One Week on the PCT!

One week and 120 miles down! It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a week. Every single day on this trail has been so full of new people, landscapes, and experiences. I am both delighted and overwhelmed by the excitement of it all! The one thing that keeps going through my head is “everything is hard and everything is beautiful”.

Day 1

After a teary goodbye at the southern terminus I took my first steps on the pacific crest trail. A surreal experience to say the least. There is nothing more humbling than getting to the 1 mile mark and thinking about how you have approximately 2749 miles left to go. Luckily, the luster and excitement of the trail made the miles fly by. Around 6pm I rolled into camp and went to set up my tent for my first night on trail and snap! My tent pole breaks. First lesson of the PCT: adaptability! I worked some magic with a knife, a bit of duct tape, a tent pole splint and my tent has been (mostly) okay.


Day 2

After a great night of sleep woke up to the already warm desert morning. I hiked fast with the motivation of a breakfast burrito from the Lake Morena Malt Shop, which by the way was fantastic! With a fully belly I hiked on and the day began to heat up to about mid 80s. Midday I came to a river crossing under an overpass where I took a swim. A family at the river gave me cold water and a cupcake, a great afternoon pick-me-up! That afternoon I also met a couple of hikers from Switzerland and tried to explain to them what granola was. The rest of the hiking that day took us through the most beautiful green canyon, I couldn’t believe I was still in the desert. That night I rolled into camp at Fred Canyon where I met  Tiny Tim and Bootsy, who I became quick friends with!

Day 3

I left camp early for a steep ascent up the ridge. As the trail climbed higher I began to see pine trees! Soon I was in a dense pine forest, a wonderful refuge from the desert heat. The smell made me nostalgic for home, which feels so far away. I rolled into Mount Laguna that afternoon and was met by several other hikers at the Mount Laguna Convenience Store. I bought some more food and spent the next few hours sitting out front chatting with my fellow hikers as we filled our bellies with snacks and talked about our experiences on trail so far. I eventually got up and continued my hike, the next section was pretty dry and we decided to split a campsite in the Cleveland national forest for the night.

Day 4

I woke up early, knowing I would be hiking 20 miles through a hot exposed section of the desert. I quickly descended out of the forest and back into the open heat. I was feeling good in the morning and took a lunch break by the creek. I filled my bottles and got ready for the 10 mile waterless stretch. My pack was heavy with the extra water weight and the miles dragged on. Tired and thirsty, I pull out my bottles to refill them at the water tank when I realize my water filter is missing…it was 10 miles back at the creek. Great. Luckily there were others around who gladly let me borrow their filters. I would have to hitch into Julian the next day to buy a new filter. I had heard rumors of free pie in Julian so it didn’t take much convincing to make the detour. That night I cowboy camped under the stars on top of the water tank.

Day 5

I awoke to a soft desert sunrise and…a deflated sleeping pad. Turns out sleep is next to impossible when you are having to re-inflate your sleeping pad every 30 minutes. I think my next lesson from the trail is problem solving. I now had to figure out how to get a water filter and a new sleeping pad. The miles flew by as our excitement for town food grew. The section before Julian is flat, dry and very exposed. It is the epitome of desert. Luckily we made it to the road around 10am and were quickly able to get a hitch into town. Julian is 12 miles off trail so walking there is not an option. In town I got a message from my friend Tiny Tim saying she had found my water filter and was also in town. Yippee! The trail provides! After a delicious breakfast burrito and getting my filter back, I found my way to the local gear shop. It is run by a local trail angel and stocked with everything a thru hiker could need. I opted to buy a cheap foam pad and send my leaky pad off to get repaired. The next town chore was laundry. Hikers are very resourceful, as we rolled up to the public restrooms it seems that we all had the same idea-laundry! After soaking my clothes in the sink and trying to wash my hair, I was feeling fresh and clean! We hung our sopping wet clothes out on the public bench and enjoyed the confused looks of tourists as they passed our hiker trash yard sale. After some free pie from moms pie it was time to leave town. We decided to do some night hiking to avoid the heat which was a great idea. With full bellies and the cool temperatures, the next 6 miles fly by. We roll into camp just before 10pm. This is my first dry camp (camping without a water source nearby) and of course I puncture my water bag on a yucca bush. Turns out Leuko tape isn’t just for blisters! The water bag has been salvaged.

Day 6

I wake up at 4am, the sound of my alarm feels like an insult. I am already hot and the sun isn’t even up. I drag my body out of bed and am on trail by 5. Every mile feels like a chore and even the desert sunrise fails to boost my morale. Two nights in a row of poor sleep do not bid well for crushing miles. Around 9am we get to a water cache. Hydration, shade, coffee, and the company of other hikers leaves me feeling revived! Around noon some big storm clouds roll in as well as the most amazing breeze. I am feeling alive again and 10 miles feels like a walk in the park. I get to camp at barrel springs and to my great surprise, there is an a bathtub fed by a natural spring! I soak my tired sore body and wash off the crusted salt, dirt and sunscreen. After some dinner and chatting with my camp mates I climb into my tent for some long awaited rest, I sleep like a rock.

Day 7

I sleep in until 6 and enjoy a slow morning a barrel springs. Better yet, there is trail magic and we get fresh baked muffins and fruit for breakfast. Thanks Phil! It’s a breezy walk into Warner springs where I pick up my first resupply package and enjoy a gourmet sausage at the gas station. I find my friends sorting through their resupply and eating snacks behind the gas station. We catch a hitch to the community center where there is  free Wi-Fi, a charging station, and bucket showers! I take my first shower in a week and feel like a million bucks. Around 5pm we get back on trail and hike 10 more miles. We chat and make noise once it gets dark because we are not keen on encountering any mountain lions. Tonight we are fortunate to only see a couple tarantulas.


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Comments 3

  • Natalie Herrod : May 22nd

    Gill!!! Thank you for sharing your experience. I giggled out loud a few times. I love the honesty of the in and outs of what really goes on while out there! You are so resourceful and fun! Do you have a trail name yet?! love you!

  • Geneva : May 22nd

    You are so rad. Loving the updates!

  • Alexa Maldonado : May 24th

    You’re the coolest gal Gilly! Thanks for sharing, I found myself with a smile the whole way through. So fun to read.


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