Jackrabbit Hikes: PCT Day 1-4
Man. What a whirlwind start. I woke up yesterday (4/1) in my hometown Bryant, Arkansas and by night I was fumbling my tent under the California stars. I still can’t believe I’m finally out here.
Day 1 (4/1) – Terminus (mi 0.0) to Tent Site (mi 2.7)
So I flew out of Arkansas at 10:20 AM, connected to Dallas, and by 4:00 PM PST I was under the palm trees of San Diego.
A good friend and triple-crowner, Legz, picked me up from the airport and we quickly picked up anything else I needed for my kit. I was still spinning from finally being in California after alllll the prep and planning. But we were hellbound for the Mexican border. We were fighting to beat the sunset at the terminus and we made it just in time.
It was an untraditional start time and an amazing one to boot. The sunset was beautiful. Me and Legz had the terminus to ourselves. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I hiked my first 2.7 miles of the PCT with the only light coming from my headlamp. It was pretty magical under the giant Californian sky. All the vegetation is pretty short in stature, so the sky is completely open besides the silhouettes of the mountain giants around you. I stopped and turned off my headlamp to gaze at the stars every quarter mile.
I finally found a site and fumbled my new tent around for longer than I’d like to admit. I didn’t care. I was, and still am, so so so happy to be out here. To be fumbling my tent, to be sleeping on a bed too small, and to be daydreaming of cold beer and burgers. Trail life is the best life and I’m so lucky to be able to be out here again.
I closed my eyes around 9:00 in the cool California night. It wasn’t a normal first day but it was mine and I loved it.
Day 2 – Tent Site (mi 2.7) to Boulder Oaks Campground (mi 26)
As I write this I’m waiting with great anticipation for my favorite hiker dish to hydrate: Knorr Spanish Rice. Smacks every single time.
Today was a fantastic start to a long journey. I got an early start and hit the trail around seven a.m. The terrain was wonderful and the temp only heated up around noon-ish so I was able to make good ground in the cool morning air.
The descent into Hauser Creek was stunning. Huge rocky formations covered in savannah vegetation, very little of it reaching above neck high. The California sky is massive and it makes for a great canvas to paint the dotted green bushes on the rocky slopes.
Of course, the giant rock hill I was admiring was right where the trail took me. A nice first climb on the PCT.
I stopped at the Oak Shores Malt Shop for an hour and grabbed a Gatorade. It was nice to be sitting on a random porch somewhere far from home again. The sun was beating and a cold Gatorade and a slim Jim was exactly what I needed. Plus an opportunity to let my feet breathe was much needed.
I picked back up around 3:00 and spent the next hour and a half or so hiding under my sunbrella as I hiked on.
I decided to park it around 5:00 at the Boulder Oak’s Campground. 23.1 miles; a water spigot and a bathroom serving as today’s reward.
As I went to set up my tent tonight, I realized I left my tent stakes at the last tent site.
Absolute rookie move.
I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. So now here I am cowboy camping under the stars on a very cloudy night. I have a full belly and had an amazing day, so even if those clouds cover me and my things in the morning as dew, I still have that going for me.
Hopefully, the clouds clear some tonight so I can see the stars I’m sleeping under. I’m happy out here and excited for the future. Here’s to a dry first night of cowboy camping!
Day 3 – Boulder Oaks Campground (mi 26) to Mount Laguna (mi 41.5)
Well, it wasn’t perfect cowboying but it was pretty damn good. My stuff was all a bit damp but I slept like a baby. I got up and going at 6:00 am and was out of camp by 7:00 am. The earlier start the better.
The day was a long slow ascent to the top of Mount Laguna. A lot of head-down hiking as I played mental games with the blisters on my heel. They weren’t going to get the best of me.
Full house here in Laguna. The Pine House Cafe had some very nice owners and was so hiker friendly. A dead giveaway of any good hiker hideaway is hikers sitting outside. Obviously they are kind enough to share their space, but more important they’re smart enough to keep us where we belong. The Pine House was just that plus a cozy lobby where we saw packs and faces come and go.
It was exactly what I needed.
I had been looking for some good company and I found it in the small town of Laguna. Hiker trash was just piling up. I introduced myself to some of the hikers around the café and soon enough I had plans for camp that night. We all stopped for the day because after a burger and beer, the beating California sun became enemy number one.
I cowboyed under the stars on Mount Laguna with Sage, Ducky, and Alana. Our site was great but not the best location to try and cowboy camp (6000ft in a desert). My sleeping bag got pretty damp from the elevation making the 35-degree temps feel even colder. I tossed and turned a little extra in the night, but when rolling over I saw the sky painted with stars. It’s amazing the spectrum of brightness you see when you’re far from light pollution. I happily sacrificed some extra z’s to see some of the Milky Way.
There’s a stillness to the California night at high elevation. Little to no bugs buzzing. No whippoorwills calling out into the night. Just the occasional crunching of a leaf or the tossing of a hiker in their tent. Peace.
Day 4 – Mount Laguna (mi 41.5) to Tent Site (mi 63.6)
The views today were amazing. The rest of the hike to Julian, CA is a long descent, so the miles came easier today. The entire hike today was essentially walking along an open ridge. You could see the trail in front and behind you roping around the mountains. The trail was sheer as hell and one step could easily land you a couple-hundred-foot fall. It was absolutely amazing hiking.
Humongous land masses stood all across the horizon. While no peaks are sharp, the foundations of the mountains are wide, and from a distance, you can barely see any vegetation on them at all. Just giant mountains across a dry desert.
Shade was a precious commodity as my sunbrella continues to prove its value every day. Every 3-4 miles, I would see a sliver of shade I could slide into and each time I could see the scuffed dirt marks of another hiker doing the same. Great minds think alike. I’m still a bit modest about plopping into a pile of dirt but I know as my gear deteriorates so will my standards.
Bats circle above my head as I write this now. I’m so glad to be a few thousand feet lower tonight cowboy camping. The air is a lot dryer and warmer but still cool enough to sleep well. I’m surrounded by other hikers again; I love the sense of security while my tent is out of commission. Graham, Guru, Speaker, Martin, Uplift, and a few others are all around me. Another 22.1mi today, I’m going to sleep like a baby tonight.
(I did indeed sleep like a baby, best cowboy camping conditions yet.)
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