Rocking up the trail

Sunday, April 30, 2023

I am sitting under an overpass with the Rocket Surgeons waiting for the temp to cool down a bit more before we head up the hill. There is a guy somewhere near the trail blasting out Van Halen and other such 80s metal on his guitar, serenading us.

We spent most of the day in Julian relaxing, resting our feet some more, and eating. Trying to stock up on calories and hydrate!

I then spent a good 30 minutes taping my feet with leukotape, blister bandages, and bandaids. I still feel the ones on the outsides of my heels, but I think they are starting to callous a bit. Faster please! We’ve all decided we can handle blisters for another week or so, but much longer than that and I’m afraid we’ll go mad.

A trail angel named Ghost drove us back to the trail from town and right after he left, another one, Bad Santa, showed up with beers, Gatorade, oranges, Rice Krispie treats, and red vines! I wisely didn’t partake in the beer, considering we have 14 miles uphill to the next water cache, but I grabbed a Gatorade, an orange, and some snacks.

Bad Santa and his helper, Juan

We are about to take off, but figured I’d get in a quick post while I still have signal. Next resupply is Warner Springs in 32 miles where I pick up my ice axe and Microspikes for Mt San Jacinto, though that’s not for a while still. I’m going to carry them an extra 40 miles further than I really need to, as Paradise Valley Cafe is overrun with packages, so I’m trying to lighten their burden (and not get my package lost in the melee). Cold front coming tomorrow so we are preparing for chilly temperatures!

Into Julian!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

We woke up at 5:30 and hit the trail at about 6:45, trying to be the first hikers to Scissors Crossing at mile 77 and hitch into Julian. Town day!


We had 4 miles to hike and thankfully it was mostly flat. The sun was still hot, even that early in the morning. I had my umbrella up quickly.

Oh, I also got a trail name: Hummingbird.

I was lamenting about how I was already getting tired of bars and that I wish I could just eat my ProBar energy gummies and electrolytes all the time, so I was dubbed with this moniker. I was just going to try it out for a bit, but a few hours later, an actual hummingbird flew up right next to me and hovered within a couple feet of my face before flying off. Hummingbird it is.

When we got to the road, we got our first taste of trail magic! Rayngel the Trail Angel was already waiting to pick us up! No hitch required!

He hiked 1000 miles of the trail in 2019 and takes hikers to and from town all day long. Super nice guy and he just loves helping out hikers.

We got into town 15 minutes later and went straight to the cafe for breakfast. I don’t quite have hiker hunger yet, but I did put a good dent in a very large plate of food. Also the first time I had coffee in 6 days. It was just ok, but I’m a bit of a coffee snob too.


After the Rocket Surgeons picked up their box at the post office, I went to the gear store for some odds and ends (tent stakes, blister bandages, ibuprofen) and they both got new, wider shoes, as their feet have swollen so much that their old ones don’t fit.

I think mine are still ok. I’m going to wear my La Sportivas until the next town (Idyllwild – 100 miles away) and see how they do.

We then went to the brewery and had drinks until we were able to check into our B&B at 3pm. It’s cute, but one of the draws for this particular place was supposed to be free laundry. That is no longer a thing apparently, nor is it a thing anywhere in Julian. Awesome. Sink laundry it is!

Rocket Surgeons

I’ve taken two showers and am about to go to breakfast. Afterwards I’m going to try and get a late checkout so I can organize my food for the next couple of days and pack up. We are going to try and get a ride back to the trail this afternoon and wait out the sun before we hike up into the hills this evening. We have a long section coming up and I probably won’t have good service, so I probably won’t get out a post for a few days.

Let’s keep going!

The Hardest Day Yet

Friday, April 29, 2023

Sorry if those last two posts got transposed. Lack of service makes it tough to get these uploaded accurately. Anyway.

I camped off trail a bit last night, as there were a lot of hikers jockeying for positions. I did see a fox in my search for a site though. Very cool!

There were thoughts of getting all the way to the highway for the hitch to Julian today, but that would’ve been a LONG hike of almost 20 miles. I’m not ready for that yet. Feet still getting used to hiking day in and day out.

That said, I continued hiking with Christina and Nick, whom I have dubbed the Rocket Surgeons (both aerospace engineers), and we continued our trek towards Julian.

Lunch break
Salami, cheese stick, Doritos, and yellowbird habanero

Today was really hard. We all struggled, but made it through. I think we have decided to start getting up earlier, take a siesta during the midday, then hike again in the evening. Just too hot. We found camp around 5pm about four miles before Scissors Crossing among some boulders that offered some shade and shelter.

