CA PCT 2018

Campo to Warner Springs

March 21

Today was a busy day as we organized all of the food that we are going to be eating for the next 6 weeks on the trail or around 650 miles. We decided to hike the southern part of California when the temperatures in the desert should be a little cooler. By going early, however, we are at risk of getting some late winter storms. Our plan is to hike this section and then return to San Diego where we will prepare for the remaining 1000 miles. This should give some time for the mountain snows to do some melting. As usual there are lots of unknowns so we pack our packs and get the food ready for Beth to mail to towns as we approach them.

 And then there is breakfast and dinners!

And then there is breakfast and dinners!

 We guesstimate how long it will take us to hike the various sections and put the food into boxes.

We guesstimate how long it will take us to hike the various sections and put the food into boxes.

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MARCH 24

This is the day that we got our permit for starting the trail. We leave the San Diego house by 5 and head towards Campo. Ryan has agreed to be our driver and Beth will hike the first 20 miles with us today. The plan is for Ryan to meet us at Lake Moreno where we will all spend the night at a campground. The great thing about this arrangement is that we will hike the first 20 miles doing what is know as slack packing. The only thing that we will be carrying is water, food and some clothing. There is no water available for at least 16 miles so we quickly learn about the weight of water.

 Our puffy jackets feel good this morning, but as soon as the sun comes up, off they will go.   

Our puffy jackets feel good this morning, but as soon as the sun comes up, off they will go.

 

 We are greeted by a PCT volunteer who asks us about our permit and is happy to answer any questions that we have. As we start heading down the trail more hikers arrive to begin their journey. 

We are greeted by a PCT volunteer who asks us about our permit and is happy to answer any questions that we have. As we start heading down the trail more hikers arrive to begin their journey. 

We see our first sign indicating that this is a long trail!

 In case we are overwhelmed, Don points us in the right direction. Since we have already hiked Oregon and Washington, our mileage will only be 1650. That still seems to be a pretty good distance.

In case we are overwhelmed, Don points us in the right direction. Since we have already hiked Oregon and Washington, our mileage will only be 1650. That still seems to be a pretty good distance.

 As the day warms up, the jackets have come off and now we are in sun protection mode. We are quite thankful that our packs are light. We pass several hikers who started yesterday and are being challenged.

As the day warms up, the jackets have come off and now we are in sun protection mode. We are quite thankful that our packs are light. We pass several hikers who started yesterday and are being challenged.

 Two hikers that we meet that started today are Jason from Kansas and Spiceman who got his trail name from hiking the Appalachian trail. They are both excited and quickly pass us by.  This year has been very dry so water may be challenging to find.  We are hoping that enough water has fallen for some of the plants to bloom. We pass by an agave that must have had enough water stored to send out its flowers.   

Two hikers that we meet that started today are Jason from Kansas and Spiceman who got his trail name from hiking the Appalachian trail. They are both excited and quickly pass us by.

This year has been very dry so water may be challenging to find.  We are hoping that enough water has fallen for some of the plants to bloom. We pass by an agave that must have had enough water stored to send out its flowers.

 

 By 5 we are at the campground and thankful that we were able to slack pack. We head into the small town of Campo and enjoy a Mexican dinner. Since our van is here we are able to spend the night in our bed while Ryan and Beth  camp. By morning it is quite chilly and we take advantage of having breakfast inside.  Miles hiked 20

By 5 we are at the campground and thankful that we were able to slack pack. We head into the small town of Campo and enjoy a Mexican dinner. Since our van is here we are able to spend the night in our bed while Ryan and Beth  camp. By morning it is quite chilly and we take advantage of having breakfast inside.

Miles hiked 20

MARCH 25

We convince Ryan that there is a location that we can meet him in a couple of hours. This will give us another partial slack pack day and Beth another opportunity to go for a hike. Off we go with light packs once again. A sign reminds us of the significance of the trail.

 Soon we see our parked van and realize that our day of slack packing has come to an end. We add the gear, food and water to our packs and are satisfied that with 3 liters of water, our packs are in the low 30's. Backpacking is so more enjoyable with lighter packs. We soon leave the desert environment as we head up to Mount Laguna. The wind has picked up and the temperature is dropping. We find a level spot to pitch the tent and quickly eat dinner before retreating to the tent.   

Soon we see our parked van and realize that our day of slack packing has come to an end. We add the gear, food and water to our packs and are satisfied that with 3 liters of water, our packs are in the low 30's. Backpacking is so more enjoyable with lighter packs. We soon leave the desert environment as we head up to Mount Laguna. The wind has picked up and the temperature is dropping. We find a level spot to pitch the tent and quickly eat dinner before retreating to the tent.

 

 We have gone from full on Spring 10 miles back to feeling that winter is not quite over yet.   

We have gone from full on Spring 10 miles back to feeling that winter is not quite over yet.

 

 We put our extra layers on and snuggled into our sleeping bags.  Miles hiked 19

We put our extra layers on and snuggled into our sleeping bags.

