Someday, Realized – PCT Week 1

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Someday, Realized

“Right now there are thousands of people watching PCT YouTube videos thinking “Someday, I’ll do that PCT.” Today is your someday.” – Just Paul

Day 0

After 12 hours of travel, a night at Stay Classy Hostel San Diego, one train, and two busses I finally arrived at trail angels Scout and Frodo’s home. I was a bit overstimulated and anxious from a night in San Diego but was quickly relieved as Proton, another trail angel, greeted me with such warm and welcoming energy.

I was given a brief tour, helped prep dinner, and socialized with ~20 other hikers who would be starting their hike in the next two days. Fortunate as I was, this evening was the very last for the 2023 season at Scout and Frodo’s, affording me their last “Dinner Talk” of the year. We all gathered and listened as Scout and Frodo shared stories of their PCT Thru-Hike, including shaving their heads at the half-way point. They discussed Leave No Trace Principles, risk mitigation in the Sierras, and the value of the people we’d cross paths with throughout the trail.

I spoke with a few hikers until hiker midnight (9pm) and wrapped myself tightly in my quilt one last time. One more sleep. One final sunset before I would begin the Pacific Crest Trail.

Dinner Talk at Scout & Frodo’s (Photo Credit Barney Scout Mann on Instagram as journeys.north)

Day 1

I was the first of the hikers to wake, followed closely by three others from Michigan. Scout and Frodos had been a comical melting pot of midwesterners and a few foreigners from Australia, Tasmania, Germany, Czech Republic, France, and Japan. I anxiously peed about five times before breakfast, well hydrated, I hoped!

We all shared a delicious breakfast, one final gorge before living on the delicacies of Idahoan Potatoes, Ramen, and Knorr Sides. Then, I was ready to roll! Ready to hit the trail, ready to… wait two more hours for the shuttle to arrive to deliver us to the Terminus. Just Paul, our shuttle driver, loaded us in the van and delivered us to the southern terminus at ~12pm. Ah yes, 12pm, everyone’s choice time of day to begin a hike in the SoCal desert in May! Facetious of course, but much love to Paul and the Shuttle crew.

After my phone camera lenses were exhausted of capturing photos of me next to the five pieces of lumbar that are the Southern Terminus, I set out. For day one I was joined by Haenry (Cobbler), a German hiker I had met at Scout and Frodo’s. We talked international cuisine, gear, and both shared awe for the new environment we had been immersed into.

Generally, I’m unphased by hiking in high temperatures, but the constant exposure to the dry SoCal sun began to reap a bit of my soul. I faded quickly. I tried to admire the foliage and my new reptile friends among the rocks but my head began to ache. I was 12 miles in and a sinister thought crept. “You think you can do this for months?” to which I quickly reframed as “you GET to do this for months!” I reached Hauser Creek (15.4mi) by 5pm, pitched my tent, ate my first Ramen Bomb (Ramen and Instant Potatoes), and passed out. Sun: 1, Nate: 0.

One of many Southern Terminus pictures

Day 2

When I backpack out west I bring my eastern time zone with me. I woke at 4am (7am EST) and broke camp. All my gear backed tightly in my pack I realized I was shirtless. Where was my sun hoody? I had left it on top of my tent to dry the night before; in haste to remain quiet and keep my headlamp low I had rolled my shirt up in my tent, packing it away. I donned my pack and began a cool shirtless ~1,200’ climb up from Hauser Creek.

In the heat of the day I came across Kitchen Creek. A rushing creek just off trail with a large pool of water at the end of a waterfall, begging to be swam in. I obliged.

I watched the sun rise as I reached the top of my climb, then descending down to Lake Morena Campground to brush my teeth and scavenge my pack for my shirt. I lathered stick sunscreen over my body and went about my way. 10 miles by 8am, 20 miles by 1pm, could I make it to Mt. Laguna’s cafe for a burger? I pushed through the heat of the day in hope of a nice meal. Stopped at a water source, I looked up the cafe on FarOut only to see that it was closed on Tuesdays. Devastation. I moseyed my way to a campsite just before a no-camp zone and as if missing the cafe didn’t hurt enough, burned my mac-n-cheese dinner in my pot. AFGO (Another F*ckng Growth Opportunity – as my partner Sarah always says). 24.5 miles for day two.

I don’t know where this was honestly, one of the only pictures I took on day two.

Day 3

I woke at 3am and tried to quietly pack my things. “The man who wakes up camp” I named myself. By 7am I reached 10 miles and was able to see my first mountainous view! Just before a viewpoint near Laguna Campground I watched a radiant red sphere rise from the horizon. I couldn’t help but smile, “I’m on the PCT”.

Sunrise near Mount Laguna Campground

I pushed on reaching 20miles by 11:30am. I stopped at a water source and briefly spoke with two other hikers, Mitchell and Alex about water carries ahead. I continued my climb until a sudden very steep descent beaconed. My quads screamed as my feet beat the trail beneath me. “Take smaller, slower, softer steps” I told myself. I reached a campsite at the bottom of the descent but only a sliver of shade could be seen. I walked towards the cool darkness, unclipped my pack, and crawled between two bushes. Now 10 degrees cooler, I slept for an hour, hoping to wait out the day’s heat.

“Just a few more miles today is a few less you need to hike before heading into Julian tomorrow” I thought. In the heat of the day I trudged up a small climb to a campsite that sat completely exposed to the sun. I set up my tent for shade and felt my body melting into the desert sand. Pouring sweat, I lay in the shaded dirt next to my tent, waiting for the cool evening to roll in. Sweating bullets all day and low on water, I dry ate a nuun tablet for electrolytes. 28.5 miles and a sleep well deserved.

