Sarah drove me down to the Southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in Campo, CA, this morning. I was happy to be getting going but not really feeling the excitement until I saw the trail monument right at the border of Mexico. One hiker was already there and a few more pulled up while we hung out. I took the obligatory pictures, said goodbye to Sarah, and headed out on the trail.
I had a 3mph pace going right from the start. The trail just had little ups and downs but it felt incredibly flat after hiking in New Hampshire all winter. Everything was surprisingly green too. Sarah said it rained about a month ago and the desert plants hold on to that water for quite a while.
Eventually the trail started getting rockier and climbing a little bit through very gradual switchbacks. It went up on a ridge with great views of the surrounding area so I slowed down a bit to take it all in. I got to see lots of little lizards along this section.
I went past two trail maintenance crews today. It looked like a BLM / firefighter crew but I found out later that most of them were prisoners. They did a great job, making the trail nice and wide, all the more easy to avoid the dreaded poodle dog bush, which gives you a terrible rash, and which I saw plenty of already.
I reached Hauser Canyon at 15 miles late in the afternoon. It had some great camping but the creek never ran at all this year, so I was pushing for Lake Morena at the 20 mile mark to camp. I had drank a liter of water on the way to the trail this morning, and started hiking with 5 liters in my pack since all the other sources today were dry as well. I can see ahead of time which water sources will be good or not using the PCT water report, which hikers can update along the way.
There was a bit of a climb coming out of the canyon, made difficult because it had full sun exposure. The temperatures were only in the 70s today so I can only imagine how the sun will feel in a month or so. I am carrying a reflective umbrella for shade and played around with it today, variously carrying it in hand and strapping it to my pack’s shoulder strap.
Once I made the top of the hill, my feet were feeling sore. It was still a few miles to camp but I had to stop and rest my feet and have a snack and water. I was mostly in the shade at that point but Lake Morena was a welcome sight when it came into view after 19.8 miles. I’d started the day with probably 40 pounds on my back: 6 days of food and 5 liters of water add up.
I got down to the backpacker campsite set aside for walkins, started my dinner, then set up my tent and went to check in at the ranger station. It was dark by the time I got to sit down and eat. I did get to grab a shower to wash off all the dirt, which was very welcome. The trail is so dusty, and the dirt just mixed with the sunscreen on my legs all day.
There are at least a dozen other hikers camped here, and I know of at least half a dozen camped back at the canyon. I met some great folks today.