17 Mar, 2020

Day 1 – 2,650 miles to go

Written by: Russ

South Downs Way

Distance:

miles

Time:

hours

Elevation gain:

feet

The Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is a 2,650 mile-long hiking trail spanning from the Mexican Border in California, all the way to the Canadian border in Washington. Thousands of hikers attempt the trail each year. I’ve been planning and preparing for my attempt of the trail since 2016 and this year I finally got my chance, although, it was tainted by the risks and complications involved with COVID-19 and after just two weeks, my trip came to a grinding halt after just 210 miles from the Southern Terminus to the i10 intersection just north of Mt. San Jacinto. Read this blog to find out exactly what happened.

Here’s what the trail looked like

Resources and maps

Day 1 route overview

From the southern terminus, it’s a flat and steady walk back and parallel to the road you walked to get to the border. The trail soon opens up into a vast expanse of desert which will be in bloom should you start at the right time. Winding your way around the sides of the hills, epic views are with you the entire way when you look back and before you know it, Campo and the border are way out of sight. Reaching Lake Morena after a 20-mile day you’re ready for camp, but the route just travelled is just the beginning and avid hikers will be looking forward to the day ahead after a good night’s rest.

Elevation

The first few miles of the PCT are all too easy and forgiving, but a very leisurely start to the trail. Before long you’re hiking up steep yet short hills until around mile 14 where you descend into the valley and bag a huge and steep ascent before reaching Lake Morena. Most hikers camp in the valley there and attempt the final ascent the next day, push through though, and you’ll be blessed with a quiet and spacious camp in Morena Valley just after the developed campsite and a pitstop at the Oak Shores Malt Shop.

Over the M3

It begins

From my Airbnb in Campo which I stayed in for one last recharge of my batteries, I woke up as early as I could, packed my bag and headed south to the southern terminus of the PCT. It was most definitely the most profound moment in my life. Never have I waited, prepared and trained for so long for a single moment and finally, after 4 years of waiting and a no-go the previous year due to my dad having a stroke, I’d made it to the border, ready to embark on the 2,650 miles which lay ahead.

I rested my head on the monument for about a minute with my eyes closed, breathing slowly. I could smell the cracked paint and wood treatment on the terminus and feel the texture of the weathered wood on my fingertips. It was cold with a slight breeze and a persistent yet light drizzle of rain. There was no sunshine which I was used to seeing in pictures of the monument, no heat to warm me up before heading off, just a grey day and the faint tarnish of stress which I’d felt for days prior due to the difficulties caused by COVID-19 and implications to travel. A dream is never how you think it will be once fulfilled, but in no way, shape or form was I disappointed. I couldn’t wait to take that first step.

Over the M3

A brief moment in time

The area surrounding the terminus was quite busy. About 10 hikers were enjoying the moment before embarking on the trip. A fellow hiker kindly took some snaps for me before I gathered my cameras, backpack and sanity after an emotional and exciting 5 minutes. None of the hikers looked ready to head off, they were waiting for friends to join them. I, however, was completely alone and there was only one thing left to do. Take the first step.

Over the M3

The first miles

It’s weird, the first few miles of the PCT actually run parallel to the road I walked on to reach the terminus from Campo. On the way there I could see the trail but didn’t want to look as I wanted each stride to be a surprise, but along the trail, I actually walked back on some steps. The whole thing was surreal! I was saying to myself “I’m walking on the PCT, I’m walking on the PCT, I’m walking on the PCT” over and over again. I was walking fast, telling myself to slow down and enjoy it, but this is how I wanted to enjoy it, fast and easy. My knees had a bounce to them and the crunch of the gritty, wet trail beneath my feet was a unique and fulfilling sound. No trail in the UK sounded like that.

Over the M3

All the way to Lake Morena

Many hikers on the trail were camping about 5 miles from the border, taking their time and soaking up the wilderness. I’d just started and walked past their camps, winding around the hills and brushing past bushes in bloom with bright blue flowers. The desert warmed up throughout the day with clouds casting vast shadows over the landscape, racing over the hills and mountains in the distance.

I reached a tent site at Hauser Kreek, around mile 15.4 and about 5 hikers were bedding down for the night in preparation for the steep climb to Lake Morena which lay ahead. One of which was a hiker I’d met at the airport who started the day before me. Other hikers were really taking their time, making me think I should pace myself and let the trail legs settle in, but I was hiking the miles I wanted to hike, I didn’t want the day to end.

After a steep ascent to the top of the mountain near Lake Morena, it was a beautiful descent to the village. I was ahead of the bubble and it felt good to be alone.

Over the M3

Gallery

Overview

  • Views and vista 80% 80%
  • Difficulty 60% 60%
  • Elevation gain 80% 80%

Start time:

07:00

Camp time:

18:00

Accommodation

BnBs

Stay with Sherry

Campsites

Campo PCT campsite

Explore

MY PCT 2020 KIT LIST

Neoair Xlite

Neoair Xlite

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Check out...

OR Helium 2

OR Helium 2

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Watch the...

Injinji socks

Injinji socks

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Review At...

Sealskinz

Sealskinz

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:First look...

Nitecore Tiki

Nitecore Tiki

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Watch the...

Kumfie pad

Kumfie pad

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Review The...

Body Glide

Body Glide

Cost:Weight:Miles used:Times replaced:Review...

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