So the good news is that I made it to the Southern terminus in Campo, as most of the Instagrammers would have already noticed. The fundraiser is officially underway!
And so I set off – it was about 08:15 and the sun well and truly melts your face off. My pack weighed in at about 36lbs before adding a few litres of water (approx. 2lb per litre). There was about 8 days worth of food too, which consisted mainly of oatmeal, almonds and banana chips(?). At the last minute I supplemented this with tortillas and nutella.
At first there were more bends and curves than I’d anticipated. As if Mexico to Canada wasn’t far enough, the trail ensures you cover every blade of grass and mountain in Southern California.
Turns out the Californian desert isn’t flat with lengthy sandy stretches and lone cacti, much like every Western and Zorro movie had taught me. Serves me right for not doing adeqaute research about the trail’s terrain in the early stages! Mountain after mountain, with the downhills being arguably more painful and damaging than the ups. My feet hurt, but luckily not quite as much as those around me, with some having multiple blisters and toe nails clinging on for dear life. I can give you whatever detail I fancy because you don’t actually have to sit next to someone repairing or dismantaling their feet.
On day one the trail shocked me. As a generally over-confident young lad, I wanted to prove myself to other more savvy thru-hikers. This meant attempting a 20 mile surge. We made it to mile 15 at Hauser Creek and took a look at the 1200ft incline in the blazing sun ahead of us. “NO THANKS!” my feet, knees, quads and shoulders all beckoned. One line you hear a lot is to ‘listen to your body’ or you could risk injury. Well I listened and setting up camp at 15 was sensible. A few people fought on including a chap called Zephyr, who is some way in the distance and hasn’t been seen since!
The first night was okay. Not as cold or uncomfortble as anticipated, but this soon changed.
Day 2 and we were raring to get up that mountain and fly past the others at Lake Morena. I was feeling pretty good and went ahead on my lonesome, which left me at mile 32 after day two and in Fred Canyon. This is where I was introduced to the desert winds… whether this was just due to the altitude I don’t know. Fred Canyon sits at around 4200ft. We were enclosed by a number of trees too, but this didn’t seem to stand in Mother Nature’s way.
Picture this – I’m trying to sleep outdoors in a completely alien environment, with a tent attacking from all sides. Being completely and utterly English, I assumed that rodents or snakes were trying to get at my food bag inside my tent (the sounds were much like this). So I used each limb to beat the side of my tent to make sure there were no unwanted visitors that night. A smart camper would have slept peacefully knowing that the wind was just doing it’s thing.
The next day (day 3) was my first opportunity to visit one of the authentic hiker towns along the way, up at Mount Laguna. It took me just over 4 hours to cover the 11 mile stretch and 1800ft incline. Good going really.
After showering at the campsite there and getting two breakfasts in at the café, three other hikers and myself felt the need to persevere. We made it a few miles out of town to the windiest hilltop known to man. It was the kind of wind you could lean into and probably fall asleep comfortably. That was a cold and uncomfortable night, where we even experienced some rain.
In the very early hours of the next morning I decided to head out on my own and get some hard miles in. It was largely down hill stretch starting at 6000ft. After the first few days of averaging 15s, the 27 miles covered yesterday sure did help. This included a long stretch near waterless due to lack of water sources and followed by a rattlesnake attempting to bite at my leg or foot. A guy who was hiking with me by this point yelped and screamed, which triggered my senses somewhat to the situation. Normally they will rattle in advance of you reaching them, whereas this one seemed to be asleep on trail a matter of inches from where I stepped before disturbing it. Then the rattle noise came, which isn’t quite the noise you’d expect until it settles down somewhat. We both survived and our underwear somehow stayed clean throughout the ordeal.
Today I found myself at Julian after a Trail Angel widely known as Bruhiker found two of us at Scissors Crossing and gave us a lift into town. Julian has turned out to be my first rest and resupply day (asides from the 7 early miles this morning). It’s an old gold mining town, so has that classic look. These days it’s very much famous for it’s pies at Mom’s and for us ‘Hiker Trash’. Mom’s are kind enough to give a free slice with icecream and a drink to all thruhikers. Whilst Carmen’s (pictured below) is where I’m sleeping on the floor of tonight having spent most of the day here. As you can tell by the sign… they loved having us in too. The sign didn’t turn to ‘open’ all day! Seriously recommend Julian as a must visit to all PCT hikers. You can resupply here too although it’s costly.
So that’s that for now. Hitchhiking back to Scissors Crossing at mile 77 early tomorrow morning to get going again. It’s late so goodnight!
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