PCT stage 02: Julian to Idyllwild – part one

Hello again, everyone! In my previous post PCT Stage 01: Campo to Julian , I shared about my start on the PCT and my first impressions on the trail.

This time, I’ll tell you about the second section I completed, which took me about 6 days. Starting from the town of Julian and reaching Idyllwild, it was a journey of 167 km and 5800 m of cumulative elevation gain.

A new start

The night in América Legion had passed. Yesterday, I spent those hours simply observing people, watching them play pool, drink beer, chat, and even enjoy live music performed for a small audience. It all seemed like something out of a movie. In the morning, everything was different.

The bar was empty, and there were only six hikers, among whom I remember an Israeli who, with the first light of day, packed his backpack and left. Later, there was a couple I had spoken to the night before. They both had a hotel reservation and were heading there. Lastly, there were two friends traveling together. They were clearly American and seemed very organized with all their belongings. It was evident they had been together for days.

In my case, I was feeling a bit lost, without internet and without anyone to ask for advice or guidance on what my next steps should be, or how to get back to the trail! The only thing I knew was that there was a supermarket. Actually, scratch that, I knew there was something else; there was Mom’s Pie Stand that I had seen yesterday, which had WiFi and hikers! So, I decided to head there for breakfast.


I arrived at Mom’s and there were no hikers. I ordered a hot chocolate and sat down to do some research on what to do in the city. It was clear that I needed to resupply, but for how many days? Where could I buy things? I had so many doubts!

PCT map route in Mom’s

This was part of what I wanted to challenge myself with on this trip. I’m usually an excessively organized person, but for my PCT journey, I wanted to be different. I wanted to plan more on the spot, just thinking about my next few days and figuring it out as I go.

That sounds nice in retrospect! But honestly, at the time, I felt extremely lost, with more questions than answers. To be honest, I hated my past self for making that decision, for choosing that way to experience the most important journey of my life.

Mom’s old oven

While my mind was battling with these pointless thoughts, I decided to talk to my girlfriend Caro. She helped me sort things out, making me think about my next steps. I knew I didn’t want to spend another day in Julian; I had to figure out how to get to the trail. I needed to find a store to buy my food. While I was dealing with that, it seemed like destiny wanted to help me out; my friend High Five appeared.

Hikers to the rescue

We chatted about many things; he had comfortably spent his night in a hotel for over 100 USD. That’s something my wallet couldn’t handle, especially on day 4 of the PCT. I told him about my stormy night at the American Legion, and we laughed together about everything that had happened. He already had all his things ready to go back to the trail; he just needed to arrange transportation. He knew he could do at the mountain gear store across the street, PCT Gear Shop.

This conversation helped me a lot to get organized; I had to do what he did, resupply, and then arrange transportation. I left my stuff at Mom’s and went to the supermarket next door. I bought things for my lunch, a few nuts, and rice. Those few things cost me a fortune! That’s when I started to understand how expensive resupplies would be on the PCT, but they were necessary because I had to eat.

PCT gear shop

I returned to Mom’s, and now there were many more hikers. I felt much more content, more at ease, more at home. Among all the hikers who had arrived, there was ‘Expendable,’ who, if you remember from my previous post PCT Stage 01: Campo to Julian, was a Swedish man I had encountered at a water resupply point. It was his third attempt on the PCT, so he had a lot of experience. We went together to the PCT GEAR SHOP to arrange transportation.

The store was amazing! It had everything! I even regretted doing the resupply at the supermarket because there were some better options for mountain food there. Among the things I saw were the Moleskin, which I remembered Lali Moratorio, my trail running instructor in Uruguay, had recommended buying for blisters. I asked the salesman to explain how to apply them, and he kindly explained that I had to cut a piece that surrounded the blister without touching it. It adheres to my skin and reduces friction on the blister because it forms a thicker layer of skin that prevents the blister from rubbing so much. A wonderful explanation. Then Expendable and I proceeded to ask about the trail transportation again, and he said he had two spots for 12 PM and the rest only available at 3 PM. I told Expendable to take those two spots for High Five and for him, and I would go later to the trail, and that’s it.

The Crux

Here’s where an event occurs that would completely change my PCT journey, let’s say it’s a tiny detail that if it hadn’t happened, my PCT would be totally different! At that moment, a tall man entered, and by his English, he was also a foreigner, saying that a spot had opened up for the 1 PM transportation. I seized that moment to tell the store man that I would take that spot. 

