Trail Miles: 1–41.5
On April 24th, Monica and I flew into San Diego and were picked up by a past hiker of the PCT with the trail name Scout. He and his wife, trail named Frodo, host hikers the night before they start on the PCT. At their house we were able to pick up the gear and food we had mailed ahead and pack them into our packs. During the rest of the day we talked to fellow hikers, helped make food for everyone, and waited with nervous excitement for the trail.
After dinner Scout and Frodo shared some wisdom about hiking the trail as well as stories from their hikes. I was able to chat with Scout a little bit and learned that we both received our love of camping and backpacking from Boy Scouts. Monica and I both had a good time there.
The next morning we had a quick breakfast and then were shuttled off to the trail head at 6. We arrived at the trail head in Campo, CA at 7 where we signed the trail log, took some pictures, lathered sunscreen on, and set out.
Monica and I had trained for the trail when our schedules allowed, but it wasn’t as much as we would have liked. To start out on the trail we were planning on trying to stay around 10 miles a day for the first 20 days so we could let our bodies ease into long distance hiking and hopefully avoid injuries that might take us off the trail.
On the first day we had 11.4 miles to go to our campsite, but we also had 20 miles to go on the trail before we hit a water source. We each had 6 liters of water, and that’s nice and heavy. As the sun rose higher in the sky we could feel it blazing down on us. The temperature wasn’t crazy hot, but with the sun and no shade it is nice and toasty. I wouldn’t want to be starting the desert section any later than we were.
We pushed through the heat and got to our campsite in the early afternoon. We sat in the shade and drank some of our water; happy that we were done for the day. Monica was feeling a little nauseous and neither of us were hungry because of the heat and trying not to drink so we could save water for the next day. We learned an important lesson which, thankfully, didn’t come from any long term consequences: nourish yourself in the heat. Make sure you’re drinking water and eating food even if you don’t feel like it. Rookie mistake, but one we won’t forget.
The next day we decided to get up at 5 so we could set out on the trail in the cool of the morning before the sun began beating down too much. We had a nice hike down into Hauser Canyon and then we started the hike back up and out to Lake Morena. As we were hiking up the canyon we noticed that we were both sweating — something that hadn’t happened the day before since we were not hydrated enough. Our early morning hiking paid off and we were somewhat saved from the beating rays of the sun. We enjoyed a cool breeze and got a spring in our step when we started seeing Lake Morena in the distance.
The trail dropped us onto the main road near Lake Morena and right next to the Lake Morena County Park where we planned to stay the night. We met up with some fellow PCT hikers and set up in the park campsite designated for PCT hikers. Next we headed over to the shower house where they had hot running water. Being clean felt amazing and it’s crazy how something as little as taking a shower can make your day so much better.
With most of the afternoon and evening ahead of us we headed over to the Oak Shores Malt Shop where we got lemon iced tea and I got a chocolate malt. We sat on the porch of the malt shop and talked with fellow hikers as well as a couple of locals. It felt good to sit down and relax. After heading back to the campsite we made a dinner of mac & cheese and then turned in at 7 so we could get another early start the next morning.
With 13.2 miles ahead of us we got up at 5 and headed out around 6. Our tent had frost on it from moisture off of the lake, but we didn’t let that fool us into thinking it was going to be a cool day. We hiked in the shade most of the morning and made good time on the trail.
After passing under Interstate 8 we started climbing upwards towards our next campsite and into the sun. The late morning sun was beating down on us but we kept pressing on so we could reach the campsite in the early afternoon. We stopped for a break on a rock outcropping where we took our shoes and socks off and ate a snack. Continuing on we reached the side trail to our campsite.
We arrived at Cibbets Flat Campground early in the afternoon and enjoyed some shade with a fellow hiker named K2. A couple with a camper came over and chatted with us and offered us some frozen pineapple pops. Lucky us! The campground was luxurious — pit toilets and running water right from a spigot!
After we settled in and set up our tent other hikers trickled in throughout the day. We’ve been meeting hikers from all over the world and with so many different stories. Half the trail is hiking and the other half is the trail community.
We got up early again on day 4 so we could beat the heat and get to Mount Laguna where a motel room was waiting for us. It was a good hike and while we had to climb over 1,000 feet of elevation it was nice and gradual.
We ran into a lot of day hikers and one ignorant mountain biker who almost hit us careening downhill around a corner. When I asked him if he knew the trail wasn’t for mountain bikers he said he hadn’t seen any signs saying that, but I turned to the sign right behind me and pointed to the no mountain bikes part and gave him a lecture about doing his research and told him that the PCT is very well marked and I didn’t believe that he hadn’t seen any signs saying no mountain biking. Sure enough, down the trail we passed multiple no mountain biking signs that had the tread of his mountain bike going right past them.
We didn’t let the mountain biker sour our mood too much since we hit some nice shade under ponderosa pines and we were close to our destination. It wasn’t long before we wandered into the Burnt Rancheria campground and soon after the small town of Mount Laguna. We stopped into the Pine House Cafe & Tavern where we shared a breakfast plate and relaxed with fellow hikers.
Next up was the motel. We got there around noon and check-in wasn’t until 3, but thankfully our room was ready early and we were able to settle in and get showers and wash our clothes in a bucket the Laguna Mountain Lodge provided us with. It was amazing to lay down clean on a real bed with sheets and pillows. It wasn’t a fancy place, but it was just right for hikers like us.
We got to sleep in well past our normal 5 from the past couple of days and we polished off some oatmeal for breakfast. I’m currently sitting in the room writing this post while Monica relaxes on the bed.
We’re taking the day off, called a zero since we’re hiking zero miles, for our bodies to recover and rebuild. We’ve been working our bodies hard the past four days and we want them to keep going for 2,000+ more miles.
We picked up our resupply boxes here at the lodge and we’re going to be getting ready for the next 6 days of hiking before our next resupply. We’ve got some lengthy waterless stretches ahead where we’ll be relying on some water caches maintained by trail angels to help us not have to carry a five gallon bucket of water along the way.
The past four days have been challenging but a blast. Monica and I have had ups and downs. As a couple the trail has already grown us closer together. I wouldn’t change a minute if it and I’m excited to see what the trail holds for us. God has given us strength along the way and we know He’ll be with us through it all. Also, we haven’t seen a rattlesnake yet so that’s an answer to prayer.