a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL 2018
starts with a single step.
Miles 335.6 to 356.7. Bushcamp to bushcamp.
We get up with the alarm clock. The sleeping bag is cozy enough, but today we are so motivated to get going. And why is that? It‘s McDonalds day! There is a famous McDonalds 0.4 miles off trail at Cajon Pass and we‘ve been looking forward to this day from the beginning. Or actually, already back in Switzerland we were talking about it and looking it up on the map.
We do the 6 miles really quickly, are daydreaming about everything we are going to order and are there by 08.30am. Together with half the American population. Okay that‘s an exageration. But I mean, seriously, how can a fast food restaurant be so busy at this time of the day?! But anyway, we get a booth, throw our packs in it, fully aware of how we come across (stinky, dirty and hobo-like), find a plug to charge our electronic devices and then start to put in our order into some machine. Wait a second. Where are the Cheeseburgers? The Big Macs? The McChicken I‘ve been craving for days? We can‘t believe it, they exclusively serve breakfast food only until 10.30am! First we consider staying and waiting for another two hours as it‘s really hot outside already anyway, but it‘s so unbelievably crowded in there and now fast filling up with a Korean tour bus (the passengers taking selfies with a selfie stick at McDonalds...) that we decide to get out of there and hit the trail.
After we fill up all our water bottles for the upcoming dry stretch (29 miles uphill), we hike out of Cajon Pass with Lars and Isha. It‘s so hot, there‘s no shade. This desert can be so cruel and merciless. Beautiful nonetheless. Look at those pictures!
After two hours we stop for lunch under literally the first tree providing shade. All four of us then take a lengthy nap and we only get going again around 4.30pm, fully intending to hike another 14 miles. The reason for this ambitious goal being my birthday the next day and trying to get into Wrightwood as early as possible to have some kind of relaxation and celebration on this day. After a couple of miles we realize we are not gonna make it and set another goal for the night. It‘s also a rather sketchy section and gets quite scary when we end up hiking in complete darkness. But we take it easy and slowly make our way up the mountain. At one point I see some lights pointing at me and I‘m thinking „why is this hiker with the flashlight camped all the way down there“, only to realize a second later that it must be some animal staring at us. Whoaaa that‘s scary. We don‘t know what it is (mountain lion, coyote,...), but keep a steady pace and walk away from it.
Finally at 10pm we arrive at our campsite. We‘ve never been more relieved to find it! Quickly we set up our tent under the full moon and soon are fast asleep. 13 miles to Wrightwood tomorrow. Looks like I should be able to celebrate my 31st birthday with a delicious meal, clean clothes and a nice, hot shower (I don‘t think we‘ve ever been as dirty as today)!
Miles 314.5 to 335.6. From Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
We plan to do 21 miles today so we will arrive in Wrightwood, our next town stop, on Maya’s Birthday on 29 May. It is fairly easy to hike today as for the first 4 hours it is all downhill. We finally have cell reception in this area and decide to call our families and friends during hiking. So we talk and hike for approx. two hours and totally forget to check for upcoming water sources. So when we finish our calls we suddenly realize that we have only little water left and have to hike another 10 miles until reaching Silverwood Lake, an artificial, rather small lake. Unfortunately now the trail starts to get more difficult as it is now going uphill a lot. After a short time all of our remaining water is gone and we begin to squeeze every remaining drop of water out of our water bladders. Somehow we make it to the lake and instantly fill two water bottles with greenish, gasoline smelling water from the lake, filter it and greedily finish one of the not really good tasting water bottles.
It now gets very hot again and it is not fun hiking any further. But still we decide we want to make it to the lake resort as we read that it is possible to bath in the lake there and it gets even better - order pizza to that place. It is an exhausting 1.5 hour long hike under the burning sun, but we make it! When we arrive we realize that half the state of California is there too! Nevertheless I buy 4 cans of coke, drink 2 of them in a heartbeat and we sit down behind the shop in the shade where there are already about 8 other sweaty and stinky hikers gathered.
Maya orders the pizza and we start to talk to Lars, a Danish guy and ex-professional cyclist with unbelievably large and trained calves and Isha, a Belgian girl who just finished the Te Araroa, a long-distance hiking trail in New Zealand. After spending 3 hours there without bathing because of too many people and dirty, stinky water, we continue our path. It is still very hot, but at least we now have enough water. We drag ourselves up a hill just to hike it all downhill again. After descending to the valley we set up camp, have the remaining slices of pizza for dinner and go to bed soon. What an exhausting and long day!
Miles 293.24 to 314.5. From Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
We wake up and it is freezing cold. Brad is, as usual, still asleep and snoring peacefully.
So we leave this beautiful place and say goodbye to the nice creek.
After a while of hiking we pass our first bridge across a river and decide to have breakfast. Shortly after we stop we hear a voice saying “Hallo zusammen”. It turns out it is Melanie, the lovely German girl we last saw in Lake Morena on the second day. She then had some issues with her feet and stayed there for the day. We knew that she had then hitched from Mount Laguna to Warner Springs and was therefore always a few days ahead of us. So now we had caught up with her again! She tells us that she had started a trail family and is now hiking with two more senior hikers.
We continue our breakfast and Melanie continues hiking.
Today we will reach a highlight of the PCT we have been looking forward to since the beginning. The Deep Creek Hot Springs.
After hiking another 4 hours along the Deep Creek river the river widens into sort of a pond. From far we already hear the voices and laughter of dozens of people. It turns out there are actually a lot of people enjoying the Hot Springs at this time because it is the Memorial day weekend. Some of them are skinny dipping, the place is known for that as it is a little bit of a hippie place.
