Day 7 – 5kms north of Third Gate water cache to Werner Springs 

The morning began like all other so far. Early rising, taping feet and packing in the dark. Our silent morning reverie walk into the day. 

Today was comparatively short after yesterday’s 32kms. We had about 24 kms to Werner Springs, and decided to hike 10 kms to Barrell Springs for a breakfast break. 

The scenery had changed again back to low dense chaparral. In the mornings you can see little squirrle tracks criss crossing the trail, and the sun casts shadows across the valleys changing the way you see the landscape. I was a little grumpy and my feet hurt so i put my head down and walked steadily to our stopping place. 

Barrell Springs is a lovely camp site. Down low in a valley, there isn’t any spring as the name suggests but a large concrete trough home to some loud frogs. Big, old  oaks spread their canopy across a sandy floor. We rested on a log and ate our oats. Around us a couple who are hiking with their dog slowly washed their clothes and packed their bags. Two young women hikers cleared out quickly and not too soon after our trail friends Dave, Danny, and Goliath wandered in. Dave and Danny are old friends and Goliath hails from New Hampshire. He is newly retiered and fit as a fiddle. Some trail angel had left some Coke cans for hikers and the remaining few were shared around. I (meg) passed…….typical. 

We headed out and soon came upon some lush meadows. There are a variety of grasses. Some long with large yellow seeds, another small with thick red bushells. Dotted across the meadows are yellow, purple, and pink flowers, and some prickly cacti. As we wandered across we reminisced on times spent gallopping our ponies around paddocks like this at home. 


Toward the end of meadows you can take a slight detour to Eagle Rock. And it really does look like an eagle. We met a lovely couple who took a picture of us and gave us their trail mix, took our picture and began following us on Instagram (way to feel like a hero). They had 5 kids and didn’t look a day over 40. 


Eagle Rock is 4.4 kms from Werner Springs. The most beautiful part of this final leg is along a little stream. It runs over rocks and old tree roots and in many places you walk under an archway of beautiful old oaks. They line the trail and provide dappled light, a respite from the midday heat.


We arrived at Werner Springs in time for lunch. A tiny old town nestled in a valley Werner Springs is home to a Golf and County Club, a school and our haven the Community Centre. This place is run solely by volunteers and makes its living purely off donations from hikers. 

We dumped our packs, and headed to the bucket showers. After washing out filthy selves and our filthy clothes we did some personal admin and relaxed. 

Phoebe and Harriet caught a ride with Whistling Jack to the gas station and picked up some beers (and Cheetos, and chocolate). I uploaded photos, lost and then found my passport wallet (which was in my clothes bag the whole time). 

In the eveining the centre put on a BBQ (including veggie parties!!) for hikers. We sat around chatting for a bit and headed to bed around 9, very excited for the sleep in we were going to give ourselves tomorrow morning.

Advertisements

Day 6 – Rocky Gully to San Felipe Wilderness Area – 34km

Today was an amazing journey. We rose at 4:30am after a sheltered night and walked 5km down the mountain and across the desert floor using head lamps for light. Walking at dawn is beautiful and freezing, we heard owls hooting and the smell of wet grass is over powering. We stop for a short time under a bridge called Scissors Crossing where water has been left for hikers to use along with some oranges and Keith from the army veterans group makes us a strong cup of coffee – and we think about taking a swig of taquila left for hikers passing by. 

Phoebe, Meg & Pine Cone at Scissors Crossing

Moon setting over Anza Borrego Desert State Park


We are all apprehensive about our next clime, 22kms and no water. As the sun rose into the valley we rose off the desert floor and through some truely amazing flora. The cacti in this particular area completely transported me and lifted my spirits. All in bloom the tall spinderly plants seem to sway and defy gravity resembling coral and giving it an under-water like feeling. 

Ascending San Felipe Hills, amazing cacti diversity!


I (Harriet) have recently been given the trail name Pine Cone (because of picking up giant pinecones near Mt Laguna with my long nail extensions) this kept me feeling positive and entertained whilst also having some rather amusing pseudo-hippie thoughts like;

Who are we animals? We are not bound to earth like plants, unlike soil we are animate, unlike water we are contained . . . 

