Update from PCT Mile 342

Sandy provides an update on our PCT progress.

We are at Cajon Junction, mile 342 on the Pacific Crest Trail, and at the end of four weeks of trekking. Already in that time we have hiked through a variety of weather, including rain, fog, gusty winds, a snowstorm, and temperatures in the 90s.

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Sandy hiking through the snow near Big Bear, CA

Along the way we have been treated to the beauty of the Southern California desert, with brief interludes in the San Jacinto and San Bernardino Mountains. 

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Beginning our hike at the Mexican Border

We began from the Mexican border on April 17, near the town of Campo, CA. With the increase in the amount of rain this winter we have seen a super bloom of desert flowers as we hiked. Red, yellow, pink, white, and purple flowers have been on display as we trekked through landscapes of scrub brush, cactus, oak, and manzanita trees.

We have heard the howls of coyotes at night, glimpsed lizards and horned toads, and come across several snakes in our path, three bring rattlers. Our highest elevation thus far was about 9,000 feet for a short time in the San Jacinto Mountains. Because we are primarily in the desert, we need to be cognizant about water, sometimes carrying up to 13 liters between us as we move to reliable sources.

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Rattlesnake encountered on the trail

With almost a month of PCT trekking under our belt, we have developed a routine. A typical day for us starts with the sound of birds waking us up at sunrise. After coffee / tea and some bars for breakfast, we take down our tent and pack up. We generally hit the trail between 7:30 and 8:00 am. Once a week we treat ourselves to a hot breakfast, either oatmeal or powdered eggs and canned ham.

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Sandy eating powered eggs

After about two hours we stop for a snack and some “energy tea.” Each night we put a tea bag in a liter bottle and let it cold brew. In the morning we add electrolyte tablets and natural juice flavor packets. We then add water to create two liters and divide the mixture between us. It is a nice change from drinking just plain water and gives us energy for any uphill climbs we have that day.

Between noon and 1:00 pm we stop for lunch, focusing on finding a shady place to sit. We usually have some kind of protein (tuna or pepperoni) on a tortilla or bagel. Accompanied with that are dried fruit and peanut M&Ms. Add more energy tea for good measure and we are off for the afternoon.

By 4:00 pm most days we have chosen a campsite and set things up for the night. I get the tent and bedding organized while Darren does the cooking. We put together a series of eight different dinners before we left with purchased dehydrated ingredients, so our meals range from six bean chili to pasta with beef to Pad Thai with rice noodles and peanuts. As the sun sets we are in our tent ready to sleep and start hiking again the next day.

The trail itself provides a continual challenge. One day we may gain thousands of feet and the next day lose it all. There are places where we have to climb over downed trees or step carefully on an eroded trail with large dropoffs. But for all that the trail throws at us, we are doing well with just a couple of blisters and achy legs and feet each night.

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Desert vista from the trail

At Cajon we are now slightly less than halfway to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, one of the jewels of the PCT. But we are finding time now to enjoy the 700 miles of desert trail and all that it has to offer.

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Sunrise over our camp

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4 comments on “Update from PCT Mile 342
  1. David Warady says:

    Great update. Love the stories and photos.

  2. John D. Fahland says:

    Awesome. What a journey. Look forward to your continued updates as can be provided.