’t start hiking until 7am. The preserve was so nice that I didn’t want to leave it. I was feeling really sore from the day before so I wanted to take it slow this morning. Getting out of camp late always makes my day feel so much longer. Today was absolutely the case. Less than two miles of hiking and we crossed White Water river. It was already hot at 8am so I couldn’t resist the temptation to get in the river. It was nice to clean my shirt a little bit and soak my whole body. There were a ton of other hikers there doing the same thing. After being thoroughly soaked I pushed on into the heat. My shirt was dry within 3 miles. It’s insane how hot and dry it can get out here! I climbed the rolling desert hills with no shade before dropping down to the first crossing of Mission Creek. There was a shady spot where I took a break since it was the first shade I had seen in six miles. My feet were getting irritated from the sand and I felt some small hot spots. I made sure to wear two pairs of socks again and tape over the hot spots. Lots of other hikers were taking a break there as well. No one wanted to leave to hike out in the heat of the day. I checked my watch and mileage at 10am and I only hiked half of what I usually have done by then.
I decided to hike on in the heat of the day anyways. I knew the trail criss-crossed over Mission Creek so my plan was to keep dipping my shirt and head in the creek to stay wet and cool despite the heat. This section of trail reminded me so much of the Gila river on the CDT except with way more trail. It was more difficult to navigate than the rest of the trail so far but I felt like my naviguessing skills were pretty sharp after the CDT. I honestly had a lot of fun doing a little bit of route finding. Even though I was hiking along a creek, it was uphill all day. I was still struggling in the heat for some reason. I kept running into Valerie and Martin from Belgium and taking breaks with them. After making it though the whole mission Creek section the trail switch backed steeply up and out of the river canyon. By this point my quads were burning. Luckily the audio book I am listening to got very interesting so I was able to distract myself from the soreness a bit. When I reached the last water source for 17 miles I took a break to make dinner. I ate my ramen noodles with my hands since I unfortunately left my spork somewhere. At that point Angus and Rainbow caught up to me and we hiked four more miles together into the dark. We all wanted to push it into town tomorrow night. By the time we finally found a flat spot to cowboy camp I was exhausted. It was about 9pm. I checked the map and saw that we climbed 7.7k vertical feet today. Now it made sense why today was so hard. This is the most vert I have knowingly backpacked in a day. I fell asleep without writing and fell another day behind on my blog.
Once again I didn’t sleep the best last night. I was awake at 5am and on the trail by 5:30. The sun rose as I descended. The view of San Jacinto was majestic in the morning light. It’s crazy that the peak of the mountain is at 10,800 feet and the desert floor I descended to is under 2k feet. My knees ached from all the downhill but I was determined to get it over with. The trail curved in and out of all the mountain folds. I nearly stepped on a rattle snake and it scared me so bad. I only noticed because I turned around and saw it as it snickered at me. At the bottom of the mountain I took a break at a water faucet before continuing to the interstate 10 underpass where I planned to hitch from a road just past it. As I was descending the mountain I spotted a paved walking path below leading near a neighborhood. I hoped the trail didn’t involve pavement today. It did. Luckily it was less than two miles before the trail was back in some awful sand. I’m not sure what’s worse. I could also see the sand we were about to walk across from on the mountain as well so I made sure to wear two pairs of socks today to avoid blisters.
It was blazing hot and I was glad to be getting the miles in now. I pounded the sand for a few more miles until I was under the interstate 10 bridge. I was able to gather three other hikers together for an Uber ride into town. Normally I hitch hike but not on an interstate this busy. First Angus, Christina, Jim and I all got dropped off at Dollar General to resupply before having to Uber 2 more miles to where the town food centers are. I would have hitched but people were being sketchy in the store and I didn’t feel good about it. Time in town flew by so fast. By the time I finished a massive veggie bowl from Chipotle and had one small taco and a coffee from taco bell, three hours had passed. It took another hour to get three more people together for an Uber back to trail. It was kind of funny when our driver dropped us off back where we got picked up. The middle of nowhere in the desert in the heat of the day. We certainly seemed crazy.
After getting dropped off I hiked four miles to an oasis provided by Mesa Wind Farm. It was the hostess part of the day and I was chugging my water the whole way there. The trail went through a more urban area and I was frequently crossing dirt roads with piles of junk everywhere. At one point there was a mattress right next to the trail. I jumped on it a few times of course. When I finally arrived at the wind farm oasis, the other hikers said I looked so rough when I arrived. My shirt looked absolutely disgusting with sweat stains and salt build up. The wind farm provided a small shady shelter, ice cold water, a charging station, and I bought an ice cream bar for $2. When will I get ice cream in the middle of the desert again!?
