The Never Ending Climb Out of Warner Springs

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

As I said previously, the breezy fields and easy trail were just a tease. Today was all uphill, all the time. And I turned it into a 19 mile day.

I was again solo hiking, having left the Rocket Surgeons behind. The trail does that. I’m sure I’ll see them again somewhere.

I listened to Dave Grohl’s soothing voice on his autobiography, explaining his wild ass life (I’m pretty sure he’s actually an alien) while I switchbacked up mountain after mountain.

There were some beautiful waterfalls still flowing in this section. Such a great year for the trail in the desert.

Filling up for filtering
PB and J tortilla for lunch

The climb continued after lunch, as did the views.

Fire in the distance. I heard later it didn’t last too long.
More up

I got into one section that was simply hills adorned with massive boulders. I kept an eye out to make sure none of them decided to dislodge and send me to an early doom.


I was heading to Mike’s Place to camp at mile 127. This is another legendary PCT place, but when I got there, I had second thoughts. I knew it was a bit trashy, but it was really more of an old junkyard and there wasn’t a soul to be found anywhere.

It was just downright creepy. Mike wasn’t there and neither were any hikers. Supposedly there are nights where 20-30 hikers stay here. I hung around for an hour and charged my phone a bit (and used the pit toilet, thanks Mike!), but decided there was no way I could sleep here alone.

Have you ever seen Toy Story where the demonic kid next door tortures the toys in his yard? This felt like his yard.

It was 4:30 and I figured I could push hard and get to the next campsite, 5 miles away. I raced the sunset and did make it to the next site with about 30 minutes to spare before sunset. I knew weather was supposed to come in overnight as well.

Trail visible on the side of the mountain

Coltrane After the Rain

Thursday, May 4, 2023

I woke up at 7am to 36 degrees and rain. Not ideal hiking weather. Hell, this was Washington weather. I wasn’t supposed to see this until the end of my hike!

But there was no getting around it, so I waited for a short break in the rain, bailed out of my tent, and put together my wet, muddy pack as quickly as possible. Embrace the suck, as the saying goes.

I wore every piece of rain gear I had. Jacket, kilt, rain mitts, and umbrella. Considering, I stayed relatively dry. Hey, I didn’t carry it all this way for nothing!

The rain finally started to clear around 1pm and my playlist shuffled to one of my favorite Coltrane songs, “After the Rain”. How appropriate.

Needless to say, I didn’t take a ton of pics today. But here’s a few.

Troll hair bush
Drying out my tent on a well placed fence, midday

I hiked to mile 145 to another trail angel water cache. This was Mary’s and she had a water barrel, a little free library, and some cutouts of John Muir, Thoreau, and Whitman along with quotes. Cool little spot that I decided to camp at around 4:30.

L to R: Whitman, Muir, and Thoreau

Camping this early allowed me to use my stove, which I’ve been neglecting, and cook up an amazingly good freeze dried meal from Peak. This is the most expensive of the hiker freeze dried meals, but also the best!

So good

Two other gents strolled into camp about an hour later and we got along great. They are John and Clay, slightly older than me, and well experienced hikers. John is going for the full trail, while Clay is just doing sections. More on them in the next post. We got to bed early and prepared for a 7am leave time for the 6.4 miles to Paradise Valley Cafe the next morning.

Late evening clouds at camp

Eagle Rock and Warner Springs

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Today was easy peasy. I made a little over 8 miles in the morning to Warner Springs where I picked up my resupply that included my ice axe and Microspikes.

Hopefully I won’t have to use this

This is way earlier than I need them, but I was told by Yogi (legendary PCT hiker, trail angel, and gear shop owner) that I shouldn’t send them to Paradise Valley Cafe (40 miles further up trail). They are apparently inundated with hiker boxes and can’t handle the volume.

First though, I cruised solo from camp at Barrel Springs through easy fields to Eagle Rock. This is exactly what it sounds like. A big rock that looks like an eagle. Also sacred to the native peoples of the area, so it was treated with respect.

Moo cows

I continued on and just before Warner Springs, the trail goes through a beautiful string of huge oak trees (Coastal Live Oaks) along the creek for a nice change of scenery.

I got to the Warner Springs post office, a double wide trailer, and picked up my huge resupply box that we paid way too much to ship. But I needed my gear! I sorted through my food and mailed what I didn’t need ahead to Big Bear to pick up in a couple of weeks.


Once that was done, and having watched a YouTube video on how to properly attach my ice axe to my pack, I headed out again to get a few more miles in. The flat trail through beautiful meadows on the way out was to be a short lived luxury, compared to what was coming the next day.

Horses and mountains

I camped by myself at a site next to a beautiful, babbling brook (yo alliteration) and also a creepy shed that I’m pretty sure had something living in it that came to life at night and terrorized hikers, but I woke up unscathed.

Murder shed in the background

100 miles!

Monday, May 1, 2023

We were under a wind advisory all day and didn’t want to spend the night up in the hills, so we pushed a 19 mile day and just before camp, hit the 100 mile mark.

Now I’m cold and sore and still in bed at Barrel Spring.

The night before, we hiked up from Scissors Crossing and actually walked past dark to find a site that had decent shelter from the wind. The ocotillo was blooming, which is my favorite desert plant.

The next morning we hiked 9 miles to 3rd Gate water cache, one of the oldest and most well known on the PCT.

Jugs of water under the tarp

We had lunch there around 11 and that’s when we decided to push for a longer day to Barrel Spring, the next water source 10 miles away.

Today we have 8 miles to Warner Springs where I am picking up my ice axe and Microspikes in preparation for Mt San Jacinto. I still have a ways to go before that, but decided to pick them up early to avoid the congestion and confusion of all the packages at Paradise Valley Cafe. They don’t really have the infrastructure to handle as many packages as they are getting these days.

Ok, I’m going to crawl out of bed and start packing up. Hike on!

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!