As soon as we arrive we put all our stuff out on the sand and jump into the coldish river pond. We swim for a while and look for the Hot springs but the water is still cold. We find out that the Hot Springs are located next to the pond and look like small jacuzzis.
We jump in one of those and it is just amazing! Perfect treat for our overabused feet!
And shortly we meet Melanie and her trail family again and spend some amazing 3 or 4 hours there.
We continue our hike which leads us along the Deep Creek canyon. At the end of the canyon there is a huge dam which we have to cross. This is it with mountains for the moment.
We now reach a big desert looking valley.
After we walk a few more miles and cross a small creek we set camp on a very nice hill with a stunning view across the valley and call it a day. 21 miles hiked today - a new record!
Miles 275 to 293.2. Bushcamp to bushcamp
It‘s really cold in the morning and we quickly pack up and get going, trying to chase the sunlight illuminatig the first peaks. After about an hour we take our mandatory breakfast break on a nice little clearing. In the morning the trail takes us through beautiful pine forest, the hiking is rather easy and it‘s not too hot. Every now and then we pass or are passed by other hikers, but mostly it‘s just the two of us. We started listening to audio books, so right now I am listening to a thrilling podcast about an unresolved murder, which my former work colleague Barbara recommended to me. Thank you, it does make the miles go by faster! ;-)
We have a tasty cheese and salami lunch around noon and lie sleepily in the sand near a creek, resting our feet up on a rock.
After a couple more miles we suddenly have cell reception again. I look at my cellphone and stop dead in my tracks. I can‘t believe what I am seeing. One of my oldest and best friend Tanja just got engaged to Dani!!! Wow, all these emotions running through me, I am really excited! When we were young teenies we already imagined who we would get married to and how it would happen and all that (well, just what girls talk about at that age) and now this!!! You two, we couldn‘t be more excited for you, congratulations!!! Anyway, this really pushes me yet again and I pretty much dance and sing all the way down the trail.
The afternoon passes by quickly, still no Brad in sight who started after us. We start wondering where he is. Speedy recommended a campsite near a running creek and it‘s only 4.30pm when we get there. There is literally a swimming pool in the creek where we hop in and scrape the dirt off our filthy bodies. Then we take care of our feet (as usual) and Dario makes dinner (as usual). Unfortunately the pasta water falls down on the ground with the almost al dente pasta in it. So we have to cook another round of spaghetti. We make it with olive oil, garlic and dried tomatoes and it tastes delicious! Soon Brad arrives who unfortunately isn‘t feeling too well. His shin hurts and he sets up his tent hurriedly and we all go to bed soon. What a great day with fabulous news! And tomorrow we will arrive at the Deep Creek Hot Springs. We are so excited! Life is good.
Miles 266.4 to 275.3. From Big Bear Lake to Bushcamp.
The evening before we decided to hike again the next day. So now we have breakfast with Brad, Thibaud, the two Koreans (Kim & Lynn) and Sara from New Zealand, who just made it into town this morning. Unfortunately Speedy & Wizard already left so they are not part of the breakfast crew.
We all have Omelets and every one adds like one or two additional (healthy) ingredients like avocado or spinach to their meals.
At some point Tom, an elderly, bearded guy who looks like a man from the time of the goldrush joins us and shows us his entire collection of old american dollar bills, roman coins and other stuff like a Nazi medal he has collected over time. I find it very interesting as he also tells us a lot about American history such as the civil war, the gold rush etc.
But at some point we have to stop Tom because we really want to hit the trail again. So we say goodbye to him and the others and hitch to the trailhead with Brad.
We only want to do 9 miles in the afternoon until we reach the first campsite where there is water. It takes us about 4 hours, we set up tent and have dinner (we bought two while salamis/salume and I am loving it!) . We go to bed way before hiker midnight because it’s getting cold and we want to leave early the next day.
Miles 253.2 to 266.4. From Bushcamp to Big Bear Lake.
We set the alarm clock to 4am in the morning as we want to be in Big Bear Lake as early as possible. Today there are only 13 miles of hiking until reaching the highway where we can hitchhike to Big Bear Lake.
We were never faster than today in packing all our staff together and hitting the trail. The PCT is really friendly to us as it is all downhill until reaching the highway crossing. Normally the PCT “designers” are a bit sadistic-minded and constructed the trail in a way that after every descent there is an even bigger ascent. But not today. :) After a bit more than 5 hours we reach the junction and try to hitchhike. But no luck today. It takes as about half an hour to finally get a hitch into town. A friendly couple picks us up with a big pick up truck and we can stay on the load bed. Awesome! We drive for about 15 minutes, the cool wind in our hair and the sun on our faces.
We booked a room at the Robin Hood Resort, finally have the best shower in the world and meet up for lunch with our friends Wizard, Speedy and Brad for delicious burgers.
After that we get our laundry done at the laundromat and do our resupply at Vons supermarket. In the evening we all go to a pub and have some not really healthy deep fried food until everyone gets really tired about 9pm. We then cuddle happily into our warm and comfortable beds and sleep the sleep of champions.
Miles 235.5 to 253.2. From Bushcamp to Bushcamp.
We actually planned to get up early in the morning to do as many miles as possible, so the next day we would only need to walk a few miles until reaching the highway to Big Bear Lake.
That was the plan. Of course it did not work. Setting the alarm clock to 4.30 am was too ambitious and we just snooze the alarm clock until nearly seven. By that time we feel so bad that we somehow manage to get up.
We do our daily morning ritual and pack all our stuff within 45 minutes into the two backpacks and off we go.
