Day 1: Beautiful Birthday Beginnings

Start: PCT Southern Terminus (mile 0)

End: Lake Morena (mile 20.1)

Total elevation gain/loss: 3018.4/2856.6ft

Start day finally arrived! We’ve been talking about today for months, so it was a bit surreal to be starting. Today’s also Michael’s birthday, so it’s extra special.



We woke up at 5am so that we’d be ready to leave our El Cajon hotel by 6am. My parents graciously drove us down to El Cajon and woke up early to drive us to the trailhead. I was nervous about arriving at the same time as the Scout & Frodo group (trail angels who help get hikers to the PCT’s southern terminus), but we luckily arrived about 20 minutes before them and had the monument to ourselves. We took the obligatory photos and touched Mexico before heading off down the trail.

Signing our first trail register

Michael touching Mexico. Yes, there was a wall.

The crowd as we left the Southern Terminus.

Looking north

Today would be a day of firsts:

Our first mile on the PCT. only 2649 to go…


Our first time seeing search and rescue (CalFire) coming to the aid of a PCT hiker. Some unfortunate women hurt her ankle at mile 1.9 and had to call in for help.

Our first (and second) rattlesnakes.

Can you spot it? I didn’t feel like getting closer.

Our first stream crossing.


Our first trail magic

A beer for the birthday boy.

The hiking today surpassed my expectations. For the first 10 miles or so we hiked through rolling foothills. The sides of the trail were lined with small purple and white wildflowers. Every once in awhile we’d pass a lovely yucca plant in full bloom. Bunnies and lizards frequently ran across the path in front of us. Because of this year’s heavy rain, we passed numerous seasonal streams that would normally be dry. This allowed us to avoid starting the day with a lot of water. Our packs weighed in at 18.8 and 22.6 pounds with our food and water for the first section.


I had expected that we’d see lots of people on the trail this morning, but we hiked for a couple hours without seeing much of anyone. I think we beat most of today’s starters out the gate and stayed ahead of them.


Just before the final descent before reaching Hauser Creek at mile 15.7 we encountered our first trail magic. We met Tawney, a fellow PCT hiker, and her parents, who had driven out on the dirt track to meet her with sandwiches and beer. It was hot and we had a lot of hiking left, so we split a beer. Our first “trail magic” (when people help out hikers in any way).

We relaxed for a bit at Hauser Creek, where we ran into our first large group of hikers. The 1500ft climb out of Hauser Canyon wasn’t as bad as I feared, but it was hot. I think we might try to siesta tomorrow to escape the mid-day heat!

We climbed the lovely mountain in the distance in the afternoon.

Our first view of Lake Morena

When we finally reached Lake Morena, we paid our camping fee and then went straight to the Lake Morena Market to grab some beer and dinner. Unfortunately, we couldn’t drink our beer on site, so we ate dinner first — fish and chips for Michael, bacon blue cheese burger for me.


Then it was back to camp to set up our tent (a bit of a struggle with the super hard ground) and take a rare shower. We spent the evening chatting with Tawney (who brought cake!!) and a Swiss couple (Dave and Judith). After our 10 mile day we were in bed by 9pm!

Hoppy Birthday!

And now, for the TMI section:

Current ailments

Elizabeth: chafing, 2 blisters, sore pinky toes. It feels like my shoes might be too small, which is weird because they are already a half size up and the same size I used for the JMT and Camino.

Michael: misc. muscle tension

[Please excuse any formatting issues, this is our first post from our phones!]

2 thoughts on “Day 1: Beautiful Birthday Beginnings

  1. Every year I choose a blog to follow of someone who is hiking the PCT. This year it is you. 🙂 Good luck to you both. I look forward to reading all about your adventure.

    Like

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