PCT Week 1: Exposed
One week on the PCT brings me to Warner Springs, CA (mile 109). The experience so far has been exhilarating to say the least. Each day has brought a new challenge; intense heat, freezing cold, rain, relentless wind and lack of water. But with all the challenges came some amazing moments on the trail.
I arrived at the Mexico border along with 20 or so hikers ready to embark on a life changing journey. With the first water source 20 trail miles away I knew it would be a long day hiking in the sun. Thankfully, my excitement for this journey helped me cruise into Lake Morena Campground by 3 or so with plenty of time to relax. Light rain started at night but it couldn’t dampen my spirits as it felt great to be back on the trail.
Rain continued throughout the morning as the trail steadily climbed to 6000 feet of elevation. Again the smooth trail allowed me to move fast. I arrived at the Mt. Laguna Post Office just before it closed saving me a lot of sitting around for my food resupply. I set up in a closed campground for the night where we had a fire going to help warm up in the frigid temps. It was only the second day on the trail and I had to wear every article of clothing I had with in order to stay warm at night.
I awoke to frost covering my tent and temps in the 30’s making my breakfast oatmeal especially cold this morning. With a full 6 day food supply and 3+ liters of water it was slow going for the first half of the day. With scarce water on the trail each place with running water has to be used to reduce carrying too much water. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way as I bypassed one water source for the next which was supposedly flowing well. When I arrived at this water source I had 1 liter to go for the next 10 miles. The well turned out to be dried up meaning I had to either hike on with little water or go back to the water I skipped. I chose to turn back where I found salvation in flowing water at a campground. This definitely slowed my day’s progress but reinforced the importance of water on the PCT.
As the afternoon progressed the trail opened up to expansive views and steep dropoffs, the scenery was stunning. With the open landscape came strong winds that were difficult to avoid with limited campsites.
Technically day 4 started at 3am when I awoke to winds strong enough to destroy my tent. I held on to the trekking pole that supports my tent for what semmed like forever as dust and dirt swirled around my shelter. As the sun rose and I got up after a few hours of sleep, the winds had simmered a little but I was now in a cloud. Finding a place for my morning bathroom routine was difficult to say the least. I hit the trail with every piece of clothing I had on in order to warm up and hold off the rain. Even though trail conditions were degrading I had a goal in mind of making it to Scissors Crossing in time for trail magic. When I was at Scout and Frodo’s in San Diego, I found out about trail magic at mile 77, 4 days after I started my hike. I hoped this would be doable and as the day progressed I knew I might be able to make it in time. With a half an hour to spare I made it to the event in time to get a few beers and veggies, not a bad day on the trail! After such generosity, another trail angel drove a few of us hikers to the local campground so I could get some laundry and a hot shower.
Day 5 started with a steady climb and switchbacks and continued with day long exposure to the intense sun. As the day wore on shade became the most valuable resource on the trail. The route seemed to follow the sun throughout the day, seriously draining all my energy. I kept walking and rounding bends in search of elusive shade. I didn’t use enough sunscreen and felt the full effects of the heat and sun. When I wasn’t searching for shade I was keeping a look out for rattlesnakes, as multiple sightings had been reported on the trail. Luckily all I encountered was one off trail at a safe distance. After walking all day in the sun I arrived at a huge cache of water put out by trail angels, preventing a 30 mile waterless stretch. After resting up and filling up on water I called it an early day and relaxed in camp all afternoon in order to get some reading in. Another rain storm passed in the afternoon and so far my tent is 2 for 2 in protecting me from the rain.
Today the trail was again endless switchbacks and long ascents and decents but thankfully there was plenty of shade. As the trail descended from the mountains, it crossed through barren BLM land where cattle roamed and shared our water sources…
My day ended in Warner Springs, CA where a host of volunteers run a community center providing camping, water, showers and wifi. A great place to catch up on updates from the world and post some pictures.
Southern terminus of the PCT
US / Mexico border
Hiking into a cloud
A long ago dried up water source…
Beautiful campsite lightly sheltered from the wind.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.