The day begins with a steep climb for about 2.5 miles. There we cross Mission Creek for the last time. That also means the last opportunity to get water for the next 8 miles until reaching a not guaranteed water cache.
So we fill our bottles there and have a nice little break.
After that we climb for another 3 miles. The trail leads us through a burnt forest section. I always thought that a wildfire burns nearly everything down, similiar to after a bonfire.
But it is different. Almost all of the burnt threes are still standing, they are completely covered in a blackish kind of sauce and remind me of skeletons - standing there without leaves, only on their base structure. The forest floor is covered with thousands of darkish, burnt needles. But somehow life has managed to find it’s way back to this dead section as there are several green desert like bushes between the burnt trees.
After hiking through this bizarre area we reach the top of the mountain. From there it is more or less all the way downhill until mile 246 where we actually find the water cache mentioned before. We take some liters with us and have lunch there - mashed potatoes again. I still like it, but Maya is beginning to hate it…
We walk another 4 miles where we pass an obscure, so called private zoo - a place where tigers, lions and grizzly bears are being trained for Hollywood movies and are kept in very very small cages.
After three more miles we reach the Big Bear Hostel Information Center. It turns out the Information center is nothing more than a Container filled with information material and more important, with cold sodas! We grab three sodas and set camp close to that center as you never know if you’re getting thirsty again during the night :)
Miles 220 to 235.5. Bushcamp to Bushcamp
Even though we planned to get up early and catch the others we just can‘t get out of our warm and cozy sleeping bags. The night was wonderful, sleeping right next to the river, without the rain fly on, under a gazillion stars. So we keep resetting the alarm clock and end up leaving with Brad.
After the first mountain climb of the day he already passes us and we soon take our first break at the first crossing of Mission Creek. We will be spending all day today slowly climbing up the Mission Creek Valley, crossing the little creek at least a dozen times. The valley is beautiful, flowers are blooming, it‘s slightly windy and we hardly see any other hikers. When we are just about to stop for lunch we see a large hiker box which of course we have to open. What did trail angels leave us this time in this remote valley? It turns out it‘s from the ACE (American Conservation Experience) Pacific Crest Trail Crew. They have set up camp right below the trail and are working in this area for eight days straight. Their camp is deserted (because they are out doing maintenance work on the trail), but on the hiker box they invite hikers to spend some time at their oasis, help themselves to food, coffee, toilet paper etc. from the hiker box and even use their stove and gas to cook stuff. And we are hungry! And not sure how much longer our gas will last. And most thankful for this unexpected gift so that we kindly take them up on their offer.
After a delicious meal with pasta, lentils and beans we move on, up up up the valley. Then we meet our ACE heroes and can‘t thank them enough for their generous hospitality. And their trail maintenance work looks great! Instead of muddy ground we can now walk across little bridges that they have been building during their time out here in this gorgeous valley.
We decide to set camp at the second last water source of the valley as we are getting tired and we can no longer ignore how sore our bodies are. The campsite looks like an enchanted forest, with large overgrown trees with branches touching the floor and the little creek beside it. Now that the sun has left the valley it‘s getting quite cool and we retreat into our little orange home where we cook dinner and eat our rehydrated meals in the warmth of our sleeping bags. Let‘s try to get up early tomorrow!
Miles 205.7 to 220. From water faucet to White water river.
As always it was a bright sunny day. We started before our friends as we knew we would not walk in their fast pace. After walking a mile or so, the trail leads us into open fields, leaving the protection behind a big rocky wall. And suddenly there is wind. A LOT OF WIND! It is kind of exhausting walking against the wind. After some minutes more, Speedy catches up and passes us, saying he just wants to end that section as soon as possible.
The trail crosses a railway track and the highway, therefore we hike beneath a bridge to traverse those.
Apparently two hikers found shelter from the wind under the bridge and put up their tents there. What an unpleasant place to camp I think, every 10 minutes a cargo train crosses the bridge, making unbelievably loud noises and is honking three times like an old, rusty container ship!
A few meters further under the highway bridge we find some trail magic - apple pie and bananas and our other friend Wizard catches up the minute we want to leave.
So we decide to stay some minutes more and then continue our hike.
The trail is now steeper as we have reached the other side of the valley. It is still very windy and we slowly hike towards these big wind turbines on top of the mountain, which are part of the Mesa Wind farm. We are taking a little break to drink some water and relax our feet when a hiker named Mike, who
passed us some minutes before, came walking back to us and telling us that there is another trail magic just 100 meters from here!
So we gather our packs together and meet Norman who calls himself „Norman the doorman“, a 82 year old Korea veteran and trail angel. The doorman offers us some chips and sweets and tells us about his Marihuana plantage - well “i‘s not for smoking, it‘s just for getting CBD”, a substance he uses to make hand moisturizer.
He therefore insists that we touch his so soft,with CBD oil treated hands and shows us some small bottles for a very good price. We gratefully refuse his offer but keep on talking with him.
He explains us that he is at the same spot every day and that he was the last person to see David O‘Sullivan, a hiker who went missing last year and has still not been found and shows us a selfie he took with him.
After leaving the doorman we pass the Mesa wind farm and struggle to cross the border of the valley as it is now so hot, windy and steep.
On the other side of the hill we then climb it is even more windy, especially with the backpacks on it is sometimes like balancing over a tightrope.
We decide that we would not hike a lot more as Maya’s foot is still hurting, but we really want to reach Whitewater river, the biggest river in Southern California to set up camp there and go swimming.
It turns out that the word “river” is a bit exaggerated, it is more like a small creek and about 2 meters wide but only 30 to 40 centimeters deep.
