PCT Journal: Days 1-10 (SoCal Pt. I)

Day 0

Scout and Frodo’s – San Diego, CA

Arriving at Scout and Frodo’s the day before departing for the trail was truly a blessing. The two of them open their home to thru-hikers beginning their journey on the PCT and their generosity has no bounds. Upon arriving, I received a tour of their home from one of their volunteers and learned how it was possible for everything to run smoothly. Twenty-five other thru-hikers were scheduled to arrive on the same day. Their place definitely had the feel of a hostel, which made it fun to meet new faces and bond over the journey.

Scout and Frodo provided us with a delicious dinner of chili with salad… and dessert! Everyone camped out in the backyard, but I got lucky and slept in the treehouse!

Day 1

Southern Terminus to Hauser Creek

Daily mileage: 15.4

Total PCT mileage: 15.4

The morning routine was no exception to Scout and Frodo’s generosity as we all were sent off with a huge breakfast. An hour later, we were shuttled to Campo and taking photographs by the Southern Terminus monument. That’s when it really kicked in – I was doing this, and this was the moment I’ve been waiting for. It felt surreal. We all signed the register and were on our way. I ended up teaming up with Olympia (Opa for short), another solo female thru-hiker, who was actually my treehouse-mate the night before. She’s pretty awesome – she’s originally from upstate New York, but has been living in Wyoming working with horses on a dude ranch and most recently lived in Seattle.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first day. It was hot, but that was expected during the midday hours. We kept bopping back and forth, in front and behind the same hikers. It’s so interesting how you tend to vibe with certain people really well. We stumbled upon our first snake around mile 3 and then saw two rattlesnakes later on. One was feisty enough that we decided to bushwack around.

We were making good time by lunch and relaxed in the shade for an hour. It was at that point I knew I wouldn’t mind the thru-hiker lifestyle. I looked down at the dirt and sand that was caked onto my sunscreen lathered legs as I bit into my first tuna wrap on trail and I wasn’t mad about it one bit. We took our socks and shoes off and elevated our feet as we daydreamed about a nice cold Coca-Cola.

We hiked on afterward and ended up setting up camp near a few others at mile 15.4. Dinner was extremely easy as I had my first OMEALS on the trail. Pre-cooked and self steaming, I only had to use my stove to make tea. Dessert consisted of an almond snickers bar, which was, of course, super delightful. And now as I lay here typing this into my phone, it’s 7:30pm and we’re all in our tents ready to pass out. Judging from the views we had today, tomorrow is going to be amazing and yet we’ve only just begun. It’s ridiculous to me at this point that I ever questioned doing this. Even after just 15 miles, the answer is so clear.

Day 2

Hauser Creek to Cibbets Flat Campground

Daily mileage: 17.2

Total PCT mileage: 32.6

Opa and I began our second day on trail just shy of 7am. The sun was still rising so we were lucky enough to be on the other side of the mountain in the shade. After 5 miles uphill, we made it to Mt Laguna but decided to keep moving after a short break. The sun peaked its head out of the clouds here and there, so it was a pretty mild day in terms of heat. After making our way through grassy flatlands, we wound around the edge of the mountains for hours, with views of the valley floors below.

No snake sightings to report today, but we still saw plenty of lizards. At mile 32.6, we decided to call it a day. We had to hike off trail and downhill 0.8 miles to a campground so we’re fully aware of what to expect for the hike out tomorrow. A wind storm came through when we rolled into camp around 3:30pm so setting up our tents was entertaining to say the least. A bunch of us are here tonight, which is fun. Not to mention, two of the thru-hikers that began on the same day as I did, Hitch and Dingo, a couple from Australia, know a friend of mine back home!

Clean has already taken on a new meaning. After taking wet wipes to my face and feet, I feel like a million bucks. The sand and dirt on my legs and arms are just becoming the norm. Laying here in my tent now with the wind howling around me, I can feel my body talking to me. My feet are pretty sore and I’m experiencing some mild bruising on my lower back and shoulders. With 35 lb on my back, this is to be expected. The best I can do is keep stretching and take care of my feet. Let’s hope tomorrow I can get out of my tent.

