And so it begins…

PCT miles 0 to 16 – Mexican Border to Hauser Creek – Total PCT miles 16

Woke up this morning at 5:15 to Sandy (Frodo) and Barney (Scout) preparing us a nourishing pre-hike breakfast of eggs, pineapple, grapes and homemade bran muffins. Sandy was making us breakfast before she headed off to work!

Gabriel and I are amazed and so appreciative of the generosity the Mann’s bestow upon hikers at the beginning of their PCT journey. They truly made us feel welcome in their home and made the logistics of arriving in San Diego and starting the hike a breeze. Thank you many times over Scout and Frodo! Someday we will help other PCT hikers and “pay forward” the help, love and compassion of these trail angels.

Barney told us that two other hikers would be joining us on route to Campo and we soon met Likable Dug and Dan from Unalaska, Alaska. Barney drove us out to Campo. The hour-plus ride in the car was filled with the energy of adventurers who are excited to begin a trip and made all the better because the people instantly click. Maybe its meeting total strangers with shared interests but different life-stories… however you choose to put it there’s something about sharing the beginning of a journey with people that creates a special connection. Before we knew it, we were getting close to the trail and Barney was pointing out segments of the PCT to us. We went by them in a blink of an eye. These landmarks that would take us a day and half to walk to, but were just minutes apart via an automobile.

In minutes we parked in front of the southern terminus of the PCT. Barney helped us snap a few photos, we took a few more obligatory shots and then it was time to start walking!

This being a cool, wet year for the West Coast in general means that it’s a good year for water along the southern section of the PCT. Hence, we didn’t have to hike 20.6 miles to Lake Morena and the oh-so-crucial water provided at the campground. Instead, Gabriel and I were able to shave off a few liters and therefore a few pounds (yes I know I’m mixing Metric and standard measurement units here) from our packs, knowing we need only hike to Hauser Creek and would find water in the stream. Just 16 miles from the border.

The first few miles of the PCT begin in scrub-shrub habitat of big sage brush and antelope brush and it gradually winds upward into hills of manzanita and granite outcroppings. This is a land where fire is a natural, often-reoccurring presence and we walked through several patches of fire charred manzanita and other shrubs.

These sections of trail offered abundant wildflowers! We saw so many species for the first time including: caterpillar phacelia, Parry’s phacelia, Arizona lupine, Canterbury bells, western wallflower, canyon pea, showy penstemon, and bush monkey flower (that Gabriel deemed fire monkey before we knew its name). It was exciting for us as each new turn of the trail introduced us to a new flower and view, we quickly appreciated the beauty of southern California and the desert and chaparral landscape.

We hiked a good portion of today with Dug from Sacramento who we deemed by Mile 1 as “Likable Dug” because he is such a particularly likable guy.* We shared many a good story and he entertained us with stories about his cat Pittsburgh (named in honor of the Steelers) and his yellow Westy “Twinkie”. Dug’s PCT hike is for more than just the enjoyment of the trail, he’s also hiking for a particular cause that you can read more about here.

A highlight from this first day on the trail is that we also saw our first rattlesnake! It was about a foot a way from the trail, wrapped around a shrub and it serenaded us with it’s lovely rattle. Dug got some footage of the snake and its warning song. So cool!

By 5:00 pm we’d made it to Hauser Creek. Along the way we’d taken two hour-plus lounges in the shade that included a little napping and hiked at a leisurely pace in the course of traveling 16 miles. Gabriel and I both agreed that this was the most relaxed day of hiking we’ve done together. Here’s to more of those days to come!

*Dug’s trail name is actually “Raw Hide”, but we get to call him Likable Dug.

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