But we don’t mind and meet up with Speedy and Wizard who arrived way earlier than us and continue to hike some more miles.
After bathing in the small pools suddenly Brad “the prodigal” shows up and the three of us set camp next to the river - what a beautiful place!
Miles 187.5 to 205.7. Bushcamp to Water Faucet
We knew that it was going to be a long day. A total altitude loss of 7940 feet (2400m) over the next 20 miles (32 km). And we were planning to do it in one day. And so we did. But back to the beginning.
We wake up at 4.45am, we‘re both really tired even though we slept well. But yesterday was tough and we are both feeling it in our feet. Our morning routine is pretty much always the same. We let the air out of our airmats, change into our hiking outfit then put everything in designated stuff sacks and out of the tent and go outside to take down the tent. Once the tent is stored in Dario‘s pack we start putting everything else away in our packs. We usually do this quietly as most of the time other people are around who we don‘t want to wake up.
So far the hours between 6am and 9am have been the most pleasant ones to hike. To see the sun rise, listen to the birds and generally see the world waking up is very special. Like any other day we take a break after about one hour to have breakfast. It consists of muesli bars and trail mix mostly. And sometimes coffee. When it‘s a very good hiking day and Wizard is with us. Which is the case today. Soon we are joined by Speedy. He is always the fastest one and therefore gets to sleep in the longest. So after 1.5h there he is already, passing us.
All day is downhill today. The first couple of hours we walk in the beautiful pine forests of the San Jacinto National Park. Then the trees become less and less and finally we are back to desert-ish terrain. Cacti, pretty flowers, bushes in all shapes and forms, and almost no shade. And sun. A lot of it. And we walk and walk and take our lunch break shortly before mile 200. Then we meet up with the rest of the crew (Speedy, Wizard and Brad) and take the mile 200 marker together. Wow, 200 miles done!
We all continue hiking downhill in a row, listening to music, having a good laugh when suddenly - baaaam! I roll my ankle and fall over like a bag of potatoes. I lie there and within a minute Dario has taken my shoe off to bandage it, Brad grabs the umbrella to provide shade to my head, Wizard takes out her „special Australian healing creme“ (Vix ;-)), cleans my bloody knee and then provides some wind with a Japanese fan thingy and Speedy takes a picture of the whole scene. This is what perfectly describes this whole trail family thing. These people, they are amazing! We are all in this together and help each other out in any way we can. I am deeply touched by the genuine care and support out here.
It is around 3pm now, my ankle feels very tender but doesn’t hurt too badly (thanks to Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) and we still have 5 miles to go. But I did take too many pain killers. I am oh so tired and can‘t concentrate on the path ahead. The heat surely isn‘t helping. I am dragging myself off this mountain, nearly breaking down, poor Dario has to literally pull me along and make sure I don‘t fall asleep during the many breaks we are taking at this stage. Somehow we do make it off the mountain and reach the others by 7pm.
Luckily there is a water faucet where we can clean ourselves up. After our tents are set up we each make our dinners (Mac‘n‘Cheese with Tuna for me, Nachos Mexican style for Dario) and then soon go to ‚bed‘.
It was definitely not an easy day today. It was also not the first uneasy day out here. Sometimes it is just so hard to keep going. Often it seems so much easier to give up. But this is not the time to give up. All the beautiful and unforgettable moments out here still make it absolutely worth it. So Canada, you just wait, we will come for you. :)
Miles 180 to 187 from Idyllwild to Bushcamp
At 8am a driver, which Speedy managed to organize the day before, comes to pick the five of us up.
After a 15 minutes long drive we reach the trailhead again. It is actually not yet the PCT, as the actual PCT section is closed due to a fire closure.
The trail we hit now is called “The devil's slide” and takes us up from approx 5000 feet (1500 m) to 8000 feet (2400 m) where it crosses the PCT again. It is kind of steep but we manage to climb it all. At the PCT junction we are debating whether we should go further up to the summit of Mount San Jacinto on 10’800 feet (3300 m) or do the “easy way” and stay on the PCT and not have to climb anymore.
We decide to go all upwards to the top of Mount San Jacinto. After 3 exhausting hours we reach a small hut next to the summit where our friends Speedy, Wizard and the Prodigal (Brad) are already waiting for us.
We stay at the hut, have some lunch and are listening to Wizard playing our new trail song “You’re welcome” on her Ukulele. :)
After spending an hour at the hut we all climb the actual summit. What a view! Absolutely amazing!
After taking several beautiful and some very funny pictures (freedom of the ass) we begin our descent and set up camp after 3 more hours.
What a day filled with music, views, funny pictures and awesome friends!
Miles 0 (Zero-Day). Idyllwild.
Today is the first day we get to sleep in in a really long time. But then when you get up at 5am for days on end you can‘t expect to be able to sleep until 10am. So at 7am we are awake and listen to Doc getting ready for the day as he is already leaving Idyllwild today and doesn‘t zero with us. Luckily we convince Speedy to stay with us. ;-) Before Doc leaves they storm into our bedroom for a last group selfie as we don‘t know when the 5 of us will see each other again. You can see that beautiful picture below. ;-)
We then try to sleep a little longer but then decide to get up as we have quite a few things to do. After a delicious breakfast of pancakes and fruits we head to the library to use the laptops and do our e-banking. Then we do our resupply shopping for the next section to Big Bear, which should take us about 5 days. Resupplying is madness and definitely not my favorite part of thruhiking. Imagine you go to a supermarket and just buy all the unhealthy and precooked and ultralight products for 5 days, 3 meals a day, for 2 people. Yaaaay so much fun! So after that fun part of the day we go back to our cabin, where Dario gets started on dinner prep for 9 people (Spaghetti Bolognese and Pesto for the vegetarians) while I pack all the food in our bags and organize our stuff.