After taking a break for an hour I continued on to White Water Preserve. It was still hot and I was struggling. There was one surprise climb that absolutely sucked away all my energy. I caught up to Angus and Tom right as we left the trail to walk a half a mile to the preserve. When we got there, there was a wading pool we instantly went to and put our feet in. The ice cold water felt so good on my sore feet. I couldn’t believe this place existed I was so happy! We all walked over to set up our tents by the other hikers. There were a good amount of people camped out here tonight. After dark when we were all trying to sleep the most bizarre thing happened. Two raccoons started fighting and getting really aggressive over some bird feeders that were not that too far away from our camps. It really scared me at first until I turned on my head lamp and could see what the animals screaming were. They ended up getting in three separate loud fights throughout the night. I didn’t sleep well at all of course.
I didn’t sleep super well last night and I’m not sure why. Regardless I packed up all of my things and hit the trail by 6am. Today is the day I would climb San Jacinto! It’s the first major peak that PCT hikers have the option to add as a side quest. It’s very hyped up since it often has snow and requires spikes and an ice axe in the early season. Luckily conditions sounded like I didn’t need any equipment so I went to find out for myself. It was almost completely snow free and the exposure was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. Honestly it was an incredibly comfortable hike for someone who is scared of heights. My quads were burning when I got to the top. I got my picture taken at the sign and enjoyed the cool cloud inversion below me. I could also see the desert floor and where Palm Springs CA is. There is a hike here called cactus to cloud where you hike from the desert floor to the top of San Jacinto in one day and then take a tram down the mountain. I think I’d like to be able to hike a lot faster up it one day. It’s an insane amount of vertical gain. While I was at the summit I also checked out the creepy emergency shelter where they keep rescue supplies. I believe a PCT hiker died around this peak two years ago.
After summiting the peak I took some time to sit down in a sunny spot to eat breakfast and stretch all my leg muscles. Today was the first day I felt very sore. I slowly descended to meet back up with the PCT. It was a total of a 6.6 mile detour but it was worth it. I was taking a break at the junction when I joined Fried Green Tomato to hike 0.5 miles to the next water source which was gushing over granite rocks. A lot of hikers were hanging out there. For the rest of the day I descended all the way to camp. It hurt my knees but I tried to take it slow. The views were absolutely amazing. There were more of my favorite trees (Coulter Pines) but this time less burnt. I did notice a heavy amount of smog in the valley that seemed to increase the later in the day it got.
While I was making my way down the mountain I listened to The Hobbit Audiobook. I don’t normally listen to audiobooks or read fiction but I’ve decided that I want to read more on this trail. In the hiking community there are a lot of references to the Lord of the Rings series so I finally decided to see what it’s about. So far the audio version of the book is going a lot better than the first time I tried to read the book. We will see if I finish it.
I was relieved when I finally got to camp. I counted myself lucky because I showed up at a crowded campsite and got to pick one of the last decent spots. The next camping options were way down the mountain. My knees ached way too much to keep going. Although today was easy hiking it was tough on the body. I fell asleep before I could write my blog. I can’t seem to catch up!
I walked out of camp at 5:40 this morning. I wasn’t remotely cold but I had my puffy on anyways. Less than a mile in I got so hot I had to change into my shorts and sun hoodie. When it’s hot this early in the morning you know it’s going to be a hot day! When I looked at the map last night, I had to do over 6,000 feet of hiking up hill today. That is one of the biggest days I know I have ever backpacked. Tomorrow I should be going over San Jacinto peak at 10,800 feet so it made sense that I had to gain that much elevation from the desert floor. It was definitely hot but the higher I climbed the cooler it got. My pack was heavy with four liters of water and three days of food. Nothing I have done on the PCT has been remotely difficult until today.
All the water sources I passed were quite a trip off trail and not flowing very well so I decided to ration my water until a creek that crossed the trail around 21 miles into the day for me. I ended up being super dehydrated to say the least but it’s not the first time. On top of the dehydration and heavy pack, I know I haven’t been eating enough. For some reason I don’t have an appetite for anything and I have to remind myself I should eat. Occasionally I get hungry but eating a big meal on trail hasn’t appealed to me. The intense heat from the direct sun was beating down on my back all day long. When I stopped to catch a breath and felt the breeze it was such a relief.
