Thursday, May 15, 2014

Scorching Desert Mountains and Trail Magic

Day 2: upon waking, I packed up camp and continued on the hike making my way down the mountainside to Hauser Creek which then rewards one with a particularly nasty ascent up the next mountain. This was then rewarded eventually with the spectacular sight of Lake Morena, a shimmering jewel, promising a heavenly oasis after the next descent. 

I met up with Sandles again and he helped me patch up "blue baby", which I had been cradling all the way thus far, with super glue and a patch made from my zebra patterned duct tape.I also met "Kimchee Snotrag" and Jason here as they were heading out. I spent at least 3 hours here, showering, washing a few clothes items, eating and trying to see what I could purge from my pack and got rid of a tube of sunblock. I enjoyed chatting with the park Rangers who were really friendly. They said that the first section was the hardest which gave me a boost but subsequently I know that this isn't true. I planned to hike to the next campground before nightfall, to get some more miles done. My mantras for the day were "be like water" and "one step in front if the other". I learned very quickly that the trail is the master, you can't fight it and you can't have any expectations.
After another 5.2 miles, with an empty "blue baby" now shoved into my back pack I arrived at Boulder Oak campground. I was the only person there except for a lone man in his truck who sat and watched me set up camp, which made me feel very uneasy. Fortunately, just before sundown another hiker called "Cloud Trousers" arrived. I was so relieved to see him and asked him to pitch his tent near mine which made me feel a lot safer and shortly the man in his truck drove off. I went to sleep with my trekking pole and mace beside me to use as weapons but they were not needed.

Things I was grateful for today were: 1) Beautiful Lake Morena 
2) Feeling stronger; 3) Feeling positive; 4) A hot shower; 5) Feeling safer with Cloud Trousers at the camp.

Day 3:
Today was a long, hot approximately 17 miles from Boulder Oak to Burnt Rancherio in Laguna State Recreational Park. Started out with Cloud Trousers who then went on ahead and met up with Kimchee Snotrag and Jason sporadically and ended up camping with them. Spent most of the day on my own, gaining elevation in the Laguna Mountains amongst the spectacular high chaparral, specifically noticing the abundance of sage, Indian paintbrush ( a beautiful red flowering plant), and loved the Cottonwood and Oak trees in the valleys. Today was a hot hike and " Purple Monster" dug into my hips and shoulders unmercifully. At camp we were again able to have a hot shower and wash a few clothes items in the shower. I left behind my bottle of Deet to try to lighten my load.

Gratitude list: 1) My Sioux Indian guide; 2) Pressed coffee in the morning from Cloud Trousers; 3) The spectacular Laguna Mountains; 4) Respite and a hot shower at campground; 5) camping with other hikers.
I feel like I have to push harder and get better mileage in. Will try again tomorrow.

Day 4: 
Woke up at Burnt Rancherio feeling refreshed and motivated. Said goodbye to Kimchee Snotrag and Jason and got going. Presently I was passed by a young man who looked like he was just carrying a day pack and hiking the entire PCT. After talking with him, i gave him the name "Cowboy camp" as that is the way he was planning to camp mostly. He later shortened to Cowboy. I had been tearful for the first 2 miles that day, as I was thinking that perhaps doing this hectic, time consuming adventure may have been a mistake for my personal life, but after an encouraging call from my loved one, I felt motivated again and had a spectacular hike along the most stunning, skinny trail of a mountain's edge, overlooking a massive canyon with the Colorado desert in the background after Pioneer Mail Picnic area and trail head.

 The PCT runs along the old mountain pass mail route established in the 1850's. 

After a long, hellishly hot but sensationally beautiful hike which got progressively windy, I reached Sunrise Rd track and trail angel water cache. The winds were gusting so strongly, they almost toppled me over and the blistering hot day started turning into a chilly desert night. I was tired and hungry and decided to make my way to Cuyamaca State Park campground with the misleading directions in the guide book. I walked a dreary 3 miles or so feeling potentially lost, at which point I flagged down a truck and the very kind gentleman named Tony took me right to the campground. The Rangers at the park were angels too and really helped me out a lot by charging my phones and making me feel comfortable. After today, I have a really good feeling about humanity as I realize that there are so many people out there that give random acts of kindness without expecting anything in return.
My gratitude list today is: 1) I have developed strong hiking legs today; 2) Beautiful Cottonwood Canyon; 3) Realization that the best things in life don't come easy; 4) Cuyamaca heaven; 5) Kindness that exists in humanity.
Cuyamaca comes from the Native American " Ah-ha-kwe-ah-mac", meaning "place where it rains". It is situated in a forested glade with bubbling streams, a campground and showers and also contains a Native American cultural exhibit and stone mine.

Day 5:
The Ranger from Cuyamaca drove me back to the trail point I had left from and I set out at a galloping pace, feeling very motivated and filled with gratitude towards all the trail angels I had encountered. My faith in humanity was being restored by all the kind people out there. 18 miles of scorching, windy, but spectacular desert mountain trails ensued. Sometimes the trail looked like a landscaped cactus garden with everything in bloom. Rodriguez Valley was mind blowing to gaze upon from the mountains and " Purple Monster" felt more bearable today. It was a long, hot slog and when I finally got to Scissors Crossing, I decided to hitch to the quaint ex mining town of Julian, now turned artsy and a vacation destination. 