After a delicious meal, beers and red wine we clean up together and then start heading to bed as it‘s long past hiker midnight. ;-)
Tomorrow we are off again, climbing Mount San Jacinto at approx. 10‘800 feet. I‘ve been looking forward to climbing this mountain for a long time!
Miles 158.4 to 180. Tunnel Spring to Idyllwild.
The alarm clock goes off at 3.45am. It‘s so dark and cold outside and so difficult to get out of the warm and cozy sleeping bag. But here we go, at the end of this day we will be in Idyllwild, freshly showered and fed. So let‘s do this.
We leave Tunnel Spring at 4.35am and climb up the hill we came down from the previous night. Fortunately it isn‘t half as bad to climb it than to descend it. After 10mins we are back on the PCT and we can already see the sun light in the far east. It looks beautiful. And off we are, hiking fast, Wizard leads the way and Dario and I follow closely. We stop for an extended breakfast of oatmeal, cliff bars and trail mix before climbing even higher. The views are breathtaking and I am enjoying every second of it. Can‘t stop smiling. Just pure happiness. As the day goes on we get a little tired but Idyllwild is coming closer and we are just so pumped to get into town. Food! Shower! Laundry! And our friends who are hiking so fast! We book a cabin at the Silver Pines Lodge and Doc and Speedy who are already in Idyllwild go directly to the hotel and make sure we get a cabin large enough for all of us.
Due to a fire in 2013 the PCT is closed from mile 168 to 177. We take the alternate route called Spitler Peak Trail at mile 168. The first two miles crush us. It is sooo incredibly steep, yet the views are fascinating! After a total of 17 miles hiked that day we arrive at highway 74. There another hiker called Rob who we have been leapfrogging with is picked up by his wife Rose. We are lucky to arrive around the same time as him and can catch a ride with them to Idyllwild.
When we arrive the joy of seeing Speedy and Doc again is huge! Immediately we hand over all our dirty clothes to be washed, take a looong and hot shower and catch up with the others. Our cabin is so cute and cozy! Once we get our clean clothes back we go to a pizza place and take the pizzas home to eat with a bottle of red wine. We end that amazing day in front of the TV watching Friends. What a time to be alive!
Miles 144 to 158.4. Bushcamp to Tunnel Spring.
We slept so well and because we made it so far last night (new miles record) we allow ourselves a sleep in until 6.30am. We then get up and together with Wizard are quickly packed up and ready to go.
Today the PCT takes us to another beautiful hilly area, but first we get to have a shower on a trail angel‘s property. Mary lives there and has installed a bucket shower facility for us stinky hikers. The shower is ice cold but feels amazing. In fact, this shower makes me feel so good I will never forget it! Refreshed and feeling new born we get going again. But still I am kind of not feeling it today. Yesterday was so good, today I am not in a hiking mood. My feet hurt. But what can we do. We need to make it to Canada at some point, so yeah, suck it up and let‘s go anyway! And what‘s great about today is that we get to have lunch at the Paradise cafe.
We timed our arrival precisely to give us enough time before they close at 3pm and make it there by 1pm after hitching the one mile from the trailhead to the cafe. The burgers which are supposedly the best on the entire PCT don‘t disappoint. Soon we are joined by Brad who keeps showing up at the most unexpected times and we spend like 2.5 hours at the Cafe filling our bellies with delicious food.
Then it is time to leave and we hitch a ride back to the trailhead. The hiking is slow, it‘s hot and we are all not up for it. We hike nevertheless and make it to Tunnel Spring as planned. But Tunnel Spring is located 0.5 miles down from the trail, it‘s very steep and rocky, we are tired and it‘s getting dark. We make it to the bottom where we get water from the spring and filter it all. Then we collapse in our tents. It‘s a cold night, but we (Wizard, Brad and us) are snuggled in our warm sleeping bags and falling asleep quickly.
Miles 124.9 to 144. From Bushcamp to other Bushcamp.
We started not too early in the morning at approx 6:30am. We woke up in a cloud of fog which disappeared shortly after getting up. After that it turned out to be a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cold.
We walked several miles until reaching “Mike’s Place”. A guy called Mike (apparently a more or less famous punk rock musician) placed about three houses there, serving pizzas and other stuff. We decided to just get some water at the large water tank as we heard the place is a little weird. We there met Manuel again, an Austrian hiker who spent the night at Mike’s - he confirmed that the place was awkward. He told us, that Mike himself wasn’t there - instead of him his even more weird caretaker served them. At some point of the evening, so Manuel was telling us, the caretaker brought a running chainsaw and put it on the table without saying a word...
Anyways, while filtering the water we met Naomi again. She knew that we started just a few miles ahead of her and so she began hiking really early to catch up with us.
She told us that since yesterday she was having some issues with her knees and was now walking with a tree branch / stick. We gave her our knee sleeves which we hadn’t used yet, and some voltaren creme.
From now on the three of us kept on hiking together.
Naomi was also wearing a Gandalf like hat, in combination with her walking stick, she looked like a wizard. So we decided her trail name would be wizard of Oz (Aus) as she is also australien.
For lunch we stopped at a dry creek and found some shade under the bushes.
After finishing my so far favorite trail food, mashed potatoes, we continued hiking. We really wanted to reach a water cache on mile 143.1 as we were slowly running out of water.
We actually managed to do that and did another mile until reaching our campsite at mile 144. Naomi needed to have a break some hours before to treat her knees so we got there without her. But surprisingly she somehow managed to get there too, so the three of us were reunited at the end of the day.
