PCT Hwy 79-74 March 2015

Vicki and I backpacked a section of the PCT from Highway 79 in Warner Springs to Highway 74 in Anza, California. We hiked 41 miles total from PCT Mile 111 to PCT Mile 152 over a span of four days. The trail began in chaparral, descended down into the Anza-Borrego Desert, and climbed back up into chaparral at the finish.

The hike was done back in early March as we wanted to avoid high temperatures. This section has relatively little shade, as most of the route lies within the borders of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, so overheating can easily become an issue.

This section is also notorious for its lack of water. We might have tried hiking it earlier this winter, except there were no recent entries on the PCT Water Report and we didn’t dare attempt it without any beta, especially during a dry year like this. I kept checking the water report, and finally in late February one strong hiker passed through and updated everything. Hooray! After that, it was simply a matter of balancing our hiking ability with the known water locations and coming up with a plan of attack. We’re not ultra-light twenty-mile-a-day PCT through-hikers. Oh, no. Carrying full packs, twelve miles is about the most that we might attempt, and we’d surely be whupped by the end of the day. After studying the map, I concluded that four days would do it.

Cholla cactus and other cacti began appearing as we reached lower elevation

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PCT Route 74 to Idyllwild May 2013

Vicki and I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Route 74 in Anza to Humber Park in Idyllwild (PCT mile 152 to 179) on Memorial Day Weekend in 2013. It was a 30 mile hike which took us four days and three nights. On this particular hike, the location of water sources plays a huge role, so our original plan was to hike three easy five mile days and a grueling fifteen mile day, camping at Live Oak Spring, Cedar Spring, and Apache Spring. But weather concerns (and an offer to give a friend, Hikin’ Jim, a lift back to his car) made us change the hike to a ten-five-ten-five miler, thus skipping Live Oak Spring entirely, and sleeping the final night away from water (meaning that we had to carry more water with us on that ten mile day). And that’s what we did.

As you look at the photos, you’ll see that the PCT lives up to its name, as we stayed on or near the crest of the San Jacinto massif the entire time. Lots of climbing, but also lots and lots of views. That’s what the PCT is all about. The early part of the hike climbs up out of the high desert, and the vegetation is mostly scrubby chaparral with patches of oaks and the occasional pine tree. It was fairly hot in the sun, so we hiked slowly and took rests. The later part of the hike was at a much higher elevation, with more oaks and pine forest, and the climbing made us hot, so we hiked slowly and took rests. This seems to be our hiking style, I’m afraid: Slow and restful. But at least it leaves plenty of time to take pictures!

Looking south from the top of Murray Canyon just east of Red Tahquitz

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PCT Route S22 to Scissors Crossing March 2013

Continuing this year’s PCT extravaganza, Vicki and I decided to tackle the 24 miles of very dry hiking between Routes 78 and S22. This hike lies within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and is known for being one of the driest stretches in Southern California.

We originally had planned to do it as a dayhike, but after the blisters of the previous 16-miler, we decided that 24 miles required an overnight stay, even though it meant carrying more weight. Normally, there would be no water at all on this lonely stretch of trail, and we’d have to carry two days of water (which is prohibitive) but we were in luck: Internet sources told us that some PCT “Trail Angels” had come to the rescue and dropped off a cache of water not far from the trail, out near the midpoint of this trail section.

This time, however, we decided to cheat a bit. We would hike the trail from north to south. Why? Elevation change. The north end began about a thousand feet higher. Sure, we’d be climbing and descending more than that along the way, but the net result would be a downhill hike. We also enlisted our son to drive with us so that we would drop our car off at the terminus.

HDR shot of the sunrise and Granite Mountain from the PCT

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PCT Route S22 to 79 March 2013

This story is about another one of our dayhikes on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, here in San Diego County. This particular section covers the trail from what is known as PCT mile 101 to mile 111 (i.e. from County Road S22 to the second crossing of State Route 79) near the town of Warner Springs.  It was an easy ten-mile day, with only minimal elevation gain or loss. Being lazy, we chose the direction with a net loss in elevation (south to north), but it wouldn’t have mattered much, as it only gained about 500 feet the other way.  This section of trail was much different than the others we’d hiked, because it never really entered the mountains at all. Instead, it wandered along over miles of rolling grassy pastureland.

We left our house before dawn and headed east.  We took two cars, with our son giving us a ride; he helped by allowing us to leave our car at the terminus in Warner Springs.  The actual hike started when we got dropped off at the S22 trailhead.  By then it was light, but the air was cool, as we were down in a valley bottom where the cold air settles in the night.  And the only way to get warm was to get moving.  We posed next to the Pacific Crest Trail symbol and began hiking in earnest.

Me on the PCT carrying my big pack with not much in it but water

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PCT Cuyamaca to Scissors Crossing Feb 2013

After a few shorter local hikes, Vicki and I decided to attempt a long sixteen-mile hike on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail. This was the first real “hike” of the 2013 season, although we didn’t camp overnight. We also have been dreaming of hiking the entire PCT some day, from Mexico to Canada, but fully realize that we will never be able to get that much time off from work. Hiking the PCT in “sections” will have to do, for now.

The section we hiked was in San Diego, from near Cuyamaca Lake down to Scissors Crossing, where Highways 78 and S2 cross. This corresponds to what is officially known as PCT Mile 62 to PCT Mile 77. Basically, we started up high in the mountains, at 4800 feet elevation, and, over 15 miles, dropped down into the high desert at 2300 feet. So, even though it was a long hike, it was, thankfully, mostly downhill.

Rather than a there-and-back hike with one car, we used two cars, dropping one car off at the end. We also started at dawn, and hoped that we could keep up our pace and avoid hiking in the dark.

Hiking along the north slope of Granite Mountain on the PCT

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PCT Laguna Mountain April 2012

Vicki and I decided to get into the new hiking season with a relatively simple overnight backpacking trip along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) just east of San Diego in the Laguna Mountains. We’d just bought a new two-person goose down sleeping bag (the King Solomon bag from the Big Agnes company, which was designed to work perfectly with the two Big Agnes inflatable sleeping pads we already had) and, let’s face it, the hiking part of the weekend was really just a method of getting our sleeping bag far enough into the wilderness to do some serious work on our sleeping skills.

We enlisted our son’s aid in order to leave our car at Pioneer Mail picnic area on Highway S1 (the end of the hike) while getting dropped off at Mason Valley Road on Highway 79 in Cuyamaca, CA, just north of Lake Cuyamaca. We would be hiking south on the PCT, camping somewhere in the middle. In fact, along the way we cached two gallons of water in some bushes just off the highway, somewhere near our proposed camping spot.

The view from our campsite above the Pacific Crest Trail in the Laguna Mountains

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