The trail went through a massive burn area today. There were lots of dead trees but no shade to be found. Occasionally one of the trees would still have some green at the top and I would stop under it to enjoy it’s cool shade. These trees were absolutely massive. I believe they are Coulter Pines after learning that the giant pine cones I found come from those kind of trees. I kept seeing lots of massive pine cones all over the ground today. Someone told me they can weigh up to 10 lbs! I picked one up and guessed that it might be 2 lbs. The branches on these trees were bigger than the trunks of a lot of other trees I have seen and the flakes from the bark are as big as a standard college ruled notebook. It was sad to see all the dead trees and wonder what this would have been like before the burn. A lot of people think it’s cool that I’m doing these hikes when I’m young but the truth is that anyone my age doesn’t have the luxury of waiting until retirement to do these things. Every year more and more of this beautiful trail burns in very destructive wild fires. Also most of the water sources are drying up from the drought and with big cities continuing their normal business in places with no sustainable water source it’s hard to feel hopeful that things will turn around any time soon. Because of this I feel rushed to hike through all of California and Oregon before the heart of wildfire season begins. I’d love to take my time and not rush this hike but I feel as if I don’t I will have to skip large sections of trail that are being burned. Besides the burn areas and dried up water sources, smog from the LA area is very apparent. It makes everything look hazy and none of the views down into the valley are clear.
The trail wrapped around and around the mountain. At some points the trail was on an exposed ledge and I kept looking over thinking it was quite a long way down and probably fatal if I fell. It made me nervous for climbing the peak tomorrow. At Apache Spring I stopped to take a break with lots of other hikers. I knew I should go get water but judging by how long everyone was gone to get it, it seemed like quite the side adventure. Luckily I still had two liters since I was rationing. I knew it was a dumb decision but I’ve done it plenty of times before. The break spot was in the direct sun but I was so tired from all the climbing I had to stop. I met Doggone and Fried Green who both hiked the Continental Divide last year. We had fun reminiscing over the trail. When I finally pushed on, I ended up hiking around Sophia and Marie. Sophia is from Britain and we talked a lot about the differences between our countries. She said that the capitalism of the US is way more in your face than anywhere else she has traveled. We ended up getting lost for a little bit but we ended up finding the trail. After hiking the Continental Divide I feel like I have some sort of inside joy when I get to hike off trails for a little bit. To be honest I often have the urge to cut trail and make my own route out here but I know I shouldn’t so I don’t.
When I finally got to the water I was so thirsty. I still had half a liter left so I chugged it and then boiled water straight from the creek for my ramen noodle dinner. Then I chugged another liter with some electrolytes in it. Success. I was tired. One more mile of walking and I camped on the side of an alternate route in a perfect flat spot. I had the site all to myself tonight. I spent a good amount of time stretching on my foam mat before crawling into my tent to write my blog and catch up from the previous days. It’s so hard to stay on top of it!
I woke up in bed around 7am after a great night of sleep. I spent the morning catching up on writing my blog since I have been too tired to do it at camp. For me it’s pretty difficult to sit down all at once and recall the past few days in detail to write about them. It took me about two hours but I was happy to lay in bed and do it. My muscles felt like they needed a break so bad. For breakfast I had a banana and a probiotic drink. At 10am we had to check out so I walked 0.6 to the main road where there was a gas station on the corner. Before we could even stick our thumbs out to hitch three miles back into town, A man named Wayne saw Jillian, Sammy, and I with our backpacks on and asked if we needed a ride.
Wayne dropped us off in the middle of town at his favorite breakfast spot called Mama’s Egg House. I treated myself to a nice breakfast of eggs Benedict. It was a busy place but the food was very good After breakfast I went to the grocery store to grab a few more items for resupply since I ate all my chips and cookies for dinner last night! On the way I passed a restaurant called Fratellos and Chewy and Pippin who just made it to town today waved me over. I sat down and hung out with them for a little bit. Before leaving town I had to get one last ice cream from Atomic Cow. While I was sitting in the town center with Jillian, Sammy, Eagle Eye, and Katie, Blaze the traveling physical therapist came over to talk to us. I’ve seen flyers for her services but it was so cool to meet her in person! She has my dream job. She lives in a van with her dog honey and drives along the trail in her van treating hikers for a very reasonable price. I don’t have anything wrong with me luckily but it’s nice to know that if I do need to see a PT I can call Blaze! Whenever I have seen health care professionals for Injuries related to long distance hiking it’s extremely frustrating because none of them really understand what I am doing. After an infection being mistaken for an overuse injury because a doctor wouldn’t listen to me, I told myself I’d never tell a doctor I am thru hiking again. Blaze thru hiked in 2019 and saw the need for a health care provider who understands what hikers do and what they need. She is stationed in Idyllwild for a couple of weeks before she will move up the trail to Wrightwood CA. Another town stop for hikers. Blaze will also come directly to the trail to meet hikers as well. I asked if she would ever do it on any other trails and she said probably not since she has to get a license for practicing in every state. Luckily California is 1,700 miles of the PCT and she has an Oregon license as well.
