PCT Week 2: Switchbacks, Hot Days, and More Trail Magic

Our First Zero

The first zero of the trail is spent in Julian, CA, where good food is enjoyed, laughs are abundant and stories of our first 75 miles are shared.

Town chores are extremely important as the faster you complete them, the faster you get to enjoy everything the town has to offer. Resupplying, laundry, showers, its all apart of the daily routine you should have in town.

In the case of Julian, no laundromat is available so while some choose not to clean their clothes, others find ways to do it in their hotel room sinks. For me, I don’t mind not cleaning my clothes as I don’t smell too bad and other more prevalent chores need to be completed.

Most of the zero is spent back at Mom’s Pie House, where more pie is eaten and photos are edited. 2 Foot Adventures is next. It’s definitely one of the most iconic resupply stores on the PCT. It has everything you need from food and accessories to bigger pieces of gear like backpacks and quilts.

Hikers are in and out all afternoon, and lots more stories are shared between Charlie, who runs the store with Mary, and all those who walk in. There’s so much more I can say about this one store, but I’ll leave it for another article highlighting these amazing people.

Finally, chores are done! It’s time to relax and enjoy this beautiful day with Duces, Yeti Legs, and Basecamp. We go to Nickel Beer Company where meet up with Kurt and April, aka 6PK and ROY-G-BIV. The night is young and all the worries of the trail are left at the door. After a night out with friends, it’s time to head back home and get ready for a long day of trail ahead of us.

Switchbacks and Heat

The morning is quiet as we prepare ourselves to get back on trail. Rangel picks us up and back to Scissors Crossing we go. Part of me already misses Julian, but I’m excited to finally be back on trail.

It’s a hot day, and it’s all switchbacks to the top. The only thing you can do is to keep moving forward. Even with the rest, the climb is difficult on our bodies. As you look back you can see the trail in the distance as you get higher and higher up the mountain. It’s beautiful.

As I come around one corner, I see Lucky Charms, who I haven’t seen since Boulder Oaks. A quick catch-up is necessary before heading back up the mountain. Basecamp, Yeti Legs, and I keep moving forward, where high winds are actually a welcoming feeling this afternoon. While in Oriflamme I dreaded the wind, here in the hot desert with little shade it cools the body.

This section is our first long water carry. It’s a grueling task having to stretch water for miles on end in the hot weather. All we can do is keep a positive attitude and climb on to the water cache.

We reach our campsite which is right by the water cache left by a wonderful group of trail angels. There are so many gallons of water, it’s an amazing sight to see after the long day we had. At the cache we meet Gup and Reach, two new faces.

That night Brother Paul, 6PK, Duces, and ROY-G-BIV join us at camp. The long day is over, and we learn more about each other over dinner while also joking about being in mountain lion territory. It’s a calm night as a small breeze comes through and all I can think about is how grateful I am to be on trail.

Hitting our first Milestone, Mile 100

Another early morning start and another long water carry is upon us. It’s going to be a hot day, so we immediately head out on trail. Our destination today: Montezuma Valley Market.

The Southern California hills are surprisingly more beautiful than I ever thought. The manzanitas are more abundant than any other vegetation out here. While it’s the same scenery that we’ve been experiencing every day for a week now, I find comfort in it.

While the previous day was an all-day climb, today is thankfully all downhill. It’s still as hot though, and breaks in the shade are very much needed. I have found that doing about 3/4 of my day then taking a siesta for an hour or two is the best way for me to go farther miles, especially with the sun beating down all day.

I’m in great spirits, and with a little rest, I am able to push forward to the last stretch of the day, which includes a special milestone, mile 100. Crossing that marker gave me so much energy and it felt rewarding. It’s in this moment that I really feel what the trail is all about. Every day isn’t always perfect, it’s not always fun, it’s a challenging experience. It’s the little moments that make it rewarding and enjoyable to be out here.

While mile 100 is a great moment, there are still 2550 miles to go, and a little more to go for the day. Finally, water is found. I sit back relax in the shade while hydrating myself. I generally don’t like short days, but this one is a little different and I’m ready to have another fun night with friends. I’m picked up and headed to Montezuma where everyone plans on spending the night.

Montezuma Valley Market, a Beautiful Oasis

Montezuma Valley Market is an oasis in between Julian and Idyllwild. Unfortunately, it burned down in 2021, but in its time of need, the community came together and started rebuilding. This is what the PCT is all about, many different communities all connected by a trail, all helping each other.

It’s more than just a little market, the property hosts hikers for the night, and includes a kitchen, shower, and bathrooms. While I’ve been fine living the trail life, it’s nice to have accommodations like this while on the PCT.

Just like 2Foot, this a great resupply location. It has plenty of trail food to get you to the next town if you chose not to resupply in Julian. I did about half of my own resupply here, as I wanted to not only visit but support this oasis that takes care of hikers. It’s truly trail magic!

I am reunited with Basecamp, Yeti Legs, Duces, and even more new faces. Our little tramily is growing as we talk about our experiences walking 100 miles so far. We eat pizza and laugh all night. We camp right on the property that night.

The morning comes and we’re all ready to keep pushing more miles. We are driven back to the trailhead, and off we go. It’s a late start but with another restful night, we’re in great spirits. I know today is going to be a great day.

