My First Week on the Pacific Crest Trail

It’s done! My first week on the Pacific Crest Trail. After months (and years) of anticipation, I have finally started my journey. As I left the southern terminus the feelings were overwhelming: excitement, nervousness, happiness. But one overpowered them all: complete serenity. Serenity that I will get to spend the next five months of my life doing what brings me joy and being where I feel most at home within myself.

At the southern terminus!

Day 1

I woke up in my college town of Redlands, CA on a friends couch. The anticipation kept me up most of the night, and I still had lots of errands to run before the drive to the southern terminus. I grabbed sunscreen from CVS and ran to my storage unit to do a last check to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. My friend Amy picked me up from my storage unit after unplugging my car battery and double checking the lock on the storage unit.

Amy drove me and my friend Hadley (who would be hiking the first week with me) three hours south to the Mexican boarder. The car ride was filled with lots of laughter and music. As we pulled up to the wall in Amy’s bug, tears filled my eyes. I was overwhelmed with disbelief that this moment was finally here. I was finally starting the Pacific Crest Trail. After wiping the tears away, I ate three cheese sticks and walked up to touch the southern terminus with the wall separating the US from Mexico looming over me. After chatting with the lovely representatives from the PCTA, receiving my hang tag, and taking lots of pictures, Hadley and I set off.

Campsite from the first night

The first couple of miles felt like any other backpacking trip. The fact that I was setting off on a 2,650 mile hike wouldn’t truly hit me for another couple days. Hadley and I chatted as we walked, the conversation meandering just as we did. After a short 4.5 miles, we stopped for the night at a beautiful campsite although the lack of other people on trail sat in the back of my brain. After laying out in the sun, I cooked dinner at 5pm—the earliest acceptable time to eat dinner—and went to bed.

Day 2

After another restless nights sleep, I was happy to see the sun finally up. I packed up slowly, still unsure where everything fit in my pack. The hike in the morning was gorgeous, sunny and green. The terrain surprised me, more plants than I expected in the desert. I walked in silence, my brain looping lyrics of random songs. As I started to get hungry, dark clouds rolled in.

Sunny morning

Hadley and I ate lunch, and it started drizzling just as we finished up. That drizzle slowly turned into a steady rain, which turned into an absolute downpour. I thought I was in the desert?? I laughed a little as I hiked, the rain felt familiar after many rainy days on the Appalachian Trail. The wind began, and soon my raincoat and rain pants were soaked through and I started shivering. After 12.1 miles, Hadley and I set up our tents on a ridge, getting all of our belongings wet in the process. I cooked dinner in my vestibule, a classic ramen bomb and pulled the top of quilt around my head as tight as it would go. The wind and rain whipped outside, but I slowly drifted off to sleep.

Break in the rain after dinner

I woke up at 1am to the feeling of rain on my face. I quickly sat up, and the inside of my tent wall was wet, from either condensation or rain or both. As the wind blew, the inner wall wetness rained down on me, and I hid under my quilt, trying to pretend I was dry.

Day 3

At 7am there was a break in the rain and I started to pack up. I shoved all of the wet items into my backpack without a care about organization, just wanting to get hiking. I let Hadley know that I was heading out, and I started hiking, just wanting to get warm. The rain started up again, and I was soon soaked. Four miles later, Hadley and I arrived at the road that took us to the Malt shop in Lake Morena. We debated whether to go to the Malt shop or push on, but Hadley had lost her earbuds so we decided to go. When we arrived, I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of thru hikers sitting around. We had seen about four other thru hikers up until that point, and seeing ten other hikers sitting around was exciting and overwhelming.

I started chatting with a guy named Sam from Wales, who mentioned that everyone was staying at a cabin that night. My eyes instantly lit up, the idea of being warm and dry was magical. I inquired about floor space in the cabin, and he told me to go to the campground down the road and find Janet, who may have room in her cabin.

Hadley and I walked to the campground, and instead of finding Janet rolled upon an evening bigger group of thru hikers. There were 15+ hikers all standing under a gazebo. We went over and introduced ourselves, and a kind lady named Ann Marie offered us space in her cabin. We thankfully accepted and headed over to the women’s bathroom where we spent the next three hours drying out our clothes under the hand dryer.