Miles 109.5 to 124.9. Warner Springs to bushcamp.
Such a fun night yesterday and a surprisingly good sleep in tent city! Unfortunately there is still no water when we get up. So no shower, no laundry. We are still as dirty as before we arrived in Warner Springs. But there is supposed to be a creek with water soon so we quickly pack our packs and get going.
We make good time, it‘s rather flat in the meadows and it‘s still cloudy and thus not too hot. We soon arrive at the creek and wash our clothes (and Dario ;-)) in it. The sun has now come out and our clothes are already drying. We start walking up and down again, there are a lot of green bushes and trees and we find a nice shady spot to have lunch. This is so awesome! Dario makes us mashed potatoes and mac‘n‘cheese and we are having the best lunch break. It‘s Mother‘s Day and we call our moms to wish them well. :-)
We continue hiking around 3pm and I start listening to an audio book. Times flies by this way and it‘s awesome to be listening to an interesting story but still take in the beautiful surroundings. It feels very serene. Dario soon is way ahead of me, we only meet again at our designated campsite for the night. It‘s still light out and we quickly set uo camp to enjoy dinner (Mountain House Pad Thai for me and some Mexican bean dish for Dario) in the last rays of sun. It‘s the most beautiful campsite so far and we are very aware of how privileged we are right there and then.
Miles 101.1 to 109.5. Water Spring to Warner Springs.
We start our hike early in the morning, knowing that Speedy, Naomi and Doc are already there, sending us hilarious pictures of them wearing nice dresses and suits while waiting for the laundry to get finished. That is a common thing along the PCT, when you need to do laundry there are always some cloth people donated, that you can wear while doing laundry. That way you can laundry all your clothes.
It was a foggy and cloudy day, temperatures had fallen to approx 10 degrees. The PCT took us over some beautiful meadows and valleys until we reached the so called “Eagle Rock” - a stone formation that looks (who had thought it) like an eagle. We took some pictures there and went on for the last 4 miles until reaching Warner Springs in the morning.
We went straight to the community center, officially a school they turned into a kind of hiker town. We put our tent under a big trees next to the other 30 tents and were ready to take a bucket shower and to wash our very dirty clothes. Unfortunately half an hour earlier some water tube had broken so there was no water at all!
We decided that there was just one reasonable solution to this - go to the restaurant and have some good food :)
So that’s what we did. Arriving there we met the Koreans and Thibaud again and has lunch all together.
In the afternoon we spent some time at the still no water having community center and met again with Speedy, Naomi and Doc.
Later we decided to go again to the restaurant, where we spent a really funny evening with all the guys. At the end, Rhonda the waitress offers us some beers and we walking all together towards the community center aka hiker town and prepared our gear for heading out the next day.
Miles 83.5 to 101.1 Bushcamp to water spring.
The last night was absolutely horrible.
The camp site was located on a ridge and it got really windy. I couldn‘t fall asleep as the wind kept howling around me and I was a little worried because we hadn‘t put the rainfly on. I kept moving around and suddenly I feel my back go tense and a sharp pain running through my shoulder making it suddenly really hard to breathe. I start looking for painkillers but get a little panicky when I can‘t find them. Dario is already asleep and I realize I really need some help here since I am suddenly unable to move without this sharp pain when I‘m breathing in. I manage to wake him up and give him quite a shock because I‘m in such a state of panic. He gets the pills and holds me, rocking me and calming me down. After an eternity I can breathe normally again but can‘t fall asleep because now I am really worried that I can‘t carry my 12kg pack the next day. The wind keeps picking up and we get really worried about our laundry hanging outside. Dario runs out, grabs the laundry, puts the rainfly on the tent and we finally manage to get a couple hours of sleep. But there is no way that we can get up at 3am like we planned. So instead we sleep in until 6.30am when I am luckily feeling much better. Dario takes most of my gear and I manage to move with about 6kg on my back.
We soon make it to the water source where Dario takes on even more weight in liters and we keep going until 6.30pm. It turns out to be our longest day yet. 18 miles! And the promise of a shower in the morning because we will then be reaching Warner Springs. So even though it was a dreadful start to the day we made the best of it and came out on top! :-)
Miles 76.3 to 83.5. Stagecoach RV to bushcamp.
In the morning we woke up in the RV park. Apparently there was a religious convention taking place on the same day. So there was us, a lumpy group of hikers, barely dressed, surrounded by all these religious people.
After having a shower and getting all these weird looks a trail angel named “Ghost” picked us up and drove us (Maya, Naomi aka Warrior, Speedy, Doc & me) to the town of Julian.
Julian is a small town, founded 150 years ago when there was a big gold discovery in this area.
So first we went directly to a restaurant having our first real breakfast. We both had a delicious Omelette - wow, was that good!
In the afternoon we all went to a small shop for resupplying. Unfortunately Maya and I bought nearly all our food in the more expensive of the two shops in town.
There was a nice park in the middle of town, so we all spent the afternoon there, having some beers and some glasses of wine.
After finishing the bottle and the cans it was time to hit the trail again.
It took us several attempts to get a hitch back to the trailhead, we finally got lucky and a friendly woman, let’s call her Kayla (I’m terrible with names) drove us back 15 miles to the trail.
We started at approx 4pm, the trail would take us all the way upwards. After hiking some three hours more we decided to call it a day and set up camp in a nice though little windy spot in the mountains. We decided that it was not necessary to put up the rain fly, as we were enjoying the cool breeze.