Around 3pm I hitch hiked out of town with Jillian and Sammy. It took us two hitches to get there since the trail was about 30 minutes out of town on two major roads. We were picked up very quickly by locals who give hikers rides frequently. It was very hot when we were dropped off around 3:20 and I hiked the four miles to camp as fast as I could. I wanted to take a zero day today but I didn’t want to pay to stay a second night in town just yet. Also in the desert it is importabt to get an early morning start to avoid the heat so waking up on trail is important. Getting a reliable ride from town to trail at 5am is almost impossible. When we were trying to get around town we looked into Uber which wasn’t available and the local taxi service which was totally unreliable and not responsive. Hitch hiking it was for us!
Camp was sheltered nicely by some trees. I cowboy camped and about 7 other hikers pitched their tents nearby. I camped with Jillian, Eagle Eye, Cross Roads, Becky, Hannah, Veronica, Sebastian, and Buren. We all watched the sun set together on one of the massive white granite rocks we have been walking by and shortly went to bed around 8pm.
I woke up to sunrise this morning. By 5:45 I was packed up and hiking. Last night I cowboy camped for the first time on this trail. It ended up being pleasant. I really like cowboy camping but the California desert has been creeping me out with all the rattle snakes, scorpions, and tarantulas. I don’t want to see any of the above. The bugs were a bit bothersome and I wished I had a bivi. Maybe I will try out that method of camping on this trail sometime soon. Chewy doesn’t carry a tent at all and she has inspired me to want to be a little more minimalist. I keep telling myself I am saving that style of backpacking for a different and shorter trail.
I could tell it was going to be a hot day at 6am. I took my puffy and fleece dress off earlier than any other day. I was drinking as much water as I could before I got to the water cache known as Mary’s Oasis. She is another trail angel who lets hikers use her water tank as a source. I’m so thankful for all the help from locals! Otherwise my pack would be way heavier than it already is with all the water carries. At Mary’s I saw Jeffrrr who I met on the CDT. He is hiking with his girlfriend this year. It was nice to see a familiar face! I talked to some other hikers before pushing on. I wanted to make sure I got to Paradise Valley Cafe before they closed at the next road crossing. The restaurant is a must stop for PCT hikers. It’s only a mile off trail. I planned to eat at the restaurant and then hitch hike to the town of Idyllwild for my first full day off trail.
When I got to the road crossing that leads one mile to Paradise Valley Cafe, I turned left onto a dirt trail under some power lines and walked to the restaurant. It was blazing hot in the heat of the day and I was thankful I was able to hike the 14.8 miles by noon. I saw some police cars outside and overhead that they just shut down the road for a fatal car accident. A man was yelling and offering for one more hiker to jump in his car and go to Idyllwild. It was my plan to go to town anyways so I ran over and got in. Three other hikers named Eagle Eye, Sammy, and Caveman were in the car. The man gets in the driver’s seat and introduces himself as “Grumpy”. He starts talking very loudly 100 miles an hour all the way to town. I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least but very thankful for the ride. I was so exhausted I could barely socialize anyways. My face was covered in salt from my sweat. Grumpy informed me that everywhere in town is currently booked because it’s the weekend. He gave me the number of a hiker looking for someone to fill some extra beds at a hotel room. I gathered that he is a trail angel and he has been driving hikers around all day long just making trips between Paradise Valley Cafe and Idyllwild.
When he finally dropped us off in the center of town after giving us a whole tour while talking like an auctioneer I got to say hi and get to know the other hikers I was with. Turns out they needed a 6th person for an Air B&B they had reserved right outside of town. Because everything was all booked it was a last option. Since it was too early to check in to the place, we all got lunch, ice cream and did our resupply activities. I had a large California Cobb salad and a milkshake before walking to the local supermarket to buy three days of food for the next section of trail. I had a lot of fun hanging out with everyone in town.
