I’m three days into my hike and I’m still alive.
Although our initial plan was to stay in San Diego for 3 nights and start walking on Sunday 24th April, we decided to move our start date forward by a day. We had sorted out everything we needed to already and so we decided there was no point in delaying the inevitable.
The two nights in San Diego were spent at the house of trail angel Bob Riess. Bob was waiting for us at the airport and seeing no good reason not to get into the back of a stranger’s van we willingly went home with him. I initially wasn’t sure what to expect from a man who willingly hosts hordes of hikers in his house everyday for the 3-4 months of hiking season and gets up at 4am each morning to drive them to the trailhead. But he turned out to be one of the coolest people I have ever met, as the following photo will testify to.
We were up at 4am to get to the trail head by 6. Loaded up with 3 days worth of food and 8 litres of water, my pack weighed a depressing 22kg. We drove through winding mountain roads in the pitch black, getting gradually more nervous with each mile that passed.
Arriving at the trailhead monument was a surreal sight after having seen so many pictures of it from previous hikers. We took the obligatory photos by the monument and then we were ready to go.
Bob got back into his van and before he drove off, the ominous last words yelled back at us were “Reality will enter a new paradigm when my taillights disappear.”
As we absorbed these words we were left staring silently at the dust cloud he’d left behind with no other option but to start walking the 2650 miles towards Canada.
The first day passed pretty uneventfully. It started off nice and cool but by midday the desert heat hit us like a punch in the face. It’s going to take some time to adjust to this weather.
We saw our first rattlesnake in the afternoon. Coming round a bend in the trail I heard an alarmingly loud rattling noise which at first I assumed was coming from the power lines overhead. Rounding the bend we saw a couple of hikers taking photos of something just off the trail and upon closer inspection I realised what it was. I didn’t get a great view of it but you can just about make it out in the picture below.
We reached the 15 mile mark around 3pm in a nice shady spot called Hauser Creek. We had initially planned to stop here for the day but we still felt good enough to believe we could easily make the last 5 miles to Lake Morena campground where we might be able to get showers, food and water.
Starting the huge climb out of Hauser Creek we immediately regretted our decision but it was too late to turn back. The climb was long and exposed and those last few miles went on forever. A load of other hikers had had the same idea as us but were struggling with lack of water. Luckily I had started with more than I needed so was able to give away a couple of litres. We eventually crawled into Lake Morena around 8pm, too tired to do anything but wolf down dinner and sleep.
We decided to take it a lot easier on day 2, and not push ourselves too hard. We received our first piece of trail magic this morning from a really nice lady called Alesha who invited us to her trailer and plied us with coffee. As a result we had a bit of late start which was made even later by the fact that we took a wrong turning out of the campsite and made a complete lap of the campsite before reaching the trail.
We stopped about 6 miles in at a camping spot just off the trail. Sweating and hungry, we were extremely relieved to find more trail magic from Mike who was hiking a section of the PCT and his wife Jennifer who had driven out for the afternoon to bring him food. She gave us beers and hotdogs and we chatted with them for hours.
We set up camp here and resolved to get up at 4am the next day to arrive in Mount Laguna – 16 miles away – by early afternoon, an aim which, despite a few blister-related setbacks, we more or less achieved.
Desert hiking is something I have never done before and is going to take some getting used to over the next few hundred miles. I didn’t expect it to be so green; I was expecting a barren wasteland but it turns out we are hiking it at just the right time of year when all the plants are in full bloom. I’ve never seen anything like it before – it’s like being on a different planet.
One of the great things about the trail is just how friendly everyone is. We’ve experienced so much trail magic already on our first few days and heard so many stories of other hikers receiving similar generosity. We frequently see caches of water where hiking trails meet the roads, left out for hikers who are struggling in the desert heat. This kind of generosity towards hikers is something you don’t see too much of in the UK.
So far I’m still having a great time and feeling good about getting all the way to Canada, but it’s probably too early to get too confident. Nothing has gone majorly wrong just yet but I’m sure the worst is yet to come.
We’ve already seen one woman taken off the trail who was diabetic and struggling from the heat. Another hiker was choppered off the trail a month ago with heatstroke, put into an induced coma when his kidneys failed on the way to the hospital, but then had a quick recovery and is now back on the trail somewhere ahead of us. But hopefully we’ll be fine.
Our next resupply stop is Warner Springs in about 5 days time so I’ll report back on our progress then!
Bear sightings: 0