Wednesday, May 17, we put our feet on the PCT for the first time. We had planned to already be a bit along, but between travel issues and Lyol’s health, we were delayed. Even on the 17th, it felt like cheating. 

We had planned to stay in San Bernardino, the city south of Big Bear, for a week until we could feel confident hiking with our son who had just seized for the first time (and only time so far) less than two weeks before. Instead of just sitting on our thumbs, we decided to do what we do. And that’s hike. 

Getting Our Boots Dirty, FINALLY!

We had driven west from Virginia with our minivan, so we drove up to Cajon Pass, took a right, and went to Hesperia. Queen Bee and Angel Wings and The Beast would be dropped off and then hike toward the van. Blaze, Boomerang, Dead Weight and myself would drive to the far end, park, and hike back. Whenever the girls made it to the van, they’d come back and pick us up. It was a 15.5-mile hike, quite a bit for our first day!

The girls even brought a couple stuffed animals the first day.

As we left the van, we felt good, and we were off at a good clip, probably nearing 3mph, uphill. It was getting hot, but we were drinking. Not quite halfway, we met the girls and ate lunch together. I was extremely impressed with their speed! I was also starting to feel the heat a bit. For a guy who’s spent the last 12.5 years in Chad, I’m a wimp when it gets hot.


Feels ten degrees cooler under the umbrella! Why didn’t I bring one??? 😭

Things got worse and eventually Lyol offered to carry Dead Weight, his baby sister, in her kid carrier. You know it’s extreme when Blaze is offering to deal with his baby sister! He ended up carrying her three of the last four miles!


Sometimes it’s worth tramping in wet shoes if it means you can cool off a bit.

The girls beat us and were pulling in to pick us up right before we finished. I’m not sure if I was sick or what, but I felt… bleh 🤢 

We drove back down the hill and back to our hotel… leaving all our fellow hikers sleeping in the wild. 

Day 2

The next day, we decided to continue on to make it to Cajon Pass. Again, slackpacking. (Slackpacking is hiking without a backpack, slacker-style.) The girls dropped us off this time and then parked at the other end.


Day two and we are dressed to impress. Or we’re posers 🤷‍♂️

The boys and I started off on a long and steep uphill, fast, and I felt a bit better than the day before, but still not perky. We met several hikers in the shade by a creek and filtered water. At the second creek, we took a longer break and waited for the girls. They showed up and we had a lunch. I lay in the shade on a kind stranger’s sleeping pad and the others splashed in the stream. Eventually, we got up and moved on, but not before Queen Bee convinced Blaze to take the baby from me yet again. And 14-year-old Blaze powered on the last six miles with a 30-pound pack of baby plus carrier on his back!


Somebody really enjoyed the lunch stop!

Finishing, I pulled into a gas station and bought sodas for everybody, “As a reward for such good hiking.” (In reality, I just wanted something to calm my stomach and felt guilty buying soda just for myself 😬🤣)


No, it’s not Hike Naked Day. It’s just plain hot. 🌞

We got back to the girls two minutes after they finished. “Hey, Babe. Where are your sunglasses?”

Queen Bee reached to her hat. No sunglasses. It was hot and she had just come off the long downhill. Turning on her heel, she headed back up. 

The kids and I turned the car around and drove back to pick up a hitching hiker and his dog we had passed, and we spent an hour getting him to a place he and the dog could rest their feet and paws for a few days. By the time we returned, Queen Bee had added an extra two miles to her day, but she had her sunglasses. 

Still Slackers

On Friday, we had a little meeting to help promote longterm medical mission work, and then dinner with friends, so decided to not hike.

On Saturday, some friends agreed to pick us up in the evening, so we took advantage of the opportunity and all hiked together for the first time! It was so much fun to not need to split up and hike across each other.


Angel Wings is a trash magnet. She found this piece of litter while hiking. It’s still with us three weeks later 🙄

We hiked from Coon Creek Cabin heading north. (Later that day, we were so sad to find out we missed Blizzard by just a couple hours. We had hiked for months with him last year on the CDT.)

Not a subtle group of kids, these eight! 😳

Due to a minor miscommunication with our friends, our hike was a bit shorter than planned, but it all worked out well because they invited us to their house for pizza. Our kids had a riot with their three kids, running around the backyard like lunatics all evening.



Another Setback

Going to bed late after partying with the other kids, Sunday morning saw us rubbing our eyes. Not just rubbing the sleep out, but it appeared we had pinkeye! Wouldn’t that just be great if we were the ones who brought pinkeye to the trail! 😳

So we didn’t hike Sunday, but Monday we had a morning meeting to again promote longterm medical mission work… and we also had an appointment to meet a father/son team and hike with them for a few days.


Meeting up with more longterm medical mission people. Always so rewarding.

Monday was a very late start and strict instructions to the kids, “Don’t touch anything or anybody. No coughing on people. No breathing! Hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE!!!”


Jon and Ty were fantastic hiking company!

Kids All Over This Trail!

