The First 100

Current LocationRanchita Bodega, Ranchita, CA
Miles Hiked101.2
Miles to Go2,554.0
Percent of Trail Completed3.8%


Crap, I knew what that sound meant. It meant that it was going to be a long night. I had just laid down in my tent, ready to rest after a long day in the sun. Soon my butt was on the cold ground, then a few seconds later my legs, then my shoulders.

The night before I had to reinflate my sleeping pad in the middle of the night, but I hadn’t thought much of it; often on a cold night, the air in the pad loses pressure due to the temperature change. Despite the hot sunny desert days out here, the temperature dips quickly and it gets quite cold at night.

Tonight there was no doubt about though, my sleeping pad had a leak. A big one too. I spent the next hour locating the site of the leak and attempting to patch it up. It was no use though. Air was seeping out of an entire a 1 square inch divot on this old, well-loved, pad.

Needless to say it was an uncomfortable night.

This was, however, an incredibly convenient place to have a gear failure. It was day 4, mile 63.7, and I was just 13.6 miles from Scissors Crossing, where I could catch a ride to the gold rush town of Julian, CA. I had plenty of food so I hadn’t planned to stop in Julian, but with a gear shop in town, it was an easy solution to my problem.

Much like the previous four days, the trail to Scissors Crossing is cut into the mountains, about halfway up. The PCT is almost entirely bench cut trail in this region, winding around the desert peaks. On my left is a steep mountainside dotted with sagebrush, yucca, and cacti. On my right is an expansive view of the valley below.

See the trail cut into the mountain?

Approaching Scissors Crossing on Highway S2, the trail descended into the valley, where twin fighter jets roared overhead, presumably from nearby Naval Air Station.

My errand in Julian was laughably easy. When I arrived at Scissors Crossing midday, I was greeted by trail angel Magic Man offering me a cold soda. I was only halfway through the drink when another trail angel, Rangel, offered me a ride to town. I was dropped off right outside the gear shop, which had the exact sleeping pad I wanted.

And as if that wasn’t enough good luck, the pie shop across the street offers a free slice of pie to PCT thru-hikers – topped with ice cream and a free drink. I knew it would be good pie when I saw the line was out the door, and the slice of strawberry rhubarb did not disappoint!

I was then offered a ride back to trail by yet another trail angel, Minnie. Free rides, free soda, new sleeping pad, free pie… I feel so spoiled! Thanks Julian!

Cacti outside Julian

Cacti outside Julian

With the extremely efficient visit to town, I didn’t even have to alter my mileage plan for the day. I’ve been doing roughly fifteen miles a day for this first stretch. I don’t want to overdo it at the start, so a comfortable fifteen is a good pocket for now.

Despite some typical foot achiness (I have chronic plantar fasciitis) my body feels great. The trail has been relatively gentle smooth sandy trail with no major ascents. The most challenging part is acclimating to the intense sun and limited water. I had a headache from the heat the first couple days. Recently the wind has really picked up, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it makes it less hot. A curse because it makes for some rough nights in the tent.

Now another 28 miles past Julian, I’m taking a nearo in the tiny town of Ranchita, greatly enjoying my first shower and laundry. I really needed it!

Looking ahead

Idyllwild is the first sizable town on the PCT and I think I’ll enjoy my first zero there in a few days. Recent beta indicates that there are some dicey snowy/icy conditions ahead in the San Jacinto region. I’m having my spikes sent to Idyllwild. It’s entirely possible that another week of warm weather will melt away any problem areas, but it’s hard to know for sure.

Day 1 at the terminus

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Comments 3

  • Margaret : Apr 16th

    I live in carson Washington, close to cascade loc/ks and bridge of the gods…glad to give any hikers a ride from cascade locks up to where the pct trail starts at panther creek,outside of carson Washington. Lots of people hike around the trail where it starts from right by bridge of the gods and walk hwy 14 thru Stevenson and up wind river hwy to carson, the trail is a,steep incline over red bluff and hamilton mt,and lots skip it.Hwy 14 is narrow with not much walking space and lots of truck traffic, and I’m glad to give anyone a ride for a trail story.
    Thx Margaret 503 380 0140. Email is the best way to get ahold of me.Sometimes phone service us sketchy around here.

  • tallis george-munro : Apr 16th

    Well done Kirby! You got some awesome legs! I have to smile since when I hiked the CA PCT back in 1978 the trail was remarkably a wilderness. I don’t remember meeting any one on the PCT until the southern High Sierra. They were weed growers. They cultivated at about 3,500 feet. I’m glad that the trail is treating you well. I celebrated my 24th birthday on top of Mt San Jacinto….I look forward to reading your future posts!

  • Susan Kenworthy : Apr 16th

    I have a funny story about playing the French horn in the Army Bands (not me). Contact me in Idyllwild and I’ll share it. 214 448 6839.


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