The house we rented was very nice and had three rooms with very large beds. I shared a room with Sammy and had the best sleep I’ve had in so long. I was a happy hiker tonight.
It was 6am when I finally walked out of camp after packing up all my things. I stopped to fill up all my water bottles at a creek three miles from camp because I wasn’t planning on getting any more water until Mike’s Place about 12 miles later. At mile five I took an hour break to do all my morning chores I didn’t want to do at camp. I stretched, cleaned the dirt off my feet, taped my toes, put on my calf compression sleeve and gaiters, ate breakfast, looked at the map for the day, and wrote my blog I didn’t write yesterday. It was hot today and my goal was to get to Mike’s place at mile 15 by noon. The trail curved through the mountainous desert landscape and I listened to a playlist from Spotify. When I got to Mike’s place I immediately laid out my mat and all my belongings for a long break in the shade.
Mike is a trail angel who has property with a water tank about 0.2 miles off the trail. There is a camper and a shack on the property where he lets hikers hang out when he is there. Mike didn’t make an appearance while I was there but I did get to meet and hang out with so many new hikers in his driveway. At one point I counted 25 people in one spot. All of us were taking our afternoon breaks there. The heat was hot and the next water source was 10 miles away. I decided to pack up for a 17 mile carry because I didn’t feel like going off trail for the next water source and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to camp tonight. My goal was to get as close to the road to town as I felt like it today. Before I left the break spot after two + hours, I made myself some mashed potatoes with cheese for dinner. Whenever water is sparse I always try and cook at a water source to avoid carrying the extra weight for cooking a meal. I usually end up eating some protein bars for dinner.
Around 2:30 I hiked on despite the heat. It was hot but I was restless and wanted to keep going. I climbed up near combs peak in the heat of the afternoon. Once I dropped down to the other side it was a bit shadier with a great view. I took so many breaks to end the day. I saw a campsite with a good sunrise and sunset view listed on the map so I planned to make it there. My phone battery ended up dying so I walked the last part of the day without knowing how much farther I had to go. I was too lazy to stop and charge my phone. I’d rather just get there. Pippin and Chewy stayed behind at Mike’s place. I really liked hiking with them but I also enjoy doing my own thing and meeting new people every single day. Tonight I camped with Renegade, Ghost, Brett, and Pitt Stop. Our campsite was beautiful. Renegade said “We are the luckiest people in the world tonight” and he was so right about that.
This morning I didn’t open my eyes until 7am. It was nice to sleep in and not worry about hiking for once. I planned on taking a rest day today and I was so excited about it. Luke packed up his things and got ready to go stand at the bus stop outside of the store for an 8am pick up and ride back to San Diego. It’s nice that he can take public transit from the trail back to the airport and it’s right in front of the place we are staying! You can easily section hike the first 100 miles without a car if you plan to catch the once a week bus from Julian or Ranchita on time. When we walked outside the wind was blowing hard and chilly fog clouds were rolling through the valley. I was thankful not to be out on trail in the harsh conditions. I was sad to see Luke go when the bus finally came but I am looking forward to spending some time alone! Luke provided trail magic for the first 100 miles in the form of providing all my town meals at restaurants and our two stays in a bed it was very appreciated! Thanks Luke!
I spent as much time as I could just relaxing before I had to check out of the room at 10am. After that I went to the store to buy my food for the next section. I made a plan to hitchhike into Idylwild for my first Zero from mile 159 at Paradise Valley Cafe. When I went to the store I ran into Pippin and Chewy who I met at the brewery in Julian. I was excited to meet other hikers and hang out for a bit! I ended up leaving Ranchita in a shuttle back to the trail with them at noon and hanging out with them for the rest of the day.
Back on trail I hiked through some wide open fields with cows the entire 8 mile stretch to Warner Springs. It reminded me of the CDT. There were gorgeous trees and a flowing stream I crossed intermittently. The miles went by so fast. Halfway we took a break at Eagle Rock. An iconic photo destination on the trail. I wasn’t expecting it to be in the middle of a wide open field of rolling hills. I had to get my photo of course.
When we got to the road crossing to Warner Springs we didn’t even have to try hitching to the gas station when a trail angel named “Off Trail” picked us up immediately. It felt excessive to go to town for a second time just for a beer but it was my rest day and I had all the time in the world! Plus I was having fun hanging out with new people. We sat outside and enjoyed our drinks at some picnic tables. “Off Trail” hung out with us and even drove us a mile back to the trail when we needed! Chewy and Pippin bought him a beer and I gave him $5 for the ride!