I’m sure this will seem pretty lame in about 2 seconds. 

We push on until 1:30 when we feeling well and truely footsore and the sun is burning us off the path. We stop in some chaparelle and essemble the tent fly for some shade. We eat lunch and rejoice in the fact that we have already walked 29km and most of it uphill! 

We rest and read and lie around until we set off again and reach the second water dispatch. We are limited to 3 litres each which seems so little in the heat of the afternoon. After chatting to fellow hikers about the abundance of snow in the High Sierra we push on to the very top of the range and set up camp for the night! I’m so proud for our resilience and endurance today! Our bodies are amazing! 

View from San Felipe Hills

Meg is cooking chicken tonight! (Chicken of the Ocean, her favourite)

Day 5 – Seasonal Stream to Rocky Gully, 25kms


Phoebe’s log, date it doesn’t really matter/I don’t know ~ Last night was an adventure in itself! The wind that was present when we went to bed whipped itself up into a frenzy of gusts that were pushing the tents over and ripping pegs out of the ground and sending them flying despite large rocks we had placed over them. Megs fly came partly loose and numerous voyages out into the storm to resecure everything where necessary. I was in a tent on my own and it felt like I was in a rocket ready for takeoff and the only thing keeping it grounded was my butt. Eventually we packed up my tent as a lost cause and the three of us top and tailed it in Megs tent. We didn’t sleep well but meg and I did manage to kiss people in our dreams, some weird storm chemistry going on.

Desert blooms have us all swooning


We were all rather grumpy this morning but soon cheered up once we started walking and became immersed in the landscape. Others we passed had also had rough nights. We had breakfast overlooking a huge meadow, lush and green, stark contrast with the a harsh brown desert below, our destination that evening.
For our second day in a row the trail took us down down down, but very gently. We passed the last few straggling pines and descended into flowering cacti! So many wildflowers, so many vibrant colours, and some with huge spikes. We also saw juvenile yukkas that look even more like giant asparagus. 

What you can’t see is the howling wind


It finally clicked, the landscape here is huge and you can spend 2 days walking off a huge plateau. You can look at the desert below you and have no idea of its vast scale, or if small hills are actually small gullys. There are entire mountains that appear to be made of shale and giant granite boulders but nothing else.

Off track serious photographer, the pink cactus flowers are amazing!!!


We reached our only water source for the day at midday and stopped for a lengthy lunch, hiding under bushes to escape the sun. This is the last reliable water source for 52kms and in between we are relying on the generosity of trail angels who regularly stock 2 water caches to help hikers through this dry patch of trail. Even so, we are carrying 6L each as we plan to top up our supplies but not to heavily rely on the caches. The water points are a bit of a gathering point and we had lots of chats while filtering water.

Desert water point, apparently fed by a spring but all we could see is dust


We pushed on another 8kms after lunch through rocky foothills and decided to camp with Zippy and Rebecca in a well protected rocky canyon on a dry creek bed. We walked through the hottest part of the day (3pm) and as water is scarce we plan to siesta during this time tomorrow. Fingers cross for a good nights sleep x

Day 4 – Mt. Laguna to km 92.7 


This morning I (meg) dressed 7 blisters on my feet. I slipped my blistered feet into some dirty, but comfortable socks, and then placed them into my new Lone Peaks. These are a trail runners (all the rage), and a quite goofy. At the end of their first day they have served me well. No new blisters, and I am less foot sore than yesterday.
After Mt Laguna the landscape changes from our familiar mountains from which we came. After a few miles among the pines and lightly wooded forests the track finds you over looking an incredible sight of yellow desert mountain ranges. These austere beauties rise straight up from the flat barren lands below. They seem endless as you look out into them, huge and vast.  The wind howled, and we rounded the range to breakfast on some burnt logs.


Another 10 km on and we arrived at a picnic ground, windy with picnic tables we found ourselves a sunny nook and ate some lunch. Rivita, tuna and cheese are quickly loosing their appeal. We filtered water from a horse trough, and chatted to a Spanish teacher from San Diego, who encouraged us not to do the sierras while there was snow. Not long after this picnic area there is a ledge. It has been reinforeced by concrete at points, and there are a great number of plaques dedicated to people and dogs who have died. There would be more than 20 stretches out across 50m all engraved with their own little momento to a lost loved one. At the end of there the Kwaaymii Point highway ends in a coulersack, the track crosses is and head out away from civilisation. 


