We’re up and loaded in Girlscout’s car by 6:00 a.m. for the hour long drive to the trail head. We take customary photos at the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail Monument and chat with other hikers also about to start.
We still keep saying to ourselves, “We’re really doing this!” We make it one mile and get off the trail in Campo, CA. No, we’re not quitting already. But we laugh about that. We stop at the post office, use the change from the post office at the Trading Post to buy a V-8, and use their flush toilets. Porcelain one last time.
The seasonal creek at mile 4.4 is running. Water and shade. Time for a break. We meet Blackhawk Down, Last on the Bus, and Chili and Pepper (son and father). I point out the poison oak to the girls. We soak feet in the stream, rinse out socks, and drink water.
Looks like a hiker has lost it between miles five and eight. We pass hiking clothes, a sleeping pad, a pile of trail food, and an empty 3-liter Camelbak water bladder. The trail telegraph (like the grapevine and the rumor mill) says most of the helicopters we’ve been seeing were rescuing a lost hiker from a cliff who no longer had any of their gear.
We set out in our standard “order of march.” Natalie leads, usually by quite a distance, then comes Ashley, and I trudge along behind.
Long distance hiking alumni are right. There is a lot of time on the trail for thought and reflection. I reflect about how heavy my pack is and what’s in there that I could get rid of. I also contemplate heat, water, and shade. And then ponder aching feet, tired legs, bee stings, ant bites, chaffing, and how stop ones pack from pushing down the back of ones pants. Lofty thoughts. And we’ve hiked about eight miles.
I catch up with Ashley and we catch up to Natalie. She’s found some shade under some oaks. Siesta in the shade. We take off shoes and socks, prop up feet, and get busy resting.
As we stir from our repose a couple hours later, a large man on the unhealthy side of large wearing a black long sleeve shirt and black rain pants huffs by. I feel hot and uncomfortable for him. Good hiking, brother.
After awhile, I catch up with Ashley who is taking a break. I change socks again before the last few miles down the canyon to Hauser Creek. I hike on. I see the trail across the canyon climbing steeply up from the creek (tomorrow’s journey). Eventually the path I’m on has got to descend. But it doesn’t. Not yet. Just dips a little and goes up again. I catch up to Ashley. Finally the trail descends. Steeply. My feet hurt. A lot. I drink the last of my water.
We drag into camp just as the sun goes down. Natalie’s been there about 20 minutes already and claimed a campsite for us. We cook and eat, set up the tent, and refill and sanitize water in the dark. We laugh about doing all of this in the dark. Then we sleep.