Blogging and making videos about my PCT thru-hike while I’m out here on trail is fun, but its been a challenge trying to keep them current and juggle both. This is why I’m combining Week Four and Five together into one blog post. Journaling has been relatively easy. I journal every day, at the end of my day from my sleeping bag before I go to bed.
Blogging and editing videos are way more time consuming than journaling though. I don’t always have time to sit down to write out a blog post or edit a video together, even on a Zero Day. I have the best intentions of being productive on a Zero Day.
The reality is, Zero Days are often consumed with town chores like resupplying food for the next section, taking a shower, soaking my feet in Epsom salt, doing laundry, getting to the post office to pick up packages, eating a meal that doesn’t require boiling water to cook it, charging all of my electronics, resting my body, sometimes getting to hang out with other hikers and watching really bad TV in a hotel room.
With on-trail days, at the end of the day, I’m almost always completely exhausted. By the time we’re done hiking for the day, set up camp, filter water and eat dinner, I barely have enough energy left to journal on my phone and take notes about the day.
Week Four and Five brought some incredibly fun milestones out here on trail. Bleeder and I started off Week Four by taking a double zero at Big Bear. Big Bear is Mile 266.1, which meant by this point, we had competed 10% of the trail. Only 90% more to go until we get to Canada! We spent both of our Zero Days at the Big Bear Hostel.
While in Big Bear, we completed all of our town chores including taking a shower, doing laundry, resupplying for the next section as well as preparing a resupply box for the upcoming section after Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce. We also fit in a few fun things like went to see the new Avengers movie, ate pizza, drank lots of soda and had ice cream. Bleeder even tried his very first Big Gulp and went back for a refill. I found an empty tub and created a makeshift Epsom salt foot bath with some essential oils.
I even had a brand new Osprey Eja 48 pack (courtesy of Osprey) waiting for me at the Big Bear Hostel, ready for me to move into. A new pack? What? The day I left Seattle to fly down to San Diego for my PCT thru-hike this year, Osprey contacted me, telling me that I was chosen to be one of their ambassadors for 2019. This means I’ll be gifted some new Osprey product this year along my hike as I need/want it and beyond. I decided it was time to try a newer, lighter pack. Last year, I used my Osprey Aura 50 pack on my thru-hike and started my hike this year with the same pack. I love my Aura, but I’ve been wanting to go a bit lighter with my base weight. One of the easiest ways to shed weight from base weight is to use a lighter pack.
My Aura 50, even without the brain on my pack, weighs in at around four pounds. I decided to try one of Osprey’s lighter packs, the Eja 48, which only weights around two pounds. My only reservation with trying the Eja 48 on the PCT was not having hip belt pockets like the Aura has. To make up for the loss of hip belt pockets, I picked up a fanny pack back in Warner Springs to use as a replacement. I’ve been using the fanny pack back on trail and in town over the last 150 miles to store items I need to have handy like my phone, camera, important documents, chapstick and snacks throughout the day. I love it! Plus, the fanny pack also doubles as a town purse, helping to make the transition from trail into town super easy.
The morning after our double zero in Big Bear, we packed up and headed back to the trail early in the morning. We ended up hiking 19.5 miles out of town to a tentsite right across from a stream. That was pretty good for us, especially on our first day out of town with weighted packs loaded with food and water.
Our second day out of town, we hiked a little more than 12 miles and made it to the tentsite underneath the Deep Creek Bridge. Originally Bleeder and I were just going to have lunch here. Halfway through lunch, we decided to set up camp instead of hiking on another three miles. It was a combination of the warm weather, having plentiful water nearby and access to a sandy beach that made the decision an easy one to make. This tentsite ended up being one of the best places we’ve camped at along trail so far.
The next day, we headed further down the trail and hit another PCT milestone – Mile 300. By lunch time, we made it to the Deep Creek Hot Springs. We didn’t have the best weather for the hot springs, but it still felt amazing to get into the water and rinse off the last couple of days of hiking.