We hiked with the father/son for three days and the kids had a blast with another 11-year-old thrown into the mix. Not only that, but we were finally backpacking! With backpacks! No more slackers for us! It was good to heft some weight and shakedown our gear a bit. Or so we thought. We actually ended up cowboy-camping (just throwing our mats under the stars without a tent). Still no tents set up!


Poor baby woke up several mornings in a row with eyes glued shut. “Don’t touch anything!” “Infect NOBODY!” “HAND SANITIZER!!!”

Thursday saw us hike as far south as we could before committing to going over San Jacinto. Reports were that San Jacinto was still covered in enough snow that we decided that wouldn’t be fun for us at the moment.


This is as close as we will get to San Jacinto… for now.

But what WAS fun was more kids! Friday we got an earlier start and hiked 6+ miles in a little over two hours before meeting up with the same friends who had fed us pizza the week before. They hiked another six miles with us and we all camped together the next couple nights.


Four adults, eight kids and two dogs make for serious packing. Somehow we got pretty close to Leave No Trace.

Time to Get Serious

While all this time going out for day hikes or a couple nights was fun, and my kids loved hiking with other neat kids, it wasn’t getting the miles under our feet to accomplish our goal of finishing the PCT this year. We had a little over 33 miles left to finish the 135.1-mile section between San Jacinto and Cajon Pass. We decided to rip off the 33.1 miles in two days, a distance we’d need to become accustomed to eventually.


What Dead Weight does for several hours a day. She needs to save her strength so she can party all night and keep us up 🙄

The kids and I dropped off Queen Bee and headed 33 miles downtrail and hiked back toward where we had dropped her off. We met Mommy in the middle and set up camp. Queen Bee had just seen a mountain lion! Despite the excitement, we slept well and continued our separate directions the next morning, Queen Bee toward the van, me and the kids toward where Queen Bee would pick us up.


Taking in the snow-covered Baden-Powell in the distance.

On what would turn out to be our final day (for the moment) in Southern California, the kids and I took a couple detours. We first stopped for hours at the hot springs. The older four kids loved every minute, probably spending more time splashing in the icy water flowing by the hot springs than in the hot springs themselves. Dead Weight, however, ensured I had neither rest nor relaxation. She toddled all over the places, plunging repeatedly into the hot spring that I was sure was far too hot for her. She’s turn beet red and come back for more. Or she’d go to the source trickling from the side of the mountain, even hotter, and splash around. Or she’d toddle next to the edge of the fast and frigid water and threaten to fall in. 

And of course, in the spirit of the hot springs and the myriad other bathers, she did all this au natural. And while she’s remarkably potty-trained for her age, I feared the gentle breeze on her bare bum (did I put on sun block? 🤔😳) might stimulate her to produce. 

After a couple hours of baby-chasing left, right, up, down and underwater, I summoned the kids from the waters and we started trudging along again. 

A couple miles before the end of the trek, there was a massive concrete spillway constructed. We turned right and hiked a couple hundred yards to get to the mouth of it. The kids gave me their famous “why-did-you-bring-us-here-old-man?” look. 

“Scream,” I said. 


“Oh, come on. You guys are always screaming up and down the trail. Now I ask you to scream and you won’t?”

“Ok, guys. Dad’s lost it. Think we can find Mommy on our own? Should we leave him here?”

I turned my face down the spillway. “I SAID SCREEEEAM!”

“I SAID SCREEEEAM. I said screeeeam. I said screeeeam,” came the perfect echo eventually trailing off to nothing. 

Dumb-founded silence. Eyes wide. Jaws slack. Blaze was the first to break the stunned peace. 


“ECHO! Echo! Echo. Echo…”

Each kid now erupted into their own simultaneous scream and utter cacophony ensued for minutes until I’m sure most of Southern California had shuttered their windows to drown out my swarm of yelling offspring. 

One last challenge before getting to Mommy and the van was a waist-deep water crossing, but the final mile allowed us to mostly dry off before catching our ride. 

Ok, Now What?

We sat together in the van and discussed the options. We were 135 miles into a 2650-mile thruhike. Five percent done 🙄, 95% left to go 😳. We’d had fun staying with friends. But the trail called. We had just put in an 18.4-mile day, and everybody still felt really good and ready to hike farther. 

What would stop us from our goal? Every family member still wanted to finish the trail. We decided it would be the fall snow come October or November. It would unlikely be Southern California that gets too snowed in for us to finish. It would be up north. 

The Sierra are still under record-setting snowpack. There’s no way our family can tackle that. But maybe we can piece together some melted sections up north. That’s what we will do. Let’s hike everything up north as it melts, and hopefully finish it all before the snow comes once again. 

So with the sun settling lower and lower on the horizon, we make a decision. We turn the van around and point the nose north. Time to leap ahead. We will be back. 

It’s the evening of May 30th. Driving all night, we pull into a friend’s driveway in Northern California at 4am. 

It’s been a herky-jerky, lurchy start. But my name is Spreadsheet. And it’s time to go to town on logistics.

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Comments 1

  • Eileen : Aug 15th

    Blessings to each one of you.


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