Day 0 – April 24th
Traveled to Lake Morena today. Said last goodbyes to Andrea and Morgan over breakfast close to our place. Drove out to the airport and met my good friend Lamar who took my car and will be keeping it on his property. It is so nice of him to offer to do that. Once in San Diego, I was picked up by my friend from home, Rachel and taken to her house. There I met her husband Chris and was served a great soup made of pork from one of their previous pigs. They were kind enough to drive me a little over an hour from San Diego to Lake Morena, 20 trail miles from the Mexico Border. It was great catching up and hearing of Rachel’s life. They have lived on little farms down by the border as well as in the city. Currently they reside in the city but have several hens and ducks, and a great garden. Lake Morena was already hopping with several aspiring and previous thru-hikers. There were tents everywhere. Each year there’s a weekend party called ADZPCTKO (Annual Day Zero Pacific Crest Trail Kick Off) on the last weekend in April. I’m really looking forward to being here and starting the trail tomorrow at the border.
Day 1 – April 25th
Start: Mexico Border, mile 0
End: Lake Morena CG, mile 20.0
Miles hiked: 20
Woke up at 5:30 and took a days worth of food and 5 liters of water in my pack to ‘slack pack’ the first section of the trail, approximately 20 miles. I was dropped off around 7am at the monument on the border. The official start of the Pacific Crest Trail. It was surreal to finally be here, and know that I was embarking on what will surely be a life changing experience. There were roughly 12 people at the border, so I snapped a quick picture and took off. Soon after I ran into Kelly. She was from the Bay area and was pleasant to talk to. We kept a good pace and made sure to continually hydrate. Just yesterday, a young man died on the first 20 miles. It’s a waterless stretch, and very hot/dry. He must have been dehydrated, and it sounds like he died of heat stroke. He was an aspiring thru-hiker. Very sad to hear that, and also a bit frightening. I was making sure to not push my limits and drink plenty of water. Kelly and I talked of life goals, inspiration to hike the trail, and many other things. The scenery was more green than I expected with lots of shrubbery on the dry earth. It felt great finally being on the trail, knowing this would be my life for the foreseeable future. Kelly and I eventually passed a man named Todd from Minneapolis. He was very friendly and we ended up hiking with him the remaining 12 miles. There were some very exposed sections, including a 1,500 foot climb out of Houser creek. Once back at the camp ground I got some needed goods and met several awesome people including Jack “Found” Haskel who is a well known thru-hiker and now works in a role for the PCTA. The park was packed with people all anticipating their long journey. It was fun to mingle and meet as many as I could. I feel ready to go for the morning!
Day 2 – April 26th
Start: Lake Morena CG, Mile 20.0
End: Burn Rancheria, Mile 41.7
Miles Hiked 21.7
Last night I woke up to my tarp flopping around in the wind and rain flooding all over my gear and sleeping bag. The wind was crazy intense, and the soft soil didn’t work well with the stakes. Once the wind caught the tarp, it pulled the stakes right out of the ground. I quickly got up in the rain to get things stabilized and notices many others doing the same thing at 2am. I had to do this twice more throughout the night. Getting tested already out here! Real wild storm! Around 6am I packed my wet gear into my backpack while it continued to drizzle with a wild wind. It rained hard for the first three hours as I put my head down and continued to hike fast in order to stay warm. Around 2pm it started to slow down a bit and I began hiking with Brainstorm. We met a man named Kermit at an underpass who gave us cookies and a power bar. Trail Magic! People are so great out here, it’s awesome. I continued to hike with Brainstorm the rest of the way. We hiked up roughly 3,000 feet in the cold. On Mt. Laguna there was still snow on the ground, and we could see our breath. This is NOT what I expected in the desert. But we’re taking advantage of the cold, as it is nice hiking conditions. The hike up got more and more scenic with every step, and I really loved the green grass and beautiful pines with the light snow on the ground.
I limped the last 2 miles as my feet started to feel very tired, and I was happy when we made it to camp. Before dark another man came by, Nigel, and camped next to us. Overall it was a great day, despite me being consistently cold and tired. Feeling the energy of the storm gave me a lot of energy in the morning, as I seemed to feed off of the excitement of what lies ahead. Great day!
