Thursday, November 16, 2017

PCT 2017 Week 1

On March 21st, 2017 I walked north from the Mexican border. 

Campo to Scissors Crossing

The obligatory Southern Terminus photo. Full disclosure, this shot was taken March 20, the day before my hike started. I had stayed at Jacumba Hot Springs Spa & Resort the night before and I was headed to Mt. Laguna to drop off a package so  since I was in the neighborhood I stopped by the monument. 
The first mile is the hardest, right? Haha, that is not the case on the PCT.

The railroad that connects Campo, CA and Tecate, Mexico.

The ever-present Border Patrol on watch.

Everything was so green this year and SO much water. The previous two years there was no water for the first 20 miles.

It's wildflower season!

This fire, which burned last year, killed two local residents.

March 22, 2017

Near the end of my hike last year I developed plantar fasciitis in both feet and I haven't had a pain free day since. After my first day on trail this year I thought I wouldn't be able to go on. I hiked 11.4 miles and each step was torture. I was ready to concede. Had I been camped near a road then I would have tried to hitch back to San Diego. During the night I remembered that my friend Sunshine had told me how to tape my feet for plantar fasciitis relief. The morning of Day 2 dawned and I taped them just to get me to Lake Morena so I could catch a bus back to San Diego. After a few steps I realized that the tape job was working beautifully. My pain wasn't gone but it had become manageable. I felt like I had just been given a last minute reprieve. 
It rained during the night and most of the day.

I'm always happier when it's raining. 

Hauser Canyon, which has a harsh reputation with PCT hikers, had it's edges softened by the storm. Normally it's hot and dry and climbing out is the first real climb of the hike. It's not super steep but people bitch about it like it's Everest or something. Myself included. 

The little things.

This is my favorite weather in which to hike.

I hiked into Lake Morena and ate lunch at the little deli/liquor store. They make a mean BLT.

These ferns resembled a miniature forest.

While this storm wasn't bad, it did have some nice, dramatic clouds.

The day had a very Pacific Northwest feel to it. 

Some cool little flowers.

I cannot express just how much I love this weather.

As I neared Lake Morena the storm started breaking up.

My camp for the night. My tent was still wet from the night before.

March 23, 2017

Kind of creepy. I found this quite a ways off trail.

This morning about an hour before dawn it started raining pretty hard. It had sprinkled off and on through the night but this was a good, heavy rain. It was cold out but my bag felt nice and warm. I dare say it was cozy. Then disaster struck and I had to go out and poop in a hole in the pouring ass rain. In the dark. Fun times. Oh, and the rain stopped when I crawled back in.

Me and all my shit. 

I hiked out of Lake Morena yesterday with a BLT for my dinner and a Mountain Dew for my breakfast. Pro Tip: Always carry a sandwich and/or fruit away from every town stop. You won't regret it.
Today I felt great. I've got a cold that's been hanging around but other than that it was a good day. The tape job on my feet is helping. I sort of feel like I busted up some scar tissue on that first day. All last year I didn't have a day as bad as that one.

An Easter Egg, of sorts. 

This looked like a strawberry to me.

The yuccas are putting on a show.

It's still a little early for the big bloom.

The funny thing is that I remembered what song I was listening to when I passed here last year. And the year before. For the record, last year it was 'The Highwayman' and the year before 'Master Of Puppets'. 

Yep, I'm in a relationship with the trail.

Water, water, everywhere.

This sure doesn't look like the desert.

I'm copying and pasting from my journal for a lot of these captions but some I'm adding now so you may notice a past/present tense issue on here. Please forgive me.
Climbing up away from Interstate 8.

Looking south.

Tonight I'm camped in a little flat spot under some black oaks, right next to a babbling stream. It's cold but that's ok. It beats being hot. I'm blown away by how much water there is this year. I had to ford two streams today. There's water everywhere. There is seriously more water than I saw on the PCT in Washington. Way more, actually. My world has been turned upside down. I DID meet a lady named Alice. Hmmm, I must have fallen down the rabbit hole. Haha.
March 24, 2017

This morning I was up and away before 0800. That's my earliest start yet except for day one. I was on a mission to eat lunch at the Pine House Tavern in Mount Laguna. I set a good pace and felt great all day. I even danced down the trail some. Those day one issues aren't even on the radar now. Hallelujah!

Mistletoe growing in a tree next to Long Canyon Creek.

Some good views are to be had climbing up to Mount Laguna.

Always a welcome sight.
This is a 'granary tree' created by an acorn woodpecker. For more information Click here.

To me, this looked like a dragon hovering above the USAF radar installation at Mount Laguna. Gil, a cool dude from Fallon, Nevada, camped near me last night. And there was some other dude that kept to himself. Gil is a good guy but Gil has the Thermarest Neo-air sleeping pad. Thanks to Thermarest I never want to camp next to anyone ever again. I finally nailed down the sound those things make. Someone said potato chip bag crinkling but that's not quite it. Close your eyes and imagine a hot and humid summer night down south. You're with your girl, who is wearing short shorts, and she scoots across a vinyl seat to roll the window down. The sound that her sweaty ass makes sliding back and forth, THAT is the Thermarest Neo-air. Except there is not a girl in short shorts. The slightest movement echos 50 yards away. It's ridiculous. Last summer, while camped next to Neo-air owners (it's the single most common pad on the PCT), I kept daydreaming about sharpening a stick and low crawling over during the night and popping that motherfucker. It's super annoying. Luckily Gil was far enough away that he didn't keep me awake. And no sticks were sharpened. Haha