In the mountaineering course I took, they referred to these moments as “Crux,” which signifies the last decision you made that altered the course of things, and definitely taking that transportation would change my PCT.

Back to the trail

What PCT GEAR SHOP does is coordinate with trail angels to transport you to the trail. In this case, they added me to the shuttle with three other hikers who walked together for the first few days. I was immediately welcomed into the group! They were very kind and attentive to me. Upon arrival, the trail angel was also happy to take me, basically because I was the only South American hiking around and she wanted to add Uruguay’s name to her travel log.

San Felipe Valley

After a journey along a very zigzagging route, luckily the trip was short, or else my nausea would have caused a disaster in the trail angel’s car, lol. We arrived at San Felipe Valley again.

My first Trail Family

Claire, Perfect pitch and Steph

This group of 3 hikers adopted me without hesitation, it was incredible how quickly they accepted me. They put me in the middle of their line, and we started walking. I began to lose my shyness, started to open up and speak in English, which is difficult for me and something I wanted to challenge myself to do. Luckily, I did it, and it led me to integrate into this wonderful group consisting of Claire, Steph, and the tall man I had seen at PCT GEAR SHOP, Perfect Pitch. He is German, and I was surprised by the number of Germans I encountered on the PCT, almost as many as Americans.

Flowers of the desert

flowered cacti on the trail

Walking accompanied is a completely different experience! I don’t consider it better or worse than being alone, just different. On my return to the trail, I was needing company, so being with all of them did me a lot of good.

The walking pace was very different from what I had been doing. Much more relaxed, enjoying the surroundings and observing other things. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what I saw, but having six more eyes helps perceive details on the trail.

Flowers, stone and shadows of golden California

An example of this is the photo above. While I was the one who took it, it was Claire’s eyes that noticed the elegant shadows on the rock from the flowers under the intense Californian sun.

Sharing experiences

Perfect pitch hiking and San Felipe Valley on background

That day we walked between 9 and 10 miles, considerably less than what I had been doing, but I was very happy to share conversations with this group of people. We talked about everything! From our daily lives to the gear we had, to cell phone services. With Steph, we shared a profession, both born from the engineering field. That ultimately ends up generating similar ways of thinking and analyzing things, which amused us and led to jokes associated with our profession.

I shared my entire story with them, which I’ve been trying to convey to you in my previous posts! I explained my motivation and why I was here, walking for 6 months on a nearly impossible task of reaching Canada on foot.


Steph tent below thousand and thousands of stars

Nightfall came, and we ate together, camping in a peaceful spot all four of us. We discussed wanting to hike more miles the next day. They had been doing few, and I had been doing too many, so we liked the idea of aiming for a middle ground.

My tent below the stars

One of my most important days on the trail begins 

Our plan for the upcoming day was to hike about 15 miles to a campground near Montezuma Valley Road. We decided to start early to avoid the heat and because we knew there wasn’t much water abundance along the remaining trail.

Flower in the desert


The vegetation in this almost desert-like area is impressive. The contrast of flower colors is striking, as is the harshness of the thorns that were everywhere.

Steph hiking

We ended up splitting into two groups as we walked. I kept pace with Steph’s brisk stride, as she was very determined to reach the mileage goal. A bit further back were Claire and Perfect Pitch, maintaining their usual pace but also striving to achieve it.

The Water Cache

I remember we reached a water source. This area was really dry, so this water source is what’s called a PCT Water Cache. Basically, it consists of people organizing to leave bottles of water for hikers. This is truly EXCEPTIONAL. When Steph and I arrived at the detour point to reach the water, we split up. She stayed behind to cook her breakfast, and I went to the water source. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of that place to show you because I went down alone with just my bottles, leaving all my gear up above. Essentially, there were water bottles with a large cage where you could place empty bottles for recycling.

The PCT magic appears

Me and Claire! the magic wielder

On the climb back to the trail, I crossed paths with Claire and Perfect Pitch, who had already arrived. At that moment, something magical happened and personally, one of the most important moments for me. Claire greeted me and said, “Diego! I have a trail name for you. I’m not sure if you’ll like it, but we think it represents you. Your trail name should be Roadrunner, like the bird! Do you know it?”

