Here we are on our first zero day in little old Julian CA. We’ve hiked 77 miles in 6 days, longer than either of us have hiked in a stretch! We’ve seen Mexico, a dry lake, a few water caches (thank you trail angels), ambitious Canadians, one naked hiker, an ultra marathon on the PCT, a baby rattlesnake, countless lizards, and a dozen or two hikers. We’ve taken two showers, eaten two in-town meals, stayed in one campground, and slept in one real bed.
On day one, Brandon drove us to Campo, where we hiked 9 miles north from the border fence to our camp – a dusty spot next to an outcrop in a former burn area. Great weather, not too hot. 5 liters of water on our backs. Our first dinner – success (tuna stroganoff…SO much food)! Woke up in the middle of the night to a mouse chewing at my pack but I fended it away with my umbrella and then stashed our packs in the tent.
On day two we hiked from mile 9 to mile 21, just north of Lake Morena (which was dry!). The dried fruit was good for breakfast. We had our first climb today – after descending to Hauser Creek (water cache!) and then up to the lake. It was hot but we made it. Ran into the Canadians from Banff (who are hiking to Tahoe also…only in 2 months instead of 3!), saw our first snake, saw hiker Bob in town, refilled water at the campground, and then hiked into camp at 6:30 – a secluded spot tucked under a madrone tree with a perfect sunset viewing spot. Ramen for dinner. Not my fave. Did not sit well. Hot chocolate was so nice.
Day three we hiked our first longer day – 16 miles from mile 21 to mile 37, from the ridge above Morena to the ridge above Cibbetts Flats CG. A few miles in we watered up at Boulder Oaks CG where we met Phoebe with blisters and Steven hiking from Tampa to CA to Seattle. We passed a guy flagging for the PCT 50 mile ultra marathon as we left the CG. Back on trail and a climb in the heat, a water refill detour at Cibbetts Flats CG, then climbing again. Saw a baby rattlesnake (kind of adorable with two tiny rattles). My stomach was not feeling well (all this dehydrated food…) but I slogged on and we made it to a campsite with Anna at mile 37. The chicken-veg-rice-quinoa action tasted great. Sleep.
Day 4 we ran into all of the ultra marathoners as we hiked through Lake Morena. Feeling good today! Beautiful views this morning. We hiked down to Burnt Rancheria CG and had SHOWERS…amazing. Then to the Pine House Cafe and Tavern for burgers and beer, where we entered a food coma for the rest of the day. So good. So heavy. We stopped at the Laguna Mtn Sport and Supply where Jared got new shorts/pants, I pilfered the hiker boxes, and we chatted with Dave and a few other hikers (Rich and two girls). Back on the trail and burger heavy, saw Colin, a few more runners, hit some HEAVY winds in the burned area below Morena CG, then made camp at the CG (mile 47) and shared a site with Anna – who has become our hiking companion. Still full. The wind is chilly here.
Day 5 we hiked a 17ish mile day from Laguna CG to Chariot Canyon road. A lot of downhill. Another water cache at the Pioneer Mail picnic area. Passed a few bikers on the trail, an older man doing trail maintenance, and Anna a few times. We had our first water refill at a horse trough…with a mouse at the bottom…thank you water filter. Before we made our end-of-day decent I had my first blister meltdown…taped my feet, popped some ibuprofen, and got back on the trail. We made camp just before Chariot Canyon Rd, ate some Annie’s, and crashed. Warm night.
On day 6 we hiked and hitched into Julian with Anna and Colin. A quick 13 mile hike, water refill at Rodriguez tank, and crazy hitch/ride from a tiny woman who packed the 4 of us and our packs into her Chevy Aveo with her and a car seat and large cooler. Intense is an understatement. Whew. We escaped with our lives and got to the Julian Lodge, had a HOT shower, did some laundry, ate some snacks, and had dinner at Romanos – a solid Italian place. I had a great salad, tasty food, and a Guinness. A real bed to sleep in felt good, but I somehow felt strange covered by a roof. Back on the trail tomorrow.