Day 3

Cibbets Flat Campground to Mile 45.3

Daily mileage: 12.7

Total PCT mileage: 45.3

Today was another awesome day. I felt good in the morning – sore but manageable. It took Opa and I about 4 hours to hike 8.9 miles into Mt Laguna, a small town right off the trail at mile 41.5. Just before reaching town, we were joined by Mike – from Sacramento, who camped with us the night prior, Ken – from Oregon, who carries a guitar, and a German fellow named Jonas (who has just been given the trail name Parmesan at camp tonight).

We waited about a half hour until the local restaurant opened and by then there were 16 of us ready to feast. I doubt the burger and fries I ordered were anything out of the ordinary, but they tasted delicious, especially with a side of Dr. Pepper. We felt like we actually earned it. The only downside to our experience was the manager who made us feel a bit unwelcomed. Considering a large portion of their customers are thru-hikers and we’re paying the same amount as any other patron, you would think we wouldn’t be treated differently. She tended to look upon us as if we weren’t out here voluntarily and instead were begging for scraps at her doorway. It was unfortunate, but I knew that was to be expected in some places.

Most of us decided to push on afterward and little did I know a trail name was in store for me in the miles to come. We began to approach the most magnificent view of the Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness as our reward and two words came to me – cue the music – Sky rockets in flight.. afternoon delight! And there it was, Opa insisted it be my trail name. Might not correlate with the original intention of the phrase, but it was funny at the time so I adopted it.

We set up camp at 5,900 ft and cooked dinner alongside Parmesan, Tank from Texas, and Steel Toe from Florida. We chatted about our most and least favorite parts of the trail thus far and everyone’s plan for the next few days. Although Opa and I didn’t originally plan on hitching a ride into Julian, the next town a few days ahead, it seems that’s where everyone’s headed, so why not check it out and have some fun.

Although it’s a cold 40°F night, a beautiful sunset put us to bed, and I’m already looking forward to waking up early to catch the sunrise.

Day 4

Mile 45.1 to Mile 63.6

Daily mileage: 18.5

Total PCT mileage: 63.6

Last night was a windy one on top of the mountain, but we survived. I knew the desert would be cold at night, but I didn’t anticipate how much wind would be accompanying the chill. We’ve been getting up early and breaking camp around 7am to get in some miles while it’s still cool, which seems to be working out well. Although, we have been super lucky that it hasn’t been super hot during the day.

When we started the day, we hiked out of camp with the second half of the Lost Boys crew, which is what Opa and I began calling them. By midday, there were at least 8 of us that ended up at one of the water sources for a lunch break. It’s funny how we play leap frog with everyone in our bubble, yet we all seem to end up in the same place.

I thought our campsite was scenic, but I clearly spoke too soon. The entire day we were hiking along the crests of the mountains. We constantly wound in and out along the range, amazed by every turn. It was pretty fun, too! We would look across to the other side and see ant-like figures along the upcoming trail. We began playing games to see if we could figure out who was who by the color of their shirt and pack. A quick yell and raise of the trekking poles usually got their attention to signal back.

Hitch, Dingo, and Mike ended up hitching a ride into Julian early and the rest of us pushed on toward the next crossing. At the end of the day, we wound down into the valley and called it at 18.5 miles for the day. It was later than our usual 4:30pm arrival at camp, so we got right to work in cooking dinner and finishing up our camp chores. We’re a bit spread out, but there’s about 14 of us here tonight camping in the valley. Most finished their fourth day with the exception of a few ladies that began the day before us. My knees and feet are feeling sore today, but the desert so far has been more beautiful than I ever imagined.

Day 5

Mile 63.6 to Scissors Crossing/Hitch into Julian, CA

Daily mileage: 13.7

Total PCT mileage: 77.3

Yet again, another day traversing along the crests of the mountains. We woke up a bit earlier today to beat the heat and were overall excited to get to Scissors Crossing for the hitch into Julian. A bunch of us scattered out today so I listened to a few chapters of the audiobook I rented, Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem.

