Week One: Miles 0-109.5

Phew! One week of hiking and living like a bum is in the books! I feel like SO much has happened, it’s tricky to sum it all up (but I’m going to try!).

Laurel and I were so excited to start hiking on a cool, overcast day in Campo, CA. I was so relieved the hot, dry desert was being kind to us on our first day!

Mandatory pose with the southern trailhead. Such a pretty monument.

We had great hiking weather most of the day, it was cool and pleasant, and morale was through the roof. We were taking our time, but easily hiked about 7 miles before lunch. We ate at a nice spot with a good view and the fog rolled in right behind us, then the rain started. It was a greatttt lesson on expectations…who woulda thought the desert would cold and rainy?! By the time we hit mile 15, we were soggy and plenty tired, so we set up our tents and called it a successful and hilarious day 1.

The next day was FULL of rain…misty rain, heavy rain, pleasant rain, and colddd rain. It rained from the time we left our tents to the time we set them up again, 15 miles later. We were all still pretty high from starting this crazy adventure, and thus stayed in pretty good spirits until mile 13 of the day…those last couple miles challenged our optimism in a BIG way.

Seeking refuge with new friends under a bridge after hiking 10 miles in the rain.

The sun FINALLY came out on day 3, and I had a sloppy, but warm hike into Mt. Laguna. There was a group campsite set aside for PCT hikers, a cafe and an outfitter. It was a great opportunity to pick up/swap out gear and eat “real” food (i.e. a salad! and eggs!). We liked it so much, we took a rest day and didn’t hike at all day 4. It was nice to give our bodies a rest and SHOWER! And again, eat real food.

Super helpful and fun outfitter in Mt. Laguna. They had all kinds of great tips and gear!

My hiking partner, Laurel, had some SUPER gnarly blisters after the sloppy hike up to Mt.Laguna and decided to take a couple extra “zero” days (rest days). I was feeling good, so I decided to hike on with a few new friends.

Days 5-7 were a great orientation to the desert I expected to meet: hot, dry, spooky, prickly, beautiful. There was a crazy quick transition from the cool mountain temps with plenty of water, to no water and lots of cacti. We had to hike nearly 20 miles to the next water source, after leaving Mt. Laguna. My feet swelled with the heat and a whole family of blisters decided to make my feet their home. My shoes were instantly too small. I “hiker hobbled” my way from mile 60-109.

View from my tent at mile 59.

I visited a few “water caches” (designated locations people, local “trail angels,” drop large amounts of water for hikers), and camped under a bridge. I saw plenty of flowers and lizards, no rattlesnakes (yet!). I had a breathtaking sunset hike and was almost brought to tears.

Sunset views in the desert.

Days are spent leap-frogging other hikers, snacking, taking photos, and planning how many miles we’ll hike. Once our tents are set up, everyone chats for a bit and quickly heads to bed. There is a complete abandonment of schedule and routine; each person is accountable for themselves and is in charge of their experience. It’s a forgein but sweet way to spend my days; definitely taking some getting used to.

I hit mile 100 exactly 1 week into my trek. I was relieved and thrilled to see “100” spelled out on the trail. I ate a snickers and drank a cup of instant coffee in celebration. One of my favorite moments.

Mile 100! Such a SWEET moment!

Even though my blisters made hiking slow and frustrating the last couple days, I was constantly reminded how lucky I am to have this time, to see these places. The desert is stark and monochromatic, but hauntingly beautiful and impressive.

Lessons from the Trail: Week 1

  • Never expect anything, because you’ll be wrong. Example: rain in the desert.
  • Buy bigger shoes, just do it. Blisters are debilitating.
  • Hiking and camping alone is super therapeutic.
  • Take breaks when you want to!

For more photos from this week check out my photo page!


6 thoughts on “Week One: Miles 0-109.5”

  1. You are giving me a chance to see some beautiful country without leaving my lounger. Thanks Ellen. You are really courageous!!!

  2. So proud of you Eco Eccentric Ellen! Have a blast. Be safe. Prayers and loving thoughts go with you!

  3. Awesome job Ellen!!!! Looks like you are in for a challenging but rewarding experience! You will do great! Can’t wait to read more.

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