26 Nov

PCT – Day 149 (26 Nov 18) – Mexico

Miles 2634.4 – 2652.6 >>> 18.2 (29.3 km)

We were up early and had packed up and were on the trail by 7:30 am. It was strange taking the first few steps, knowing that we’d reach the border today. A lot of emotions coursed through me and I really didn’t know what I was feeling. It was sort of exciting to be this close to the end, but there was also this impending gloom … that I was this close to the end.

Soon we came to last “major” PUD (“pointless up and down”) of the trail. A large ravine that we had to cross. It was about one and a half miles (2.4 km) down to Hauser Creek Road, and another one and a half miles back up again.

Big ravine ahead.

Near the top of the other side, we found evidence that we were close to Mexico. The sign says:

¡Cuidado! – No exponga su vida a los elementos – ¡No vale la pena!

Google translate tells me that it says: “Attention! – Don’t expose yourself to the elements – It’s not worth it!”

I wonder how many read it and didn’t care anyway.

Warning sign, just in Spanish.

At around eleven, I’d seemingly reached the end of the hills and everything beyond was lying lower. It seemed like the end of the US was etched into the countryside.

Mexico is lying lower.

at a quarter to one I’d reached the train tracks and the sign saying that it’s a mere three miles (4.8 km) to go. I didn’t like that sign at all. The trail was almost over.

2649.6 miles to Canada.

I reached highway 94 at one o’clock and waited for Trouble to catch up to me.When she arrived we decided to go to the Campo Green Store first, to get some refreshments and a celebratory drink for when we’d reach the monument.

Campo Green Store.

Then it was time for the last mile and a bit.

US Border Patrol station in Campo.

Soon after we came across the fabled “Mile 1” marker (1.6 km).

Only one mile to go.

Soon we could see the southern terminus for the first time.

The tiny plinth sticking out into the sky at the center of the photo.

As we were coming closer, I pulled out my camera and shot a video of the last few steps. We decided to touch off together and did it at pretty much exactly at 2:58 pm.

Almost there.

We signed the trail register, with our usual “Team Badass” and were happy to note that Patch had made it a day earlier.

Trail register signed.

After that we had a beer and took some silly pictures.

King of the world.

A border patrol vehicle came up to us and the two gentlemen checked what we were doing. They were really nice and let me pose in front of their vehicle. They would’t let me take a picture with them, but I can totally understand that. Social media could be horrible for these guys.

Posing with the Border Patrol.

The Border Patrol guys disappeared soon after and a couple of Black Hawk helicopters flew over us, patrolling the border.

Flying border patrol.

We considered where we’d spend the night. As far as we knew there was no accommodation to be had in Campo, so we settled on one last night in the tent.

Showing my love for the PCT.

We found a spot in the bushes, next to Forest Gate Road, about 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from the border, and got to bed early. We’d organised with a trail angel from San Diego to pick us up in the morning.

25 Nov

PCT – Day 148 (25 Nov 18) – Lake Morena

Miles 2616.5 – 2634.4 >>> 17.9 (28.8 km)

Second to last day. How strange. After almost five months on trail, it’s suddenly becoming a reality that this adventure is about to come to a close. Trouble and I weren’t talking a lot, both of us enthralled in our own thoughts. We packed up and got going.

Halfway between Mount Laguna and Boulder Oaks.

I was quickly ahead of Trouble and tried to enjoy the last few miles.

Crossing Fred Canyon Road.

The views were surprisingly beautiful and at least I could distract myself from a certain gloominess that had taken hold of me. It was very clear to me that I really didn’t want this to end.

Looking towards Campo Border Patrol Station at Old Highway 80, and Kumeyaay Interstate 8.

I’d heard from so many other thru-hikers that reaching the end was a mixed feeling of elation and desperation. On the one hand you’re happy to reach the end. You’ve accomplished something and there is some form of closure to be had. On the other hand, you also don’t want it to end. Living on the trail is just better than anything else you’ve ever experienced in your life and it dawns on you that no matter what you’ll do afterwards, it won’t be anywhere near as good as this.

Kumeyaay Interstate 8 at Boulder Oaks.