My mind exploded instantly. I replied, “That’s cool!” They continued on to the water, and I kept climbing, but my body was the one climbing because my head had gone into the clouds.

The invisible thread 

It’s hard for me to explain it simply; maybe after reading my previous posts, you’ll understand why I was so moved at that moment. Even now, I get emotional remembering that moment because that name ties together what has been my story to be here.

The facts 

  • The first and most obvious thing is the praise and recognition for my walking speed. It’s something I’ve worked on. If you remember my post “The Broken Tower,” I made a huge effort to start walking again and then to be able to go trekking with my friends. For me, it’s amazing to have been able to overcome a ruptured patellar tendon in just 3 months. Then, there are all my previous treks that I’ve talked about in several of my previous posts like My first Big Miles. Through them, I gained the knowledge and physical condition to be walking the PCT today.
  • Then, the detail that someone who had only known me for a day took the time to think of a name for me. That nourished my soul; feeling that was like feeling affection and attention towards another person, which moves me deeply.
  • And lastly, what surprises me the most about my trail name is the profound connection it has with someone who appears in my first post, Why I’m hiking the PCT. Someone who was my inspiration to be here. If you remember, in that post, I talk about Romina Mena, the Chilean girl who did the PCT, while we talked about the craziness I was doing and slowly she was leading me to get up as I tell in Don’t Give Up. The incredible thing is that Romina’s trail name was Coyote, which implies an explicit relationship with the cartoon characters Coyote and the Roadrunner. Claire had no idea about this story; she hadn’t read my blog before meeting me. That’s where I see the magic of the PCT, where I see an invisible thread that I find hard to believe is coincidental.

That’s the signal that activates my Don’t Give Up mantra, and since that day, I tell myself: “Diego, or rather Roadrunner

‘This is the time and the best moment.

To be continued…

I feel like I have to end this post here. I’m going to split this part of my PCT into two because at this stage, there was a very strong breakthrough with that event. Because for me, it’s the birth of Roadrunner.

I hope you enjoyed my post. Shortly, I will complement this publication with the rest of our journey to Idyllwild. It’s also filled with wonderful things that this experience I’m living has to offer. Thanks to be there.

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Comments 9

  • Professor Jellybean : May 9th

    Hola, Correcaminos! 🙂

    It is wonderful to hear about your new “tramily” and your trail name! Your photographs are beautiful. Your photography teacher will be very proud of you! ¡Mis mejores deseos para los próximos pasos de su viaje!

    • Diego Acuna : May 9th

      You comments are amazing my friend! Here we are doing this amazing trip with a lot of amazing experiences! Thanks for the comments and for give me more strength to keep my road to Canada :).

  • Jenny : May 10th

    Diego aka Roadrunner, I’m in Wyoming and I am following your story on The Trek! Just wanted to say thank you for sharing your journey–you write so eloquently and with emotion. It is lovely to read! I’m rooting for you 🙂

    • Super Chill : May 10th

      Hi Roadrunner, I enjoy reading your blog. I believe this trek will definitely be life changing for you. If there is one piece of advice I would give, it’s to be confident. Don’t let your doubts or anxiety about being immersed in the unfamiliar control you. It’s just putting one foot in front of the other. The community you will experience is amazing. Hike your own hike, as slow or as fast as you want.

      • Diego Acuna : May 10th

        Thank you very much for your comment and for your advice! I think you’ve all noticed that I overthink things, that’s part of what I’m trying to change here. Just as you say, one step behind the other and let the trail provides. REALLY THANK YOU

    • Diego Acuna : May 10th

      Hello Jenny! I just arrive to the campsite, I have an amazing view of the desert now. I can’t explain in words How beautiful it is to be here, preparing dinner and reading the comments about how magical I am living here. I will continue with these posts without a doubt. In every quiet minute I have I write a little, because this is going to be one more memory of this immense adventure and the comments from all of you feed me

  • David Odell : May 10th

    Enjoyed your posts. Good luck on the rest of your PCT hike. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

    • Diego Acuna : May 12th

      Really thank you 🙂

  • Martin Kluver : May 15th

    Dieguito, me parece genial la forma en que explicas todo lo vivido en este gran viaje. Se lo que implica para vos y de verdad me alegra que lo estés disfrutando. No creo en las coincidencias sino en los hilos invisibles que se nos presentan en la vida. Go Roadrunner!!!!


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