On day 7 we woke in Julian to CRAZY WINDS outside and spent most of the day in town so we can tackle Scizzors crossing in the AM on day 8. Real breakfast, picked up a few supplies at the Julian Market and Deli, and ate the best split pea soup at Granny’s Kitchen. Hitching back to the trail soon…
Miles hiked – 77
Miles per day – 12.8
Day 1 – 9 mi
Day 2 – 12 mi
Day 3 – 15 mi
Day 4 – 10 mi
Day 5 – 18 mi
Day 6 – 13 mi
Day 7 – 0 mi
Blisters – Jean 5, Jared 2
This has been a pretty incredible week so far. 80 miles of walking (give or take) over the last 6 days, and I can’t wait to get out and do more. For one thing, I cannot emphasize enough how truly stunning the scenery is. The sense of scale alone is absolutely staggering – looking ahead, it’s impossible to tell if its 10 miles or 100 to the next mountain range. It seems at once like it’s right in front of us and that we could walk forever and never get there. Huge expanses of land stretch out in front of us in all directions, and it’s hard to not feel a little bit like any goal is utterly hopeless.
That said, progress on the PCT is unexpectedly tangible. We use map and compass a lot to figure out where we are on the trail, and we’ve gotten pretty good at determining our position just given nearby terrain and landmarks. In the mornings we are often looking ahead to a distant point and planning the details of how to get there – things like where will we get water and how much should we carry, where will we rest, how often should we eat, etc etc. By the late afternoon we’re standing on that distant point, looking back at where we started and recognizing the switchbacks and ridges that we traversed. So far every day it has looked really, really far away.
There have been some pretty hilarious moments on the trail too – two days ago we rounded a bend and saw a guy walking towards us, wearing a sun hat… and nothing else, other than a little backpack. “Those umbrellas are really cool,” he said, “where did you get them?” Needless to say, this was not how I expected this interaction (or any interaction, really) to go. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from this nude trekker, but it wasn’t talking shop.
Generally speaking I’ve been surprised by the attitude of people towards us as hikers – most everybody has been incredibly nice and warm, and has asked us to “travel safe” with total sincerity. Other acts of kindness have stood out as well – at the cafe where I am writing this, they offered us some free soup (for energy, they said), added sides on to our sandwich without our asking, and assured us that it would be fine if all we really wanted was to use the internet. Our next stop is Mama’s Pies down the street, where they are offering a free slice of pie to anybody with a PCT long distance permit.
On another note altogether, my body hurts. It’s not just that it hurts – it actually seems to be actively trying new and inventive ways to hurt every day. Luckily it seems to be choosing its victims pretty evenly – one day it’s my shoulder, another day my hip, and yesterday I discovered a new part of the human body between the ankle bone and the achilles’ tendon that is capable of being sore. Of course this morning, everything felt great again. So far, I’m grateful to say, these little aches and pains haven’t actually eaten into our hiking or diminished my enjoyment at all. In fact, it’s been kind of hobble around without a pack on and really feel just how hard your body is working to get you where you’re going.
On that note, yesterday I had my first oh-my-god-this-is-ridiculous moment when we were hitching from the PCT to Julian, CA. It’s about a 12 mile drive, give or take. Over the past two days we hiked about 31 miles, marking milestones such as Sunrise Trail, Rodriguez Spur, and Chariot Canyon Road. We got picked up by a kindly local woman from Julian who was… very chatty, let’s just say that. As we drove the maybe 10 minutes from the trail to Julian, we passed none other than the road to the Sunrise Trailhead, a sign for Rodriguez Spur, and another for Chariot Canyon Road. It took us hours and days to mark the distance between these places, and here they were accessible in mere moments by driving. I was reminded of a day a couple of weeks before we left – we decided to walk the entire Burke-Gilman trail in Seattle. It wraps around the city and is roughly 30 miles. After day 1, we had walked from Woodinville (way up north) back to the UW medical center. Our friend Tyler called and asked if we wanted to hang out – I told him we were too tired, we’d just walked 18 miles – and in the background, I hear Ziad yelling “DUDE WE HAVE A CAR, YOU DONT HAVE TO WALK!”
True, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So far, so good.