Eventually I got my first glimpse of Lake Morena in the distance.

Looking towards Lake Morena.

I came across a cool little rock that had a hole in it. Not that it could really cheer me up.

Hole in the rock.

I waited for Trouble at the outskirt of Lake Morena and we made our way to the trail famous Oak Shores Malt Shop. We were both not very talkative and felt exhausted and tired. It was great to stop, sit down, and order some food.

The Oak Shores Malt Shop.

We stuck around the shop for a while, and eventually decided to get back on the trail. There was the option of staying on the camp ground in town, but neither one of us was keen to do that, so we just hiked a little up the trail and found a site to the side of the trail. This was going to be our last night on trail.

24 Nov

PCT – Day 147 (24 Nov 18) – Mount Laguna

Miles 2602.7 – 2616.5 >>> 13.8 (22.2 km)

The night had been so windy that we hadn’t slept very well and were a bit sluggish to peel ourselves out of our sleeping bags. We weren’t back on trail until 8:30 am.

Morning view.

The trail was pretty easy and followed alongside the Sunrise National Scenic Byway S1. So we were surrounded by traffic noise, which was less nice. But the views were still good.

Somewhere between Foster Point and Hayes Peak.

We made it into Mount Laguna at around eleven and stopped by the Laguna Mountain Lodge & Store first and bought some cold drinks and snacks. Then we felt ready for a meal and walked down to the Blue Jay Lodge-Cabins, Restaurant, and Bar. However the proprietor said that we would have to leave our backpacks outside if we wanted to eat there, so we walked straight back out again and walked further down the road to the Pine House Cafe & Tavern.

The Pine House Cafe & Tavern.

A good decision, as it turned out. They were much friendlier and accommodating and the food was reasonably good.

It was almost three by the time we left town. We took the adventurous route back on to the trail (meaning we may have got lost for a moment there) and it was good. It veered away from the highway and we were back in nature again.

Clouds are moving in.

The weather didn’t look too friendly and we were prepared for a down pour at any moment. It didn’t come however and we just enjoyed the spectacle of the clouds.

Back in a forest.

We walked through a stretch of deciduous trees again and it really felt like late fall again.

Next to Long Canyon Creek.

We crossed Long Canyon Creek and hiked another couple of miles to a campsite under a big tree and set up camp. We had our usual dinner and went to bed early.

23 Nov

PCT – Day 146 (23 Nov 18) – Garnet Peak

Miles 2575.5 – 2602.7 >>> 2.7* (4.3 km)

We woke up early and then had to wait until people in the house were up. We were compensated with coffee and yummy left over pies from the night before. It was wonderful. Such generous and nice people. Thank you all for your hospitality.

Later we were driven back into town, where Trouble and I resupplied at the grocery store. Before hitting the trail, we decided to go for one last pie at Mom’s. We insisted on paying for this round though and it was another glorious experience. We also got to talk to a Hispanic teacher, who we discussed modern learning, racism, and other topics. It was interesting. Especially since we hadn’t talked about nothing but the trail for the last few months.

Mom’s Pie House.

Since we stupidly had booked our return flights well in advance, we decided to skip some more trails and try and find a hitch a bit further down the trail. I could tell that Trouble was just going through the motions now and actually really wanted to get off the trail. Personally I felt more like hiking to Mexico, touching off at the border, and to hike it all the way back up to Canada again. I didn’t want it to end. I dreaded every single step I took towards Mexico, for it meant it was one less step that still lay ahead of me. We had only fifty miles to go and that meant only two or three days to go.

A couple going in the other direction saw us at the side of the road and actually turned around to give us a ride to wherever we wanted to go. So nice!

We got back on trail at the Pioneer Mail Historic Site, just off the Sunrise National Scenic Byway S1.

Only 52 miles to go.

We were high up on a plateau and had great views into the valley below.

Beautiful views.

We hiked for less than three miles, to a little south of Garnet Peak. It was incredibly windy and we struggled to find a flat patch in between all the shrubbery. It was already getting dark when we eventually settled on a rocky bit that just about took up our tent. I had to dig out some larger boulders to make room for us, but eventually we managed. I the rocks I’d dug out, plus a number of others I found lying around to wind proof my tent. It was very blustery and gusty and I had two MSR Groundhog stakes being pulled out of the lose ground, before I could find rocks large enough that could weigh them down sufficiently. It was probably the heaviest wind we’d been in on the trail. Even though the Santa Ana storm was technically stronger, we’d been sheltered a lot better.

