Welcome to my PCT photoblog

By Simon Eklöv

Go to a day...

The Desert

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2

3

4

5

6

7

The High Sierras

Day 1

This was a very strange day, the start of a 2650 mile journey can be that, I guess. It started with panic when I realized the busses don't run on weekends. Then relief and thankfulness when Jon drove me all the way out to the terminus. Arriving at 8.30 with temperatures around 25 ⁰C, I thought I was the last one out that day. After 1.5 years of dreaming of this moment the feeling of exhilaration mixed with the feeling of loneliness of leaving my other life behind for the upcoming half a year.

I walked the first 5 miles without seeing another person. But that quickly changed, and the rest of the day I was rarely alone. I met Nic from Sweden, Prince (trail name) from Denmark, Sam from New Zeeland, Stats (trail name) from Switzerland and many others that I can't remember now. It was great, hanging out in the shade during the warmest hours.

One of the nice virews the first day.

The contrast of going from a stressful preparation for the trip to doing nothing else than walking and sitting in the shade wasn't the easiest, and I still felt that nagging feeling that I should accomplish a lot in a short period of time. However, fantastic views down into Hauser canyon made it a bit easier. During the last hour of the day when the sun started to sink, I felt thoroughly excited for what's to come!

Stats taking a break in the shade.

I camped in the bottom of the valley after 15 miles at Hauser Creek. Washed my feet, learned how to filter water from a trickling stream and fell asleep to the sound of a thousand frogs. Oh yeah, and there were like 30 other tents in the area. Nice to get to know the people I'm hiking with, but maybe not the most impressive wilderness experience...

Wierd shaped rock on trail.

View down into Hauser Canyon.

Day 2

Early start with a huge climb up (well, maybe not a huge one, but it felt like that back then) from Hauser Canyon over to Lake Morena. 20 miles down, 2630 miles to go. This day I spent thinking about how huge this project really was, and it didn't really feel like I meant to walk all the way to Canada. It was just too big. Not necessarily a bad thing for me, just something I had really hard to grasp. So I tried to focus on the first major goal, Kennedy Meadows. Well, that's after getting through the day of course.

Nice morning light down in Hauser Canyon.

Almost of the top of the canyon.

View back towards Mexico.

Company on trail.

Lake Morena in the distance

After Lake Morena, the trail was very easy, flat and hiking was a breeze. Even though I definitely wasn't used to the temperatures yet. Coming from the Swedish weather with a couple of degrees below freezing was a real adjustment. There was plenty of water in the two streams I passed, you could really tell that it had been a wet winter in the desert. And it was very beautiful!

Yes, we are in the US now.

I passed through Boulder Oaks Campground and under interstate 8 with its high traffic. Lots of day hikers, who seemed quite impressed with what I was doing, even though I hadn't even made it to my first town. After bushwalking down to Kitchen Creek I found Sam and Nic taking a nice lunch break near the water. I joined them, took a nice bath in the flowing water(falls), and thought to myself that if every day would be like this, I have a lot to look forward to!

Just after passing under interstate 8

Sam, Nic and the beautiful lunch spot.

After lunch, I hiked together with the two boys, Nic setting up his usual high-speed pace that he became famous for. We crossed another road and hiked along a beautiful mountainside. Got to camp around 16.00 with lots of tents this night too. Prince, Stats, and lots of others who I can't remember the name of anymore was there. And I also met Megan for the first time. Again I fell to sleep with the sound of croaking frogs in my ears.

Hiking along the beautiful mountainside.

Day 3

Today I had one big decision to make. Juste after mile 40 we entered the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area for approximately 10 miles. And you're not allowed to camp anywhere within that section. So, should I push it and make a 20-mile day (for me that was a big day at this point)? Or maybe try stealth camping somewhere within the area? Then there was the option of camping in Mount Laguna. But that would have meant a modest 10-mile day, and I didn't really want to do that.

Nice gradual trail during the morning.

Anyhow, I got up pretty early, starting just at sunrise. I did some climbing to find a place to poo. Not always the easiest when the trail is steep on both sides and covered with a wall of bushes. But it turned out to be a spot with a view, great! My legs felt pretty good, they usually did that during the mornings. The whole morning passing in a gentle climb up to an elevation of around 1800 m. Pine trees were introduced for the first time. The desert isn't only desert!

