(un) Happy Feet

Well I probably should have stayed in Mt. Laguna for a day to rest. I keep thinking I’m falling further and further behind schedule and then I talk to other folks and they are taking it way easier in the first couple days.

Anyway I decided to push on and see how far my feet would take me. It’s actually not as simple as just plopping your tent down when you get tired or sore though, as most spots along the trail are too steep and covered with brush so you really have to find a known spot.

I made it all the way to the Sunrise Trailhead campground in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which was about 17 miles from Mt Laguna – so my longest day to date. But the cost of that was two big blisters on the toes of my left foot and a big one on my left heel.

So now I’m still at least three days from my resupply at Warner Springs and I’m not sure how far my feet will actually take me. I decided after talking with some folks to keep going to Scissors Crossing and then head into Julian for an unscheduled stop to rest my feet.

I figured it would take two days of limping along but I pushed through and made it to Scissors in one day- another 17 miles on pretty trashed feet. Again strange things come to mind on the trail and I couldn’t shake the image of the end of Hot Shots when Charlie Sheen’s character is flying back to the carrier after the big mission and his plane is falling apart. Luckily John Cryer’s Washout is talking him in on the radar as his wings fall off. (Btw I totally just got that they worked together on Hot Shots before they did that TV show together.)

I tried to insert the Gif of that scene but can’t figure that part out. Of well.

After making it to Scissors I met up with Tim from Nova Scotia, who actually started the trail with me back on the 22nd. We are both hurting so we decided to hitch into Julian together and get a hotel room for the night to clean up and treat our injuries. As luck would have it the first vehicle that passed us stopped and Thayer and Carrie agreed to drive us into town in the back of their box truck.

This is Tim. He actually as a worse blister on his heel than I do, which I didn’t think was possible.

The real treat was finding Carmen’s in Julian. Carmen only opens her restaurant to hikers during the week, and she gives out free food and lets hikers sleep on her floor. She’s actually selling the place so we arrived just before her last weekend so we got there in the middle of her going away party. She only required that we give her a hug and tell her our names and then she fed us and gave us beer. I stayed around for an hour comparing experiences with everyone else and realized that I’m not doing too bad. Several folks started days before I did and have been resting in Julian and Mt Laguna before that.

Tim and I split a room for the night which actually took some getting used to after four nights in the ground. Tim’s planning on pressing on after taking it easy today but I’m going to stay an extra night to give my feet a break. On Saturday I’ll hitch back to Scissors and start the two – three day trek to Warner Springs.

Mt. Laguna

The past two days were a pretty hard slog from Lake Moreno to Mt. Laguna. The views have started to improve the higher I go though.

Fun fact about hiking in Southern California. There are a lot of helicopters between the border patrol and the military in the area. Sometimes military helicopters crash. One crashed on the PCT in 2009 and there are still unexplored ordinance in the area.

Also I successfully forded my first creek. Which wasn’t as impressive as I had built up in my mind.

Mileage isn’t as easy to come by as I planned. Only 15 miles each the first two days and then 12 today but by the time I got to Laguna around 2pm I knew I was going to rest up the rest of the day. Since this is my first trail town, I got my first experience at a hiker restaurant.

This place basically only caters to hikers and is great. The trick is knowing that they close at 3pm. Luckily I got there at 2 and was able to get a real meal and the biggest brownie ever.

They put oatmeal in the brownie so I couldn’t have walked further if I wanted to.

Camping in Laguna is restricted to established campgrounds so I put in with some other campers and was able to get a shower and rinse my clothes in a sink, which feels like a luxury.

Staring to get into an area that actually feels like a forest, though technically I’ve been in one this whole time. But at least now there are pine trees and it’s supposed to get a little easier for a couple days.

Thus begins my descent into madness

Got started yesterday at about 10:30am. Tracy dropped me off at the trail head where about four other groups were getting ready to leave – most of the hikers headed out earlier. My plan was to make it to Lake Morena which is about 20 miles up the trail and at first that seemed plausible as my early miles were quick.

