March 30 – day 4. Water? Water? Water! Water?

I awoke before sunrise and cooked a full breakfast: oatmeal and hot cocoa!  We packed up and filled up our water bottles at the local Fores Service maintained cistern.


Don’t fret:  the water from the spigot is clear, but does need filtering.  Someof the desert water sources are cisterns like this or are caches of one gallon jugs that friendly people keep filling. 

I carry a trail map (Halfmile Maps), Halfmiles PCT App on my phone, and most importantly, DoubleTaps PCT Water Report. The last one contain up to date reports of water conditions on the trail.  If you read it soon you’ll see some reports by Dalem — that’s me until I get a trail name.

Well, we planned on hiking 20 miles today and filled up on water when we left.  Along the way we past two places where we could (should) have drink up and topped off, but didn’t.  It was not as hot and we saw on the map that there was a water cistern at mile 62.4.  We planned to be just about by then so we passed up the earlier supplies.  For whatever reason I did not read the Water report that clearly states the cistern is dry as bone.  I swallowed my last mouthful of the water I had then opened the spigot to refill…. nothing.  Yikes!  We are in the middle of the desert at noontime with the next nearest water maybe a mile away (ok…) or verified at 6 miles away.  

Hoping to find a stream that was flowing a few days ago I started hiking up a dirt road looking on either side for signs of moisture. I hiked 3/4 miles up that hilly road and saw a lot of dusty desert.  Dave caught up with me and we decided to head out on the long dry trek to the verified source.  

Funny thing, I did not notice my feet were hurting for those 6 miles…  

It’s funny that there are two types of yearnings while hiking: the things you cannot get on the trail: ice cream, fresh fruit and veggies, hamburgers and the like. The other yearnings are for simpler things like a flat campsite, no mosquitoes, etc.  what I was yearning this 6 miles was drinking water from a cup– not having to suck it through a resistive filter from a bottle. 

I made it to the next cistern and while parched I was not in danger.  I did drink a liter and a half right away – forget the cup for now, give me water!

I have a few new rules that I follow:  download the PCT Water Report every time I have internet, memorize that report for theft Section and always drink up and top off whenever I pass water!

The wind picked up in the afternoon, and I mean really picked up!  It kept me cool which is good because I could not use my sun-brella.  Dave hiked on ahead and I slowed way down as I traversed the mountain sides.  The wind was so strong it pushed me around!  I was able to stay on the narrow trail but the wind while cresting passes was crazy!

I had a choice of finding a campsite on the mountainside or trying to hike down to the highway and hitchhike to Julian.  I was so exhausted that I found a passable campsite and had that wonderful cup of water- 2 actually!  I ate snacks for dinner and sent my first “Camping Here” satellite message and requested a satellite weather report which came back as “5pm 10% chance of rain 11pm No rain, but strong winds.”

Well, the winds are already here and getting stronger and the clouds I see are about 50 miles away on a different mountain range.  The passable campsite turned out to be not so much so – the wind blew unblocked off the crest right down the narrow canyon I was in.  

I felt rejuvenated after my meal and cups of water, so decided to head on down the trail.  Maybe I’ll catch up to Dave and maybe he’ll be in a campsite that can fit two, but as dusk fell I needed to find something better.

I found another narrow ravine with a tall rock face and dead brush that broke the wind a bit.  I learned how to setup my tent in crazy wind and quickly threw everything into it to prevent it from blowing away!

My tent is a two-walled type- an inner wall of waterproof bottom with mosquito netting atop.  The second layer is a rain fly.  I chose to not attach the rain fly as it would catch more of the wind gusts.  This worked well and while the whole tent was pushed this way and that in the gusts, it stayed put.

Of course, I was exposed if it started raining, but the stars were out and it was well past 5pm, right?
At 10:30pm it started raining.  It was still gusting like crazy but I got the rain fly attached before everything got too wet.  Luckily my tent stakes held in the sandy soil and my tent poles took the punishment.

The rain and wind cleared sometime in the night.  Wow, “water” is the word for the day!

Thanks for reading!