Nice desert views.

Trail and me.

Flowery desert. Beautiful!

I stopped to eat some lunch in Mount Laguna, a very small town. I also had the brilliant idea of buying some more food, even though I already had to last me probably a week. But you know, gotta stay safe out there! I also mailed myself some food to Warner Springs, a small town upcoming in about 60 miles. My planned next stop.

Pine trees. The PCT is nice with its variation.

Closing in to Mount Laguna.

So the big decision. I decided to try to do the whole stretch and get outside the recreation area. Mostly because some guy said he had camped within before and had to move when a ranger did a nightly visit. Don't know what the risk actually is, but I also like to think that it's nice to follow the rules sometimes :)

More flowers. Syren it's called in swedish.

And some cacti.

Views in the end of the day.

Anyways, I set out for the last stretch, into a more flat section. After a couple of miles, the pine trees disappeared and was replaced with a grand view down into the desert, probably a 1000 meters below me. The views were amazing! I passed the 50-mile marker and met Chelsea and Luke. I remember Chelsea being quite tired and she ended up camping just next to the trail, just two miles from the recreation area border. I continued with very tired legs. It's hard work, walking all day.

50 miles!

The desert, around 1000 meters below me.

I managed to make it all the way outside the border, and at camp, I found Sam and Megan, together with two new people. One of them was flatfoot (I think his name was). The other one I cant remember, but we had a nice conversation about trail running and expectations for the upcoming trail. Oh and about the rule breaking. We camped at a picnic area, where you're most certainly not allowed to camp...

Day 4

While packing up this morning I had a nice surprise in the form of a scorpion crawling out from under my tent. I'm happy I have my bug net! I was pretty tired this morning from the last day, so slept in a bit. I struggled during the first part. It was very windy, and every time I checked the map I was expecting to be further ahead. Planning the upcoming trail I also saw that after the next water source there were no reliable sources for a long while.

My backpack already felt pretty heavy, so I didn't really want to add too much water weight to that. But deciding to play it safe I headed off the trail to a nice water trough with some nice murky water and picked up enough to get me through the rest of the day. At the water source, I met another Simon from Sweden and his dad. We hung out for a bit while filtering water.

Plaques in memory of bikers.

Even though I was tiered, it was beautiful.

I struggled on for a bit more, the trail was flatter and lost some of its views. The landscape covered in low thick bushes as far as I could see, giving it a monotonous kind of look. Just after a short lunch break, however, the trail changed again and started going downhill. The views now with large canyons crossing from the other direction down towards a huge valley where Scissor Crossing lies (the road where you can hitch into the town of Julian). I could see the trail winding along on the mountainside opposite of me. After going down the first part of the downhill, I started to feel my afternoon legs coming at me and tried to find some shade.

First there was some monotonous trail.

But then the trail changed. You can see the trail winding on the opposite side of the canyon

It was desperately hard to find shade. In the end, I stopped at a very low bush that gave only my lower back some shade. not optimal, but I really had to take a break. After a while, Megan and Sam walked up, so I joined them and was energized to see them again. We pushed on uphill over the first canyon and got another spectacular view down into the next one (see Sam with views below).

Sam with the view down into the next canyon.

We were closing into the end of the day when we got to Rodrigez road (a small dirt road passing through a canyon we had been traversing down to). We found some shade, and it turned out that the water tank that usually is dry here had plenty of water, so I could have taken a much lower quantity from the murky horse through. Sam discovered that he lost his phone, and had to go back 2 miles uphill to get it. We waited for him meanwhile.

We finished the day in a spectacular manner, walking on the side of the mountain with a view far down into the big valley with Scissors Crossing, and up to the other side where the PCT continued far away. This is one of my favorite things about the desert. You can see so far, and try to figure out where you will be tomorrow. Or you can look back into the distance and see a spot you were at yesterday. Chelsea also caught up to us and we ended up camping at a great spot. I had some problems pitching the tent in the high wind and ended up burning a big hole in the bug net because the tent came down on me when I tried to cook some dinner. I managed to stack big piles of stones and keep the tent steady after some effort, and I went to bed praying it wouldn't fall down on me during the night.