On our Day 27 out here, we hiked a total of 16 miles and made it to the Cleghorn Picnic Area at Silverwood Lake. What makes the Cleghorn Picnic Area popular amongst thru-hikers is that this is one of the few places on trail where you can order a pizza and have it delivered to you. Bleeder and I made it to the picnic area in time for lunch and split an entire large veggie pizza and a two liter bottle of root beer, leaving us both in a food coma. Originally we wanted to hike on another seven miles for the day, but ended up only hiking on one more mile before setting up camp for the evening because we were both in a pizza food coma.
Day 28, we hiked down into Cajon Pass. The descent down into Cajon Pass is one of my favorite views here in Southern California. It also means the trail is less than three miles from a McDonalds. This McDonalds is so popular amongst hikers, it has its own sign on trail. Bleeder and I made it to McDonalds in time for lunch and stuffed ourselves silly.
We then decided to take the rest of the day off from hiking and got a room for the night at the Best Western on the other side of the highway. We decided to stay the night at the Best Western instead of spending the night in Wrightwood (the next town stop) because it was cheaper than Wrightwood and had everything we needed – laundry, warm showers, a comfy bed indoors, electrical outlets, water we didn’t have to filter, a free continental breakfast and a hot tub.
It was extremely hard to get back on trail the next day. Our room at the Best Western was cheap, very warm, dry and there was a storm looming outside, waiting for us to get back on trail. After breakfast, we went back to our room to pack our bags. We kept looking out the window to see the thick fog covering the hill we were about to trek up. Bleeder and I tried to justify staying another night in our room, but we both knew better. If we didn’t leave now, we’d end up staying until the storm rolled out after Monday. There was no way we could justify staying in the same hotel room for four days. We put our packs on, checked out of our comfortable room and grudgingly headed back outside to the trail, into the looming bad weather.
Day 29 ended up not being nearly as awful as we thought it would be. Leaving the hotel was hard. It was cold, windy and there was a hell of a climb waiting for us to get up and over. Plus, it looked to be a long, waterless stretch. However, halfway up the climb, we found ourselves above the fog and clouds and ended up getting to hike the rest of the day in warm sunshine. It was pretty awesome. We ended up hiking a total of 19.8 miles to a tentsite, just before the Acorn Trail junction down to Wrightwood.
On Day 30, we woke up above the cloud line. As we hiked down into Wrightwood via the Acorn Trail, we found ourselves in the clouds and rain again. It was considerably colder today than it was the day before hiking out of Cajon Pass.
As soon as we got into town, we headed into the gas station to get sodas. The guy behind the counter noticed we were thru-hikers and offered us a free hot dog. Breakfast this morning consisted of a hot dog, a bag of chips and a cold root beer. It was quite delicious.
After breakfast, we made our way down the street to the hardware store. Like the gas station, the hardware store welcomed us with open arms. There was a place in the back of the store where we could store our packs while we ran our town errands. There was a well-stocked hiker box and a trail register to sign. Hikers who signed the register received a free PCT pin, which I quickly put on my hat. I purchased another pair of Darn Tough socks and spoiled myself by getting two Mountain House meals for the next section because I knew the weather was going to be crappy. Since my purchase was over $20, the hardware store gave me a free gas canister. Score!
From the hardware store, we walked to the grocery store to resupply for the next section. After resupplying, we grabbed a delicious open-faced bagel from Cinnamon’s Bakery. It was easily one of the most delicious bagels I’ve ever had – cream cheese, tomato, cucumber and avocado on an everything bagel. After breakfast and sending off a couple of postcards, we grabbed our packs and walked towards the road where we got an easy hitch back to the trail. As quickly as we got into Wrightwood, we quickly found ourselves back on trail, hiking in the rain.
