The Trail Feels Like Home
Martín and I woke up early on April 3rd so my parents could drop us off at the Atlanta Airport for our 8AM flight. We had packed everything up the night before and had our last minute checks before leaving my parents house. I wasn’t feeling nervous at all for our adventure, more so aware that my life wasn’t going to be so called normal anymore. And I had no idea how normal trail life was going to be. Once we got to the airport we said our goodbye to my parents and took cute selfies with them to commemorate this special moment.
The airport was insane that morning and we were stressing about missing our flight to San Diego. Lines were wrapped everywhere throughout the main check-in building but after over an hour we made it through TSA. Our flight over was approximately 5 hours and we were lucky to gain back 3 of those hours when we landed. On the plane, the TV screen showed our flight route and miles it was going to take to get there which was 1,889. This was the moment that I realized what we were about to embark on was absolutely crazy. We plan to walk 2,650 miles which is significantly more than our flight from Georgia to California and for more perspective it will take us almost 6 months to go that distance when flying takes 5 hours. I just remember thinking I can’t believe we are about to do this thing.
After landing in San Diego, we ate Panda Express at the airport and took a free bus ride from the airport to catch a ride from the pctsouthernterminusshuttle which would proceed to take us to REI, the Campo post office and CLEEF. This is such an incredible service that previous hikers One-Speed and Just Paul provide to make this process of getting to the southern terminus that much easier.
The ride to Campo felt like an elementary school field trip. We had chaperones, our permits act as permission slips,we were all giddy about going to new places and the only difference was now spending our own money to have fun versus our parents.
That night at CLEEF (a campground that hikers can stay at before starting the PCT) we gathered around the fire along with the other hikers staying there, had dinner provided by trail angels (people in the PCT community who provide help and resources to hikers), and were given speeches from the trail angels and Dr.Morgyn (a PT who works with hikers to ease trail injuries). We took a group photo together and this was the start of the April 4th PCT cohort. I currently do not know where many of these other hikers are, but we have solid connections with many of them now. We went to bed around 9:30pm and prepared for an early start the next day. This night was the coldest night we have experienced at around 25 degrees F.
Days 1 – 7 / April 4th – April 10th
On April 4th, Martín and I made the walk up to the PCT southern terminus monument and finally placed our hands on this icon of the trail. It represented all our hard work to get to this point and meant we were about to take our first official steps on trail. We had a photoshoot with some of our hiker friends and little leaf the goat even made an appearance which was incredibly unique to start the trail after petting a goat.
We hiked just a little over 11 miles on our first day and camped with some other April 4th starters. Little did we know, one of the hikers, Amy would become a really good friend of ours! But more on that later.
On day two, we had the climb out of hauser creek and we were greeted by the PCTA trail maintenance crew where we thanked them for their service and dedication to maintaining our new home. We made it to Lake Morena Malt Shop where we splurged on burgers, philly cheesesteak, fries and a chocolate milkshake. We then pushed 2 more miles to reach a lovely campsite overlooking the lake down below. Our European friends arrived shortly after us and we climbed on top of some rocks to watch the sunset and jam to ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ by Bill Withers.
I don’t remember much from day 3 except our campsite which was in Fred’s Canyon by the creek. We got to camp early and had a relaxing time doing laundry in the water and soaking our feet after a long day. Before this we did see our first official trail magic which was a lemon doughnut and chocolate eclair at boulder oaks campground. We also had a first creek crossing which was up to my thighs because I was dumb and went into the deeper side than everyone else.
We left camp the next day late around 9am and started making our way to the next town of Mount Laguna. This area was heavily impacted by snow earlier in the season and we were lucky enough to have been hiking in this section when most of the snow had melted off the trail. This section was special because the trail reminded us of our home in Georgia. The mountain is covered in pine trees and trees that smelled like Christmas and the area resembled Georgia forests, so we were happy to experience a slice of home on this section. Once we got to town we ate at a cute French inspired restaurant where we were treated with free wifi and delicious pastries.
Day 5 was a great day as we made it to the 50 mile marker and then pushed some more to have less miles to get into Julian. This day Martín carried 4 L of water which is an extra 8.8 pounds, because we heard mixed reviews about water sources on this next stretch. We ended up passing 3-4 places to get water but sometimes it’s better to be over prepared than go without essentials. I loved this day of hiking because we saw our first view of San Jacinto, a snow covered mountain that would eventually kick our butts but would also be one of the best sections of trail so far.
On day 6 we pushed our longest mile day at 15.3 so we could have a nero day (a day where hikers hike less than 10 miles) into Julian, CA. We hiked most of the day on and off with our friends Amy and Couch and had a nice break at a water spicket that was on trail. Martín, Amy and I camped at a beautiful cliff tentsite which we had to ourselves. I made Alfredo pasta which I proceeded to spill all over myself and permanently stained my pants which was just oh so great. That night we watched the stars together and got into laughing fits over spongebob references.
April 10th was a magical day. It was our first day staying in town since we started the trail 7 days prior. At first Martín and I were nervous about hitching into Julian but Amy was gracious enough to offer us a ride with her parents! That morning we woke up early enough to see our first sunrise and we hiked almost 8 miles to get to Scissors Crossing where Amy’s parents would pick us up. They arrived shortly after us and Amy’s mom offered us homemade bread which was yummy. They took us to the post office to grab our first resupply box (a premade box of food items and other hiking supplies) and then they dropped us off at our hotel.
We had our first shower in a week, did shower and sink laundry and then met up with Amy and her parents for lunch. We had the best pizza of our entire lives at the Julian brewery. Afterwards we headed to Mom’s Pie, a place where they give free slices of pie, ice cream and a drink to PCT hikers. We then heard about the free cider and candy bags at the Julian Cider Mill and proceeded to get our free goodies. We thanked Linda at the cider mill for being so kind to us and making the experience even more rewarding. Martín and I finished our town day by staying up way too late watching Love Is Blind on Netflix.
The trail is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The people are wonderful, the community is exceptional and the trail itself is new, exciting and beautiful. I am surrounded by people who all have their own reasons for doing this hike and yet everyone is relatable and I feel instantly connected to each hiker I have met. It is an impossible feeling to describe but the trail really does feel like home. Even though every mile walked is one step closer to the end I know these bonds and experiences are forever.
1. Only buy one meal to start when in town to not be wasteful
2. When passing potential campsites inspect the ground and other surroundings for ant hills, rocks, etc.
3. Be careful picking up rocks they could have big scary spiders underneath them or poop it turns out
1. From Elena – it’s not romantic to look at the road when on trail
2. Small rocks are not cute
3. Everyday on trail is like a Monday and Friday. You have to put in work like a Monday but you have the freedom like a Friday
Miles hiked – 77.3
Hikers met – 33
Sunrise – 1
Sunset – 4
Town food consumed – 1 philly cheesesteak with fries, 1 grilled cheese baguette, 1 chocolate milkshake, 1 chocolate croissant, 1 fire on the mountain pizza, 1 bumbleberry pie slice, 1 cinnamon ice-cream scoop, 1 root beer, 1 cherry cider
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