Nick at camp

Rattlesnakes and Mount Laguna

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

I spent a ton of time writing this originally the other night and wordpress deleted it. So I’m going to do my best to recreate it.

14 miles today. We woke up early and hit the trail after a restful, though windy night. I hiked with Postman and Forerunner (couple from Washington) for the first part of the day and watched the light come down on the mountains and do away with the shadows.

A couple of miles in, we came across our first rattlesnake on the side of a hill.


At least he rattled, unlike the ones I’ve come across in Texas.

Right as we got to the unexploded military ordnance area 😐, we met up with about 5 other hikers and formed a little bubble. We ate lunch together and hiked the rest of the day all the way to Mount Laguna.

Watch your step

Once we hit about 6000 feet, pine trees started to appear. That smell is one of my favorite things. Reminds me of the Sierra.

About a mile before the turnoff for the lodge and campgrounds, I realized I had gotten my first blister. It was on the outside of my left heel, which I had already pre-taped as a preventative measure, though it’s not an exact science.

Blister is under that tape

I lanced it through the tape with a sterilized needle, though I’m sure my wife wouldn’t advise that.

Most of the hikers split a campsite, but my lovely wife had booked me a room for the night at the lodge (motel room really, but hell, I’ll take it!). I checked in and got my first resupply box as well! I was also given a bucket and detergent to wash my clothes in, with explicit instructions to dump the dirty water outside and not down the drain.

Once I had dropped my stuff in my room (including a bag of Epsom salt for a soak later), I went out to the saloon to meet my hiker friends for some drinks and food!

There were some sweet pups there too. I miss mine.

I had a couple of beers, but retired to my room early with my pulled pork bbq sandwich and fries. I ate most of it and left the rest for breakfast. Then it was laundry and bath time.

This is the bucket after only 3 days of hiking.

Tomorrow is back into the woods!

Longest day so far

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Just ate an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies. Hiker hunger already?

I got packed up and ate the rest of my bbq sandwich for breakfast in my motel room in Mt Laguna and got on trail around 9am. I figured the bubble I was with the day before had started way earlier and wondered if I would see them again.

After a couple of miles, I ran into Christina and Nick (sister and brother from Southern California) admiring a view. I joined them and looked out and saw a snow capped mountain. Holy shit, it was San Jacinto! The first 10,000 foot peak of the trail that we are due to traverse in a couple of weeks. I couldn’t believe we could see it this early.

I’m pointing at it, I promise

This would be one of many vast desert views we would have today.

We hiked 11 miles to Pioneer Mail Picnic Area, which was our first water source. At first, it was…not ideal.


Then we read the sign that said to use the top faucet and it ran clear. We still filtered it of course.

We also passed the 50 mile mark! First big milestone and definitely the longest I’ve ever hiked.

We ate lunch and the bubble from yesterday slowly trickled in behind us. They had stayed up too late partying last night and got an even later start than me! I also discovered that peanut butter and jelly tortillas are DELICIOUS.

The spacing of water sources and campsites in this section is not great, so we had to have either a big day today or tomorrow to get to Julian on Saturday. We chose to push today, though my blister on my heel definitely isn’t happy and I had to do more surgery tonight. I’m going to let it air out overnight and see if it heals a bit.

We have another 13 or so tomorrow to get us close to Scissors Crossing, where we make our first hitch into Julian on Saturday morning.


Waterfalls in the desert

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Today was so much better. I woke up around 6:30 and broke camp and immediately climbed 1000 feet out of Hauser Canyon up to Lake Morena. There’s a campground there with a civilized toilet and a malt shop where I hung with some other hikers and got a late breakfast of a turkey sandwich. I’m still not super hungry, but ate half of it then and half tonight for dinner.

I then hiked on and soon met up with a couple from Washington who are around my age and did the northern half of the PCT last year and are finishing it up this year. They were so great to talk to about my bad first day and helped calm my fears immensely.

I used my umbrella most of the day. Today was a long, HOT hike of 13.6 miles with a big climb at the end, but had an amazing payoff.

Just below our campsite tonight, down a pretty steep path, is a waterfall and pool that we bathed and swam in for easily a half hour.

I’ll try to remember to upload the video tomorrow in Mt Laguna where I should have wifi, but here’s some pics.

I’m now in my tent up on the ridge above Interstate 8, listening to the frogs and insects chirping away. It’s a clear, beautiful night and I’m glad today was a different experience entirely.

14 miles (uphill) to Mt. Laguna tomorrow where my lovely wife booked me a cabin! I get to sleep in a real bed only 3 days in!

Goodnight from mile 28.6!

Well that kicked my ass

Monday, April 24, 2023

This post is going to start rough, but it gets better at the end.