I have to say though that I was super impressed by how my ZPacks Altaplex held up in these conditions. Thanks for building a fantastic tent.

22 Nov

PCT – Day 145 (22 Nov 18) – Thanksgiving

Miles 2566.4 – 2575.5 >>> 9.1 (14.6 km)

We woke up to rain pounding on our tent. So we decided to have a ly in and see if we can’t out wait the rain.

Gloomy clouds and rain.

Well, we only waited about an hour and managed to get on trail by about eight. The clouds and rain really made our day today, for once we came around a corner on the hill side we could see into the big valley leading us towards Julian.

Deep hanging clouds everywhere.

We didn’t get wet once, we could see it coming down in the distance.

For once, it’s sunny on this side.

We then got an absolutely beautiful rainbow that stayed with us, incredibly, for over an hour and a half. It was stunning.

Stunning rainbow.

Today is my mum’s birthday and at one point I was lucky enough to get reception and I sent her a picture of the rainbow and called her to congratulate her. It was wonderful.

The trail looping around the mountain side.

Eventually we made it down the mountain and reached highway 78. It was obvious that we were close to the border now, because there was a Border Patrol car waiting for us. We talked to the guys and asked if we could take a picture. They didn’t mind, as long as they weren’t in it. I guess they’re afraid of people being mean to them on social media. So sad, but I guess they’re probably right, especially in the current political climate.

Border Patrol vehicle.

We hadn’t actually planned on going to town today, but the cars driving past us reminded us of town food and we easily convinced ourselves that it was sensible to hitch into town. We got a hitch relatively easily and made it into town.

First we tried to find a hotel, because it was bitterly cold in town and wouldn’t mind having a hot shower. Turned out that hotels were either fully booked or charged a fortune for a night’s stay. That’s when we realized that it was actually Thanksgiving today. It also meant that pretty much all shops were closed and we couldn’t even get anything decent to eat. You cannot imagine how disappointed we were.

The only place that was open, was the Julian Market & Deli. We got some cheap hot food and cold drinks and asked the guys behind the counter if they knew a place for us to set up our tent. They were super nice and immediately offered for us to stay around the back of the building on the patio. We had a look there, but realized that it was not possible for me to set up my tent there, because mine is not free standing, and the patio was tiled.

We thought about looking for a park we could sneak in at night or something like it. We walked down the main road, when we noticed a cue of people in front of Mom’s Pie House. Apparently they’d opened up to hand out pre-ordered pies for the festivities. When they saw us walk by, they immediately waved us over and ushered us into the back o their cafe, where we could warm up and hang out a little. They even gave us a free slice of their ridiculously good pie.

Mom’s pies. Bliss!

Eventually though, they had to chase us out, because they had handed out all their pies and wanted to go back home. We thanked them and asked them on the way out, if they knew a place nearby where we could set up our tent. He hesitated a moment and then said: “Well, I don’t really know anything nearby, but we have a big backyard. You could stay there. We’ve got the family coming over and you might as well celebrate Thanksgiving with us then.”

Wow. So nice. Minutes later we were in their car and on our way up to their house. We set up our tent in their backyard, had a shower, ran a load of laundry through their washing machine and dryer, and then helped them set up their garage for the big Thanksgiving feast.

By and by their guests arrived in the evening and it was amazing.

Feeling at home away from home.

The food was incredible and Trouble and I were very conscious not to pile up our plates too high.

Truly a feast. Everything homemade.

We’ve had a wonderful evening with the entire family and it was great to tell them about our adventures.

Food, drink, and good friends. What more do you need?

I spent a long time chatting to their 14 year old daughter and told her about Australia.

Ours of good conversations.

We chased down the meal with multiple pieces of mom’s pies and eventually cleaned up, said goodbye to the family members leaving, and then went to bed in our tent.

What a truly magnificent day it’s been.