Day 5

When I woke up this morning the first thing I noticed was the absence of wind. And the tent was still standing! Exhilarated by the first big victory I packed up my stuff and went to check on the others. Chelsea was long gone early bird as she is. But I headed out together with Megan and Sam who just finished packing up. We only had a modest 7 miles down to Scissors Crossing, and I had to decide if I wanted to go into the town of Julian before I got there.

Sam and Megan on our way down to the road. The PCT continues on the mountains in the distance.

The sun popped out from behind the mountainside in front of us setting the cacti around us aflame. It was easy hiking, slowly downhill to the low point of the road. Sam started to feel some pain in his foot the day before and had some trouble when we got closer to the road. The last part was flat and straight, and the sandy trail made it feel like we were walking to the beach.

Glowing cacti!

The last bit of downhill on trail before the flats.

The last part with flat trail before the road.

Everyone else wanted to go into the town, so I decided to come along. And there were also rumors of free pie! We met Chelsea and Becka (another person I met the day before), and we went out to the crossing to try to hitch into town. Not long after a car pulled up, with the trail angel Brew Hiker. Apart from giving us a ride, he also gave us beer, awesome!

In the beautiful town of Julian, we went straight to Moms Pies. And as rumor told we got our free pie there, it was heaven (just look at the picture below)! There were lots of hikers in town and after we were finished with our pies we went over to awesome trail angel Carmen and got a $3 burrito and a warm footbath. Lots of other people did a long day and caught up with us, nice to meet everyone again. But since I didn't want to stay too long, I hitched back out to the trail together with Ben, probably one of the nicest guys I met out there. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to Sam who decided to stay because of his foot problem. This was the last time I met him.

Hanging out at Carmens place

I only did a short 2.5 miles up the hill and camped together with Ben, we squeezed our tents into a small canyon, to keep away from the wind. We ate dinner and talked about our lives, what we do outside of hiking. It was a beautiful campsite with a view down back into the valley. The evening was very pleasant, no wind and perfect temperature. An awesome couple showed up later Emi and Russ, they will be appearing a lot in this story later, this was the first time I met them. I went to bed feeling very satisfied with the day, I think this was the first time I really felt like the trail was my home.

Switchbacks up the mountain.

More switchbacks.

Cool desert plants.

View from the campsite.

Ben and our tents in the small canyon.

Day 6

I remember feeling strong this morning, after the short day yesterday. It started off totally amazing, the views astounding! We were traversing along the mountainside we had seen from the other side of the big valley before Scissors Crossing. The trail winded back and forth, higher and higher, along on the mountainside, cutting in and out, the irregularity in the landscape causing the trail to be probably more than four times as long as the crow flies. The diversity in the view gave me something new to look at every five minutes, and looking back you could see the trail far down in its switchbacks.

Astounding views during the morning. Emi and Russ can be seen in the middle of the picture.

Winding trail going back and forth, following the mountainside.

The trail slightly climbing all the way.

I hiked alone but met Russ and Emi briefly after a couple of miles. I kept pushing wanting to make a bigger day and get to the first real water source (with only a water cash in between), making it a solid 22-mile day. The heat was worse today since there wasn't much wind to speak of, and already around 10.00 it was almost unbearable. Also, there was no shade at all during this stretch, so I ended up taking my breakfast break directly in the sun, making it only a quick stop to try to push on to the water cash.

I almost stepped on my first snake. Not a mean one like the Rattlesnake (which is the only snake in the US that I can identify), but a nice one, that just slithered away. I wasn't too shaken by it and continued walking, increasing my pace the closer I was getting to my planned lunch spot. Suddenly the aggressive sound of a rattle cut through the calm air. I look down, and just next to my right foot, half-hidden by a bush is a rattlesnake raised in the defensive position. My neurons sending impulses all over my body, electrifying me, I shout out as loud as I can, run back 10 meters and cursing loudly in Swedish. After collecting myself, I go a bit closer again, starting out with a mandatory photo session then followed by actually trying to get the snake to move. I throw some sticks at it, but it's adamant. It won't move. So I start climbing, terrified the snake will suddenly come flying down from the trail, attacking me. However, I managed to safely climb back up to the trail on the other side of the snake, happy to see the last of that one.

My first snake, the nice one.

No shade to speak of.

After climbing around I got this picture.