Miles hiked 19

MARCH 26

It didn't take long for us to realize that the temps were below freezing this morning. The wind was still blowing making it feel even colder. It was an easy decision to just pack up and start hiking. We shook the ice off of our tent and quickly packed our packs. The leaves were coated in ice making for some beautiful photo opportunities.

 As we were hiking, the water in our bottles froze. As long as we kept moving our bodies stayed warm..   

As we were hiking, the water in our bottles froze. As long as we kept moving our bodies stayed warm..

 

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Glad for all our warm clothes, especially the hats that our son Jeff knit for us. We hiked till the sun was up and found a spot to stop and have some food. As we were eating Jason and Spiceman hiked by. They had also spent a chilly night and were heading to a cafe nearby to have a hot breakfast.

The PCT sends out a daily water report for most of southern Ca. It is a great service as one can determine how much water one must carry. The report mentioned a water faucet next to the trail that was on.  Sure enough there was a sign telling us about the faucet.

 The water was indeed on. We filled our water containers full, knowing that we would be dry camping tonight.   

The water was indeed on. We filled our water containers full, knowing that we would be dry camping tonight.

 

 Another sign let us know that we had some hiking to do!

Another sign let us know that we had some hiking to do!

 At least Mexico is farther away!

At least Mexico is farther away!

The mountain views are beautiful and one can see the Salton Sea in the distance.

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 It feels good to be just walking!  An interesting sighting today was a tree that was filled with acorns. We had previous learned about the acorn woodpecker. The woodpeckers were not around but they had obviously been quite busy.   

It feels good to be just walking!

An interesting sighting today was a tree that was filled with acorns. We had previous learned about the acorn woodpecker. The woodpeckers were not around but they had obviously been quite busy.

 

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We received our first trail magic today when two hikers going in the opposite direction handed us two oranges. Trail magic often happens when you least expect it. Another interesting sighting was a row of memorials. There were numerous plaques attached to a rock wall. As one can imagine the views were outstanding.

 As the sun went down, the temperatures again began to drop. We hiked further than planned, but were rewarded with a tent site that provided views of the surrounding area. We also became aware of the lights of the nearby cities. 

As the sun went down, the temperatures again began to drop. We hiked further than planned, but were rewarded with a tent site that provided views of the surrounding area. We also became aware of the lights of the nearby cities. 

 Miles hiked 20.

Miles hiked 20.

MARCH 27

Our getting up routine began about 5. We needed to hike about 4 miles to the next water source which is where we plan to have breakfast. Before we got to the Sunrise trail head, we noticed a cooler with the words PCT Hikers on it. Inside was fruit and drinks. We opted for a grapefruit which was a great addition to our breakfast. Soon we were at the next water sourse, a large water tank used for watering horses and thirsty hikers.

 So glad for water sources what ever they may be!

So glad for water sources what ever they may be!

The rumor had been that the faucet was not functioning, but with some investigation Don found the valve that had been turned off. We purified the water and were soon enjoying a hot breakfast in the sun. With our water bottles filled we headed down the trail.

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The trails for the day were quite rocky and we had lots of elevation gain and loss. Most of the trail is horse grade which is a gentle grade. Parts of the trail today, however,  were an abandoned road which was quite steep.

 We were headed to the valley below. Glad when this part of the trail was over.

We were headed to the valley below. Glad when this part of the trail was over.

When the sun was overhead, we pulled out the umbrellas for some shade while hiking. The umbrella for hiking in the desert has become essential for us.

 Once again we marvel at the trail construction thru the desert. During a break under the shade of a rock, we share it with several other hikers including Spiceman and Jason. Most of the hikers in the group are going to Julian for a resupply and a cooked meal. They will be heading that way in about 10 miles where the trail crosses the road. There is a high probability that we will not see most of these hikers again.   

Once again we marvel at the trail construction thru the desert. During a break under the shade of a rock, we share it with several other hikers including Spiceman and Jason. Most of the hikers in the group are going to Julian for a resupply and a cooked meal. They will be heading that way in about 10 miles where the trail crosses the road. There is a high probability that we will not see most of these hikers again.

 

 When we reach the road, more trail magic is here. There is plenty of water and treats. We wave good-by to the other hikers and continue to a campsite near the road with Jason and Spiceman who opted not to go to town.   

When we reach the road, more trail magic is here. There is plenty of water and treats. We wave good-by to the other hikers and continue to a campsite near the road with Jason and Spiceman who opted not to go to town.

 

 Trail magic is a huge encouragement for the hikers who are on the trail!  Miles hiked 17

Trail magic is a huge encouragement for the hikers who are on the trail!

Miles hiked 17

MARCH 28

We awoke to the news of Jason having a fairly serious allergic reaction to an unknown substance during the night. He has decided to return to San Diego to see if what happened can have a cause. He has been in contact with a trail angel who is on the way to pick him up. Spiceman takes off and we wish Jason well. Our hike today takes us on the perimeter of Anza Borrego State Park. Last year we were here during the super bloom.

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 Above photos from March 2107

Above photos from March 2107

This year rain has been scarce and the plants are not in bloom. The colors are more subtle. As we look up we see the trail that we will soon be hiking. There will be a lot of elevation gain today!