Thank you so very much, Mom’s Pie House and family. You are the reason why I love to travel and still believe in humanity.

21 Nov

PCT – Day 144 (21 Nov 18) – 100 Miles to Go

Miles 2546.4 – 2566.4 >>> 20.0 (32.2km)

We woke up around seven, had a quick breakfast, and then packed up to hit the trail again.

Eagle Rock in full sunlight/

The area around Eagle Rock was gorgeous and I really enjoyed the long flat bits. It’s just cool to see the trail for miles and the disappear over the horizon.

South of Eagle Rock.

At ten to ten, I arrived at the 100 miles (161 km) to go marker and I sat down and waited for Trouble.

The hundred mile marker at the bottom right.

We had a bite to eat (or two) and pondered how close to the end we were. I think Trouble was looking forward to it coming to an end and being able to fly home again. I, on the hand, had very mixed feelings. Yes, there was a sense of accomplishment to finish a trail like this, but I really wasn’t looking forward to getting off trail and to return to “normal” life. Hiking IS life and it has fulfilled me in a way that I hadn’t thought possible.

Just south of San Felipe Hills, we came across another water cache.

We found water in the desert.

It’s actually a huge cache, with multiple pallets of gallon size water bottles for hikers to use. Guess who was sitting at the cache, cooking a meal? Yep, it was Patch. We sat there for a while and chatted away. We had to move on though and we left Patch behind.

Evening light illuminating the mountains.

Again, we walked into the night. We kept walking along a ledge on the side of a mountain and there was no flat spots to be found, until eventually I found something on a saddle. I waited for Trouble to catch up and we set up for the night.

20 Nov

PCT – Day 143 (20 Nov 18) – Warner Springs and Eagle Rock

Miles 2531.7 – 2546.4 >>> 14.7 (23.7 km)

In the end, it didn’t rain and we just packed up and got going again.

The trail ahead.

Around lunch time, we arrived in Warner Springs and followed the loop trail into town. At first we came past the Chapel of Saint Francis, whose looks reminded us strongly that we were getting very close to Mexico.

The chapel of Saint Francis in Warner Springs.

We stooped at the gas station and hung out for a while and had hot dogs, drinks, and ice cream. The owner told us we should go to the Community Center down the road, where we could camp for the night, and have toilets and showers. So that’s what we did. It’s a big area and they have bucket showers and public toilets there and both Trouble and I took advantage of it and even washed some of our clothes. We hung out there for a while to get our clothes dried as much as possible, but eventually decided that we didn’t actually want to spend the night there, but rather move on. And that’s what we did. We left Warner Springs just before five and the trail south of WS was surprisingly pretty and beautiful.

Moon rise, south of Warner Springs.

We walked into the night again and decided to make it to Eagle Rock at least and see if we can find a campsite around there.

Gorgeous sunset.

We made it there by about five thirty and tried to take pictures in the low light.

Eagle Rock at night.

There wasn’t really anywhere to set up our tent anywhere nearby, so we just set it up at the rear of Eagle Rock, on a tiny flat bit, and stayed the night there. Not a bad place to stay and we didn’t get disturbed by anyone.

19 Nov

PCT – Day 142 (19 Nov 18) – Mike’s

Miles 2508.6 – 2531.7 >>> 23.1 (37.2 km)

We got up earlier today and were on trail by seven. It was interesting and beautiful to walk through countryside that was absolutely littered with cacti.

Cactus Country.

The morning was pretty uneventful and we just put miles in. The landscape changed little, but we had nice views most of the time.

Somewhere north of Combs Peak.

We had decided to only stop for lunch, once we were at Mike’s, a local resident who provides a water tank for PCT hikers. However, I ran into beautiful trail magic station run by the local scout group. It had a cooler with fresh oranges and mandarins in it and even provided a trash can. Thanks a million for this. Fresh fruit on trail is amazing!

So I got comfortable, inhaled an orange and waited for Trouble to catch up. While she enjoyed her fruit, I mixed myself another weird artificial flavor water mix that Trouble finds so disgusting and filled up my fluids.

Trail Magic.

Shortly after we arrived at Mike’s place, where we filled our water bottles. Thanks a lot Mike. Well appreciated.

