Well, I officially survived my first day on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I got to the Terminus at 6am, snapped some quick (terrible) photographs next to the Terminus after chatting with trail angel and PCTA volunteer Phantom. The last words he said as I took off on the trail was “Enjoy every sunrise and every sunset.” That is definitely something I look forward to.
The beginning of the trail is easy and very well graded. I headed from the Terminus down the hill and into the small town of Campo and suddenly I reached the first mile marker. “Already one mile?!” I asked myself in disbelief. It felt like I had only walked a few yards, probably out of excitement.
I continued on, crossing the railroad at mile three and staring off on both sides of the tracks. It occurred to me that I had never before stood in the middle of railroad tracks and it was a strange feeling. Looking to the left, tall rock surrounded the tracks on both sides, to the right it continued as far as I could see.
The first person I met on my journey goes by the name of Larry. When I walked up to him I noticed blood running out of his ear and onto his face and seconds later he was asking me if I had any experience in first aid. Stunned, I unclipped my pack and set it down. Larry was probably in his upper 50’s and had taken a fall into thorny bushes which had sliced through the top of his ear, leaving a pretty good cut. His knee and his back were also hurt internally. “I’m so sorry for ruining your hike, you don’t have to help me!” Larry said over and over again. After putting some sanitizer on my hands and washing out his wound I replied that the trail is all about the experience. If you need help, ask for it. Do unto others how you wish to be treated. He seemed a little taken aback that I was so willing to stop to help. Another hiker who met him hours later gave him the trail name Larry Van Gough…it was perfect.
After making sure Larry was ready to head back into town for medical attention, I continued on my way. Hiking alone is something that I have done a bit of, as it’s hard to find people interested in it as well as having the same free time. I noticed that my pack seemed to be weighing down on my shoulders more and more the further I hiked. My goal for the day was to make it to Lake Morena Campground at mile 20. Being about 4 miles in at 8:30 meant 16 more miles with plenty of time to kill.
The trail passed by a creek and started to switch back up a hill slowly but steadily. I could see three hikers not to far ahead of me and I was excited to meet them if I could catch up. Once the trail flattened out I found them sitting at the top taking a break. To my astonishment it was a mom with her 13 year old daughter and 12 year old son. They plan to thru-hike the PCT together and I was blown away. They took off on their way and we meet again not too far after. Nicole, the mother, asked if I wanted to pass them but I found that their pace was just what I needed to ensure I didn’t over exert myself. I spent the rest of the day getting to know them and hiking with her and her kids.
At one point I worried I was bothering them, but they were actually quite excited to have met someone else that hikes the same pace. We ate snacks, took shade breaks and made silly hiker jokes the whole day. It was their second day and my first. They were the perfect group for me to hike with and I really appreciated their company.
Their goal was also to make it to Lake Morena. We continued on and made it to mile 15 when we decided to stop and take a “siesta” during the hottest part of the day. In front of us were sweeping views of the other side of the valley we were descending. To get to Lake Morena we would have to ascend the other side, a total of 5.1 miles with zero shade. After checking our groups water levels, Nicole and I decided that it might be in our best interest to finish descending the valley and then hike 1.6 miles off trail to a water source and camp there. The valley we needed to ascend faces towards the west, meaning that in the morning it would be in full shade since the sun would be coming up from behind it. My feet were beginning to feel stressed and I knew I should not push myself further than was physically comfortable.
Views of the trail dropping down into Hauser Creek from the other side of the valley. This is where we descended and walked 1.5 miles off trail to the water source.
We began descending into the valley where eventually we would meet a road crossing. At the road, we took a left and followed it 1.6 miles down to a dead end where cold, clear water was abundant. Not only this…but there was a pool you could soak your feet in! We happily took off our shoes, gaiters and socks and plunged our feet into the ice cold water, sighing in relief. Here I massaged my plantar fascia, trying to avoid the splitting sensation in my feet that would result in not properly caring for them.
The water was beautiful and as the sun started to fall behind the valley walls, we began cooking dinner and setting up camp. Nicole and her two kids are super bad ass and decided to cowboy camp. Neither her son or daughter was the least bit nervous. Being my first night on the trail I was very eager to use my new tent and try it out so I passed up the opportunity for the night.
I sent out a message to my family via my Garmin InReach to let them know I was setting up camp and safe and began to feel extremely homesick. I missed Jacob a lot and my parents and family too. The gravity of what I have gotten myself into has finally starter to set in. It’s such a strange feeling living in the middle of the desert in a tent. It’s not bad, not at all. It’s actually quite refreshing because everyone you meet is so kind, but being out here alone is a different feeling. I came out here to hike solo and I find myself wishing that my cousin or Jacob were here to share these memories with me. It’s a hard and conflicting feeling to deal with but I know I can do it. Especially with the little Tramily I seemed to have gained for the time being.
Here I am. Laying in my mummy bag getting ready to fall asleep. Tomorrow we plan on hiking up into Lake Morena and taking the rest of the day off to rest our newly aching muscles and feet. It’s only about 6.5 miles total, but after 17 miles my first day I find it best to take it easy for a couple days while my body adjusts to prevent injury that could end my time out here.
I have so much love in my heart…for the trail and the people in my life. I couldn’t ask for a better support system. Tonight was mentally hard but I know everyone is rooting me on at home and that helped to comfort me.
The frogs are chirping endlessly next to the flowing water. There is an owl hoo’ing in the background. I am at peace.