Day 3 – April 27th
Start: Burnt Rancheria, Mile 41.7
End: Rodriguez Intersection, Mile 68.8
Miles Hiked: 26.1
It was another windy night, but I stayed fairly warm. Brainstorm, McButter and I hiked quickly down Mt Laguna. It was still very cool outside, and great hiking conditions. Mt Laguna is more a plateau than it is a mountain. It has very steep walls roughly 3,000 feet up, then its rolling hills at the top. It was really pretty seeing the cliffy edges that we hiked near. It was continuous views of the valley floor and surrounding mountains. It was great hiking with our group of three. Brainstorm is a very intellectual man from Brooklyn. He has a wealth of knowledge in many different areas and seems very well cultured. He told many amazing stories of his Ukrainian grandparents and their efforts in WWII. Both were in Nazi concentration camps and lived past them. McButter (Nigel) is a very tall, lanky younger guy from Portland. Very quick-witted humor and large vocabulary. Just a hilarious dude. Between the three of us we were laughing the entire day, and really feeding off each others positive energy. We ended up hiking 26 miles and my feet were as sore as could be when we stopped at a giant cistern at Rodriguez Crossing. It was the last water source for 9 miles, so there were many hikers camped here. I got invited up to the top of the cistern where I met Carrot and Rex. I have read Carrot’s blog from last year as she is a previous thru-hiker, and it is amazing. She’s a beautiful writer, and really captures the trail in words. It was fun to meet her after following her for so long. Look up her blog if you get a chance, it’s phenomenal. Her writings get posted in magazines and all over the place. McButter joined and we all sat and watched the sun set over the mountains as we cooked dinner. Once dark, I cowboy camped under the cistern and used it for relief from the winds. It didn’t do much. The stars were fantastic though!
Day 4 – April 28th
Start: Rodriguez Crossing, Mile 68.8
End: Small campsite, Mile 93.2
Miles Hiked: 24.4
Set off with Brainstorm at 5:45 am. We got views of a nice sunrise over the mountains for the first half hour. It was a relatively flat first 9 miles to scissors crossing where there is a water cache at an underpass of a highway. We made it here by 9 am and were greeted by Rock Ocean. This guy is a trail angel who is following the pack of thru-hikers north and meeting them all at different points and offering to drive them to town/help them out. Very cool idea, and he said that the donations have been sustaining his food and gas use. PCT hikers are spoiled! After half hour, McButter and Carrot showed up with several other hikers trickling in. I gorged myself on every food I had, cooking pasta and adding a healthy amount of olive oil for calories. The next 15 miles are dry and exposed, so we loaded up with 6 liters a piece. I left around 11, shortly after Brainstorm. The next few hours were beautiful, but it was hard to enjoy it with my sore feet and constantly feeling exhausted and dehydrated as I was taking a beating from the sun/heat. I developed a rather large blister that engulfed my pinky toe. It hurt quite badly, and oozed a lot when popped. Luckily there were beautiful cactus flowers in bloom everywhere, and the company of Brainstorm and McButter kept my spirits high. The flowers were blooming in every color: Red, Purple, Pink, Orange, and Yellow. It was really great. But man, these San Filipe hills were hot and rocky. Throughout the day there were air force jets flying by. Looked like F16’s doing some sort of mountain combat training. At one point they were flying well below us in the valley, which was a cool viewpoint to have of a fighter jet–to be above it. It started to feel like our hiking group of three was really meshing. Hopefully we’ll all stay together for a good amount of time, as we all get along so well, and hike at a similar clip. It’s been great, and more than I expected! We found a nice little tent-sized patch where we all laid down our pads and cowboy camped for the night. Several times in the night I woke up and saw a prominent Milky Way. It was beautiful! My feet, however, are extremely sore and blistered. Tomorrow we’ll get to Warner Springs after 17 miles of hiking, and I’m looking forward to a nice cold soda and a burger! Twinkle Toes out!