There are a few blisters and sore spots that I’m nursing on my feet, along with some knee pain that I knew would eventually happen, but my energy felt really great all day. I think it was the thought of relaxing for a bit in town and seeing everyone that kept me going. I didn’t intend to stop in Julian when I first mapped out my trek, but it’s funny how days in the wilderness will leave you craving for civilization, even in the tiniest sense. That, and knowing everyone in our bubble was headed to town.

We made it to the road crossing when Opa, Alexis, and I got our first hitch! We were picked up in the early afternoon by a woman heading toward Julian. We arrived at Carmen’s, a small hiker-friendly restaurant, and were happy to see so many familiar faces – Tank, Steel Toe, Parmesan, Jeremy from Ohio, Marcus from Germany, Yin from Hong Kong, Ruth from the UK, and Gina from Germany. Those who stayed the night before had great intel about the town. The great thing about some of these towns near the PCT is that they have thru-hiker specials – free night stay and laundry on Carmen’s porch, free pie, ice cream, and a soda at Mom’s Pies, and free cider and snack bag at The Cider Mill!

We sat around back at Carmen’s and laughed about what each of us packed – luxury items like lotion, full size towels, and electric toothbrushes. There was a guitar and ukulele in the group, so I also got to listen to the Eagles and other relaxing tunes. Steel Toe and I walked around the town for a bit, which was comical because we were decked out in just rain gear (and I mean, literally just a rain jacket and pants) as everyone was doing laundry.

It’s 9pm now, which is late in this community, but I’m excited about sleeping in tomorrow. I’m also super full, I indulged in a burger and fries here at Carmen’s before, ate pie and ice cream at Mom’s, and also felt the need to binge on pizza with Tank and Steel Toe. We honestly weren’t even in search of it, when the kid working at the store recommended it – so why not. The porch is filled tonight with hiker trash (an endearing term for thru-hikers) scattered all over, but it’s fun. Kind of like a big sleepover!

Day 6

Zero in Julian, CA

Daily mileage: 0

Total PCT mileage: 77.3

Today a bunch of us took a zero in Julian. There were a few that planned to get to the trail to get in a few miles, but somehow everyone in our bubble stayed in town. It was a mixture of feelings, between knowing we should rest up a bit, but also not wanting to be away from the trail too long. It was for the best though, because we all could use the rest and the weather tonight isn’t supposed to be so great. The winds are pretty high and the temp is dropping to the 30s.

Staying in town was a good time overall. We all hung around at Carmen’s again and walked around the five blocks that make up the town. By the end of the day, we knew the main road pretty well and felt like locals. We stocked up on food and supplies for the next leg of the trip. A few of us went back and forth about getting a hotel room for the night and we finally gave in. It was only $30 per person and we figured it wouldn’t be bad to take a shower and sleep in a bed, especially considering Carmen’s was going to be pretty crowded with everyone sleeping inside.

After a few hours of hanging around at the Julian Hotel, we had dinner at Romano’s, an Italian restaurant. And per usual, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. It’s 8pm and it’s bedtime now, but like teenagers, we’re all laughing about the most random things.

Day 7

Scissors Crossing to Mile 94.4

Daily mileage: 17.1

Total PCT mileage: 94.4

After taking a zero, it felt great to get back on trail. Ghost, a trail angel in the area, gave us a hitch back to Scissors Crossing. It was a little bit of a rough start getting back into it, but after an hour in I felt good. The views were great as we could see where we came from just the other day. We all dispersed while hiking and I listened to my audiobook and some music.

We made it to the water cache at mile 14 around noon! After seeing a few new faces, we found a nice spot in the shade for 8 of us. When 5pm came around‍, we decided to push for a few more miles. We eventually came upon a tentsite about 3 miles up the trail, which is great because that means tomorrow there’s only 15.1 miles left until we reach Warner Springs.