I had the daunting San Felipe Mountain crossing ahead of me the next day. I hitched and almost immediately got a ride from the very pleasant and interesting Dr John, who drives around Southern California performing free vasectomies to whoever wants one. 
Once in Julian, I discovered that everything was fully booked and the campground was my only option. I ate some real food at Applepie is Gold and a couple at the next table overheard my plight of trying to get to the campground. Upon discussion  amongst themselves, the husband said he would take me to the campground immediately and got up from the dinner table, interrupting their evening out, and drove me the 6 miles to the camp. Wow, wow, wow! I could barely believe it! Another act of selfless kindness, and another angel helping me achieve my goal. Thank you!
The Santa Ana winds were blowing strong tonight and I was glad not to be sleeping on the trail. The Ranger at the campsite initially turned me away, stating they were full, but then had a change of heart and allowed me to pitch my tent behind some bushes, against the fence and near a bathroom. A peaceful night ensued.
Today I am grateful for: 1) Rangers aka Angels at Cuyamaca; 2) beauty of the flowering desert mountain; 3) Dr John who drove me from Scissors X-ing to Julian; 4) The Angel who drove me to the camp ; 5) The grumpy Ranger who let me sleep safely.

Day 6:
I was awoken by the sound of a hooting owl. Wow! My aumakua (animal spirit guardian) had been with me all night! I had pitched my tent under it's tree. There were also wild turkeys around the camp and I picked up 2 of their feathers which I'll carry with me. I feel like I am really earning my trail name "Two Feathers". Another wonderful person gave me a ride into town and dropped me off at the coffee shop "Granny's Coffee". The staff  there are extremely hospitable to PCT hikers and give them a free piece of fruit. As I drank two cups of coffee and ate my cookie, a man overheard me saying that I needed to get a ride back to the trail which was 12 miles away. He was just sitting down to breakfast and offered me a ride as soon as he was done. Astounding! Another Angel! Thank you Dario for being so kind and going out of your way to help me with my journey expecting nothing in return. I now understand the term "trail magic". I also found out that there is an Indian living in Julian by the name of Two Feathers, which is pretty cool!
Starting out at Scissors Crossing again, I climbed another mountain on relentless switchbacks in the scorching heat and hot, dry Santa Ana winds. 

I was startled on one of the skinny trail path sections with sheer, plummeting drops by another snake encounter, but it slithered away before I could take a photograph.

I doctored my feet on the trail with moleskin and fresh socks as the ball of my right foot was hinting at forming a blister. As I sat down on a rock to trim some moleskin, a Humming bird came and hovered inches from my face for at least a minute, just looking at me. As soon as it flew away, out of the silence of the mountain, I heard a distinct rattle behind me. I leapt up, looking for the Rattlesnake but could not see it, however I was not about to overstay my welcome at that spot, and left abruptly. By 7 pm, I had been hiking through the tortuous San Felipe Mountains for 9 hours and set up camp on one of the west facing switchbacks and enjoyed a sensational sunset in solitude.

 I felt fine about still being up here because I had enough water due to a trail angel water cache I had filled up at earlier.

 I'm sure that cache keeps people alive! I can't wait to get off this mountain tomorrow, but I know that plenty more await.

Today I am grateful for 1) Dario, trail angel who gave me a 12 mile ride; 2) I am hiking stronger; 3) Purple Monster is feeling much better on my back 4) Granny's Coffee shop hospitality 5) spectacular sunset.

Day 7:
One week into the adventure and here I am, striking my mountain camp early in the morning, eager to get the next section done,
Today was not too bad except for the incessant heat and the blister in my right foot. Once I reached the 100 mile mark at 08:30 am, I knew today would be a good day and I'd meet my goal of getting to Warner Springs at mile 110.

 Warner Springs has the most amazing resource center for PCT hikers with showers, food, laundry and computers. I participated in all of the above and camped in a field at the back. The people here are true trail angels! 

To sum it up: week 1; 110 miles, so far I've seen crows, snakes, wild turkeys,, an owl, deer, a large hare, a coyote, strange lizards and squirrels. Camped at Warner Springs with KS, chef Shortrib,Canadian Princess, Scott, Jason ultra and Bob.
More adventure awaits...


  1. Hi Heather, I have not read all that you have posted, but I will go back to read it all. You are on an adventure of a lifetime. I admire your tenacity! Yes, you will have those moments, as in what I am doing here but sounds like you've got the spunk and the grit. My son hiked the pct when he was twentyfour and he is 40 now. People can be aggravating or kind and compassionate. You never know. Good for you to pay attention to those potential wolves out there. I think of myself as a granny cheerleader for all of you that are on this journey and I am a praying one to. I am keeping the hikers in prayer. Safe travels to you...