I am camped in Hauser Canyon right now with a bunch of other hikers. Honestly, I feel sick.

I don’t know if I’m having an anxiety attack or what, but this isn’t fun on day one. I was recently diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder and I think it is rearing it’s ugly head right now.

I don’t want to worry anyone with this post, but basically I’ve been sick to my stomach since lunch, save the last 3–4 miles where I hiked down to the canyon with a really nice couple from the Netherlands.

I forced myself to eat a bit of a freeze dried dinner, but a lot of it is left in my trash bag for now.

I’m now back in my tent and feeling a lot better after some meditation, talking to my amazing wife on my sat beacon, and holding my little stuffed Biffer that I brought along.

What a crazy day. I’m going to hike up to Morena in the morning (5 miles away, the first two being straight up) and see how I feel. Might spend the night there. Not sure.

Pics from today:

Southern terminus
Stupid wall
First water filter
First camp

I finally calmed down and got some decent sleep. Not great, but decent. I woke up around 6:30, broke camp, stretched, and headed up the 1000 foot climb out of the canyon. This actually went ok and had some great views.

Clouds building in the canyon

I’m now at Lake Morena at the malt shop with a bunch of other stinky hikers, waiting on a turkey sandwich for breakfast. I still am not hungry, but I’m going to try and get some calories.

Hoping to get to Cibbets campground tonight, but that’s about 13 more miles, so I may end up calling it a bit earlier.

Lake Morena

San Diego

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Edit: Disclaimer – Since I am going to start posting regularly from trail now, I wanted to take a minute and say thank you to all who have followed so far. This will be a very personal blog and my goal is to show the good, the bad, and the ugly. There will be cursing. There will be crying. There will be laughing. You have to show all of the experience and that’s what I intend to do. Fair warning.

I hit the trail tomorrow morning. We flew into San Diego on Friday and have spent a couple of days enjoying the weather and the sights. Courtney and both sets of our parents flew out to take me to the southern terminus and see me off on this journey.

We went to REI on Saturday to get fuel for my stove (and of course a couple of other things because I can’t just buy one thing there) and saw the shuttle that takes hikers from San Diego to the southern terminus. Apparently they run a few times a day.

We also drove out to Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument to get another stamp for our national park stamps collection. Great views of San Diego across the water and some old lighthouse history.

Lighthouse steps

Also went to La Jolla and saw some sea lions and a random McClaren at a car show.

That costs like…a lot of money.

Anyway, I’m all packed for a 6am leave time from San Diego tomorrow morning and hoping to actually hit the trail around 7:30 or 8. Let’s do this!

Last Night at Home

Thursday, April 20, 2023

I’m enjoying my last night at home with my wife and my dogs. They got all sorts of treats and new toys for my going away. Going to miss the hell out of these two boys.

Finn (big) and Biff (little)

I packed all my gear into my big Samsonite suitcase and got my next resupply box (with ice axe and microspikes) ready for Court to send when she gets back from San Diego.

Everything I will have in my life for the next few months

Oh, I also shaved my head (!). I used to shave it all the time when I was in my 20s, but grew it out for my wife. But the trail doesn’t care what I look like and I don’t want to have to deal with it.


So that’s it. We are dropping the dogs off at a friend’s tonight and getting up early to fly to San Diego for the weekend. There I will do a couple of last minute errands like buying fuel for my stove and anything else I might decide I need.

Then Monday morning, the 24th of April, I will walk away from the Southern Terminus monument. Surreal.

Final Training Stretch

Sunday, April 16, 2023

I’m currently sitting on my back porch in the morning sun, listening to the birds, throwing Finn’s toy to him, and reading my ultrarunning mental training book. No, I’m not doing an ultramarathon, but the concepts are similar to thru hiking and there’s a lot of crossover.

Yesterday I finished my last training hike. 15 miles out at Lake Georgetown again. It got WAY hotter than forecast (about 95 when I finished) and it was a challenging way to end my training. That said, I feel great today.

I also found out that my Sawyer Squeeze water filter was 100% clogged after being in storage for a couple of years. It is sitting in a vinegar bath right now to try and get it functional again, but after seeing the flow rate on my Katahdyn BeFree (my backup), I think I’ve decided to start with that in the desert and have the Sawyer be my backup instead. The BeFree has gotten really popular on trail in the past couple of years, due to its flow rate and ease of cleaning. Exciting stuff, I know.

I also finally figured out how to keep my umbrella attached and hands free to my pack, which made a HUGE difference in temperature during my hike. That’s a keeper.

Here’s a couple of rambling videos recapping all that.

The rest of this week is finalizing resupply boxes, cleaning gear, and packing for San Diego on Friday!