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The Pacific Crest Trail was perhaps the greatest adventure of my young life. It’s the one on which I’ve reflected and which I’ve shared more so than any other. It was the final spark that ignited in me an insatiable passion for travel and exploration. My love affair with the 2,650 mile trail from Mexico to Canada began when I was a Trail Crew Leader working on the PCT in northern California. I finally realized my dream in 2014 and am grateful that I experienced its beauty and majesty before it became so well-known and popular. Even today, I’d recommend it to anyone. Its awe-inspiring diversity is such that I’ve never met its match anywhere else in the world.

Mexico Boarder to Mt. Laguna

Mexican Boarder to Mt. Laguna

April 18, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0000.0
End: Halfmile 0024.0
Distance: 24.0 Mi
Cumulative: 24.0 Mi

Cloud cover was most excellent pretty much all day. Perfect day to start! Cruised just over 24 mi and feelin’ good! It’s surreal, being out here. Every little detail is new and exciting. The colors are vibrant, the air refreshing, the emotions intoxicating. I can hardly believe I'm here, and the months of agonizing preparation that have led me here are finally behind me. I’ve only just begun an adventure that will span literally thousands of miles and an entire summer. Seems everything I see is the coolest thing so far, a sense that will certainly come less and less frequently the further along I get. I can’t imagine what this trail has in store. Spirits are soaring!

April 19, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0024.0
End: Halfmile 0047.5
Distance: 23.5 Mi
Cumulative: 47.5 Mi

Enjoying a nice soda and bag of chips here in Mt. Laguna, CA (mile 42-ish). The hike today was awesome. Had good cloud cover, some shade, the first natural water source I’ve seen so far (barring Lake Morena, of course), a three-foot rattler, and more varied ecosystems than I expected. Gotta love the high desert! (Reminds me a lot of the Sonoran.) It’s 3p, and I’m looking to squeeze out a few more miles. After two days, I’m feeling STRONG. Next resupply: 4 days.

Mt. Laguna to Warner Springs

Mt. Laguna to Warner Springs

April 20, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0047.5
End: Halfmile 0068.5
Distance: 21.0 Mi
Cumulative: 68.5 Mi

Kind of a long day to Rodriguez Spur Trail, but I made it without too much trouble. Ended up hiking much of the day with Phantom and Mammoth. Phantom started calling me Lone Ranger, because I like to hike alone and sport that sweet straw cowboy hat. He says I dart in and out of drainages and always seem to be steadily coming over the next rise or around the next corner. I don’t really like it; it feels forced. It grew on me some over the course of the day, so I introduced myself that way tonight in camp. It feels awkward. We’ll see, but I’m gonna stick with Ethan for the time being.

April 21, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0068.5
End: Halfmile 0101.5
Distance: 33.0 Mi
Cumulative: 101.5 Mi

Got up at 230a this morning. Wanted to be hiking by 330a to beat some of the heat. I was looking at a long, hot, possibly dry 33 miles between water sources. In theory, there are two water caches between Rodriguez and Barrel Spring, but you never know how well-stocked they’ll be, especially given the 1,000+ aspiring thru-hikers this season. I left with 5.5 L, figuring I could make it on that, though I hoped I wouldn’t have to. Fortunately, both Scissors Crossing (9 miles in) and Third Gate (23 miles in) we’re stocked. I made Scissors by 630a, so I grabbed a liter and kept moving. It was 1230p before I made Third Gate, right in the heat of the day. There had been almost no shade to that point, but Third Gate Cache was an oasis in an otherwise barren, fire-scorched landscape. I took the allotted 2 liters, found some shade, ate lunch, and took a nap. I was hiking again by 230p. It was still hot but wouldn’t be for too much longer. There was some climbing, but it was mostly steady downhill this afternoon. As the sun eased toward the horizon, the winding drainages and low shrubs started to yield ever-longer shadows. I dropped all the way into a cool valley shaded by what I think were huge oak trees. It was Barrel Springs. I made it just before 6p. I’d been cruising for the better part of my 14.5 hour day, and I’d covered an incredible 33 miles. Day 4 and my first 30! I’ll sleep well tonight!

April 22, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0101.5
End: Halfmile 0114.5
Distance: 13.0 Mi
Cumulative: 114.5 Mi

Just made it to Warner Springs Resource Center, a quick 10 miles from my campsite. I cowboy camped last night underneath a lovely shade tree in a quiet field just beyond Barrel Spring. It was nice to get away from the crowd.

The walk this morning was wonderful. The clouds shaded my path, and I knew there would be a shower and a burger when I arrived. I didn’t waste a moment. I’ve already had my shower…now I’m just waiting for lunch! I’m debating whether I’ll press on tonight or start at first light. Or take a zero here tomorrow. Gotta check the route and see how I feel after a few hours. I’ve been chaffing the last few days, so that’s a small concern. I’ll get some vaseline when I pick up my resupply this afternoon. My skin is already getting tougher, so it may take care of itself.