 If you look closely one can see the outlines of the trail as it ascends the mountain. We spent the majority of the day zig zagging up the mountain.   

If you look closely one can see the outlines of the trail as it ascends the mountain. We spent the majority of the day zig zagging up the mountain.

 

 Always surrounded by the beauty of the desert landscape!

Always surrounded by the beauty of the desert landscape!

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Depending upon our direction we were either cool in the shade or hot in the sun.

 Looking forward to eventually getting to the top.

Looking forward to eventually getting to the top.

 One plant that seemed to be doing quite well was the Juniper that was overloaded with blue fruit. Unfortunately it is not a choice fruit to eat. 

One plant that seemed to be doing quite well was the Juniper that was overloaded with blue fruit. Unfortunately it is not a choice fruit to eat. 

 As we were continuing on our path, I quickly backed up as a large reptile was enjoying the sun on the trail. The snake slowly moved out of our way as we could hear it breathing deeply and using its tongue to sense its surroundings.   

As we were continuing on our path, I quickly backed up as a large reptile was enjoying the sun on the trail. The snake slowly moved out of our way as we could hear it breathing deeply and using its tongue to sense its surroundings.

 

 And now the tail with rattles.   

And now the tail with rattles.

 

 Seeing the snake has increased our awareness. We are in their environment and with that comes respect. Another animal of the desert that keeps us entertained is the lizard. They seem to come in all sizes and colors as they dart in all directions.

Seeing the snake has increased our awareness. We are in their environment and with that comes respect. Another animal of the desert that keeps us entertained is the lizard. They seem to come in all sizes and colors as they dart in all directions.

 They are the most numerous animal that we see.

They are the most numerous animal that we see.

Today we are planning on getting water from third gate cache. It is a permanent cache that is maintained by trail angels in the area. At the start of the hiking season close to a 1000 gallons of water is brought in. Gallons of water sit on pallets covered with tarps. Bible and Red Flower were there filling up their water containers.

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 Once again we are filled with gratitude for the Trail Angels!

Once again we are filled with gratitude for the Trail Angels!

We decided to stop early and make camp by 4:30. It is as usual a scenic spot that gives a great view of the valley. It is our warmest night yet. Several section hikers share our campsite.  One is Clark who had planned to do the entire trail, but after the first few days was missing his wife and decided to return home. He will be leaving at Warner Springs.  Tomorrow our plan is to make it to Warner Springs where we will get our next supply of food and take a shower.

 These numerous plants give color to the trail.  Miles hiked 17

These numerous plants give color to the trail.

Miles hiked 17

MARCH 29

We were up early this morning and had our cold breakfast in bed. No need to worry about bear protocols in the desert. With headlamps on we started down the trail, which was mostly  a gentle down hill. We passed Bible and Red Flower who had camped just a little farther than us. It was exciting to see theses stones marking the first 100 miles of trail.

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The terrain changes again as we walk thru wide open fields

 Easy walking thru this section.

Easy walking thru this section.

A large number of hikers are camped by a spring that we pass. One young man is from Saudi Arabia and as far as he knows is the first man from that country to hike the trail. We see our first California poppy and pause to take a photo.

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 Spring is here!

Spring is here!

A famous landmark before getting to the town of Warner Springs is Eagle Rocks. It is a must stop for a photo shoot.

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 We easily see how the rocks got their name!

We easily see how the rocks got their name!

As we get close to Warner Springs we meet a volunteer doing trail work. He  hiked the trail several years ago and since he lives in nearby San Diego, he comes out when he can to do some work. He is also handing out apples to thru hikers. Another person who is passing it forward!

Soon we are at the Warner Springs community center. This is quite the welcoming center for hikers. They have a small store, an inside area for cooling off and charging your electronics. In the back is a bucket shower and bucket laundry. There are around 20 tents when we arrive. Spiceman arrived early this morning and is taking off. He relays the message that Jason has returned home and most likely will not return. The first 100 miles of trail has also convinced other hikers that they were not as prepared and are calling it quits. We spend a relaxing afternoon talking to other hikers and reading. Red flower from Germany is camped next to us. We spend some time talking to him and sharing about our lives in Alaska and Germany. In the afternoon the area around our tent fills up with other campers. We begin to think that it maybe a noisy night. That is soon put to ease though as the sun goes down, all the hikers go to bed and quiet reigns.  Tomorrow we are planning to meet Beth and her parents. They are bringing a picnic lunch and our food for the next section!

Miles hiked 15

MARCH 30-morning

It was a leisurely morning as there was no need to get miles in before the sun came up. Beth and her parents will be here around noon. Sure enough the blue car arrives filled with lots of good things. We pull a picnic table into the shade, unpack the food that Beth brought for our next ration and put it into our packs.

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The next items that Beth pulls out from her car brings big smiles to our faces. We are blessed with a large green salad with all kinds of vegetables and a fruit salad that is overflowing in colors. Between bites we relay our adventures of the week with Beth and her parents.

 It is a great way to start our next section of hiking!

It is a great way to start our next section of hiking!