After half an hour suddenly the Koreans and Thibaud arrived at the same camp site, not knowing we were there! That’s the cool thing about the PCT- somehow somebody you know always shows up :)
So we had dinner, hung up some laundry, went to bed happily and fell asleep soon.
Miles 59.8 to 76.3. Bushcamp to Stagecoach Trails RV
We both slept quite well under the starry sky but knowing what lies ahead of us today has getting us up rather early, and by 5.30am we are already hiking again. This area is really pretty, it‘s all green and hilly and we are both feeling fine. But according to the weather channel this is gonna be an incredibly hot day with the thermometer reaching well over 40 degrees celsius.
And very soon indeed we are so hot, the stretch is completely shadeless and very dry. We can’t even take a break for the lack of shade. In moments like these the PCT feels so merciless. As we are walking we discuss our options for the night. The little town of Julian is a possibility but we would want to get a room there and don‘t really feel like standing in the midday sun and look for an affordable hotel. The Stagecoach Trails RV would be another option and we know that our friends are headed that way and might even already be there. In the afternoon we decide to go for the Stagecoach place and call up Doc (real name Michaël) and ask him if he could possibly order us some food because we are not gonna make it there during opening hours. He agrees right away and now knowing that delicious food, fresh food, not some ramen noodles meal is waiting for us at the end of this very tough stretch we feel energized and almost start running up the neverending trail. For 5 minutes. Then I run completely out of energy and break out in tears. Dario tries to make me walk but I‘d rather not move at all and feel miserable. I agree to walk for 20 seconds and take a 20 second break, this goes on for like an hour. We don‘t make it very far, and our ordered burgers are sliding away in my imagination.
Finally the sun has some mercy and it starts to cool down. We gather ourselves for the last time and quickly make it down the trail and once we get to the road we are facing our first hitch. We are so exhausted and hope a car will soon stop for us. Not even exagerating, two minutes later we are sitting in a truck, the window is open, it’s so windy and I am feeling so grateful and incredibly happy. I can‘t stop grinning. Another 5 minutes later Doc welcomes us with open arms and our burgers. They are cold by now but I will forever remember the taste of this burger. It was probably the best I‘ve ever had. As the sun is setting we take a quick swim in the pool, our feet can‘t believe their luck. We then set up our tent, spend some time with this amazing group of people and soon climb into the sleeping bag. Freshly showered, completely exhausted but so so happy.
Miles 42 to 59.8. Mount Laguna to Bushcamp.
We started at Mount Laguna at 7am still a little tired from the exhausting day before. The trail went for about two hours through a pine forest. We have never seen such big pine cones! They are absolutely gigantic!
After the pine forest all of a sudden we are standing in front of this gorgeous view over the entire valley! It was for sure one of the most amazing views I have ever seen! It was like walking through a beautiful painting.
Shortly after we took a 4 hours long lunch break in the shades having this stunning view all over the valley.
We decided to walk another 6 hours. But before we had to refill our water bottles. No water for the next 28 miles! So we filtered 16 liters of water and started our onward journey.
The trail took us over a high mountain with another stunning view. The place was so beautiful that a local MC decided to put memory plates of their passed members there.
After the mountain we hiked another 3 hours until approx. 7 pm. Maya wanted to set camp there but I was all over hiking some more miles until mile 59.8 as we would then reach the 100 km marker.
It turned out that I underestimated the trail at this point, I was expecting it going all downwards. I couldn’t be more wrong. So the remaining hours became very painful and hiking during the night did not make it easier.
Nevertheless we reached mile 59.8 at 9:30 pm and found a bunch of other hikers already sleeping there. To get to bed faster we decided to cowboy camp (sleeping under the stars in the sleeping bag, no tent). And after probably 30 seconds we fell asleep.
Miles 26 to 42 . Boulder Oaks to Mount Laguna.
Today we get up around 4am and are ready to leave by 4.45am. We are facing an all day upwards climb to Mount Laguna and want to try to evade some of the heat by starting early. In the morning we both feel really good, like we are able to take on everything. The landscape is rather green but it‘s mostly bushes, so again, we are missing some shade and soon start taking short minute breaks whenever we find a high enough tree. We decide to take our lunch break at a water source at mile 37.8. Unfortunately there was no shade there and we had to build our own shade with the footprint of our tent. Which didn‘t really provide us with the shade we actually needed and therefore didn‘t cool us down properly. The last climb up to Mount Laguna nearly had me breaking down. I was just too hot and my shoulders hurt from the weight of my pack. Again Dario was able to pick me up and motivated me to finish the last couple miles of the day. We finally arrived in the Mount Laguna campground when there was still daylight and got our first shower which was amazing!!! Some other hikers we had met before had made it to the store when it was still open, so we just sat in the sun, had some wine, beers and excellent company. I am already digging the people we‘ve met on trail so much! So much laughter, so much support and so much compassion for that crazy thing we‘re doing here. I am not gonna lie, it‘s been brutal so far. But also absolutely beautiful. We are both hurting from sore muscles, heavy packs and blistery feet. But evenings like this one and views like we‘ve had today make it absolutely worth it.
Miles 15.4 to 26. Hauser Creek to Boulder Oaks.
We started fairly early about 5am from Hauser creek. It got pretty cold at night, so when we started, the temperature still was like 6 degrees.
For the first two hours, we had to climb 500 meters to reach the lake morena plateau.
On the way there we met a Korean couple, they had run out of water and were desperate to get some. So we gave them like half a liter of our remaining water.
After a while we reached the plateau. From there it was another 2.5 hours of hiking until reaching Lake Morena. At approx 9:30 we arrived at the local store where we met Fiona and Sonja again.
