Date: April 30, 2017
Miles: 15.4, from Campo to Hauser Creek
Health: Good. Little concerned about the flu, but I think I should be fine.
We woke up at 3am, I hit the shower and shaved my face one last time. After a quick breakfast we were on the road at 3:50am. It was pitch black as we drove from San Diego towards the Mexican border and Campo.
After a little wondering around and a quick run-in with the border patrol, we found the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. I signed the trail register, I was the second to leave on April 30th, and we took the mandatory Terminus photos at the monument and then it was time to start my journey towards Canada.
We said our goodbyes with Mikko, he started heading back to San Diego and I took my first steps along the PCT in complete darkness. Standing at the monument and starting the hike felt surreal. I had been planning for this exact moment for over a year and now it was actually happening.
From Campo to Hauser Creek
Most hikers starting from Campo aim to reach either Hauser Creek at Hauser Canyon, 15 miles from the border, or push the 20 miles to Lake Morena which is a small camping area with a small store and a restaurant.
My plan was to hike the 15 miles to the Hauser Creek and sleep there, as the huge climb out of the canyon is notoriously hot and steep, and doesn't have any shade. So I was planning on doing the climb early next morning when it's still cold and make it to Lake Morena for breakfast.
The start of the desert
The beginning of the trail was quite uneventful. You basically hike back to the small road, then follow along it, and after about an hour, turn towards the hills and head to the desert.
Once there, the desert was everything I was expecting it to be. And more. It was hot, beautiful, full of life, and hot. Not like a sauna hot, but dry hot. You don't actually sweat as the moisture simply evaporates immediately.
Hiking in the early morning was easy as the air was still cold from the night before. But once the clock started to approach ten o'clock, the heat started to feel unbearable.
Chromedome to the rescue
I don't know what I would've done without my umbrella. Having something to shield yourself from the sun was invaluable.
As the day progressed, I met other hikers, and kept leapfrogging with few who had the same pace as I did. Eventually settled in to a rhythm with a hiker called Blue, and we crushed the last of our 15 miles quickly to make it to the cover of Hauser Canyon by 2pm. Hauser Canyon still has a running stream and trees that provide shade from the beating sun.
Although I didn't see a rattlesnake all day, and I was really keeping my eyes out, we had a snake crawl straight through the middle of our camp.
We spend the rest of the day laying in the shade and welcoming other hikers who kept coming all day and all evening. By the hiker midnight, there where about 15-20 people camping by the Hauser Creek.
I really didn't want to push any further today as I'm still recovering from the flu, and the climb out of Hauser Canyon in the evening sun would have been crushing. Instead I'm going to wake up at 4am, do the 5 mile / 8km climb when it's still cold outside. And make it to Lake Morena for breakfast and resupply early enough to still crush another 10 miles before it gets too hot.
I'm hoping to do another 15 mile day tomorrow. This way I could make it 43 mile trip to Mount Laguna by Tuesday, making it easy 15/15/13 mile days.
So far bringing the umbrella was a great idea. I, and others with umbrellas, felt sorry for those who had to hike in the beating sun all day without any shade or protection.
Bringing 6 liters of water was too much. We crossed at least 5 flowing streams and even without filling up, I had almost half of the water when we got to Hauser Canyon. I'm going to start tomorrow with 1 liter and refill at Lake Morena.
The liners in my shorts had to go. I got some serious butt chafing by mile 10, and had to wobble to Hauser Canyon because I really didn't feel like stripping bottomless on the trail. I either have to find a trail town that sells underwear, or I'm going to be the guy showing Willy all trail long.