Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail-DAY 1 (4/14/16)

Day- 1
Date- 4/14/16
Location- Side of trail
Elevation- 2800 ft
Distance Traveled Today- 5.9 miles
Distance Traveled Total- 5.9 miles
Weather/Temp- clear/60-70
Injuries- none
Pain level- zero
Spirits/Morale- High


I woke up this morning thoroughly not thinking that I was going to start the trail today. I drove 2,500 miles to California without a plan as to what I would do with my car when I got there.  As usual, (and as the Appalachian Trail taught me), if you don’t worry,  panic,  or dwell on negative thoughts,  everything seems to fall into place on its own.

I woke up in the city of Escondido,
thinking that I was going to be spending the day looking for somewhere to store my car,  then procuring a ride down to Campo where the southern terminus of the trail lies, literally within spitting distance of the Mexican border/border wall.

Two days prior I had posted in a Pacific Crest Trail online forum,  asking for suggestions on where to store my car.  I had gotten a few good ones,  but nothing solid that I wanted to commit to.  Around mid morning I received a message from a woman named Christina who said she would store my car for free at her home, and drive us out to the trail head for free; all I had to do was drive 50 miles east of Escondido  to her home in Julian to drop it off.

The blown exhaust that we acquired in the first day of the road trip had done nothing but get worse, which meant that it was constantly getting louder.  By the time we’d reached California,  neither Schweppes nor I could hardly stand to be inside that car.  We’d actually taken to wearing ear plugs.  Besides the noise,  she’d held out and got us this far.

20 miles into our last 50 miles of the road trip,  while winding up through the mountain’s towards Julian, the car overheated for the first time on the trip, and we were forced to pull off the road in a cloud of steam and smoke. We had to wait almost an hour for it to cool down enough to put water in the radiator.


Finally on the road again,  and not 15 miles later,  we begin to overheat again and have to pull over.  We don’t have to wait as long this time, and add water fairly quickly.  The radiator is completely dry again already, making it perfectly obvious that there’s a good leak somewhere.  All of this right at the finish line of the road trip!

One more fill up and we make it to our destination,  switch vehicles, and Christina shuttles us the last 40ish miles down to Campo and the trail.

I felt no anxiety during the drive down, only a calm anticipation, filled with curiosity rather than nervousness.  I didn’t feel the excitement set in until we arrived at the monolith/marker for the start of the trail. That was when the reality of what we were about to do set in; “Walking will be my life again for the next 4 to 6 months.” I couldn’t stop smiling after that.

We got our pictures with the monolith,  bid farewell to our trail angel, then set out northward on this next huge adventure, our sights on Canada some 2,650 miles away…



We started the trail at 4pm and only did 5.9 miles,  but right away I could tell the PCT was going to be different.  Starting out so far, the trail is relatively smooth, with very gradual climbs and descents, cattails, giant boulders, and wirey looking shrubs abounding everywhere around us; hardly any trees at all.  We will be in desert for the next 700 miles.

So far,  it’s not desert like the cliche desert you would picture in your mind. It’s not desolate, there’s no abundance of cacti, and there’s no buffalo skulls with rattlesnakes in them.  It’s very green, breezy, and full of life and sounds,  albeit very, very dry.

Schweppes, the CatFox, and myself are now currently pulled off on the side of the trail, listening to coyotes scream in the dark, and marveling at just how much the temperature dropped when the sun went down.

No trees, so I’m sleeping on the ground, using my hammock as a ground sheet, the stars as my ceiling, and the CatFox curled up next to me.  We’ll see what tomorrow holds….

Go to Day 2.

Go to my book, “Racing Winter on the Pacific Crest Trail


  1. Just finished reading your book Mayor. I especially enjoyed your wrap-up and ‘how I’ve changed’ perspective. what a nice coincidence that you’re off on on a new adventure.

  2. Our mutual friend, Anita, is from the San Bernadino Mountains area…and she agrees with Ian about the subtle beauty of the desert; especially the amount of life that abounds and thrives in such an arid landscape. Adaptation at its best!

  3. Deserts are great to walk through. At first they seem limited, but with time the subtleties bloom. Never easy, but in their own way just as rewarding as mountains and greenery. (Following you from Australia – we do pretty good deserts over here!)

Leave a Reply