Day 4

A 3am alarm woke me and I once again attempted, and likely failed, to quietly pack up camp. I was 2.5 miles from a water source and had dry camped with only half a liter of water. I couldn’t bring myself to a 31 mile day to reach the source yesterday. I arrived to see over 15 hikers amass the giant camp area. FINALLY! I had been desperately wanting to find more people, hopefully willing to hike a similar pace as me.

I got my water and refrained from conversing. While I had been up a little over an hour, these folks were just deflating their pads with no interest in conversation. I pushed on to mile 77 where I’d hitch into Julian. While waiting at the highway underpass a group of four guys joined me. Clouds, Double-Check, Phillip, and Joel. Professor, a local trail angel, gave us a ride into Julian for a Nero (Hiking low mileage and spending most of the day in a town).

We gorged at the Julian Cafe – the PCT Bowl, chocolate milk, coffee, and copious cups of ice cold water. I resupplied for a six day food carry to Idyllwild (~mile 180) at 2FootAdventures. At Mom’s Pie we flashed our PCT permits for a slice of free pie and ice cream. We went to a park to stretch together and ended our time in town with pizza at the local brewery.

Free Pie, Ice Cream, & Drink at Mom’s Pie

The five of us stood at the post office along the main road shaking our stuff and showing a little leg to get a hitch from a local, Brenton. We returned to mile 77 and began an uphill climb to wrap up a 17 mile town day. We set up a cowboy line (camping cowboy style, without a tent, in a line). I finished up the pizza I had packed out and slipped away to sleep beneath the stars.

The Climb out from Julian, CA.

Day 5

Our group was up by 5am and began a gradual morning ascent before an off trail water source. The heat and sun dwell above us as we began our descent to the town of Montezuma. Trail Magic! At the trailhead we saw a sign for our first trail magic. We found a trail angel named Phil with a handful of other hikers snacking on fruit, pop, and chips.

After enjoying our snacks we called Wonder Woman of the Montezuma Valley Market who came and picked us up, taking us to her store. Behind the giant Sasquatch sculpture sat more hikers enjoying beers, pop, and all kinds of junk food. We sat in the patio area beneath umbrellas and joined in, a simple desert oasis.

The Lord’s Nectar

Wonder Woman shuttled us back to trail and we pitched camp for the night, expecting some rain overnight.

Sir ‘Squatch

Day 6

I woke to a large gust of wind at 5am. I looked to each side of me to see both Double Check and Cloud’s tarps had fallen. Just as they collapsed a light rain began; they rushed to repitch their shelters. The rain subsided and frogs called loudly from the nearby water source.

We temporarily hiked out of the typical desert environment we had grown used to and found large open fields littered with grazing cattle.

A large grazing field tightly hugging the footpath

We pressed a bit further, finally coming across a very popular early PCT destination, Eagle Rock! Clearly shaped like an eagle, this rock is held sacred by the local indigenous people. Anticipating this moment for years, I found the rock larger and more incredible than I could have imagined.

Eagle Rock

As we left Eagle Rock, large day hiking crowds began to flood past us on trail to see the sight. As smelly and dirty as I already was, I found the many perfumes and colognes seeping off the day hikers a bit repulsive. Such strong scents! Comical, how likewise they must be thinking of me.

We reached Warner Springs and were told of bucket showers less than a quarter mile off trail. We filled large 5 gallons buckets, lathered ourselves with body wash, and used small gallon pitchers to pour the warm water over our suds. Clean at last! We used the buckets to give our clothes their first wash. Simple as the experience was, it was so refreshing.

We hiked on and found camp late in the evening along a beautiful ridge. Shelters pitched and stomachs full, we watched the sun set and followed suit. My favorite day on trail yet.

Sunset From the Ridge

Day 7 – Receiving a Trail Name

We left our ridge site and set on for Mike’s Place – a reliable water source ~7 miles from our camp. After some moderate climbing and a light descent down to the water tower at Mike’s Place we filled up and set out.

Not long after, we traversed a ridge between two small mountains and caught our first glimpse of Mt. San Jacinto! San Jacinto is the first large mountain summit just off trail, sitting at 10,834’. Late in most PCT seasons the mountain is snow free and relatively accessible; however, in the record high western snowpack this year, all 2023 hikers approached the mountain curious as to the challenge the snow covered peak would present.

First look at San Jacinto!

Running low on water we reached Tule Creek, which our app told us was “iron like, orange water”. We hiked down to the Creek and found shade among other new hikers. I filled my water bladder with the orange sludge and filtered it, now clear, into my bottles. Others complained of its taste so I held off on trying for myself.

Joel, another hiker we had been joined by mentioned that he had a trail name suggestion for me. I had strained my calf on day 3 after tripping and stumbling. Since, I had started and ended every day with calf raises, calf stretches, and toe walking. Because of the toe walking he offered me the name, Tip Toe. I accepted!

Later, we reached an in ground cistern that comments said tasted much better than Tule Spring. I poured out my orange water bladder, dipped it in the cistern, and pulled out neon green water. As the comment on our app put it, “You can’t be too picky in the desert.”

Shortly after, we reached a valley where a river typically runs in the early season. Eight of us organized a cowboy line and wrapped up my day 7. My first day as Tip Toe.

The desert isn’t always brown!

Thank you all so much for reading! Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions, share some love, and give me a follow on Instagram! 

With Love,

Tip Toe

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