I was a little buzzed as I hiked with Pippin the last three miles to camp at Augua Calliente Creek. We set up camp under the large beautiful trees I’ve been seeing all day and Pippin told me that she thinks they are Costal Live Oaks. For dinner I made some teriyaki rice that I didn’t like very much and passed out before I could even start to write my blog.
Last night I didn’t sleep well at all. Despite our campsite being tucked away in a perfect semi sheltered nook it still got really windy. When it’s really windy at night my non free standing tent flaps in the wind like crazy. It’s very loud and on top of that I’m constantly worried about the shelter totally falling over which almost happened a couple of times. A non free standing tent is a tent without typical tent poles. Mine is set up using my trekking poles and tent stakes to create tension. They can be difficult to set up at first but I have pitched mine hundreds of times and know all the best ways to do it. In the desert however, finding ground that will hold tent stakes well can be difficult. The loose sand makes for a week tent pitch. Needless to say, I slept in later than planned and still didn’t get as much rest as I wanted to.
Luke and I started hiking at 6:30am. I felt a bit stressed because we had a reservation in town and we needed to get to the trailhead by 5pm. We had 21 miles ahead of us and they all went by really slow today. Being on a schedule makes me so anxious but I was also very thankful Luke got us a bed for tonight. He is supposed to catch a bus back to San Diego at 8am tomorrow. I’m super thankful he came out for the first 100 miles of my hike! I will miss having a hiking partner for a while. It will be sad sleeping alone in my tent tomorrow night.
To start the day we hiked almost five miles before stopping for a morning coffee break. Both Luke and I were very groggy. It was already hot at 8am and we found some shade. Luke used his massive car camping french press to make us some great coffee. I usually don’t drink caffeine but I needed it today. Thankfully Luke is a nut about having great coffee in the morning so I got to benefit from his struggle of carrying a very large and unnecessary kitchen tool. Besides that Luke is also carrying a lap top (for personal reasons), an electric toothbrush, a sleeping bag liner he totally does not need and a one person tent even though we usually share mine. His pack is stupid heavy but he willing decided to bring all those things since he isn’t worried about the long term in terms of his body performing well while backpacking. During our break quite a few hikers passed us. There wasn’t really any room for others to join us and they just kept hiking by. I really hope I get to connect with another hiker soon! It turns out that Sam had to get off trail for a family emergency so the one person that seemed to be going my pace is already gone.
The trail was very twisty and turning today as it wrapped it’s way around the massive desert mountain it was hugging. The views were incredible and I could regularly see the trail wrapping around the mountain 0.5 miles or even more ahead of me. It was fun to try and spot all the other hikers in the distance and I would wave to Luke occasionally as he was a few minutes behind me for most of the day. We took an hour long lunch break near a water cache. This cache is officially maintained by the PCTA and it’s the only water source for the entire 25 mile stretch between the town of Julian at Scissors Crossing and the town of Ranchita at Barrel Springs. The person who maintains the cache was walking his poodles on the trail today. His truck was parked next to the numerous pallets of 1 gallon water jugs for us to use. A sign said not to take more than 3L which is smart to conserve water for other hikers. Even though this person has driven their truck out here with all the water, it certainly did not look like a regular use road to access it. Either way, the water is what we all really needed.
I wanted to lounge around even longer than I did at lunch. My body was really sore and there were new pains every other mile today. As long as it’s a new pain every day I’m not too worried but sometimes I still get anxious about the new ones. Since we had somewhere to be at a certain time, I kept pushing on despite my ankles, knees, and feet telling me to stop hiking today. There was no way I was going to miss out on a cold drink before the store closed at 5. I got up and continued on for another five miles before stopping to break at a tiny cave. It looked like a tomb big enough for one person.
Crossing mile 100 today felt super anticlimactic. It’s nice to be done with the first 100 of a new trail! The mile marker was very hot and in direct sunlight on a narrow part of the trail with minimal views and no where to get a decent picture. I felt depleted. I was purely exhausted and every part of me wanted to be done hiking today but we still had one more mile to go. I took a break anyways because my feet hurt so bad. I think I need to take a rest day tomorrow even though I don’t really want to. I massaged my feet and sucked it up for twenty more minutes. When I got to the road it was perfect timing to catch the last free shuttle to the hostel Luke booked for us. It was one hour before the tiny convenience store closed. Apparently the store burnt down last year so they are operating out of a small makeshift building. Luke and I were glad to support them. Even though the hostel kinda sucked we were glad it existed! We joked that our room literally looked like a “nice jail cell”. I wasn’t totally turned on to the idea of spending two nights here.