Even though our trail family had summited Mount Baden-Powell out of Wrightwood last year, Bleeder and I decided to skip Baden-Powell this year. There was still a lot of snow up there, the forecast was calling for bad weather and I ended up lending my microspikes to a fellow hiker whom hadn’t gone up to Baden-Powell yet. Instead, we opted to do the 11-mile road walk around the mountain.
At first the 11-mile road walk sounded easy enough. The section of the roadway we’d be walking on was closed, which meant we wouldn’t have to deal with traffic. The closer we got to the road closure, the heavier the rain got and the weather seemed to get colder. It would only be 11 miles of walking in less-than-ideal weather. How bad could it be?
The road walk started off on the closed part of the highway and began as a steady incline. The incline continued for the next six miles. The weather progressively got worse with the rain and wind picking up even more. About a mile into the road walk, we realized why the road was closed – there were rocks falling onto the roadway from the sides of the highway. At first, the rocks falling were pretty small. The heavier the rain got, the bigger the rocks were and the more of them fell down onto the highway. I was terrified. What if one of those rocks fell on us? What if we got caught in a big mudslide or rockslide along the highway? We both realized the potential danger we were in and picked up our pace.
It’s funny the things that make me hike fast – like food cravings (Big Macs anyone?) and being scared. The more rocks I saw falling onto the roadway, the faster I hiked. I was tired, cold and hungry. All I wanted to do is pull off to the side and take a quick break, but I was too terrified to stop. There weren’t many safe places to take a break. All I wanted to do was get the heck out of there and turning back wasn’t an option for us. Somehow with the crazy weather and nerve wrecking conditions, we ended up doing the 11-mile road walk in just three and a half hours. As soon as we finished with the road walk, we set up our tent in a parking lot with pit toilets and garbage cans. I’d never been so excited to see a parking lot.
Bleeder and I slept in the next morning because it poured rain on us all night and we were in no rush to get out and pack up a wet tent. At around 9 am, the sun came out for a short time. We took advantage of the sun break and quickly broke down camp and dried out the tent as much as we could before heading out.
We did a few more miles of road walking along an opened portion of the highway thanks to an endangered species closure a few miles up the trail. After taking a short lunch break, we headed back on trail to find the weather changing every ten minutes. The weather would go from sunshine to rain back to to sunshine and then back to rain with thunder off in the distance. Mother Nature couldn’t seem to make up her mind. Right before we stopped to set up camp for the evening, we hit Mile 400!
On Day 32, we hiked a total of 20.2 miles, crossing over Highway 2 multiple times as we went along. There was lots of climbing up and plenty of going down. Whoever said the desert is flat clearly hasn’t hiked the PCT in Southern California.
Towards the end of the day, we took a dinner break at a parking lot above a firehouse. By the time we got there, there were three other hikers who had ordered pizza and had it delivered to the parking lot. We showed up right as their pizza arrived. I hadn’t thought about pizza all day until I saw their pizza. Then all if a sudden, pizza was all I could think about. It was painful to watch them eat their pizza. To help make the situation less painful, I decided to eat a Mountain House Chili Mac meal since it had a tomato-base. I thought I could trick my brain into thinking it was having something like pizza. Fat chance.
We finished up dinner, filtered some water and hiked another 2.5 miles to our tentsite for the evening. Our tentsite ended up having an incredible sunset, totally worth climbing up those last couple of miles at the end of the day for.
Day 33 was a 19 mile day. It also seemed to be the day of the bees. Bleeder and I decided to take our first break of the day and eat a second breakfast at a water source five miles after where we had camped the night before. Right after getting to the water source and putting my pack down, I found both my pack and myself swarmed by bees. Ugh! All I wanted to do was sit down, relax and eat a snack. Instead, I had to quickly get water and walk up the trail a bit to filter it, just so I could get away from the bees. After filtering my water, I went back for my pack, threw it on and quickly made my way up the trail, trying to get as far away from the bees as I could. There was a significant climb ahead of us over the next few miles so I told myself I could take a proper break at the top of the climb.
