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©2019 Blaine Hoppenrath

Pre Trip 

I was one of the lucky ones.  I had the honor and privilege of staying at Scout and Frodo's.  If you are in the class of 2020 I would highly recommend this (sign up here).  As nice as the luxury of hassle free transportation from the airport and to the trailhead was, the best part about staying there was the people that I met.  As an introvert, this was a great way for me to meet other hikers in the least intimidating way possible.  Some of my best friends on trail I met at Scout and Frodo's and it was comforting to know a few faces before heading out.  

Pre Trip "Should Haves":  Probably should have spent a couple more days actually backpacking, I made a hand full of gear swaps during the trip that I wished I would have made before hand.  My shoes in particular were a size to small and its something that I should have figured out before I hit the trail, but I didn't.  On top of that I was too stubborn to admit that I have four pairs of shoes that we too small and I suffered until Wrightwood with almost catastrophic blisters.

California Section A: Campo to Warner Springs

Seeing the monument at the southern terminus in person was one of the best experiences on the trail.  For me, it mean that I had started, I had done some of the hardest things I had ever had to do just to get to that point.  I had quit my job, my career really, and committed to do something I was pretty sure, but not exactly sure I even liked.  I was never concerned that I would be able to physically finish the hike.  But what if I realized after a month that I actually really hated being on trail?  Spoiler Alert: That never actually happened.  Nevertheless, starting the trail was quite possibly one of the best days of my life.  

The trail out of Campo wasn't terrible, and reminiscent of what most of the desert would be, meandering and wandering though the Southern California mountains. On the first day I made it 15 miles.  I was pretty stoked! It was my goal all along to make it that far, and I did.  For me, it set the tone for the rest of the hike, I knew that if I set a goal then I could make it, every day for the remaining 2,635 miles.  The only downside of the first day, was a giant blister that I got on my foot.  Pellet (on of my Scout and Frodo friends said "don't worry about it, only when its bigger than your thumb should you be worried."  Great advice, minus the fact that it was indeed larger than my thumb.  The blisters would get worse, but I was going to keep walking regardless.  

After the first couple days, the group I was loosely hiking with figured out that the best way to hike the desert was to wake up early, get morning miles in, take a siesta durning the hot afternoon hours, and finish out with some evening miles before camp.  I also got my first of many days of rain within the first 110 miles, reaching the 100 mile mark in a desert downpour.  Finally, after several days, a trip to Julian (for some free pie), and sleeping under a bridge for the first time I passed Eagle Rock and made it to Warner Springs for my first resupply. 

Clockwise from Bottom Left:

1) Sunset going into Julian/Scissors Crossing 2) Southern Terminus 3) Eagle Rock  4) Hiking into Warner Springs 5) Rainbow laving Scissors Crossing 6) Trail in SoCal 7) At an overlook before Laguna Campground

California Section B: Warner Springs to Highway 10

Warner Springs is a great place to "nero" in and out of.  Personally, I loved the hospitality but got bored after about 24 hours there.  Therefore, I left Warner Springs to make the 17 mile hike to Mike's Place.  Know for pizza and table weed, Mike's place was not really my cup of tea, but wasn't terrible either.  Since I got there late I only got one piece of pizza, and settled into a nights sleep.  The next day I hiked to Mary's Place, an oasis with water and poetry, and spent the night before the much anticipated Paradise Valley Cafe. 

It felt great to make it to the cafe and spent a solid six hours and two meals at the place.  The food was Ah-Mazing, and the milkshake totally hit the spot! The scenery after the cafe was great and I, along with the group I was hiking with, were very excited to get to Idylwild for our first zero day!  The two mile side trail into Idylwild was straight downhill, and even though my pack was light, I was not looking forward to the return trip up with a fully resupplied pack.  Regardless, the zero day was unbelievable.  Another rain stormed rolled in and I was grateful to be in a cabin and not out in the woods getting soaked.  

After the day off, we trucked back into the wilderness and found a spot to camp before summiting San Jacinto.  We left our heavy food bags and set off up the mountain.  This was my first time hiking on snow and I was not fast (which would be a common theme thru the Sierra), and eventually I summited with enough time to get off the mountain and set up camp.  The decent from San Jacinto down to I-10 flew by and before I knew it, I was walking in a gusty valley towards the I-10 underpass where a nice cold Dr. Pepper was waiting for me courtesy of some wonderful trail angels.

California Section C: Highway 10 to Highway 15

After leaving the underpass, I didn't make it far before I found the office to the wind farm.  

More musings and writings to come.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from the PCT in SoCal!