For dinner I got a cold Gatorade, some mandarin oranges, and a Loma Linda Thai Red Curry packet along with rice. Our options were pretty slim but I was impressed with how good the curry was! I would definitely want to try out other kinds of food from the same company. It’s precooked in a pouch and it seems like everything they have is vegan or vegetarian which is cool. I love finding new foods I like! Sadly I think it is too heavy to carry on the trail but maybe as a treat one day! I felt so exhausted I just laid down for an hour until I had the energy to go take a shower. My feet pain calmed down a bit but the knees and ankles generally ached all night long. Taking rest days is really hard for me but I think it’s important I take one tomorrow.
When I woke up at 5am I could barely move. I had a really hard time waking up for some reason but by 5:30 I had my stove on to make some Hot Chocolate. It wasn’t cold at all but it was a nice morning treat. By 6:15am we were all packed up and on the trail. This morning was noticeably warmer than the other days and it turned out to be our first really hot day on trail. Luckily we wake up early and hike fairly fast so we were able to hike 12 miles to town by 12:30.
The hiking today was almost all downhill. We dropped significant elevation between Mt. Laguna at 6,000 feet to Scissors Crossing at 2,500 feet. I definitely think the elevation change contributed to the warmer temperatures. We only passed one water source today around mile five. It was some sort of tank that seemed to be running dry according to comments on Guthook. Luckily I didn’t need to fill up anything, as I stocked up last night before our last push to camp. The desert landscape changed drastically today. It became less green and more sandy. I started to notice prickly pear cactuses blooming for the first time. The trail wrapped around the mountains and you could see it curving left and right about 0.5 miles ahead at a time. It was fun for Luke and I to hike apart and see each other hiking around a mountain from a distance. The trail itself was pretty narrow. I have no idea how a horse could travel on it. The PCT is supposedly graded for horses and people do thru rides. That’s why it’s so easy to climb mountains on this trail vs the Appalachians or other hiking only trails.
When we got closer to the road it was so hot I was stopping in the shade every two miles. Within five minutes of standing with my thumb out, Luke and I were in the back of a pick up truck on our way into the town of Julian to escape the afternoon heat. In Julian, Luke and I ate some heavy pasta dishes at an Italian restaurant before heading to the brewery for a drink. We just needed to kill time and enjoy some town food. It’s crazy how often we have been in town! At the brewery we talked to some other hikers. They started the day before me and thought it was crazy that we were hiking out. Honestly my body felt great today and I had no reason to stay in town and spend money. I haven’t really had any cravings yet. The last thing we did before leaving town was stop into Mom’s Pie shop. They give PCT hikers a free slice of pie and ice cream. I had strawberry rhubarb with vanilla.
Around 4:45 we walked to the road to hitch back to the trail. Again, we were picked up within five minutes by a nice local. The temperature was drastically different at 5pm. I was carrying four liters of water because our next source is at a maintained cache in about 15 more miles. The hike out of town was all uphill but it was so beautiful and graded so well I hardly noticed I was climbing. I was having way too much fun. I swear I always have a smile on my face when hiking. After Scissors Crossing I started to see some large barrel cactuses and some very tall blooming ocatillo cactuses blowing in the wind. I stopped a mile earlier than planned at a perfect campsite. It was just big enough for one tent and it was tucked into a very small canyon at mile 80. I could have kept hiking but it seemed like a good time to stop. Luke and I had fun hanging out together at camp. We both can’t get over how beautiful and enjoyable this trail is. Not a single thing has felt super challenging so far. I was a little worried about my feet on day 2 and 3 but today felt great!
Luke and I left the hostel around 6am this morning. The morning air was very cool and “town” was completely quiet as we walked thru it to get back on the trail. According to Guthook, the population of Mt. Laguna is 60 people. As we passed through a campground that connects the rest of town to the trail we passed Sam. He told us he woke up at 4am. He’s staying in Mt. Laguna to rest up today. Luke and I had to break the bad news to him that all two of the restaurants are closed on Monday so no delicious town meal to look forward to.
The first part of the trail today was a forest with massive comfier trees. I picked up some cones that seemed larger than my head. I couldn’t believe the seeds of a tree could get that big! I’m not exactly sure what kind of tree they came from but here is a picture of the cones.