When the cabin was ready, we walked over to the cutest little cabins with a great view of the lake. Ann Marie gave us the key, letting us know that she had found a different cabin to stay in. Hadley and I were so grateful, and decided to walk around the campground to see if any other hikers needed a place to stay. We found a girl named Hannah in the bathroom, who had hiked ten miles in the rain that day. We also found Angie and Li, who were stoked to have a roof over their head for the night. The five of us squeezed into the cabin, so happy to be warm and dry and chatted until hiker midnight.

The perfect cabin after being wet and cold

Day 4

After the best night of sleep yet, Hadley and I set off for our longest day thus far. We walked by some amazing vultures in a tree, and the terrain started changing to what I had pictured as the desert. The day was uneventful in the best way; sunny, warm, flat trail, and good conversations.

Amazing hiking

After 12 miles, we arrived at the campsite where everyone else was staying. It was already packed at 2pm, so Hadley and I decided to continue on another 4 miles. My feet slowly got tired towards the end of the day, but for the most part I felt great. Snow started to appear on the ground as we gained elevation and by the time we arrived at camp for the night there was solid snow on the ground. We set up camp, and I finally felt like I was getting the hang of putting up my trekking pole tent.

Day 5

It was a cold morning, and Hadley and I stopped a mile in to make coffee. It was the best coffee ever, warming my soul with each sip. We continued on, hiking a couple more miles into Mount Laguna accompanied by Candy Cane from Colorado.

Snow on trail!

In Mount Laguna, I did my laundry at the hostel which was very exciting although putting clean clothes back onto my dirty body felt silly. I resupplied at the Mount Laguna store, and continued on.

We got our first true view a couple miles later, and I hiked down a blue blaze trail in order to get to a lookout. It was exciting to see the warm desert floor below. Hadley and I road walked to a campground, where 25+ other hikers were staying. I finally felt like I was making friends, and it was exciting to see them all in one place. I chatted with all of the other thru hikers as I cooked Mac n cheese for dinner, a great end to the 12 mile day.

Day 6

Whispers of an incoming storm started the night before, and Hadley and I discussed options as we ate breakfast. We decided that slowing down so that we would be in Julian when the storm hit was the best option, so we set off with the intention to take lots of breaks. Five miles in, we hit a water spigot and stopped for a long lunch break. Over the next three hours, around 15 hikers passed us as we lounged in the sun. The break was so relaxing, but we finally decided to get moving again.

The next four miles were so cool, walking along a cliff side. We arrived at a rocky outlook, and walked back towards the edge of the cliff where we found the perfect cowboy camping spot. The sunset was stunning, and staring at the stars as I fell asleep was amazing. The wind picked up in the middle of the night, and I did not get very much sleep but it was worth it for the vibes.

Sunset was magical

Day 7

I woke up with puffy eyes, signaling that I was dehydrated. We once again hiked a couple miles before cooking water at the nearest water source. We also caught up to Angie and Li who we had met in Lake Morena, along with the group they were hiking with. I was excited to see them again, and we spent the rest of the day hiking around each other.

Once again, a lovely hiking day. I couldn’t believe that there was a storm rolling in with the sunny skies above us. Along with Angie and Li, I camped with Jordan, Meat Sweats, Amanda, and Sakke. The vibes were good, and I was excited to hike with them into Julian.

Cowboy camping

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Comments 4

  • Kevin : Mar 31st


    Glad to see you’re doing the PCT and documenting it. I enjoyed following your journey during the AT and will enjoy this as well, I’m sure!

    Good luck and be safe

  • jhonY : Mar 31st

    So glad to be following along vicariously. Well written !

  • Elaine : Apr 6th

    Love your enthusiasm, courage, curiosity, caring connectedness to others, and the ability to find the light and goodness in each moment, even when wet, hungry, and tired. I know you will make this a journey filled with sweet and spirited moments, Hannah. Just Ducky!

  • Tom Osinkosky : Apr 21st

    Hi Hannah, Tom, Dylan’s grandfather here. I’m commonly referred to as “Tom #1” not to be confused with his dad and my son, Tommy. I began to follow you on your first week or more on your “trip”…..did I see trip? It’s like a trek to the moon. And nothing for the faint of heart. I’ve got to hand it to you… are one heck of a person. Totally amazing. Erin talks about you and I listen to her stories of you. My thoughts are for your health and safety and being able to walk with friends that you meet along the way. I suppose when the going gets rough then the rough gets going. Obviously that’s in you somewhere. All the best “adventurer.”


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