March 29 – day 3

Mile 33.57 to 52.51 — Long Valley Creek to Pioneer Mail Rest Area

Getting out of the tent was painful! My body is stiff and walking hurts my feet. But, I need to get going and as an incentive there may be cold drinks at the store in Mt. Laguna!  

Mount Laguna is at 6,000 feet elevation and is topped with a forest of pine trees. It was great to be hiking there. Indeed there were cold drinks but it was too early for beer, so Dr Pepper and BBQ potato chips was second breakfast. First breakfast was a single poptart.  

The pine trees disappeared all too soon as we descended the north side of Mt Laguna. We left just in time as the local fire crew started a controlled burn. Let’s hope it stays controlled!  (It did)


We turn a corner and are met with an awesome view of the lower desert and the snow capped mountains beyond. We are headed to those mountains! The snow covered one on the right is Mt. San Jacinto at 10,000 feet, the snowy ones in back and to the left are Mt. San Gorgonio and the Big Bear Mountains.  The Saltin Sea is the blue area way back on the right.  Not sure you can see all that in this photo.


We hiked up and down through low desert scrub (read: no shade).  Luckily I brought my own shade — a “chrome-dome” lightweight umbrella:


I am sooooo glad I had this!  It made a world of difference.  Note that it attached to my pack and so hands free!  I also note that I have quite a beer belly 😩.

Just when we were exhausted we came upon the Pioneer Mail Picnic and Rest Area.    The weather report looked good and there were zero clouds so I decided to cowboy camp here (no tent).  I did see and kill one mosquito, so I slept with my mosquito netting.


Two other PCTers arrived late and also setup here for the night.  I can only imagine how busy this will be in a few weeks when the main hiker herd passes through.

Thanks for reading!

March 28 – day 2. Learning about the word “Crest”

Mile 20.00 to 33.57

I’ve been hiking with a retiree from Michigan named Dave. He hikes a bit faster than me but has about the same daily distance capacity. So far, we are hiking buddies.

We were serenaded at Lake Morena overnight by a few owls, a pack of coyotes and later a dozen wild turkeys. It would have been something if the ey had all run into each other!  I awoke at sunrise and my tent was frozen. I slept very warm so was surprised the brief rain had turned to ice. I packed it up wet knowing there would be plenty of sun to dry out later.


We needed to get an early start because today will be hot and it is all uphill – 3,000 feet of uphill over the next 20 miles! The “Crest” in PCT means this Trail tries to hit every high spot along the series of mountain ranges in CA, OR and WA. That means a lot of up and down really starting today!


We were surprised by two stream fords in the morning. The first we opted to walk across the road bridge. The second was more remote, so we took off our shoes and socks and walked across. I’m always a bit reluctant to go through the hastle of taking off my shoes to cross a stream but always delighted once done!

We refilled with water at Kitchen Creek which was roaring. Many people were here dayhiking and swimming- is this really the desert?

Yes, it is really the desert — the temperature rose to 88•F. We hiked until dusk and finally reached a flat camping spot near Long Valley Creek.  We nibbled at dinner, set up tents and crashed. My feet are so sore and I am exhausted!  
Still excited to be doing this crazy trip!

Thanks for reading!

March 27 – day 1 It’s finally time to start!

PCT mile 0 to mile 20 
We were woken up at 5am and after a breakfast of French toast, eggs, fruit and coffee we piled two SUVs and started the hour and a half dive to the PCT Southern Terminus on the border.  
Finally we turned onto a dirt road where at the end had the monument with the border wall right behind it. There is a wall on this section of the border…

Of course I had to get my picture taken:


As well as our staring group:


And with that done it suddenly felt real — no more planning, obsessing over what and what not to bring, no more endless waiting for this day – it was here and I am starting!

We were spared the desert heat in the morning because of high clouds – excellent! I started down the trail following two others. Within the first 1/3 mile they started following a dirt road by accident. Luckily they turned back and now I was leading – yikes!

I picked the right year and time to start my hike: usually there is no water for the first 20 miles. Hikers are advised to carry 6 liters of water! We carried 2-3 and were fine. We passed a dozen creeks crossing the trail and topped off just in case.  