There’s a big change in scenery on this stretch of the Montezuma Valley. While we experienced desert hills for a week, it’s now lush green forests and pastures. I love this environment.

I experience my first day hikers on trail. Some know what we are doing and are excited to talk to us. While others laugh when we mention that we’re walking to Canada. The expression on their faces as they’re in disbelief says it’s all. Everyone is cheery though, as we are all experiencing such a beautiful trail together.

In this valley, there’s another really cool landmark, Eagle Rock. We make our way down the trail and there it is, a giant rock that looks like an eagle. It’s magnificent in its stature. If you didn’t know it was there you’d probably miss it as it faces away from the trail. It’s a great spot to take a break before pushing on for the day.

The whole group reunites and continues the trail. Back in the lush green forest and the shade on another hot day. The streams are flowing and it’s a wonderful sound to hear. We walk past Warner Springs, another little town on the trail if you need any resupply. For most of us it’s not needed and we instead take a siesta under the trees.

ROY-G-BIV meets us along the trail and we all head to camp. Letting the temperature cool down is a great way to keep hiking more miles. While most of the day was hot, the last stretch was perfect. Our campsite for the night is just along the next climb. We can already tell that the next few days are going to be rough.

Mikes Place/Marys Place, Even More Trail Magic

Back to the climbs! We are now only a couple days away from Paradise Valley Cafe and Idyllwild. Between us and another zero is a lot of climbing. I actually enjoy the climbs, it’s a part of the challenge, and the only way to deal with them is to just push through.

It’s even hotter here and water is a rare commodity. Small streams are not as abundant in the desert hills, so finding them is important. In certain stretches, we look for trail angels who have water caches all across the trail.

Mike’s Place is one of them. A small shack in the Southern California hills is another oasis for hikers. After a long push uphill with the sun beating down on us all morning, water is finally reached. Tumbleweed, ROY-G-BIV, Chief, and Cougar are all here taking a very necessary siesta.

We’re all dehydrated, but all in good spirits. More hikers arrive as we share snacks and laughs. The day isn’t done yet and guess what it’s more climbing of course. The good news is the sun is setting and the temperatures are cooling, the last stretch of the day is a breeze, literally.

Everyone reaches camp after what seemed like the longest day. I have gotten used to hiking from sunrise to sunset and every day just feels better and better. After a great dinner and more conversations, the day is done and we’re ready for the next one.

We continue through the desert hills, with a lot more water carries and less shade than ever. The climbs get more difficult without much water. Our destination today: another oasis, Mary’s Place.

Similar to Mike’s Place, this is another amazing trail magic location. With water, shade, and even a little box full of poems. It makes for a great siesta location. We meet Mary who stops by to say hello and gives us some knowledge about the environment we are hiking in. It’s people like her that make this trail amazing.

It’s always sad having to leave an oasis, but we have a trail to complete and another campsite to find. We are treated to an amazing sunset tonight. It makes the whole day of climbing in the desert worth it. This is what I live for, a perfect way to end an amazing day on trail. We’re only a morning hike away from town, we dream of cheeseburgers and other town food. At this point, we are highly motivated by food.

Paradise Valley Cafe, Truly Paradise

Everyone is excited this morning, it’s town day. After spending multiple days on trail we are ready for a nice relaxing zero. Still a couple more miles left but they go fast. Another milestone is reached, mile 150. We don’t want to think about it too much as stomachs growl, we are ready to get to paradise.

More day hikers pass us, we can smell the detergent on their clothes, we haven’t done laundry in almost two weeks. With every person we pass, a 5-10 minute conversation occurs. While I enjoy talking to day hikers, when I’m so close to town and I’m dreaming of food and rest, it’s hard to have good conversations.

Finally, we hit the road! It’s our first road walk, it’s only a mile, so we rush down and finally reach our first destination of the day, Paradise Valley Cafe. Oh, it’s definitely paradise! Everyone is there all stuffing their faces with food, and trying to plan a hitch to Idyllwild.

I finally get my cheeseburger that I’ve been dreaming of. And it’s the greatest meal of the trail so far. It’s almost a little too much but the hiker hunger is starting to set in. I’m satisfied. This wonderful establishment hosts thousands of hikers each year and it’s a place I’d definitely return to for a meal.

The day isn’t over yet though, we still need to get to Idyllwild. The only way into town is through a hitch. Not everyone has experienced getting a car to stop for you, and it’s not going to be the last time we are going to need to do this. After a while, finally a van stops for us, and crazy enough, the driver is Logan and Jake Paul’s dad. Now whatever you might think of the two multimillionaire YouTubers, it’s still really cool to get a ride from him. What are the odds!

We finally reach Idyllwild! Our zero has begun, and we’re ready for a nice, restful day off before the next challenge, the San Jacinto mountain range.

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Comments 2

  • Jeff W : Mar 30th

    I enjoy reading of hikers in the pct. I don’t want to forget the way points and experiences. Thanks.
    Did it in ‘15 at age 58. What a time.

  • Rob Dunning : Apr 3rd

    Hey Thomas,
    Great article!!! Lookin forward to meeting and greeting the class of ’22 up here in Sierra City. Be sure to stop and see me at Old Sierra City Hotel. Happy trails.


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