Day 8

Mile 94.4 to Mile 115

Daily mileage: 20.6

Total PCT mileage: 115

Today was a big day! Not only did I pass the 100 mile mark, it was my first 20 mile day! It started early, per usual, but that meant we made it to Warner Springs around noon. We all dispersed again, going at our own pace. I felt okay, but my morale was pretty low for some reason. Music tended to help boost my mood as well as speed. My feet are still sore and my blisters seem adamant, but I’m slowly getting used to that. One of my toe nails is about to detach, but leukotape will come to my rescue.

My knees are feeling good, just my hips are sore from trying to sleep on my side on my foam Thermarest Z-Sol. It’s super convenient and takes zero maintenance to set up, but it does lack the padding that the inflatable sleeping pads have. I may potentially give in for the Sierras, but right now this pad is doing the job.

The scenery changed a bit today as we wound our way down into the valley. The vegetation was more lush, and eventually the trees and brush opened up and the trail lead me to an expansive field of rolling hills. It was quite the sight as I could see people up ahead in the distance. I caught up to Steel Toe and we ate lunch by Eagle Rock. My lunches have been consisting of tuna or salmon from the packet on a flour wrap with mayo and sometimes cheese. Sooo good!

We decided to keep going while we felt good. More than once, we stumbled upon a herd of cows right in the middle of the trail. Thankfully no one was around to see us, because it was pretty pathetic. We weren’t sure how they would react, so we gave them a wide birth when we could but were keenly aware of their stares.

When we finally made it to Warner Springs, we checked out the community center. This place was amazing. They had everything a thru-hiker could dream of – cold drinks, food and supplies for resupply, charging stations, bucket showers out back, a sink to wash clothes in, a field to camp on, and a mobile outfitter right next door. One of the volunteers gave us a ride to the main part of town a mile away, and we picked up our mail drops at the post office and ate lunch at the golf club next door. We ended up walking back to the community center and ran into the rest of the group.

A few of us decided to push on in the late afternoon and I’m happy we did. I had the oddest feeling today. I was overcome by anxiety while we were in town for some reason and felt the need to get back on trail. We hiked out 5 miles and set up camp near a stream. We ran into our friends, Ken, Mike, Hitch, and Dingo. I could hear the water now and I’m sure it will put me to sleep nicely.

Day 9

Mile 115 to Mile 131.6

Daily mileage: 16.6

Total PCT mileage: 131.6

It was a struggle to get out of my quilt this morning. It’s been pretty cold at night and being bundled up feels so good. The three of us that camped together last night – Gina, Steel Toe, and I – headed off early and started the impending climb. The desert in this area is so green. It felt as if I was in Jurassic Park for a few moments. We wound our way up the switchbacks and noticed it started getting quite windy. Before we knew it, it was snowing! It was definitely a sight, and we felt warm enough as long as we kept moving.

Since Gina is so quick and was keeping us moving at a good speed, Steel Toe gave her the trail name, Mama Duck. It suits her well. We eventually made it to Mike’s place right off the trail in the mountains. Mike owns this compound where hikers are welcome to hang out, drink soda or beer, eat, and camp out. It was a pretty neat sight, and we got excited seeing others that we know. A few of our friends arrived later in the afternoon and it was great to see them!

We made a plan to keep moving early in the day, since a lot of the people coming from Warner Springs were planning on staying at Mike’s for the night. I’m sure it would’ve been fun, but the past few days I haven’t been in the mood to socialize a ton with people I don’t know. I definitely enjoy time to myself once in a while, and on trail that’s not always easy. So Steel Toe and I set off with the original plan of hitting 4.5 more miles. We came across a campsite where Ken, now named Dude, was hanging out and decided to pitch there. Marty Poppins showed up not too long after. We ate dinner, drank tea, and listened to Dude playing the guitar. It was a good night overall, but certainly cold.

Laying in my tent now I can feel my body yelling at me. My upper back is a bit tight, my hips are still hurting, my calves and knees are aching, and my feet just plain hurt all around. My blisters aren’t going away anytime soon, but it’d be great if my feet could stop aching from the weight of my pack. That’s okay though, tomorrow we’ll go our own pace, and the next day we’ll be taking a pit stop at Paradise Valley Cafe.