At the store we resupplied and ate a delicious breakfast.
After we met with Melanie, a very friendly girl from Germany and we spent the afternoon together with her laying on the fairly green grass in the shades.
At 3 pm we left, Melanie stayed at Lake Morena for the night.
The afternoon walk became very exhausting because the temperature rose up to 35 degrees.
After walking another 6.3 miles we reached Boulder Oaks at approx 7 pm.
You have to imagine Boulder oaks like a small campsite with a stinky restroom and most importantly a running faucet!
There we meet for the first time with Greg (later “Speedy) from France, Thibaud from Belgium, and Kim and Lin from Korea, the couple we gave water to earlier that day.
After having putting up the tent and having dinner we fell asleep very quickly.
Miles 0-15.4. Campo to Hauser Creek
Finally, the day has come, our starting date of the PCT! We get up at 4.45am which is fairly easy with our jetlag. After a quick breakfast about 25 hikers get inside the vans and we drive to the Mexican border. As we drive there we can already see the Southern Terminus monument right next to the border fence. What an epic moment! A journalist is there to ask a couple of questions for a magazine piece and then we get our pictures taken in front of the Southern Terminus. We write a poetic sentence in the trail register and then off we are. It‘s 8am by now, there‘s a light breeze, the sun is shining and the scenery is already breathtaking. Soon it gets much hotter and we pull out our umbrellas. We keep leapfrogging with two Swiss girls, Fiona and Sonja, all day and we are all already suffering from the heat we are not used to (we‘ve just been through a cold Swiss winter after all). We hardly eat any lunch as the heat is really getting to us. We just try to stay hydrated and take it step by step. We are already way up in the mountains, no civilization around us. Finally, by 6pm we arrive at the tentsite where most hikers have already set up their tents. Dario sets up everything because at that stage I am feeling really nauseous and completely exhausted. He eats a dehydrated mountain house meal but I can‘t be bothered with food. 9pm, so-called hiker midnight is approaching fast. I think by 9.05 we are fast asleep under the stars in Hauser Creek. What a hot and intense first day!
We left Switzerland last Tuesday and arrived in Los Angeles on the same evening. We were lucky to stay at Maya's awesome uncle Kuki‘s house in the city for the first night. We were quite exhausted from the trip (Zurich-Istanbul-LA) and jetlagged and were asleep by 9pm. The next day he kindly drove us to the rather miniature train station in „Van Nuys". From there we took the Amtrak train to San Diego.
San Diego looks like a great place! We have booked a lovely hotel and enjoyed a delicious dinner (thanks L&S!!!), however, we did not see much of the city, as we were already picked up on Thursday morning to spend the last two days at Scout and Frodo‘s, two so-called "trail angels" who had hiked the trail before and are hosting aspiring PCT thruhikers every year. 1100 this year. For free. They don‘t accept donations for the free rides, meals and beds and just ask for a donation to the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association). They are incredibly generous people. In fact, the generosity we‘ve experienced here so far has rendered us quite speechless. We really couldn‘t have asked for a better place to stay to prepare for such an adventure!
At the moment 33 hikers live here with us. About 25 of them live in 5 large tents, which were set up in the garden especially for this purpose.
Maya and I had the luck that we were divided into one of the 3 rooms and so we (ok only me) were spared a synphony in 25 snore acts.
The atmosphere here is really cool! For the first time we are not considered absolute lunatics for taking on this trail, but find ourselves as part of this amazing hiking community. It feels really good. :)
Today we got some last small purchases like trail mix etc. and shipped a large resupply box ahead on the trail. The bags are packed, we are ready. Tomorrow is the big day, the start of this great journey we’ve dreamed about for so long. After a one hour ride we will be standing in front of the Southern Terminus of the PCT and the adventure can begin!
Seit letztem Dienstag sind wir nun unterwegs. Zuerst übernachteten wir bei Mayas Grossonkel Kuki. Dieser fuhr uns netterweise dann am Mittwoch Morgen an den doch eher überschaubaren Bahnhof "Van Nuys" . Von hier fuhren wir dann mit dem Amtrac Zug nach San Diego.
Sehr viel von der Stadt haben wir nicht gesehen, da wir bereits am Donnerstag Morgen abgeholt wurden um bei Scout & Frodo, zwei der sogennanten "Trail Angels", die letzten beiden Tage bis zum Start zu verbringen.
"Frodo" (Trailname), die mit bürgerlichem Namen Sandy heisst, erzählte uns dann, dass dieses Jahr geschlagene 1'100 Hikers innerhalb von 7.5 Woche bei ihnen gratis und franko eine Unterkunft inkl. 3 Mahlzeiten bekommen! Echt krass, so eine Grosszügigkeit gibt's wohl nur hier in den USA.
Momentan hausen hier mit uns zusammen 33 Hikers. Etwa 25 davon wohnen in 5 grossen Zelten, welche extra dafür im Garten aufgestellt wurden.
Maya und ich hatten das Glück, dass wir in eines der 3 Zimmer eingeteilt wurden und uns (ok nur mir) somit eine Synphone in 25 Schnarchakten erspart blieb.
Die Atmosphäre hier ist echt cool! Jemand meinte, hier wirst du erstmals nicht als Spinner angeschaut - ausser du nimmst zu viel Gepäck mit :)
Heute besorgen wir noch die letzten kleineren Einkäufe, wie Trail Mix (aka Studentenfutter), Schnur usw. bevor es dann morgen um 05:30 AM per Autofahrt zum Start endlich, endlich losgeht. Nach einer guten Stunde sollten wir dann vor dem Southern Terminus stehen und das Abenteuer beginnt!!