The track winds its way gently around the ranges, you never feel too put out, and in comparison to the AAWT we are eating up the kms. Often you can see where you’ve come from and what lays ahead. 
Phoebe and I happened upon a snake, shiny black with yellow speed stripes. As we wandered in the howling wind Harriet told us about the Sultan Sea as we looked out to it in the far distance. The sea was collateral from the flooding of the Colorado River. From our vantage point it was nestled between some mountains and looked to me like an intriguing place with many old ghosts. 


Tonight we a pitched roadside about 3 kms from a known tent site. A stream babbles close by and the wind sneaks it’s way into our tents with every gust. It’s our first arvo of free time and we are snug up reading and doing nothing. 
We hung in the wind for a few hours until phoebe joined us in the one tent to cook a simple meal of dried beans and rice. We are, chatted and then bunkered down for the evening. 

Day 3 – Fred’s Canyon to Mount Laguna – 16km

Harriet checking in right now! We took it pretty easy today after pushing it yesterday. We all woke up feelin heavy with tender calfs, shoulders and feet and continued our amble up Mount Laguna at 6:30am. It’s quiet an elusive moutain. You aren’t quiet sure that you’re actually climbing it with the summit always hidden behind cascading spurs. 

Climbing Mount Laguna, looking south to Mexico


It’s very rewarding to look back and see our  trail disappear into the haze in the valleys. Today our trail took us directly north for 16km and it definitely felt like we were getting closer to Canada when we arrived at the top of the plateau and found ourselfs amoungst tall conifers. We also did get to appreciate some yukka plants which are flowering at the moment. 

Yukkas flowering on Mount Laguna


We arrived at camp round midday and thought we deserved an afternoon off. Camping in the Burnt Rancheria Campground feels rather luxurious with showers and pottable water. 

After setting up camp I headed down to the cafe nearby with Meg and Phoebe and had a strange lunch of meatballs and salad. We headed then to the infamous Outfitters for Meg who needed some new trail runners. Somehow they got to me and I agreed to getting ‘shook down’ which meant going through all my belongings and ditching the things that weigh too much. It’s rather confronting to have a stranger go through your only possessions for six months but they went-to-town and I don’t think I’m going to regret it! Plus I found an ugly green desert hiking shirt in the hiker box! Budweiser beer and salmon (chicken of the ocean) for dinner and I cannot complain!

Conifers atop Mount Laguna

PCT hiker app is great! It shows you where to find hiking clothes and beer! 👌

Watch out!

Day 2 – Hauser Creek to Fred’s Canyon – 27km

We are in our tents slightly later tonight as we made it ALL THE WAY TO FRED’S CANYON, that’s 27kms!!!!! Go legs, go girl gang, go PCT such nicely graded trail, we ❤️ you and how you make us feel incredible (but also incredibly tired). We have dosed up on vitamin I (anti-inflammatory) and megs magical witchy powder (magnesium to help muscle cramps). I now predict another solid 9 hour sleep like last night, we gotta give some love back to our super bodies feat. legs.

Climbing out of Hauser Creek


We got up before dawn and did the 8km climb to Lake Morena before 8.30am. It was a great gentle climb that took us past a big butte (new word I learned today for Rocky Mountain top) through boulders, asparagus flowers and manzanitas, which have beautiful smooth red trunks. The sun didn’t reach us till we hit the top and we were greatful. Upon reaching the camp ground we made deposits in the toilets and washed our dirty undies in the sink letting them dry on the back of our packs in the hot sun. The store promised coffee and we couldn’t resist, but we didn’t have a hamburger as it felt too weird to be back in civilisation after only 24hrs hiking, in Australia you can go up to 3 weeks between burgers. We met an old cowboy who showed us pictures of him camp drafting in Australia as well as a rude joke – what is the difference between kissing an Australian cowboy and an American cowboy? Australian cowboys kiss you down under.

