Day 1: Mile 0 – 7.4 (Campo, CA)

What an amazing start to my Pacific Crest Trail journey! I woke up at my hotel to the sound of my phone’s alarm. It was finally time – my epic hike north begins today. The time was 0830, and I had just enough time to shower and hike the three blocks necessary to meet up with the PCT Southern Terminus Shuttle. It’s finally go-time!

The Shuttle

I arrived at the shuttle meeting spot ten minutes before our scheduled departure time. As I approached the designated meeting spot, I saw what looked to be two fellow hikers: Hilda from Belgium and Bird from Boston. The three of us sat there anxiously awaiting the arrival of the chariot that would drive us into battle.

Our shuttle arrived right on time. Our driver, Sky was very kind and full of useful trail knowledge. She did a great job helping us to prepare mentally for the days we were about to endure.

We had to make a few stops before we would set eyes on that glorious southern terminus. Sky first stopped at REI, where we each had fifteen minutes or so to buy any last items we needed. I traveled without fuel and food, so I stocked up on a couple days’ worth of dehydrated backpacking meals and a single fuel canister. I also took this opportunity to dig my shorts out of my pack so I could change out of my pants since the weather was so nice.

We departed REI and Sky continued driving us toward Campo, California. Once in Campo, we stopped at the local market for additional food supplies. I bought a delightful deli sandwich for $12, which turned out to be both my lunch and pre-dinner meal. We also stopped at the post office so Hilda could mail her packages, but they were closed for lunch (1130 – 1230). We loaded up into the van one last time before reaching the PCT southern terminus.

The Monument

There she was in all her glory… the southern terminus monument. The monument I have seen so many times only in pictures… and never with me in them. It was my turn, finally!

The Pacific Crest Trail Association had a table setup where they cross checked my printed permit with the eligible hikers for the day. I received a short briefing on safety and litter removal before being awarded my PCT bag tag. I was branded an official PCT hiker.

I had others help me take the typical celebratory pictures in front of the terminus monument. The weather was perfect and the conditions made for some truly amazing photos.

Smiley – 03-05-24

Miles 0 – 7.4

Wow! Why didn’t someone tell me this trail was going to be difficult?!? Just kidding, but for real… I was not prepared for the difficulty the first day’s hike presented. The trail starts off nice and wide… relatively flat, and easily distinguished as a trail. The first couple miles are thoroughly marked as you navigate out of the little town of Campo. The trail begins to lose its easy to distinguish features after you cross the railroad bridge. It’s not long before you are partially bushed whacking through overgrowth and navigating around ankle crushing granite rocks that litter the trail.

My first three miles flew by. It only took me an hour to reach the railroad crossing with that famous three-mile sign. I had crossed paths with a half dozen hikers, but I didn’t hang around to chat since I felt I was up against the clock. I wanted to make it to the 11-mile mark before calling it a day, so I forged ahead.

Mile 3

The difficulty of the trail slowed my progress significantly. My pace slowed down significantly, and my body was starting to feel the burden of lugging around that heavy pack. I made it another three and a half miles before realizing my desire to reach that 11-mile mark was going to be more difficult than I had hoped. That next mile was brutal. My ankles were starting to yell at me and I was feeling the exhaustion from the day. The sun was starting to set behind the mountain, which was causing the wind to pick up and temperatures to drop.

I checked the FarOut app to see what my options were. There was a small campsite approaching in a half mile. Maybe it was time to call it a day?

Camp #1

I found the campsite at the 7.4-mile mark. It was small. The bed down spot was slightly angled and surrounded by rocks and bushes, but it had a wonderful view of the valley below. I decided to give it a go.

I pitched my tent and began to figure out how to best tackle my evening tasks. I’m confident my routine will develop over time… maximizing productivity and limiting the amount of time wasted. For now… I’m sure I looked like a rookie hiker fumbling through life.

First Pitch

I ate some dinner and made my way into the tent to call it a day. I had great cell service, which allowed me to make phone calls to family and address my social media updates. The sun finally set and darkness took over.

The desert comes to life at night. I can hear crickets, frogs, owls, and even the banter of a nearby pack of coyotes. At least I wasn’t alone.

I fought my bedding… tossing and turning while trying to figure out the right clothing setup. Too hot, too cold… sleeping pad shifting, pillow sliding away from my head… it was a lot to figure out.

Finally… rest.

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.


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Comments 6

  • chris : Mar 6th

    “I’m confident my routine will develop over time” – In a week you’ll be a pro. Glad to see you didn’t try to push it more on the first day.

  • Richard : Mar 6th

    I think you can do this.

    • Kristin Harger : Mar 7th

      You got this! ✨ Hike it as it comes, listen to your body, rest when needed. To loosely quote Ted Lasso ~ ‘Listen to your gut, but on the way down from your brain check in with your heart.’ <~~~~ That’s some good advice. Take care.

  • L Michael Wells : Mar 7th

    Bravo, Smiley! I love the amount of detail you put into your posts….exactly what I’m looking for as a 2025 PCT thru-hiking candidate. I’ll be following your adventure and sending positive thoughts and prayers. I also happen to live near the 460-520 mile area and would be willing to help if you’re in need and I’m in town. Safe journey!

  • Blair Glenn : Mar 7th

    I’m now too old to do this (bad knees etc.), BUT it was a dream. So, if you keep me in your feed, I will live the trip through your posts. Have a friend who did it 40 years ago and I was so intrigued by his story that I always thought , some day. Well, my life is in the last decade and my ability to hike with a load has diminished.

    You go man!!

    Arborist Blair Glenn
    50 years in the trees

  • OneSpeed : Mar 10th

    Thank you for your kind words about Skye and for using our Shuttle service. It is our goal to start you off on the right foot…pun intended 😉


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