After a grueling climb up to the top, I found a nice spot off the trail and started to set my pack down. As soon as my pack hit the ground, I heard the buzzing. Bees! This time there were even more bees than there were at the water source a few miles back. I quickly put my pack back on, not even bothering to fasten my pack and ran down the other side of the climb, away from the bees. I told myself I’d stop at the first shaded spot on my way down.
Less than a mile down, I found a great shaded spot under a tree, but again, it was swarming with bees. What the heck? I went a bit further down the trail, passing a large campground off to the left and stopped shortly after. There was shade, the spot was relatively flat and there was only one bee buzzing around. I could deal with one bee. I quickly ate a couple snacks and made my way down the trail again towards the North Fork Ranger Station.
For lunch, Bleeder and I both agreed to stop at the North Forks Ranger Station. We knew there would be shade, water, a picnic table to sit at, a garbage can to throw our trash away in and the opportunity to purchase cold sodas and chips. After our big climb up in the morning, we had a huge descent down towards the ranger station. My feet and knees hurt by the time I got there and was well beyond ready for a proper lunch break.
After enjoying lunch at the ranger station, cooking a ramen, eating two bags of chips and drinking three cold sodas, we hiked another four miles down the trail and set up camp at a tentsite right alongside a stream. Once we set up the tent, Bleeder and I walked downstream, away from where other hikers would be collecting water to drink and found a pool of cold water to stick our feet in to soak. It felt heavenly. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Bleeder surprised me with an ice cold root beer to drink as we soaked our feet. He had packed one out from the ranger station!
Day 34 meant we only had 14 miles left to hike until we reached Hiker Heaven in Agua Dulce.. Reaching Agua Dulce meant a couple of things – we’d get to eat pizza for lunch, take a shower, do our laundry and enjoy two days off from hiking. First, we had to pack up camp, which normally isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately from camping down in the canyon overnight next to the stream, our tent fly got soaked. We were eager to get into Agua Dulce and wouldn’t have enough time to dry it before we started hiking.
Then there was the 11-mile waterless and shadeless stretch from the road to the Acton KOA, all the way to the tunnel underneath Interstate 14 that all started off with a pretty big climb up from the PCT Completion Monument. Did you know the PCT was officially completed on June 5, 1993, right outside of Action, California?
As we hiked today, Bleeder and I came across four snakes on trail, two of them rattlesnakes. We took a quick break at the end of the I-14 tunnel in the shade and then hiked through the Vasquez Rocks County Park. After the park, there was a short road walk before we made it into town and headed straight into the pizza place for lunch.
After stuffing ourselves with pizza, Bleeder and I were able to hitch a ride from a local who dropped us off up the street at Hiker Heaven. We set up our tent originally thinking we were going to sleep in it during our stay, but Donna (Hiker Heaven owner/trail angel) graciously offered us to stay in the RV instead of our tent. We happily accepted her offer and were able to set up our tent for a short time, just so we could dry it out from the night before on trail.
Day 35 was our first day off at Hiker Heaven and began with a delicious breakfast in town at Home Made Cafe. After breakfast, we walked across the street to check out the hardware store. I bought a couple postcards and Bleeder got a cowboy hat to wear on trail. For the rest of the day, we spent our downtime relaxing at Hiker Heaven. I got caught up on putting together a video of our hike for YouTube and Bleeder sat in on a Game of Thrones eight hour marathon. The best Zero Days are when everyone gets their chores done and gets to do whatever they want to do.
Did you know that in addition to blogging about our hike this year, I’ve also been making videos of our adventures along the way? Be sure to check out my YouTube Channel, The Hungry HIker to watch all of the videos of our hike.
Here’s the most recent video, “PCT 2019 | Week Three and Four”
Want to be an active part of my 2019 PCT thru-hiking experience without having to take a single step? CLICK HERE to be a Trail Angel for my thru-hike this year.