After a several months of literally dreaming about what Pacific Crest Trail southern terminus monument might look like in person, I found myself standing awkwardly in front of it. “Well, there it is,” I thought to myself as I peered up at the wooden structure. It felt somewhat surreal and slightly overwhelming. Luckily, this time I had someone to talk to about all of my excitement and fears. Perk, a member of my Appalachian Trail trail family, also decided to thru-hike the PCT this year. We had agreed to begin the same day, hoping to stick together for a little while at least.
I figured all of my nervousness and pre-trail jitters would fade away quickly. After all, the backpacking lifestyle is kind of like riding a bicycle. You might get a little rusty if you don’t do it for a bit, but you never really forget how to do it. As expected, within the first mile or so, the dirt below my feet and the trekking poles in my hands began to have the familiarity of old friends.
I didn’t necessarily have a targeted mileage to complete on the first day, but I prefer to camp near water which limited me to a 5 or 15-mile day. I opted for the 15-miler. Within the first few miles, Perk and I met our first rattle snake. He never rattled, but we gave him plenty of time and space to slither off the trail at his leisure.
Throughout the day, we took several breaks and enjoyed water as we crossed it. I promised myself that on this trail I would try to take better care of my feet from the beginning. After a bad bought of plantar fasciitis on the AT, I’m aiming to stretch and massage my feet daily and also soak them in cold water as often as I can. These acts alone saved my AT thru-hike.
As the day went on, I realized my first impression of the desert was not exactly what I had expected. Sure, it had an arid feel and with every step came a cloud of dust, and I wondered how any life form could thrive in the conditions before me. What I didn’t anticipate, though, was how beautiful the rugged terrain would be. With every corner I turned a new landscape seemed to emerge, even more beautiful than the one before. It was completely different than the green tunnel I had grown accustomed to on the AT, but both the forest and the desert seem to have their own charming features.
There was about a mile or so of daylight left when Perk and I arrived at Hauser Creek which was our final destination for the day. Several of the hikers we had met at Scout and Frodo’s were already there and set up. We all chatted a bit about our first day while cooking dinner.
There were four veteran AT, thru-hikers at camp including Perk and I. We discussed how each of us had aimed to start the PCT with no particular expectations because we knew this was a different trail with new experiences, yet we couldn’t help but compare the first day of the PCT to our first day on the AT. The opposing aspects that immediately stuck out was the lack of water, presence of horses, intense sunlight, different vegetation, absence of shelters and the excess of switchbacks. We all agreed, though, that we were looking forward to the challenges the PCT had to offer including the scorching-hot desert and snow-packed Sierra’s. After some light reminiscing about the AT, I finally climbed into my tent excited to see what the following day might bring.
The next morning, one of the other hikers who sectioned about 700 miles of the PCT last year mentioned that Lake Morena had wonderful breakfast burritos. I haven’t had a decent breakfast burrito since living in Colorado, so I decided making it there before 11am would be my first personal challenge of the PCT. Although it had only been a little over 24 hours since I had eaten town food, you can certainly always motivate a thru-hiker with the mention of a delicious meal.
After our first steep climb, we made it to Lake Morena and I’m happy to report the burrito did not disappoint! Perk and I ate and then relaxed on the front porch of the little convenience store. While he sat bandaging some blisters, I realized how normal everything felt after only a day on trail. My dirty hands and feet. Everything I need in my pack. Enjoying little victories and the simplicity of trail life. It’s almost as if the time that passed between my last days on the AT and my first on the PCT was just a strange blur.
As Perk finished his duct tape patch work, I looked at him and said, “Perk. We’re really doing it–we’re actually on the PCT.” He smiled and said, “Yep, now let’s get to hiking!”
Below are some of the other pictures I took during this stretch of trail:
Check back check back soon for another update. Happy Trails!