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.
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.
We see our first sign indicating that this is a long trail!
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.
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.
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 mountain views are beautiful and one can see the Salton Sea in the distance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Depending upon our direction we were either cool in the shade or hot in the sun.
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.
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.
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.
The terrain changes again as we walk thru wide open fields
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.
A famous landmark before getting to the town of Warner Springs is Eagle Rocks. It is a must stop for a photo shoot.
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
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.
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.