I was feeling pretty good when I hit my targeted first camp spot at 3:30, so decided to hike the 5 miles to Lake Morena. This started with a big uphill and long slog to the campground. I was exhausted and my feet felt like the soles had been beaten with sticks.  

I set up my tent with about 15 other PCTers. Took a lovely lukewarm shower and hobbled back to my tent to eat dinner (a few cookies) and drink a ton of water. I climbed into my tent at sunset and heard the gentle patting of rain on the tent. It was very tranquil and I fell asleep.
Thanks for reading!

Trail Angels are awesome!

Tomorrow I start hiking at The PCT Southern Terminus, but getting started would be a bit of a problem if it weren’t for the help of family and Trail Angels.

Liz, of course, has been a huge supporter, advisor and confidant.  She’s taking care of timely mailing of my resupply packages, monitoring my progress while taking on all my home duties.

My Dad and stepmom collected me from the San Diego airport, drove me around to get fuel (can’t fly with it, no coffee without it).  They then dropped me off at the San Diego home of Trail Angels Scout and Frodo.

Scout was on the Pacific Crest Trail Association Board and both he and Frodo are passionate about the beauty and importance of the trail.  They open their house to up to 20 hikers _per day_, domestic and international, and help them get started.  They do this from March-May every year.  They will collect hikers from the airport, direct them to local stores, feed everyone dinner, provide a place to sleep, feed us breakfast and shuttle us the 1 1/2 hits to the trailhead!  All with no obligation except to share their love of the trail.
Dinner was great with fresh fruit dessert!  Sleeping arrangements are 3 large tents in the back yard:


But there’s one more place to sleep… up in that tree!  That’s where I’ll be tonight!  How cool is that!  Here’s the view from my bed.


There are 6 others starting PCT hikes tomorrow.  We get up at 5am, eat breakfast, drive out and hit the trail by 7:30.

Right now the worries of what I may have forgotten to bring are fading — I’ll find out soon enough!  Now my concerns are about weather (reports are for gusty winds tomorrow) and how long it will be until I develop my routine – what goes in what pocket, staging lunch for the day so I don’t have to dig through the food bag, etc.

I’m ready though, so I think I’ll go through all my gear just one more time before I go to sleep…

Thanks for reading!

Camping and Resupply

Here is my rough itinerary.  It is very likely that I will not keep to this schedule opting instead to hike more or less on any day or deciding to visit cities or points of interest along the way.

I am mailing some boxes of food and gear to Post Offices in Julian and Idyllwild, maps to Trail Angels in Agra Dulce and a food box up the Kennedy Meadows General Store in the southern Sierras.

 

The rest of my resupply stops will be in towns on or near the trail.

Planning and worrying…

Welcome to my first blog! I am one week away from the start of my Pacific Crest Trail Section hike where I intend to hike from the Southern Terminus in Campo, Ca to the Cottonwood Lakes Campground, some 750 miles away.

I have been mentally preparing for this journey for many months by pouring over maps, reading blogs, watching YouTube videos from past PCT’ers, joining Facebook and email groups, and developing meal and daily mileage plans. Not surprisingly, I still have questions, concerns and late-night worries: what will the snow conditions be on Fuller Ridge near San Jacinto Peak? Do I need crampons instead of micro-spikes? Do I need an ice axe or whippet pole? What about the trail conditions getting to Big Bear? How do I structure my resupply’s? How do I find and communicate with Trail Angels along the way? Etc., etc., etc.

I keep reminding myself that while concern is good, worry is useless, likely detrimental. I will figure this all out with the help of others that I have not yet met.

I have analyzed, packed and unpacked everything multiple times. I have struggled with decisions of what to bring and what to leave. I have finally settled on what I will bring:

PCT_pack_contnets

All the above includes 4 full days of meals, but no water and no fuel.  It weighs in at just under 25 pounds.  I am very happy with that weight — I was sporting 40+ pound packs on my last few long distance hikes!

Here’s a link to another view of what I will be bringing and wearing: my Lighter Pack page.