Oh, I almost forgot. Settled on a trail name today. No, not Lone Ranger. I was packing up this morning when Zippy and Kevin cruised by. They stopped to chat me up. Zippy asked about my day. I told him I covered the full 33. When Kevin asked how I felt this morning, I told him I was feeling good. He scoffed and said: “What, are you just back from Sochi?!” I smiled and told him about my training in Colorado this past winter. “Guess it paid off,” I said. After they hiked away, it dawned on me. Sochi. I liked it. It was organic, not forced. He hadn’t intended to give me a trail name, but he had. Introduced myself that way when I arrived here. It wasn’t so awkward. I’ll keep it.

Warner Springs to Idyllwild

Warner Springs to Idyllwild

April 23, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0114.5
End: Halfmile 0139.5
Distance: 25.0 Mi
Cumulative: 139.5 Mi

Got going fairly early again. Love hiking before the sun comes up. It’s a bit chilly at first, but once you get going, it’s perfect! After 13-or-so easy miles, I ended up stopping at a Trail Angel’s home just a quarter mile off the trail. Cush, the caretaker, set me up with a soda, some water, and a nice picnic table for lunch. There were a few others around, but I’d beat the crowd. More hikers started trickling in an hour later – just as I was finishing my lunch – so I headed out. I like the solitude I’ve been able to find on the trail.

It’ll be interesting to ultimately find a balance between community and solitude. I camped with Phantom and Mammoth last night, which was great. It’s cool to share the experience some, but I don’t want to compromise. I wanna hike my hike. If it works out to hike and camp with some rad folks, I’m into it. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too. I’m figuring this thing out as I go, same as everybody else.

April 24, 2014

Start: Halfmile 0139.5
End: Unofficial Mountain Fire Re-Route Mi 4.5 (of 17.5)
Distance: 23.0 + 4.5 = 27.5 Mi
Cumulative: 167.0 Mi

Had quite the day. The trail is closed around mile 162 due to a fire that scorched the landscape in July last year. Apparently the damage is extensive. A few hikers entered the closed area in an attempt to thru-hike the entire PCT. They were fined $2,500 each, or so I’ve heard. Eh, I’m not a purest. And certainly not at that price! The official PCTA website highly recommends hitching into Idyllwild and thereby bypassing the section altogether. It seems most have done just that. But that didn’t sit well with me, because I wanna hike all the way from Mexico to Canada continuously, even if it can’t all be on the PCT. I gotta stay true to the spirit of the game, so to speak. Instead- Mammoth, Phantom, and I chose to try a re-route that had been briefly outlined at Warner Springs. It didn’t say anything about water or exact distances or really any of the nitty gritty. Truth be told, it was shady work at best, but we went for it. Glad we did too. It was stunning all the way to the burn area. Worth every step and “oh shit” moment.

We ran into trouble tonight when we arrived at our planned camping spot only to find that the spring we hoped to use for water was in the burn area, and consequently also closed. With less than a liter each – and no information on water sources that lay ahead, we pressed on. It was already nearly 5pm and too far to backtrack 10 miles to the nearest certain water source. We could see clear signs of civilization and a lake between us and the highway we were heading for. Plus, the re-route was all downhill. It was a suboptimal situation but hardly dire.

We ended up trespassing to use someone’s garden hose, but all’s well that ends well. Now we’re cowboy camping on a dirt road, enjoying the stars…and with a pretty good idea of how to get from here to Idyllwild. Tomorrow’s gonna be interesting. This is my life.

April 25, 2014

Start: Unofficial Mountain Fire Re-Route Mi 4.5 (of 17.5)
End: Unofficial Mountain Fire Re-Route Mi 17.5 (of 17.5)
Distance: 13.0 Mi
Cumulative: 180.0 Mi

We made it! Today was more fun than I expected. We pieced together the re-route as best we could. We probably road-walked more than some but certainly less than others. And now we’re comfortably set up and enjoying all that Idyllwild has to offer. It’s a tourist trap but extremely hiker-friendly and totally my favorite town so far…out of three.

The road walk over the pass was actually sort of fun. It was nice to do something different, something that many of the thousands that have been here before haven’t done, because why would you unless you have to? Sure, there was no shoulder, and lots of blind turns, and a few cars that zoomed by going too fast, but I was smiling the whole way. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wanna do it all the time, but variety is the spice of life.

We thought about doing some quick chores, then cruising out of town to the trailhead for the nearest access back to the PCT, but there is supposed to be some gnarly weather moving in tonight. Some folks were talking about going for it, but it was 2pm, and I’d already put in 13 miles. It would be another 20 to gain – and then lose – enough elevation to get ahead of the storm. Nah, I’ll just stay the night and see what it looks like in the morning. I’ve hardly been out here a week. No need to go bat-shit crazy before I even hit the 200 mile mark.

And really, there’s no rush; may as well enjoy it. Besides, I’ve got a few small blisters that could use a short break.