Thursday, March 16, 2017

PCT Day 1 - Mile 4.6 to 12.4

I have a problem with magical thinking. I thought, for example, when I planned our trip from my cozy bed in Wisconsin, that surely I would train enough before setting out on the trail that the second day, March 11, 2017, I could hike 12 miles, no problem. Obviously. Right?

We camped on day "0" (we started late and hiked for just a few hours) at mile 4.6 and we were to make it to Hauser Creek, circa mile 16, by the end of the day.

Magical thinking part two: It's a long day so I'll get an early start. Who did I think I was making this plan for? Certainly not me. I know how I do with early morning wake up calls.

So, day one, the alarm went off early. I did not exactly jump up out of my sleeping bag into the freezing cold morning air. Eventually, I got up. Unfortunately, San Diego is in the midst of a heat wave and the weather is unseasonably hot for March. I slept away the cool hours of the morning in my sleeping bag, which meant I ended up hiking under the hot sun, with little shade. My hiking partner Leslie got up before I did, but not early enough to avoid the heat.

Once we got up and on the trail, we spent the day leapfrogging each other. I would stop to photograph a flower and she would pass me, then she would stop for a short break, and I'd pass her, and so on.

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Wild Peas
Wild Peas

Red Maid
Red Maid

Right after leaving our campsite, which we'd struggled to find in the dark, we saw an excellent camp site just a few more yards up the trail from where we'd spent the night. Then the trail rounded a corner, and there was a view of a vernal pool where I imagine all of the frogs that croaked all night were hanging out.

For the first several miles, we passed so much water. We did not expect to reach water until mile 12, but up until about mile 8, there were several streams that went across the trail. At one point there was an enormous crack like a sinkhole in the trail and we had to go around it.

Before too long, we came to the area that burned last year with the Campo fire. Because of all of the recent rain, the ground is no longer black with soot. Several plants that look dead are re-sprouting from their crowns (the part of the plant where the roots meet the above ground parts), an adaptation to fire that many species in San Diego have. There were California peonies and wild cucumbers everywhere, creating splashes of green on an otherwise bare ground. I imagine an awful lot of soil eroded from the mountains in all the recent rains, with no vegetation left to prevent erosion.

As the day went on, the shadows got longer, and there was finally shade to rest in. We spent several miles climbing up hill, and then at last the trail was more level. We reached the water around mile 12.2 (it's after one pipe gate around mile 12, and before a second pipe gate at mile 12.5) and we both bathed and gathered water for dinner.

At that point, we discussed whether we were actually going to make it to mile 16. Well... maybe not. And since miles 14-16 or so go down hill into Hauser Canyon, we feared we would not find any suitable campsites with the sloping ground. We decided to look for a good campsite after bathing and gathering water at mile 12 and then we could cook dinner and sleep there. We'd be about four miles behind schedule, but we'd figure it out later.

So that's what we did. We found a lovely campsite around mile 12.4, before the second of the two pipe gates, and we spent the night there. It was a bit warmer than the previous night, and frog-free.

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