Another winter storm dumps several inches of snow locally

We got several inches of snow last night, with more predicted in the next couple of days. I visited my hiker oasis in the morning to find a hiker hunkered down in a tent in the snow. I invited her to breakfast and we had a great conversation.

I suspect there is now quite a lot of snow on the trail just a dozen miles north of here. Stay safe, hikers!

Riding the first 40 miles of the PCT

I had a week+ of free time on my hands and a good weather forecast for SoCal, so I decided to do some horse camping down south and ride as much of the PCT as time and snow conditions allowed.

Gracie and I spent our first several days doing day rides out of Campo CLEEF, an equestrian facility within “spittin’ distance” (as my grandmother would say) of the southern terminus. Of course, there was the obligatory picture at the monument.

Trump’s new border wall is visible in the background. (This section of wall used to be a solid 12-foot concrete barrier.) There is a Border Patrol station in Campo, so this section sees a lot of Border Patrol traffic along the road bordering the wall.

From a distance, the wall totally changes vistas. Because it is not solid, you can sometimes sees odd light patterns that it creates.

Electronic surveillance is everywhere.

Anyway, off we went on our first foray from the southern terminus. Here’s the obligatory picture of the first milepost.

A few miles in, we passed another sign signifying the distance in each direction. I couldn’t help sending friends a bunch of texts that we were going for broke, and there was only 2,647 miles to go.

We did the first ten miles as an out and back, then moved to Boulder Oaks as our base camp for the next 30 miles.

The only federally-designated wilderness in this section is Hauser Wilderness. The PCT goes through a tiny corner of it.

Looking back at it from the south side of Hauser Canyon, the beautiful view is marred by two giant power lines that run along the wilderness area’s southern boundary.

Part of this route is (still) used by undocumented immigrants, as shown by the sign and water cache.

We continued day rides near Lake Morena

and up to the Lagunas. Snow lingering on the trail from a storm last week kept us from continuing on.

Thoughts on PCT Class of 2020

With the 2020 northbound PCT thru hiker season winding down here at mile 145.4, I want to share some thoughts on this year and this thru hiker class during these strange, strange times.

Before coronavirus, 2020 was looking like it would be yet another record-setting year in the number of thru hiker permits issued. The Sierra snowpack was lower than recent years, making an early start more promising than the previous several years. March started normally, with the number of hikers passing by typical for the very early part of the season. Then coronavirus-related shutdowns started and federal, state and local governments instituted physical distancing requirements. The PCTA requested that hikers cancel their long-distance hiking plans. The trajectory of coronavirus was still unknown, and many hikers struggled over whether to start (or, for those who had already begun) whether to continue their thru hike. While the USFS (which is the agency that “controls” the PCT) never closed the trail, national parks began closing both front country and back country areas, making it look like hikers may need to skip some of the premier parts of the trail or risk running afoul of the closure orders.

While I don’t count hikers passing by my place, I spend enough time interacting with hikers at my oasis to guesstimate that less than 20% of permit-holders made it as far as mile 145. The trail definitely wasn’t deserted, but hiker numbers were back to pre-Wild levels. Part of me was sad to realize that thousands of people who had planned to thru hike the PCT in 2020 felt the need to cancel their plans. But, part of me was glad to see hiker numbers down to a more sustainable level that permits a degree of solitude that has been absent for four years, since Wild caused a radical increase in thru hiker numbers. As a trail user myself, my daily out-and-back hikes and horse rides have been more peace-filled. The hikers I converse with — especially those with previous experience on extended hikes in the PCT — also enjoy the benefits of lower hiker numbers, such as open camp sites.

We shall see what 2021 brings. I predicted that the Wild bump would run its course within a few years and the sudden interest in thru hiking would be seen as a fad in retrospect. 2020 is an anomaly, and I don’t see the fad fading … but, one can hope.

In the cool of the morning

With a cold front moving through, I wanted to do an early hike north on the PCT in the cool of the morning. I nearly stepped on a lizard who had selected a poor location to become torpid … smack dab in the center of the trail. (After I took this picture, I gently lifted it with a stick and set it in a sunny spot just off the foot path.)

Mt San Jacinto was shrouded with a layer of fast-moving clouds, with just the peak exposed.

Within seconds, the clouds had been blown off, again revealing the massive mountain in its entirety.