PCT Thru-Hike, Mt. Laguna to Julian (Days 5-6): Stormy Times

After a night spent in Mount Laguna, I was eager to leave the overwhelming nature of my first trail town. The stress of posting to socials is amplified after a few days of being completely unplugged. Additionally, the richness of the town food was not as enjoyable as I expected as a hungry thru-hiker. My mind ached for progress towards Canada, and I wasn’t satisfying it sitting in the Mount Laguna lodge.

Day 5: Mount Laguna to Mile 56.5 (16 miles)

Following the mellow trail out of Mt. Laguna, Gina and I quickly came across the Desert View Overlook. I got my first glimpse of Mt. San Jacinto and Big Bear looming in the distance.  The two massifs, despite being over 100 miles away, both spoke to the fact that I was now entering the north end of San Diego County.

Gina and I strolled into the Nobel Canyon trailhead at Mt. Laguna to fill our ample water capacity with water, anticipating heavier carries in the future. Slowly thru-hikers trickled in to enjoy a lunch break under the shade of the oak trees. For the first time on the trail, I met James, a fellow ‘youngster’ as the others call us. Two other gentlemen, Greg from Washington and Aaron from Australia, decided to push forward with Gina and me appreciating our local knowledge of the area, and fearing the winter storm forecasted for the next day. For the first time on the Pacific Crest Trail, we pushed forward as a small tramily pack, hitting the 50-mile milestone together.

After pushing 16 miles with the new pack on what was scheduled to be a 12-mile day, Gina, Greg, Aaron and I camped out in a dry creek bed at mile 56.5. Rain was not forecasted to appear until the next day, but I figured if it did rain I’d just wake up to waterfront property; we all know how hard that is to get nowadays.

Gazing over the Anza-Borrego Desert, with Mt. San Jacinto and Big Bear in the distance

Day 6: Mile 56.5 to Sunrise Highway (2 miles, Nero in Julian)

As I doze peacefully, dreaming of back home, I was awoken by the Australian exclaiming, “I think we ot to get outta here!”. I peered outside my tent only to see a huge mass of rain clouds approaching from the valley below. I scarfed down my CLIF Bar as we scampered towards mile 58.5, Sunrise Highway, to escape into Julian. The winds blasted us as we held out our thumbs for the disheartening lack of cars that drove past. Thru-hikers looking to hitch began to accumulate at Sunrise Highway, and when a van pulled over, the driver (the father of a fellow thru-hiker), allowed us to cram 11 hikers into a camper van that only fit three.

Arriving at 9 am, the van of hikers flocked to the only coffee shop open. It was a strange feeling, being in a town I used to day-trip to, but this time as a PCT thru-hiker. My energetic mindset was instantly depleted sitting around, simply trying to pass the time. Even eating was weird, it felt like a chore. Nothing was truly appetizing, and I felt like I should have been enjoying the town food more than I was. As our pack stood up to leave the eatery, I realized I had left my beanie in the van that had transported us to town. On the verge of tears, I reluctantly went to TwoFoot Adventures to purchase a $35 beanie to replace the $12 beanie that I loved so much. Aimlessly walking around town, waiting for the go-ahead to move into an Airbnb we were splitting with 12 other hikers, Gina and I spotted from a distance the gray van we rode up in. Running over, I was overjoyed to see my beanie displayed on the dashboard. Sharing my story with the hikers that surrounded the van, a young individual named Mason needed a beanie, so I handed him the $35 beanie that I had already ripped the tags off of, insisting he takes it without providing any compensation. The fellow youngster treated Gina and me to Mexican food before we went our separate ways.

A trail angel shuttled the 12 hikers to a renovated barn in the suburbs of Julian. We quickly developed a systematic assembly line to ensure all 12 stinky hikers got their well-earned shower time. Once again the town blues overwhelmed me, creating anxieties in my head that had never before crossed my mind. But I knew the PCT wasn’t the issue. The PCT is everything I had ever dreamed of, but the longing I felt for the people back home was stronger than ever.

How many hikers can you fit into a van?

Hiker trash hiding from the storm in Julian, CA

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