Campo (Mexican Border) to Mount Laguna

posted in: Pacific Crest Trail | 0

Day 1: Campo to Lake Morena

We knew we were in for a big day to start the PCT. We knew there were over 20 miles (~32km) between water access points. We didn’t want to carry enough water for two days so decided to go for the full 20 miles.

What we didn’t realise was the extent that this hike would destroy us. It turns out hiking 20 miles on day one is really really hard.

When you’re in Team Steamroller you take pride in constantly passing people. You also take pride in not stopping much. Most stops are just long enough to drink some water or in this case Loser Juice (Gatorade).

It also turns out using the Steamroller approach for 20 miles on day one results in feeling like you might pass out or throw up (or do both simultaneously) when you get to camp.

Okay, now let’s back track. The day started like most days in Southern California, not a cloud in the sky and driving down a highway. After some careful navigation our lovely chauffeurs, Lorelei’s uncle Clay and partner Amy, brought us to the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail.

PCT Southern Terminus

There were already a couple of people at the terminus preparing to start and more hikers were arriving every couple of minutes. It was immediately clear our expectations about hiker numbers were accurate. For some reason the continuous arrival of hikers made us antsy to set off, so after a couple of photos and accidental videos we were off.

The main features of the first day hiking the PCT were: feeling like the trail was going around in circles, finding the southern California heat and dry air very difficult to hike in, and the soul destroying climb up Hauser Mountain, which ended in a nausea induced rest near the top.

So day one of a six month hike almost killed us. This is going to be interesting.

Day 2: Lake Morena to Cibbets Flat

We decided to tone it down for day two, our goal was around 13 miles. There was a relative abundance of water, with a campground halfway. We even saw very slowly running water below the trail at one point.

The day was relatively uneventful, except for meeting a couple of quite large snakes and discovering the joys of resting. We stopped for more than a water break on two occasions and it was marvellous. The main problem was we didn’t want to get up.

Snaky Friend Number 1

We also camped with a lovely couple from Washington who hiked all of the PCT over several sections back in the late 90s. Their stories almost all related to insane and often unseasonable weather. Snow storms in the desert in mid-May, snow storms in Washington in the first week of September, gale force winds on narrow mountain ridges, 40°C heat on long waterless stretches. However, their overwhelming message was that we will have a lot of fun and adventures. Oh, and we should also look out for the Green Mohave Rattlesnake – apparently it is many times more venomous than other rattlers. Sounds delightful, I hope one of those isn’t part of our adventures.

Day 3: Cibbets Flat to Mount Laguna

Our new friends at Cibbets Flat woke us at 5am as promised. We were finally working on our plan to get a few hours of hiking in before the heat of the day. It turns out the 5am start was exactly what we needed. It was refreshingly cold as we made the morning slog back up the hill towards Mount Laguna.

As we ascended we slowly warmed up and the views of distant mountains opened up behind us. It was beautiful.

Mountains in the Morning Light

We saw flowing water for the second time – an exciting event after passing numerous dry creek beds.

What’s more as we approached Mount Laguna Township there was actual forest, and even shade from the trees. It was almost as though we weren’t in a desert.

Actual Forest...OMG

After a relatively quick 10 mile hike we arrived in Mount Laguna for lunch of reheated pizzas at the General Store (delicious!) and purchased our resupply for the next section of the trail.

Once we had our resupply our plan was to wait out the hottest hours of the day and then hike the last five miles to Laguna Campground. What we didn’t factor into this was Lorelei’s boredom…

How could we spend 4 hours waiting for the afternoon just sitting on a shady porch outside a General Store? Lorelei and our new friend Enduro had the answer… BEER.

After only one or two beers suddenly we were having a few laughs with a trio of boys from Texas, a couple from Oregon and Enduro. Whoa, suddenly we were making friends on the trail.

As the afternoon sun eased off we made preparations to start the hike to camp, including buying another half dozen to split three ways. Our first taste of a trail town was coming to an end, but our next leg of the journey was just beginning – Mount Laguna to Warner Springs.