Days 10 & 11: Miles 77.3 – 96.5 (San Felipe)

This journey really is not for the faint of heart. Life on trail can be fun and exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting and scary. Thru hiking will most certainly test your mental fortitude and resilience. One should expect their comfort zone to absolutely be tested by environmental stressors you cannot control. You might not be fully prepared for everything the trail has prepared for you… I must adapt to the trail. I must embrace change.

The past two days has been a test.

The Hitch Out of Julian

Rachael, Bird, and I were packed up and ready to go by 11 a.m. We had plans to hike at least a few miles today, but we had a few last minute tasks in town to complete before we set off.

First, we went to Mom’s Pie House for breakfast. We hadn’t received our complimentary pie slices yet and decided pie for breakfast was most appropriate. I got the strawberry rhubarb pie with the flaky crust and a large hot chocolate. I also chose to have my pie heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. To say it was delicious would be an understatement! Thank you to the entire team and Mom’s. Your professionalism and hospitality was stellar.

Strawberry Rhubarb, Vanilla Ice Cream and a Hot Chocolate

After breakfast, the three of us hopped back over to 2 Foot Adventures so Bird could buy some camping fuel. This is such a great little shop with darn near everything a hiker might need… especially those little items that we tend to forget until we’re already on trail.

Our last stop in Julian was to the General Store. We heard rumors of some killer deli sandwiches. Boy was it! This exceptional deli sandwich was well over a pound in weight. The meat was stacked high and the bread was soft. We each decided to order a deli sando to take with us on trail. Again… another amazing business in Julian, CA.

With all our last minute tasks completed, we headed toward to post office to get a hitch out of town. We couldn’t get out of there soon enough as it started snowing as we walked towards our hitch hiking spot.

It took a bit longer than our hitch into town, but we all finally found our way back to the trail head. Rachael and I found ourselves riding in a Lexus with two wonderful Indian gentlemen. I failed to write their names down, but I want them to know how appreciative I am of the both of them. They supplied both Rachael and I a bottle of water and asked us many questions about hiking the PCT.

Bird caught a ride from Ghost, a local PCT trail angel. I put a last minute post on the Julian PCT Trail Angel site and Ghost answered the call quick and in a hurry. I am continually impressed by the kindness and support we experience on trail.

Miles 77.3 – 85.3

Getting back on trail after a zero day can be hard at first. My body felt relaxed after our extended stay in Julian, but it’s definitely an adjustment when getting reacquainted with the trail.

This section of the trail was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Tucson, Arizona. There were cacti as far as the eye could see, just littering the steep hillsides we were about to ascend.

California Barrel Cactus

The three of us initially intended on doing just three – five miles, but ended up doing exactly eight miles. We were feeling good and we were stoked to be back on the trail.

By the time we reached our campsite, the weather started to turn. Although sunny where we were located, we could see a dark storm front pushing towards us. The Garmin weather was projecting rain in the very near future. The temperature was dropping fast and the dark clouds on the horizon were encouragement enough to seek shelter, so we rushed to get into our tents.

The last bit of sunshine before a long, wet night.

Miles 85.3 – 96.5

It was a long, cold, wet night. The rain started shortly after the sun went down the night prior and didn’t stop until nearly 7 a.m. We intended on getting up early in hopes of making it to the Ranchita Bodega, but we instead held up in our tents a bit longer to wait for a break in the weather.

We set out a couple minutes before 8 a.m. My feet were feeling great and my spirits were high, despite last nights rain. I used a cannabis based topical cream on my feet the night prior. It must have really worked well because the aches and pains I was experiencing are now completely gone.

We had five miles before we made it to a water cache and I was down to one liter of water. The three of us decided to meet at the water cache, where we would eat lunch and re-group. Those five miles seemed very easy. Rachael and I made it to the cache in just over two miles, with Bird shortly behind us.

We aren’t sure who manages the water cache, but it’s a few pallets of water jugs that someone purchased from Costco and dropped off for the hikers. There is a huge recycling bin and a tip jar for hikers to donate as a show of appreciation.

Huntsman Spider in the Water Cache

The sun was out, so we took this opportunity to pull our wet gear out to let dry. While basking in the warm sunlight, a fellow hiker by the name of Stitch showed up. Stitch is an older guy… probably twenty years my senior if I had to guess. His hair and beard were fully white. His clothes and equipment looked homemade, and extremely minimalist.

We learned that Stitch is on his third attempt at the PCT. The furthest he has made it north was in 2017 when he made it to Crater Lake before the trail was then closed due to heavy fires in Oregon. He did in fact make his bags by hand, which is very evident when you see the hand stitching at all the seems in his gear. Stitch is one of those old school hikers that deserve massive amounts of respect. Talking to him, it is evident he has a ton of love for the trail and the trail community.

The Sky Opens Up

The sunny sky quickly turned gray and the winds picked up as we departed the water cache. It wasn’t shortly after we got back on trail that we found ourselves getting rained on. At first, it was a sprinkle. A few minutes later, it was a proper rainfall. The weather was such that I was mentally teleported to England. There was chill in the air and you could smell the earth around you as the rain saturated the landscape. It was extremely reminiscent of the weather in England.

Rainy Days!

The rained continued to pummel us for two hours. All three of us were absolutely soaked and ready to find dry refuge. Just as our spirits were at the lowest for the day, the sun miraculously popped through the clouds and provided for a much needed reprieve. We found a small campsite where were took a break and attempted to dry out.

The Sun Returns!

The three of us decided we would do five more miles for the day. It was really our only option for a campsite that had more than one or two tent sites. So, we again headed out.

We found our entities just in time. The weather once again turned against us. We each were able to erect our tents and seek refuge just as the rain started back up yet again. It’s been both raining and hailing on us for hours now. We are dry in our tents, so that is certainly a blessing. I very much look forward to making it to the Ranchita Bodega tomorrow where we will have access to laundry facilities.

A Weather Perspective

I can see how it would be very easy for someone to become disheartened after a day like today. Being cold and wet on trail is not fun. Managing wet clothes and equipment is not fun. But, we prepare for these kinds of situations, or at least people should be.

The trail is full of unexpected circumstances and the only way we will successfully navigate them is to be fully prepared. Having the right gear and reserving that gear for the right circumstance is important. Have a plan for unfortunate circumstances and trust that your plans will work. Accept that the trail life will not always be pleasant. Be in the moment, yet be ready for unforeseen change. Remember… why are here?

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

A man made cave… I’m not sure how old it is?

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Comments 2

  • Tim : Mar 17th

    really enjoying your path and posts chris. finally in a position to start my PCT experience. going to section hike over a number of years but generally do it NOBO in order. i have studied campo to i-10 a lot and like the way you guys are balancing miles and smiles. keep it up!

  • Chris : Mar 21st

    That’s one nice lookin’ spider!


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