Pacific Crest Trail – First Month Highlights

The trail is fulfilling and continues to awe.

Even after a month of hiking, we continue to discover new flowers and charming niches. I’m amazed at the beauty, both in the grand vistas, and minute details.

Eagle Rocks
Near Warner Springs, CA. I had a ranger check my permit near here too, first time since the check at the terminus.

We continue to get more fit, but the trail has also been more demanding with some big climbs, hundreds of downed trees to climb over or hike around (I like going over) and miles of washed out trail. We also hit our first snow! All told, we’ve averaged 8.2 miles the last 14 days. We need to average 15 miles a day to finish the trail by mid-October so we will continue to build miles.

Campsite near Warner Springs, CA. Beautiful but my allergies were raging.
The white part is where my gators sit. My “tan” is dirt and goes away when I shower.

We’ve hit several milestones…

We blew past 200 miles, and have been hiking for a month. It’s hard to believe that much time has passed. We also reached our highest point of 9,100 feet on San Jacinto. There was snow at 7,500 ft and higher, which obscured the trail. Johanna got lost, but used her compass to get back to the trail. The snow also made travel a bit more difficult, so we used our spikes to gain some much needed traction. In general, this was a challenging section, and slowed us significantly. We hiked together, wanting to keep and eye on one another. Put plainly, somebody needs to know if you slide off a cliff! I say that somewhat in jest, but also there were several slide marks in the snow where people lost their footing and went sliding down, luckily onto a safe surface. People took damage, skinned knees, scratched shins, etc., and we saw blood in the snow as evidence of falls.

Johanna making some miles. Prior hikers left a trail in the snow. Markers and footprints left by hikers are hugely helpful to keep us on trail.
We ran into a friend on trail, Drew. We also met Drew in town and had ice cream. Yum! The good thing about hiking is you get to eat a lot.

We also experienced intense wind, 45mph. Luckily it only lasted a day. It was a fun experience being blown over, but not something that would be fun long term.

Johanna and I are doing a good job together on trail. We hike together about 50% of the time, and solo the other half. We have Rocky Talkie radios so we can talk when solo hiking. We usually update about breaks, water sources, etc. On the risky parts of the trail we stick together. We stayed close in the snow, during the Mission Creek section which had a lot of washouts and in the high winds. Whoever went first on the washed out sections called back instructions for a better route. It’s nice to work as a team in the challenging areas. It’s also nice to share the mental load; one person can find the best route and when you are following you can zone out, then we swapped and the other person could zone.

Hot chocolate on the way up San Jacinto. This was one of my favorite breaks!
The view from our hot chocolate break. It was a tumultuous day, and the weather changed quickly on top of the mountain. This is what it looked like when we sat down for a break.
This is mid break.
After an hour the sky was clear, and most of the high winds calmed and we could see for miles.

Jojo helps me take breaks. If left to my own devices I’d power through, but that’s harder on the body. And last, Johanna has shown me the power of the siesta. I’m not sold for life, but I’m enjoying it very much on trail.

Johanna is working on writing a novel during a mid-day break where we escaped the intense heat. It was a particularly hot day, thermometer showed 100 F.

The the challenges continued…

The trail was washed out between mile 218-240 (22 miles). There was massive flooding that caused severe erosion and landslides so the trail was literally gone. We walked 19 miles up the Mission Creek riverbed (per the pedometer) then the trail was 50/50 the next day with no clear path for much of a second day. Some of the washouts were sketchy to traverse, and for the first time I had an uneasy pricking feeling of danger. I lost my footing scrambling one of the eroded cliffs which gave me a bit of a scare. Jojo and I worked together in these sections with the first person radioing back with advice on the best route.

My trusty f-stop Tilopa pack. The river bed in the back is Mission Creek. Although it’s small in the photo, it was pretty large, guessing 100 feet across.

As if a washed out trail wasn’t enough, there were reports of Noro virus being contracted by hikers. Reading up on Noro, it’s like a flu from hell causing vomiting and diarrhea. We also read notes about people puking at campsites – ick. People suspected a contaminated water source, but there was no definitive data. There was also a theory about red algae in Mission Creek sickening people. As we hiked by Mission Creek we saw a lot of rivulets with brilliant red algae. To play it safe we decided not to use any water from Mission Creek, so despite walking up the creek bed for a full day, we carried 4 liters of water. Oh, the joys!

Rivulet with red algae feeding into Mission Creek. There were a lot of these. Very pretty and intense color, especially against the beige backdrop of the larger riverbed.

Upon learning about the potential for Noro, we have been both filtering water, and adding bleach to disinfect. Filtering is great, but doesn’t kill viruses, so my clever sister looked up how to disinfect water on CDC’s website, and one way is using bleach. Although our water tastes like we are drinking from a swimming pool, it’s much better than puking and severe diarrhea. We disinfected the water until we reached Big Bear Lake, CA.

CDC link on disinfecting water:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/emergency/making-water-safe.html#:~:text=If%20you%20don’t%20have%20safe%20bottled%20water%20and%20if,iodine%2C%20or%20chlorine%20dioxide%20tablets

I’m generally not very nostalgic, but a friend texted a photo of the flowers in my yard and it made me miss home.

I love gardening and miss the house, plus I’m kind of dreading weeding when I get home after a full summer of garden neglect. I also miss the dogs. Ginger, my girl, developed sciatica after I left and has been to the vet twice. I feel bad that I’m not there for her, and that somebody else has to take care of the solving the problem. Ginger is a sweet, strong willed, and independent dog. My miss my guy dog too, Drizzit. I almost brought him hiking, but was concerned about keeping him warm so ultimately left him at home. And I miss my husband, and although I mentioned him last he is in my thoughts daily. Phone calls and sweet text messages help a lot.

Photo of the dogs on a hike (not the PCT). Drizzit is the black dog and Ginger the brown.
Mom has been day hiking and met back up with us in town. She is dropping us back off on the trail after a nice day together.

We saw some cool wildlife:

A swarm of bees. Per a friend, Reesha, maybe it’s too crowded- maybe they’ve thrived to the point where a new queen larva has matured, and the hive only follows one queen, so some bees will choose loyalty to the old queen, and some will choose loyalty to the new queen, but they won’t share a hive. So some of the bees will leave with the new queen. Cool!
Jojo spotted our first and only scorpion so far.
Lots and lots of lizards in the dessert. Here is a common one we see. This one is about 6” long.

We saw some really cool snakes:

Rosy Boa on top of the rock – I read they are nocturnal but we saw in the morning, so this felt lucky.
Coast Mountain King Snake – despite its scary look it is not venomous.
Still need to identify this snake.
This lizard hung out on our laundry for an hour. Funny little guy. So cute!

Garter Snake – I’ve seen several, but they are so darn fast I only catch a glimpse before they are gone.

Fountain grass, so pretty!
Trail magic with Vera. Perfect timing, we just climbed down San Jacinto and it was HOT!!! She had strawberries, bananas, drinks and all kinds of other goodies. We were so excited and grateful – truly an oasis.

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