Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Mt. Laguna, Mile 42, Apr 17

When sitting at home preparing for this trail, people would ask us how we were training for it. Confidently, we would reply that we weren't doing much and that we were just going to take it easy for the first couple of weeks. Sitting back in Vancouver, over a rainy and cold winter season, with endless logistical preparations to make, it was easy to let the days pass by without getting in much walking, let alone hiking. But that was OKAY because we were going to ease ourselves into it slowly, right?!

It has been a tough three and a half days. We started in Campo a day early, on April 14th. We were going to hike the 1.5 miles from town to the trailhead, and back again, with Rachel's parents, but when we got into town we found out that we could drive right up to the trailhead monument, which we did. We took a bunch of ceremonial pictures before we meandered a half-mile down the trail to meet up with Rachel's parents again. From there we drove back into town, purchased some bread, cheese, peanut-butter, honey, and Danishes (which will make up our lunches and some of our breakfasts) before we returned to Mt. Laguna for our last minute preparations and to wait for the cool of the evening. It was hot down there in Campo and if the half-mile we had done earlier was to be any indication of what the desert portion is to be like, we are going to be in for a tough go of things.

At 5:30 PM, we returned to where we had left off, loaded our packs onto our backs and groaned under the weight. Our guide book had warned us that we could not count of finding water for the first 29 miles of the trail, so we were each carrying 9 liters with us (approx. 18 lbs worth), in addition to the rest of our gear. Our unconditioned knees were trembling under the weight, (Rachel's pack weighed approx. 56 lbs and Scott's was about 65 lbs ), but we were excited to finally be on our way after six months of planning.

Darkness set in on us sooner than we had expected, and we had only covered about 3.5 miles. We were in hilly terrain and had to scout the area before finding a spot level enough to pitch our tent for the night. We quickly settled into our sleeping bags and then lay there for a couple of hours looking up at the stars above us (it's nice to have a mesh tent, and we didn't put on our fly) and marveling about the fact that we had actually begun our adventure. Finally, we dozed off into a fitful sleep, constantly keeping an ear open for any illegal immigrants or drug runners making their way along the hillsides from the Mexican border, but to our relief we were undisturbed throughout the night, except for having to throw on the tent fly at about 4 AM. as a thick fog rolled in and covered everything with a heavy dew.

We awoke at 6 AM, eager to pack up and hike a few miles in under the cool of the fog, which still hung around us. We decided that we would eat once the sun broke through, but when we had already been hiking for nearly two hours and there was no sign of the sun, we stopped to have our breakfast. The morning passed, as we made our way through the chaparral covered hills and we crossed paths with a Border Patrol Officer who was tracking a group of illegals across the hillside. As we carried on, we noted that they had covered their tracks by dragging a tree branch behind them, (which left a more notable trail than footprints, but helped to disguise their numbers).

We stopped for lunch after covering about 8 miles. We had another 10 miles to go before we reached Lake Morena Campground where we would find water. It was also around that time that the novelty of the hike was wearing off a bit and we were beginning to suffer under the weight of our packs. The next ten miles passed much more slowly. We took turns encouraging each other on, as we slowly passed the miles. At last, we reached Lake Morena, and our first night's camp was in sight. We pulled in at about 5 PM, set up camp, showered, ate dinner and promptly collapsed into our sleeping bags for a sound nights sleep, disturbed only by some marauding raccoons,. whom Scott chased up a tree with rocks, a stick and a log (the only ammo around).

That first day was the big one. Rachel had been concerned about water and she was eager to hike the full 16.5 miles to Lake Morena. For a first day on the trail it was a tough and long one. By the time that we arrived in camp we both had aching muscles and sore feet, but the crucial first day was done. (Our first PCT "training" day!)

The second day was a gentler 13.5 miles into Cibbets Flats Campground. We passed under the I-8 freeway and made our way higher into the Mt. Laguna mountains. The fog and cloud coverage was not with us that day, but thankfully the temperatures remained tolerable and we had a steady breeze to help keep us cool. Nonetheless, we arrived in camp exhausted and sore. We saw a snake (not a rattlesnake) and encountered our first PCT thru-hiker, Parker, from Montana. He was already in shape for the trek and buzzed past us with a spring in his step that we could only envy.

Today's hike was the best, and shortest of all. After a cold night at Cibbets Flats, we got up to more fog and a biting cold wind. We made a hot beverage, stuffed down a couple of Danishes and then made our way out onto the trail, to hike the remaining 9.5 miles to Burnt Rancheria Campground and Rachel's parents tent-trailer. Despite the shorter distance, we still staggered into camp with sore feet. We are both hopeful that we find our stride soon.

So far we have been lucky. The weather has cooperated with us and kept the days cool, (it has been perfect weather for hiking, but lousy for camping as it has been too cold). Every day we have been thankful for the cooler temperatures and have repeatedly said "Thank God it's not 110 degrees". The majority of PCTers will begin the hike in about two weeks. Who knows how hot it may be then? Water is already scarce, and in two weeks it will be worse. We met one local who told us that the San Diego area has only had about 2.5" of rain since last July, when the norm is for about 10". The trail guide had warned that one creek may be too deep for fording, which we found to be bone dry. All indications are that this year is a drought year (at least in southern California); thank God we started when we did!