Lake Morena


We moved on out and walked across the edge of the big valley that housed Lake Morena. Long lush grass punctuated with boulders looked inviting but the Crest of Pacific Crest Trail meant that we clung to the sandy edges of the valley and eventually climbed up a small ridge where we met two lovely locals and mined them for knowledge – names of plants, rattlesnakes, how do you pronounce charprel (not spelt correctly will amend when we find internet). They also showed us a natural arch in the rocks beside the trail. 

Natural rock arch


We had a brief rest and collected water from a clear stream flowing under a bridge. The walls of the bridge were covered with great cowboy graffiti. We taped up more hotspots forming on our feet and walked on across the valley fording one more stream. This is a wet year and the end of a 7 year drought in SoCal, normally all these water sources would be dry. So we are lucky! We reached Boulder Springs Campground at 2.30 and we set about having a long lunch or tuna and rivitas. Meg brought some butter and we all decided it really brought the meal alive.

Cowboys


We rested in the shade of a huge oak till 4pm to pass the heat of the day and then ventured on under a highway and started our 1000m climb to Mt Laguna (we will get there tomorrow). We were all feeling great till the last 3km push to the top but we made it with enough time to have a quick wash, pitch our tent and filter water for tomorrow before we started cooking in the dark. Everyone we have met today has been so friendly and we got congratulations as we trudged into camp, and in turn congratulated those who came after us. We wanted to join in the conversation around the fire but we were just tooooo sleepy. Night, thanks for reading xx

Our final climb

Moving on up!

Day 1 – Soutern Terminus to Hauser Creek – 24km

It is 7 pm and we three are in our tents, Harry flying solo tonight and phoebe and I (meg) bunking in together. Our first day is complete. It is a mixture of excitement, anticipation and relief.

Last night was spent at Bob’s house. Perched up in the San Diego hills Bob takes in hikers during the summer months purely out of good will. He collected us from down town in the afternoon, after a morning of finalising some last minute prehike stuff. While we waited for him tiny humming birds flew around the tree planted into the pavement. We spent the evening on our balcony over looking San Diego, it’s surrounding mountains and those running into Mexico. Trial angels are a real thing, and their kindness should not be underestimated. We are a few of hundreds who will be welcomed into Bob’s home during 2017. On waking this morning at 4 am, for a 5 am departure to Campo and the beginning of the trail Bob had coffee, bagels and good cheer. He drove us an hour to the beginning of the trail, took a group shot of us and headed on his way.

Bob – our trail angel!!

And then, there we were. On the boarder….I didn’t know there was already a fence, board patrol cars cruising around and the sound of helicopters in the distance. The monument was a simple collection of posts, with a log book. As the sun began to rise we set off along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Phoebe signing the log book

Our packs were laden with water, lots of it, we didn’t know when we would next have access to some and so we laboured under our loads. Initially, the track skirts around Campo, and heads up into granite boulder hills. The trees and shrubbery are small and stunted due to the harsh arid conditions. At times the track would go through burnt areas, and it looked other worldly. All sandy soil, burnt, charred trees and in the distance these ranges that feel expansive and lonely. We would stop off along the way for water and snacks in shadowy corners, and spent lunch under the cover of a tree and boulder. Here we slept for an hour or so in the heat of the day and continued along another 6 miles to our evening spot a Hauser Creek. Today we have walked 24 kms.

There are a range of people walking the track. So far we have met Germans, Canadians, English, and Americans. People always ask were we are from and I am astonished they can’t pick the accent. There is a nice level of comaradery. I am particularly intrigued as to why people are here. The answer is always similar to mine, simply just because, there isn’t really any reason. One man saved up 40 years of holidays to take the 6 months off. We also met a real life cowboy, he had a mustang and a collie dog. He wore the whole cowboy out fit and was doing the trail with the help of his girlfriend and mum. Just after meeting him I got stung in the face by an angry bee.

On the track

The track is easy somewhat, the gradient is always gentle and it’s well maintained. Vultures circle overhead, we occasionally see lizards, phoebe saw a horny devil (which she was really hoping) and a good number of creeks trickle across our path. We don’t know the names of anything so we have decided to make some up. This is especially helpful for the plants. So far we have Furry Dong and Asparagus Plant. It is beautiful in its own way. A land which appears ancient, and home to many stories.