After five miles we took our first break of the day in some shade near a roadside viewpoint. The trail eventually started going through a mountainous area with lots of sagebrush, Manzanita, and other unidentifiable spiky plants that were about shoulder high. I passed up the first peak bagging opportunity of Garnet peak. It looked pretty but I was too exhausted already to make the extra effort.
Water was sparse today and I carried three liters to a source around 18 miles in. I was being stupid and lazy and not drinking as much water as I should have. Filtering water is my least favorite trail chore and sometimes I make dumb decisions because of it. Luckily today it wasn’t too bad but I know I’m not as hydrated as I should be. I’ll catch up in town tomorrow when I have some ice cubes to go with it.
The best spot Luke and I took a break today was under a massive boulder near a place called Oliflame canyon. There were massive white granite rocks sticking out of the green brush and it was so pretty. Luke and I pushed through a bunch of spiky brush to get to the perfect shady spot under the rock. I was thankful for the long hours of hiking today so I had time for so many breaks. My feet have started to hurt but it’s hard to tell if it’s just the beginning of the trail or if I’m actually pushing it too hard. I’ve decided if my feet are swollen for two days in a row then I will definitely take time off until they are normal again which should only be one day if I play it right. They were swollen in Mt Laguna but some Advil did the trick and they looked and felt great again in the morning.
Our last really long break today was at the water source. We hiked 0.3 miles off trail through a trailhead on a highway to a water tank. It was hot at 2:30 when we arrived. We found shade next to the water tank and immediately set up our stuff to relax in it. We ended up staying at that break spot for almost two hours. Since there isn’t water for another nine miles I drank a liter at the source, cooked my dinner, and filtered four liters for dry camping in four miles. Two other hikers joined us for about 30 minutes before we continued on. Their names were Joe and Sue. Sue hiked the PCT in 2007 and repeats sections every year. She reminds me of how I go back to repeat sections of the AT.
Camp was at the bottom of a long decent into a green Valley. There were about six other tents nearby but everyone seemed to be asleep or relaxing for the night. I was honestly so tired I didn’t feel social anyways. Today my body felt so much better than I was expecting and I was really happy about it.
Luke and I walked out of camp in the morning twilight. It was a pleasantly cool morning. I kept my puffy on for the entire first five miles without getting hot. We walked down a sandy trail with a nice constant breeze that reminded me of being next to the ocean. At mile five we took a long break at Boulder Oaks Campground. As I stretched on my black foam sleeping pad for thirty minutes Sam hiked in to join us. I met Sam at Scout and Frodo’s house before I got dropped off at the trail. If I had to guess he is about fifty years old despite looking really young. I know this because he hiked the PCT for the first time in 1992. He is an artist professionally: specifically a sculptor. Sam is the only person I’ve met who seems to be hiking about the same pace as me. He hiked with Luke and I for the rest of the day.
After our first long morning break, we hiked three more miles to Kitchen Creek Falls where we went a steep 0.3 miles off the trail to go see the water feature. It wasn’t big and gushing like I was expecting but it was definitely a nice spot to take a break! Today wasn’t as scenic as yesterday but it was still very pretty. Anytime I saw a very nice shady spot under a tree I took a break because I didn’t know when the next time we would see a nice shady spot would be. Today was more exposed to the sun and I was thankful for our early morning start. I applied sunscreen pretty frequently.
Luke and I needed to get to mount Laguna by 4pm so we could get some extra groceries for resupply and eat dinner at the restaurant next to our hostel before everything closes at 5pm. Because of this we didn’t take as many long breaks as I would have preferred. My feet honestly hurt pretty bad by the time we walked into town. I look forward to taking more breaks tomorrow. As soon as we dropped our bags at the hostel we ran down to the general store and back to the restaurant for dinner. I had a large salad with a french baguette and butter. I was thankful to lie down after dinner I felt pretty exhausted but glad to be in town early. I didn’t really talk to any of the other hikers I saw and only one other person is staying at the hostel. Sam ended up camping a few miles before town. He plans a rest day in Mt. Laguna tomorrow but I’m sure I’ll see him again. I’m not super concerned about making friends the first week on trail. It makes me nervous when people are insecure about hiking alone and making friends on week one, especially when you don’t know other hikers paces yet. I am looking forward to spending more time alone on this trail than I did on the CDT but hopefully I make some friends by mile 400! It’s nice that Luke joined me right at the beginning so I can have some company but also lots of space to make friends in a week or so.