I stopped for lunch around mile 5 and then quickly encountered the first “crest” on the Pacific Crest Trail, which slowed me down a lot. After that I started encountering other groups taking breaks from the heat at the climb, and spent the afternoon leapfrogging them whenever one or the other of us would stop to rest.

I was surprised that boredom wasn’t really an issue- even after 8 hours or hiking. But your mind goes to weird places to fill the space – old song lyrics, memories from years ago, replaying all of the bad decisions that Llewelyn Miss makes in No Country For Old Men that ended up getting him and his wife killed (among others).

In the end my feet and back started to give out around mile 12, but there weren’t any good camping spots so I pushed on to Hauser Creek which is at mile 15. No water in the creek but good camping spots. I was so tired I fell asleep by 8pm. Going to have to pace myself better until I get used to this.

Here I was thinking I wouldn’t have to ascend this mountain in the background. That was the first thing I did on Day 2.

Obligatory Gear Post – Essentials

Here’s the part where I post an accounting of my gear for the PCT, mainly so that at the end I can look back on the foolish decisions I made and realize what I should have done differently, but for now I can take stock with some sense of confidence in what I’m bringing on the trail. We’ll start with the essentials.  

(Note: The cat food puzzle board is not coming along on the trip.)

This photo obviously doesn’t include food and water, which weigh a ton by themselves, so I tried to keep this light without completely adopting an ultra-lightweight approach, since this is my first time on a  thru-hike.  


  1.  Tent – Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2 – Initially I bought an HV UL 1, which is supposedly a one person tent, but when I tried it out I could tell it was going to be claustrophobic, especially on any day where I might be caught in a downpour.  So I returned that and got the two person variety, which is almost an extra pound, but will be a lot more comfortable. 
  2. Sleeping Bag – Enlightened Equipment Revelation Camping Quilt.  So not technically a sleeping bag in that it doesn’t completely close, but I hate sleeping in mummy bags because my legs need to act out in the night.  The quilt should allow me to kick around as much as I want while still being warm, and its lighter than a sleeping bag, which is a bonus. 
  3. Sleeping Pad – Big Agnes Insulated AXL Air – Almost everyone seems to use a Therm-a-Rest of some sort, but I found this at REI and its just as lightweight, while being about $10 cheaper.  Plus it actually packs down a bit smaller, so we’ll see if my bargain shopping pays off. 
  4. Pack – Gregory Z65 – Ok, here’s where I expect to get some lectures from other hikers.  Not that this isn’t a great pack, but its about 10 years old, and a bit heavier than everyone recommends.  Gregory packs seem to have fallen out of favor with thru-hikers on the PCT, but since I already owned it, and there’s nothing wrong with it, I figured again I’d save $300 bucks and not buy another perfectly good new pack.  Again, I’ll see if I live to regret that decision.  But I was surprised that its almost too small to fit everything so I don’t know that I would have wanted to sacrifice any of the carrying capacity anyway. 

Everything fits, and I can still use the bottom straps for a bear can in the Sierra.  


Its The Final Countdown

This weekend marks the two week countdown until I set out for what should be a 4-5 month hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. I had hoped to be further along in my planning and preparation than it turns out I am, which I suppose I should have anticipated when I pushed my end date at work so close to D-Day, but there is so much to take care of on that side alone that I haven’t been able to focus exclusively on resupply planning and figuring the last of my gear questions, and so now I’m under the gun.

One of the things that I haven’t had a chance to focus on yet is my reading list.  My plan has been to try to match my reading selections with the landscape through which I’m trekking, so something set in the California desert to start, for example.  I’m soliciting suggestions, and will keep a running reading list for each region as I get it put together.  Just based on a simple survey, here’s where its starting:

Southern California Desert
1. Desert Solitaire & The Monkeywrench Gang, by Ed Abbey (thanks Jenn)

1.  Dharma Bums, by Kerouac.


1. Desolation Angles, by Kerouac. 

That’s obviously not going to cover me the whole way, so I have a lot of gaps to fill.  Suggestions welcome.