Adrenaline pumping, I made it to the water cash, filling up with only a small amount, since I already had enough. I felt pretty strong at this point, so I decided to try to do the rest of the climb and get to a small cave at the high point of the day for lunch. The vegetation changed to higher bushes, obscuring the view somewhat, but this made for a nice change with a very lush and green feeling, replacing the cacti and other succulent plants. I took a nice break in the first shade of the day. After about an hour on winding uphill trail, I arrived at the cave, which was a was a pretty cool feature. With about 5 meters deep and 1 meter wide it was large enough to crawl into but small enough to give me that claustrophobic feeling. I ate a peanut butter wrap for late lunch and started off for the last stretch of the day.

The sign towards the water cash.

The well stocked cash itself.

And the trash...

Climbing higher, the vegetation changed.

The small cave at the high point of the day.

Going downhill I could see the upcoming section with large fields of grass stretching out far below me. I kept a good pace all the way and even though I started to get a bit tired towards the end, it was much later than I usually felt it. Closing into the campsite, I hit the 100-mile marker, which felt like a big accomplishment, and I felt very excited about the progress I made. The marker was made up by rocks on the side of the trail forming the number 100. I took some selfies (see below) and set off again for the last mile of the day.

The campsite was at a nice pipe spring with a good flow. Russ and Emi showed up, together with Hummingbird whom I haven't mentioned so far either. We started the same day and met at Hauser Creek the first night. I remember telling me she didn't remember my name, so she had been thinking of me as "my Swedish friend", which I thought was pretty funny. Ben also showed up and the French guy Thomas (later called Javaloo (spelling?)) and Maite from Belgium. More about them later! We had a really nice evening, Ben held a really nice speech, I think it was a memorial day for something back in Israel, I can't really remember, and we lit some candles. I went to bed with yet again the sound of croaking frogs all around me in this lush oasis.

Day 7

The trail dramatically changed today. From the mountainous desert with rocks, sand, and low growing plants, to huge flat open grasslands, creeks with belts of green crossing over, big old trees growing along them. I only had 8 more miles to get to Warner Springs, where I had a package of food to pick up, even though I still had more than enough to get me by.

The first bit passed by quickly, I started to listen to Harry Potter audiobook, to have some entertainment while walking. The first big marker that you can see along the PCT came up after 5 miles. I could see it from far away across the grass fields. The large rock formation that looks like a big eagle sitting next to the trail, towering up, a sentinel on the side of the trail. Eagle Rock. I took a nice break, had a bar, photographed the big bird, and took shelter from the wind that had been picking up during the morning out on the exposed fields.

Eagle Rock from far away.

Eagle Rock from close up.

Met another small snake.

Heading off after a while, I met a large group of firefighters out training. They were wearing heavy warm clothes, the type that firefighters usually have. Most of them looked pretty jealous of my short shorts and shirt. I can tell you that I wasn't too envious of them during that moment. The last bit before the small town followed one of the creeks under the shade of the trees. It was a nice transition, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Last bit of the grasslands.

Nice shade!

I arrived at Warner Springs, the community center, where all the hikers hang out directly at the road. I met Nic again, and we hitched into the post office together with Caroline who started a day after us, but who had caught up with us already, she's pretty fast. After getting our packages and checking out the not so well stocked gas station to get some more candy, we went to get a burger. First one for me on the trail, really nice, they are good at their burgers the Americans.

Warner Springs, close to the community center.

We walked back to the community center, hung out, charged some stuff and got a bucket shower (pouring water over yourself from a bucket), awesome! I bought some tent stakes since the ones I had were not so good in this loose sandy ground. I thought I lost my camera, and started to freak out a bit, but found it in the bottom of my pack after a bit, phew...

 

In the afternoon I headed back out on the trail, to do just a short bit. I left together with Hummingbird. We did three miles to a campsite in a really nice spot near a creek.

Hummingbird, just after leaving Warner Springs.

We made a fire and ate dinner around it. I met Megan again who had been a bit ahead of me. I also met Express for the first time, who also started a day after me, and whom I will be mentioning a lot further along. I can't really remember if I heard frogs this evening, but I should have, considering the large creek next to me. So I'm going to go ahead and say that I fell asleep to the sound of croaking frogs, the best sound in the world!

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