Firsts of the PCT: Campo to Julian

First Day

My first day started with a meditative sunrise at the terminus. The air was cleaner than I am used to so there was less color in the sky. I still enjoyed watching the sun rise upon my new life as a thru hiker.

After some awesome chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter at CLEEF and some drying out of my sleeping bag, it was time to start the trail. My sleeping bag has some ice on it from cowboy camping the night before. Cowboy camping is sleeping under the stars with no tent or structure.

Start of the PCT: southern terminus monument

A group of us who all met at Scout and Frodo’s, had a photo session and terminus beer to celebrate the start. The hiking was pretty great, full of energy and excitement for day one.

It didn’t take long before we came across our first rattlesnake. Being honest, I was a bit scared of coming across rattlesnakes prior to the PCT. Passing one on the first day with a group was like ripping off the band-aid and it was no big deal. The snake rattled at us at a safe distance and we passed by with caution.

First Resupply

My first resupply came at Mt Laguna. I had mailed one box of a few days of food to get me to Ranchita (my next planned resupply). The box was full of freeze dried meals, peanut butter, tortillas, and various bars and snacks. I had never mailed myself a resupply box before, but it was pretty easy and simple.

Hikers and packs lined up outside the Mt Laguna post office and store sorting though their resupply

Outside the post office there was a solid line of hikers all going through their boxes. There was trading and giving away of items people no longer wanted. Eventually everything found a home in someone’s pack. I gave away my peanut butter and tortillas since I hadn’t even made it half way through the ones I started with.

First Trail Magic

Leaving Mt Laguna, I had my first trail magic of the PCT. A couple who had hiked the PCT the year before were wanting to give back to the trail, so they had an area set up with food and drinks for hikers to chill, chat, and refresh. The generosity of people on the trail always amazes me. The atmosphere of trail magic is magical with everyone in high spirits.

Cheers to trail magic!

Later that day, when I camped at Mt. Laguna Campground where the same couple came by to chill and finish off what wasn’t eaten at the picnic area they had set up at a few miles away. Double trail magic, how wonderful!

First Zero

At Mt Laguna, we made plans to stay in Julian and have a zero (zero mile day). We were feeling a bit tired so we planned on having a nero (near zero mile day) and reserved some hotel rooms. We ended up hiking more than we thought and got to Julian a day early so our nero turned into a zero.

We ordered way to much pizza in Julian since hiker hunger hadn’t fully quite set in

Julian is a nice, quaint town. We spent the day wondering around and resupplying. Julian has the first gear store of the trail so there were some updates to people’s packs. I haven’t swapped out anything yet, but might in the future. Julian is also known for giving free pie to PCT hikers. There is a wonderful pie shop called Mom’s Pie House where I got a slice of apple caramel crumble with vanilla ice cream and hot cider. Absolutely delicious!


Outside of the firsts of the trail, I have had a few highlight experiences of this section of the trail.

On the second day a little after Lake Morena, I went and explored a waterfall with some of our group. It was a hot day so escaping the heat with a dip in the water and resting while listening to the waterfall was delightful. Most of the group I have been hiking with made it down the steep side trail to get there. Enjoying things with a group makes the experience better.

Cacti in bloom

Throughout the hike, I have been surprised by the amount of flowers so far. I don’t think there has been a moment, except in town or the pine forests near Mt Laguna, where I have not seen an abundance of flowers on the trail. Coming from the Midwest where all the trails are just different shaped green leaves, the blues, yellows, whites, fuchsias, reds, and purples have been so fun and colorful.

Cooking up some baba ghanoush

Lastly, the night before heading into Julian we found three eggplants, olive oil, and a head of garlic in a hiker box at the Stagecoach RV campground. Adding in some freeze dried hummus, salt and some other spices, and pita, we cooked up some baba ghanoush. I have never heard of baba ghanoush before, but it was delicious! Definitely the best hiker box find I have come across. Hiker Boxes are take whatever you would like, leave whatever you no longer want boxes at resupply places.

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