It was still dark outside when trail angel Scout directed us and 30 or so other hikers to cars that would be dropping us off at the PCT southern terminus. As we whizzed along the highway, it still felt surreal to me that we were actually starting our 6 month long hike. We arrived at the Mexican / US border an hour later, took our photos, touched the 3 meter corrugated iron wall and were off!
We surprised ourselves on the first day by hiking 15 miles / 24km to Hauser creek. I think the excitement propelled us and it still honestly felt like we were on the weekend camping trip where we had to be at a destination in a few hours. That night all the frogs by the creek serenaded us to sleep. I forgot how noisy nature could be – thank goodness for ear plugs!
On the second day, we woke up early and hiked 5 miles to have breakfast at the Lake Morena malt shop. We were lucky that trail life started off gently going northbound on the PCT. We ate lunch next to a seasonal stream under a busy highway underpass. In true hikertrash fashion, we started doing some laundry in this stream. It had only been 2 days on trail but we had assimilated quickly!
After an early night, we started hiking at 7am on the third day and crushed 10 miles / 16km by 12pm – a new personal record! We started climbing up a mountain which had fascintating rock formations. As opposed to being rotund boulders, these rock were jagged & had vertical lines as if they were sliced downwards. Intersperesed between these rocks were occasionally delicate flowers which were often fuchsia, white and sometimes orange-yellow. However, as we neared Mount Laguna we started hiking through pine forests. It was strange to know that we were still in the desert as we walked through the dappled sunlight with the footpath littered with pine cones beside it.
That night, the water in our water bottles froze and the grass was crunchy with frost as we hiked out. Our fourth day was characterized with windy weather – it was SO WINDY. As we hiked towards Monument peak, the wind was so strong I had my hiking poles 45 degrees against the wind so I could stumble forward in a straight line. For the rest of the day we would find hikers ducked behind boulders and shrubs to find some respite from the relentless wind. That night we camped in a river washout which was bordered with dense bushes. Although the bushes weren’t tall, they were tall enough to shield our thin tents from the dastardly wind. Before going to bed that night, I noticed my sleeping bag deflating rapidly – uh oh, there was a leak! After unsuccessfully trying to troubleshoot the leak, Andrew generously swapped his sleeping pad with mine.
After a good night’s sleep for myself (not so good for Andrew) we decided on a short 10 mile day since I was experiencing some knee pain. When we came across a stream, Andrew used this to look for holes in my sleeping pad. He submerged my inflated pad in the water & looked for any air bubbles emerging. He found two small holes near the foot end. After the glue dried, we hiked to our planned campsite where there was a small stream. The stream was starting to dry up so we had to walk further upstream to find it. In a few weeks the stream would probably dry up completely and hikers would need to carry more water – this was one of the risks of the desert.
The next morning, as we started hiking out from the creek valley and saw a woman and pre-adolescent sitting on a ledge above us.
“Is that a child with you?” the woman asked Andrew, peering down at me. There was some tall bushes in her view so all she could see was the top of my sun hat.
“No,” Andrew replied, “She’s a thirty year old woman.”
“Oh! Sorry I’m short too! I also have a kid with me. It’s good to look young…”
As I walked pass them I replied, “Maybe looking like a child will help us get hitches!”
The trail this day (sixth day) was fairly frustratig as we followed along the mountain ridge lines. Often times we would see the trail across a valley perhaps half a mile as the crow flies, but have to walk into the cut of the mountain & out again – a bridge would have been much more efficient!
By 11am we had hiked 7 miles with 4 miles left to our planned camp site. Sitting in the shade of a large boulder, we debated whether we should just push on. The sound of a shower & non-deflating mattress was so enticing that we decided to make it to town. Gulping down an energy shot and electrolytes we psyched ourselves up for the luxurious night ahead.
As we hurried down the rocky trail, the sun was beating down on us. The trail teased us as it twisted and turned away from the freeway – which was our destination – we could see below.
Finally we arrived at Scissors crossing, now it was our first time hitch hiking! As Andrew took his backpack off a silver van pulled up. We hadn’t even waited for 1 minute & a hitch had arrived! We thanked him profusely & he introduced himself as Ghost. Ghost was a trail angel who drove hikers between Scissors crossing & Julian.
When we arrived in town it was a bit overwhelming to see so many people but we were ecstatic to have arrived!