Day 10

Mile 131.6 to Mile 149

Daily mileage: 17.4

Total PCT mileage: 149

This morning was a cold one, so getting out of my quilt was pretty darn tough. As Steel Toe and I started our hike, we felt like we were walking through the neighborhood. Breezy and Finn yelled good morning through the brush and then popped up and waved. A few more steps away, Irish and Pink Panther shouted good morning from their campsite as well. It was a great start to the day!

The day quickly became very hot though. Steel Toe and I came up with a plan to hike at least 15 miles. The water sources were questionable along the way so we ended up playing a game called water roulette. Thankfully we came upon a water cache 12 miles into our hike. We rested and ate lunch with Marty Poppins (who at the time also acquired the trail name Den Mother), Miles to Go, Flash Gordon, Mike (now named Lost Boy), Irish, Pink Panther, and Snuggles.

A few miles further up the trail we stopped at Muir Woods, a small spot right off the trail with picnic tables in the shade, ice cold lemonade, water, an outhouse, a bucket shower, space to camp, and a small library. And by library, I mean a tiny wooden case filled with books. All maintained by a generous trail angel named Mary. We hung out for a bit with the same crew from just before and then in rolled Mama Duck, and Steel Toe and I got excited. We came up with a plan to continue on for 4 more miles. After a decent climb, we got to a great camp spot in the middle of a small field.

It’s just the three of us here now, chatting about the day, looking at the stars, and listening to Will Smith. It’s a blast for sure, ha!

5 thoughts on “PCT Journal: Days 1-10 (SoCal Pt. I)

  1. Kristyne says:

    Love love loved this post! I’m so glad you are having the best time. Okay, here are my sporadic random thoughts/questions I jotted down while reading your post:
    – You should (if they allow you to) the Instagram handles of your hiker groups. Not to be “stalkerish” but I follow your friend Steph and love it.
    – Good for you about dealing with that dirty. That would be my hiker downfall – not having clean feet. Ugh… even thinking about not having clean feet is skeeving me out right now.. and because I’d hate it so much, I’d probably get stuck with a trail name like “foot dirt” or something. Guess trail life isn’t for me.
    – Speaking about hiker names, maybe I didn’t read it properly but I don’t get how your name came about. Were you singing the song “afternoon delight” or what happened for Ola to come up with that for you? I need all the deetsssss.
    – So funny to see so many pictures of you eating a burger and dreaming about soda haha. It’s just so far from your diet when I lived with you.. and I know that you need to consume a million more calories as you are hiking 103204 hours a day but I’m pretty sure I NEVER have seen you have a soda in the whole time we lived together. Sean’s seltzer game is still going strong back here.
    – How has your quilt been holding up? Are you happy you returned the full bag to get the quilt? You know I’m invested, as I was living with these decisions over the past few months. Also Sean wants to know if all the colors of clothing, sneakers, gear etc. worked out right? hahah. Oh I miss you & Bonair st.
    – BTW – I just happened to go onto your blog because I was curious if there was a post. The reason I mention this is because I didn’t see anything on Facebook/Instagram that you had posted it. I could have definitely missed it, but you may want to highlight it to make sure everyone sees that you posted it.

    Love you! You are rocking it! Keep writing so we can all vicariously live through you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate says:

      Haha thanks for reading! 😊
      – The Instagram handles are a good idea, I’ll definitely do that!
      – Being dirty all the time takes some getting used to for sure. I’m using wet wipes at night for my face, legs, and feet, and surprisingly it makes me feel relatively clean. Jumping in a body of water or taking a bucket shower has now become a new standard, ha!
      – For my trail name, I described the amazing view we were looking at as an afternoon delight!
      – The food thing – I know, right?! It’s all I’m craving out here – sugary snacks, soda, and burgers. In town though I do sometimes crave fresh fruit and veggies.
      – My quilt has been great! I still would love to be cocooned in a mummy bag, but I love how versatile and roomy the quilt is, so I’m happy with my decision so far. 😊 The colors are working out great, haha! I miss you guys, too!
      – I didn’t post it on Facebook or Instagram, but maybe I will!
      Thanks for being the best as always! Your encouragement and support mean so much 😊❤️


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