Day 1, February 27, 2022 – A great beginning!
Up at 2:45, drive to Sacramento, fly to San Diego. I was happy when my pack, in a cardboard box, with all I needed except water and electronics, weighed in at 23 pounds. I got so cocky at this I bought a bag of beef jerky and decided to carry the apple and eggs I had brought from home. Later, I would get an email from Melinda, and her son Tod. He and his wife had also hiked the entire trail. He was suggesting no more than 15 pounds before food and water. I still don’t see how he did that. My 23 pounds did include some luxury items that I would later mail home in Mt. Laguna, (solar light, sandals, tent stakes, snow face/head cover, goggles, head set, too much food).
Alan was there waiting for me. What a nice reunion. Alan is a retired police officer who had visited Tierra Roja with Chris and Mary Gluck, owners of San Diego’s Wine Vault and Bistro. He generously picked me up, took me to the local REI for fuel (which you cannot take on the plane) and then out to Campo. We found the place where the trail crossed the road. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so I was glad to have the heavy coat that I brought for the snow, which I put on. Said my “good bye for now”, hefted my pack and set off. I had read that you needed to hike that last ½ mile to the starting point, but later learned we could have driven all the way. No matter, it was not that far (although I did start off in the wrong direction, I reversed quickly). For one thing, The Wall is very plain to see, from miles away for that matter. I knew I had to get over there. The border wall is slotted, vertical metal strips, with space for wind to pass through, but too small for a person, quite high, maybe 40 feet. I came to the end of the trail, near the wall, but where was the beginning marker and registration book? Had I not seen a picture, I would not have found it. Wayyy over there, I could see the staggered posts of the Southern Terminus monument and made my way to it. I signed in, took a selfie and headed toward Canada. I left the border around 1pm. The trail paralleled a road frequented by border patrol trucks, and they were my only companions at first.
The trail follows the road nearly to Campo, then veers away, so if you want that last ice cream or soda, you better get it on the way in. Most surprising to me, is that I did not meet a single other hiker. I did not tell you, but I had tried to get a thru hike permit. The website showed that the allotted 50/day, beginning in February, were all gone. I expected a mass of humanity, but not one person, not even at the little campground where I left Alan. Eventually, I met a couple, who were day-hiking. I came to realize that this, and other sections close to towns, attracted day-hikers. Later, another day hiker, passed me going the other direction.
The hiking was pleasant and easy, the trail mostly hard sand. Once I got off the road, onto the trail, the vegetation on both sides broke the wind into a breeze, just right for hiking. I was able to remove the heavy jacket and tie it to the pack. I knew I was hoping to ditch the jacket in Mt. Laguna, but felt I needed to be prepared for the snow I would encounter between here and there. The temperature was comfortable. My recent road trip took me to 5 desert National Parks, and many miles between, so I was prepared for the desert vegetation of the PCT in this area. The vegetation was primarily low to head-high, with a few pockets of trees. The predominant being a plant that looked like rosemary, but had no fragrance. Others looked similar to Ficus, thyme. There were cacti, none blooming, not as many as I expected. The rocks, especially the quartz, were beautiful. Some random big boulders. I crossed Rail Road tracks, and the sound of the whistle could often be heard. The trail starts at 2918 elevation and most of the day was climbing. One can see farms and businesses in the distance. I reached my first water source, a creek, right where the guide said it would be. I got out the filter/bag. I noted this would be the only water I would see before nightfall, so elected to drink my fill, and carry the bag full, in addition to my three bottles. This was the only time I felt the need to stop and was very comfortable. The trail never demanded that I stop to catch my breath. I was constantly needing to grab my hat, as the breeze would gust in open spots. Soon after, the trail became steeper, narrower, with brush touching from both sides. I had not seen a marker for quite some time. Did I miss a trail diversion? I am on a trail, as there are footprints and road apples, but am I on the right trail, hmm? As the sun went down behind the mountain, I found a wide spot in the trail, with a nice rock to sit on, and set up my tent right on the trail. I boiled water and had my first dehydrated dinner, beef stroganoff. This brand was recommended by two friends, but I found it awful. The noodles and sauce were ok, but those little beef balls, no. I ate about half and buried the rest in the morning. Mid-dinner, I met my first fellow camper. I would later learn that his name was Jack. I was so relieved when he confirmed that we were still on the PCT. He had a goal to reach a campsite about a half mile ahead and carried on. I had planned to entertain myself at night with books on my phone, but the battery was too low for such a luxury. I had a solar charger on my back all day, and each time I went in/out of shade, you could hear the phone beep. It was barely holding at around 40%. So, I climbed into my bed by 6:30, listened to a story for a few minutes and went to sleep. I had no fear of bears in this area, so put all the food in the tent to keep out of the paws of smaller creatures. I woke frequently during the night, as is normal for me, but everything was good, other than the fact I was already quite smelly. I had gone about 7 miles.