Mike’s water tank.

We didn’t stay long, since we’ve had our lunch break at the trail magic station and moved on. The scenery was getting more beautiful and I like the big jumble of boulders that are dispersed over the mountain sides.

Boulder country.

We kept hiking into the evening. The clouds above looked threatening and we wanted to find a place that wouldn’t get inundated in case of rain. So we hiked into the dark and eventually found a nice place up a creek bed.

Dark clouds moving in,
18 Nov

PCT – Day 141 (18 Nov 18) – Coyotes

Miles 2500.8 – 2508.6 >>> 7.8 (12.6 km)

It was quite pleasant to take time to get up. I knew that the Paradise Valley Cafe was just a few yards down the trail and I wasn’t in a rush. Trouble on the other hand was eager to get another meal in and she chased me out of bed. Well, it was pretty good to get up, because the breakfast was excellent. Well, truth be told, it wasn’t just one breakfast either. I also had a banana bear at eight o’clock in the morning, and don’t feel guilty about it.

Breakfast at Paradise Valley Cafe.

We procrastinated big time and excused our laziness by recharging all our phones and powerbanks to a 100%. By one o’clock though, we finally made it out of the cafe and were back on the trail. The Paradise Valley Cafe was definitely one of the highlights for me on the trail. So nice. Thank you all.

Looking south, across the mountains from Paradise Valley Cafe.

The trail was nice enough and pretty easy. There was a lot of sand going on, but it was just surface sand and highly compacted, so that the going wasn’t too much of a burden.

Sunset colors.

Just before five, we came to a water tank at mile 145 (in NOBO reckoning) that had a card board cutouts and quotes from poets and outdoors men. Namely Walt Whitman, John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau. It also featured a free book exchange library. Not that I know a lot of thru-hikers that carry paper books on trail, but it was so nice and cute that made mine and Trouble’s day. Thanks to whoever put it here.

The trail library.

We hiked into the late evening to put in at least a few more miles and eventually found a beautiful campsite among some big boulders. to the side of the trail. While we prepared our dinner, a pack of coyotes came very close to us and we heard the howling basically from next to our tent. Very cool. They moved on a bit later on but stayed in the vicinity. We could hear them long into the night.

Evening desert colors.
17 Nov

PCT – Day 140 (17 Nov 18) – Paradise Valley Cafe

Miles 2443.1 – 2500.8 >>> 0.0* (0.0 km)

The night had been noisy, with a lot of heavy traffic driving by our campsite and the noise of party goers wafting over from town. It had been Friday night after all.

Idyllwild.

We were up and packed before seven and made our way into town for breakfast. The Red Kettle opened at seven and turned out to be an excellent choice.

The Red Kettle.

We started with our standard omelette, but finished off with fresh waffles, maple syrup, and fruit. So good.

Oh yeah, baby. Waffles!

After that we walked down the main street and stopped by the “Nomad Ventures Mountain Equipage” to resupply on fuel and to browse their gear.

North Circle Drive in Idyllwild.

When we came across the statue of this cowboy, Trouble immediately started joking about Brokeback Mountain and I happily obliged for a photo shoot.

I kissed a cowboy.

We’d decided to just skip the San Jacinto mountains altogether. We both agreed that we’d definitely regret it later on, but Trouble needed a zero and we still had the deadline of our flights looming over our heads. So we stuck our thumbs out and within a short few minutes got a ride from another mother-son couple that drove us down to the famed Paradise Valley Cafe.

The Paradise Valley Cafe.

It is a great place and Trouble and I had some of the best burgers we’ve had on trail. We plugged our electrical appliances into their outlets and recharged our phones and powerbanks. We kept ordering food and drinks. Initially the staff was surprised that we managed to eat this much and that we kept sitting there, but we became really friendly in no time and we’ve had a fantastic time there. Thank you so very much.

In the evening, Trouble and I took to the little side trail that follows alongside the Pines and Palms Highway 74 back to the PCT. We didn’t walk back to the trail though, but simply set up camp in some nearby bushes, since we wanted to go back to the cafe in the morning for breakfast. For once we didn’t have our apple cider. We were stuffed.