Training for the icy wonderland

Alternative title: The first 5 weeks of the PCT

That’s right I have managed to knock out 700 miles in just 5 weeks of hiking, and even a couple days off. Which is part of why this is only my first post, I’ve just been moving too fast to spend the evenings writing. Also, typing with your thumbs is hard! So my solution to this was when I added pounds to my pack to be able to ski through the High Sierra I also added a small Bluetooth keyboard.

But that’s getting ahead of myself a little. To back up, on April 8th, approximately 5:45am, my mother dropped me off at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. And it was on! My biggest goal for that first day was to not hurt myself, but push and see how many miles down trail I could get on my first day on trail. One thing you’re waiting for in a thru-hike is the day when you can walk all day and not hurt. I was curious to see with my past experience and training how close I was to that from the getgo. 26.88 drizzly miles later I made camp, that was a better result than I could have ever asked for!

I spent the next couple days in the Mt. Laguna area, the Mesa just after leaving the general store in Mt. Laguna has incredible view of the desert. The very desert that I then dropped down to and crossed through scissors crossing. Most people hitch into Julian from there, however I chose to skip the town as I found it quite expensive last time. And honestly, towns just cause me anxiety. All the people, forcing myself to have social interaction and spending money, esspecially a town that I didn’t need to resupply in, it really just feels like wasted money to me. In this first week I developed a blister on my right heal that was easy enough to tend to, but I did blow through a decent amount of my small first aid kit. Which is probably as soon as it started to look better I stopped tending to it… And it got infected. My plan was to get my resupply in Warner Springs and just keep cruising, but I had to lay up for half a day to try and give it a chance to heal. Below is the tent city that is Warner Springs during hiker season.

From there I blasted out to Idylwild, not missing the ever famous Paradise Valley Cafe. It is a beautiful section but hard at times with a 6000 ft climb uphill with no water so you have to start the climb with a pretty heavy pack. At Paradise Valley Cafe I shared a meal with another hiker named Tinker, already a thru-hiker he completed the AT at 73 years old and is now attempting the PCT at 75. Below is me and Tinker.

Idyllwild was the first zero I took, meaning a day where I did no hiking, or zero miles. I was in town on Easter and it felt like everything was closed… I did still find a good cup of coffee and did my resupply of food from a small country store, as the Vons was closed for Easter.

After resting up at the State Park campground that is literally in the town of Idylwild I set off for the first snow of the trail. Already people were talking about the impassable conditions on Mt. San Jacinto, and many people I talked to were planning on taking a Jeep road at a lower elevation to bypass the peak. But I was fairly confident in my ability to deal with the conditions, so I headed up Devils Slide Trail. The trip up and over was uneventful except for getting lost once and trying to decend a face of the peak that was too steep and having to back track back up about 1000ft. That night I really put my tent to the test as I camped in the windiest site I’ve experienced yet. 

The next morning I knew what I was heading for, about 22 miles ahead of me was an oasis, the White Water Wilderness Preserve. With water, wading pools, shade and even a place to charge my phone. With that goal in mind I crushed 22 by about 3pm and enjoyed the rest of the day relaxing. I even saw a heard of 11 Big Horn Sheep as I let my feet sit in the ice cold wading pool. Below is a photo f the desert crossing with San Jacinto behind me.

From my relaxing day I basically climbed 9000ft of uphill, with tiny bouts of down, to Big Bear City. It was nice to stay in my first hotel of the trail in Big Bear City, and to have a full grocery store to resupply from. 

After leaving town the miles were pretty easy cruising as I decended the Holcomb Creek and then Deep Creek drainages. I was able to put in back to back 26 mile days. At the bottom of Deep Creek we were greated by a trail angel who was waiting with soda, gatorade, and pizza!

At this point of the trail I was struggling, a lot of the reason I come out here is to be alone. Now don’t get me wrong, I like meeting other hikers, I enjoy talking with people. But I struggle with hiking with a group, even if that group is just a couple other people. On top of this I was without a wind breaking jacket and experiening the worst winds of the PCT thus-far. I remember so vividly finding the camp spot at North Fork Rangers Station, it was perfect (pictured below). It was quiet, and I made it solitary, and it was warm. I felt the happiest, and comfortable for the first time in days.

The next morning I got up and hiked 19 miles by noon, and as one might imagine, that lead to an injury of my right foot. Nothing bad, but it took about 10 days on trail for it to feel normal again. I pushed so hard to catch a free ride that had already been arranged from Agua Dulce to Santa Barbara to spend a full zero day seeing my grandparents. To get back to the trail took a trail, two buses and two hitches, but I made it!

From Agua Dulce I climbed back into the mountains where it was fairly crisp before dropping down to the very hot Antelope Valley. I’ve heard rumors that we will be the last class of hikers to cross the Antelope Valley, they are finally constructing a trail through the mountains north of the existing trail.

I got to Tehachapi and was met at the road by a trail angel dropping off another hiker who offered me a ride and intel on a free place to stay. With rain rolling in I decided that sounded like a pretty good option. I am glad I have the photo’s to prove this, or else no, non-hiker would believe me, the free place to stay was in a Tipi in the back of a BBQ joint! And as it turned out a very leaky Tipi, so I set up my tent in it.

On my one-month-on-trail-aversery I camped at mile 600, that felt really good. I was planning on only doing 450 miles in the first month, so the extra milage really encouraged me. After Tehachapi is what most consider the hardest section of the desert, right when you’re almost done. There is very little water out there, and that makes it technically challenging. I got to Kennedy Meadows without much trouble though and after a day of rest with my mom for mothers day I will begin the next part of the adventure, the icy High Sierra.

One thought on “Training for the icy wonderland

  1. Hey! We met on your first day. We hung out under a bridge briefly after Lake Morena. It was mentioned that we both play mandolin. Keep up the good work! I keep hurting myself, so I am just now in Tehachapi. You’re making this trail look easy!

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