After eating a tasty burger I had a little repair work done on my poles. I broke a tip yesterday and was able to get it taken care of at the gear store here. Nice folks and one of my favorite gear stores. I met a girl from Arkansas there and we chatted on the porch. She hiked in '15. She said her trail name was Wild and it was easy to see why. She very much resembles Reese. She started a couple weeks before me that year. I kind of wish I had hiked faster.
At the Mount Laguna General Store I retrieved a package that I had dropped off on Sunday. Anyway, I was in the back of the store and came back up front. There was a dude there that, well, was THE Dude from 'The Big Lebowski'. This guy might actually have been Jeff Bridges. He was dressed JUST like the dude, too. I walked by him on my way out and said, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!". His buddy, who did not look like John Goodman, chuckled. I went outside and was rummaging through my pack trying to figure how much food I needed for the upcoming section. The dude walks up and offers some very 'dude-like' trail magic and then drove off. It was such a cool experience. I felt like I just lived out a deleted scene from the movie.
I'm camped in a super cool little spot with an expansive view. The precipice to the east drops down a vertical mile to the desert floor. Tomorrow is all downhill.

March 25, 2017

The views across the Anza-Borrego are epic.

This might be a western redbud. I'm not sure, though.

The Pioneer Mail Picnic Area is a great spot to stop for lunch.

I'm not a fan of graffiti but sometimes it resembles art.

Yesterday not too much happened. The wind during the night was crazy. It was whipping over the hilltop I was camped on at probably 60 mph but my tent was sheltered from almost all of it. I left Mount Laguna and made good time to the boulder field, about 14 miles. Cool, crisp and windy most of the day. I only saw 4 other PCT hikers. A couple from Morton, WA, Richard, a physician assistant who retired after 30 years military service, and a guy named Quiet from Ohio. At least I think his name is Quiet. He possibly could have been telling me to be quiet when I asked his name. Not sure on that one. I also met a section hiker named Sherpa.
Enjoying the view.

The yucca blooms are unique and beautiful.

This evening I set my tent up between two huge boulders thinking I would be protected from the atrocious wind. That was not the case. The space between the boulders made a wind tunnel. I thought my tent poles were about to snap. I moved about 300 yards away into a gully that blocked the majority of the wind. I've seen 70 mph wind in the Columbia River Gorge and 80 mph above Sonora Pass last year. This wasn't as bad but it was in the same ballpark. I'd guess 60 mph steady with 70 mph gusts. It was knocking me around pretty good.
The clouds were racing over the ridge in the strong wind.

March 26, 2017

The morning of day 6 I woke up with ice on my tent. My fingers were numb as I was packing up.

It was so nice to find water here. In the previous two years I had to go about .5 mile off trail and get water out of a horse trough at Sunrise Trailhead.

In the distance a snow covered Mt. San Jacinto rises up and beyond that the San Gorgonio Mountains.

Heart-shaped rock.

Manzanita blooming.

Today was an all day descent. From the boulder field down to Rodriquez Spur Tank and then a few miles beyond. I remembered a jeep road that was longer but less steep so I took that down the big descent and my feet and knees thanked me.
There's a gun range around here and you can almost always hear gunfire. It's a little unnerving. I always expect to see dust kicking up around me, haha.

Granite Mountain

I could see the super-bloom down below me when I was traversing the Lagunas but it's still elusive down here in Earthquake Valley. So far it looks like last year, only greener. Flowers are blooming but nothing more special than last year. I can see the yellow tint up on the Scissors switchbacks. That's an awesome botanical spot anyway, I hope to see it in full splendor. C'mon super-bloom.
The smell of desert wildflowers is intoxicating.

That's one hell of a flower.


At Rodriquez Spur I ran into Gil again. He and I were able to Yogi a couple beers from a wayward off-roader. He let us pet his dogs and I gave him directions back to Escondido. Gil and I camped near each other above Scissors Crossing and had a nice conversation about bears as the sun sank slowly in the west. I thought Gil was a little younger than me but he's got me by almost a decade. I've seen far more over 40 men this year than the last two years. And oddly, I've only seen a couple women. There are fewer hikers overall than I thought I'd see, too. I think the Sierra snow has everyone cautious.
Near Julian, California.

Good are the days that end like this.

March 27, 2017

The beauty is in the details.

Some cool light this morning.

Looking across Earthquake Valley toward the San Filipe Hills.

When I got to Stagecoach Trails RV park it was closed, like last year. I went around to the shepherds cabins in the back and luckily one was unlocked, like last year. I went in, made myself at home and gathered up laundry. Like last year, I figured that I'd just pay them tomorrow when they opened. Off to shower and do laundry I went. An hour later I returned to the cabin to find that the door had locked when I closed it. Crap. I found a landscape guy that put in a call for me. I waited outside the cabin getting sandblasted by 30 mph wind for 3 hours. Finally the Landscape guy took pity on me and took the door off its hinges to let me in. The good news is that I'm clean and have clean clothes.
A Frenchman picked me up today while hitchhiking. That's the 3rd time in 2 years that a French guy gave me a ride. He explained that he used to hitchhike a lot and that he always picks up PCT hikers. Good on you, sir. It was appreciated.
Heading toward Scissors Crossing. 

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Iva Bell Slideshow

Here's a slideshow of my latest backpacking adventure: