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Day 1: Off to a Good Start

Posted by on May 2, 2015
May 1, 2015
Mexico border (0) to Campsite on trail before Lake Morena (12.5)
12.5 miles today
12.5 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,485 ft / – 1,170 ft


We couldn’t have asked for a better first day. Don, my mom, and I left La Jolla this morning full of first day jitters and more than ready to finally hit the trail. We’re a bit embarrassed to admit this, but with food, water, and fuel all factored in, our starting pack weights were 40 pounds for Don and 38.5 pounds for Rochelle. And we tried so hard to be ultralight! I guess part of the adventure will be paring down our supplies.  

Once at the Mexican border, we took our obligatory photos at the PCT Southern Terminus and then said goodbye to my mom and started walking toward Canada. Our plan is to keep our mileage low to start and then increase it once our bodies are more conditioned. So, we’ve planned for 12 miles these first few days, then we’ll meet my mom at Mt. Laguna for a re-ration, then 4 15-mile days to Warner Springs, and then we’ll go from there. Don and I made the mistake of starting out too hard on our cross-country bike tour, and paid for it with terribly painful knee problems that nearly ended the trip, so we’re trying to learn from the past and be smart about how we treat our bodies. 

It was a hot day today, probably over 90 degrees, and we’re on an 18.5 mile waterless stretch, which means Don and I each carried 10 pounds of water to start, and still felt parched almost all day. But the environment was not nearly as desolate or dry as we were expecting. Nor were there crazy swarms of hikers (and their trash) around every bend. With permits for the PCT numbering over 2,000, we were pretty nervous about how the first few weeks of hiking might look. In reality, though 50 hikers may have started out at the border today, we only ran into 11, and they were all very pleasant and “in the zone”. Everyone took a long midday break during the hottest part of the day, so we had the pleasure of mingling with 4 other guys before everyone picked their own pace and we all dispersed.  

We did meet one less-than-pleasant guest right around mile 3. We had only been hiking for around an hour when I looked down and spotted a rattlesnake just a few feet in front of me. We quickly backed up, at which point the kinda-slow snake began rattling his tail and slithered away into the bushes. It was a great welcome to the trail and an important reminder that we need to always stay alert. Other critters we spotted included horny toads, lizards, another type of snake, and a few ticks. 

Needless to say, it was a bit hard stopping after just 12 miles when so many other hikers were going on, but when we saw our campsite, we knew it was meant to be. Now we’re all settled into our mansion of a tent (the Big Agnes Copper Spur 3), protected from the swarming flies, and basking in the first of many post-hike endorphins.  

Day one and Don and I are right in our element and as content as could be. We’re looking forward to making dinner, reading some John Muir aloud, perhaps listening to a little music, and then getting the kind of sleep that only comes when you’re cozied up in a sleeping bag under the stars.

8 Responses to Day 1: Off to a Good Start

  1. Joshua Grubb

    12.5 miles is definitely a sensible start, Rochelle. I finished my first day at Lake Morena (20.5 miles), which later proved to have been pushing it too hard. Not to mention that it is indeed tricky to start off with < 35lb pack weight, but in time you will get there. I look forward to future posts.

    • Rochelle

      Thanks for reading Josh! The pack-weight is an ever evolving issue. Can’t wait to talk to you more about this trail!

  2. Helenty Hagen

    What a wonderful first day minus the rattler!

  3. Tanya Richardson

    I loved reading this and am looking forward to reading more. You made a smart decision and will have plenty of time to determine a pace. October will be here before we know it!

    Love to you both!

    • Adam Dresser

      Hey, good to see you on the trail. I am in Wrightwood, about four weeks ahead of you. I also started extremely slowly (4 tens to Mt Laguna) and I think that’s the only way I was able to not injure myself. Slow absolutely works! You just have to put in more hours a day.

      I know you guys are experienced backpackers, but I have really learned about pack weight this last month. Under 15 pounds I fly down the trail, over 25 I plod with my head down. First thing I would say is ditch the tent unless the forecast calls for rain. And you’ll learn how heavy water is. You don’t want to carry too much, but you don’t want to carry too little either. I’m drinking about a liter every four miles.

      I’m sure you guys will do great and I can’t wait to read about it!

      • Rochelle

        Hey Adam! Long time no talk! So cool to hear you’re on the trail too this year. You’re right, pack weight makes all the difference. We love our tent too much to get rid of it…but we’re working on making other little sacrifices. Good luck and maybe we’ll see you on the trail at some point!

    • Rochelle

      Thanks so much Tanya! It’s great to hear you’re reading the blog…makes us feel so much more connected to you guys:) Miss you!

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