On our sixth and seventh days in the backcountry, we got off the trail at Mt. Laguna Campground (trail mile 47), then leveraged a family visit to skip ahead approximately 35 trail miles, hoping to bypass bad weather.
Start location: Mt. Laguna Campground (trail mile 47), Mt Laguna, CA
End location: Julian, CA
Miles hiked: 0
Miles hitchhiked: Over 40
On April 24, we woke up at the Mount Laguna Campground in the site we shared with John and Laura. It was a cold, wet and windy morning, much like the previous night. We took a long time eating a hot breakfast and packing up, hoping that the weather would clear, which it didn’t. By 11 am–in sheeting rain and temperatures in the high 30s–it was clear that hiking would be a bad idea given our lack of rain clothes.
We hitchhiked from the campground back to the Mt. Laguna General Store (about 5 miles by car) and called around, looking for a motel room in which to ride out the bad weather. We found a room in Julian, and the same drivers that brought us to the general store agreed to take us there. That hitch, by the way, was in an awesome VW Vanagon with WA plates. The couple driving the van had come from kickoff back at Lake Morena and were headed to Palm Springs to visit family.
The weather in Julian was no better, but at least we were inside with the prospect of a warm bed ahead of us. After dropping our packs off at the Julian Hotel, which offers a hiker discount, we had a free lunch at Mom’s restaurant and pie shop down the road from our lodging. Mom’s treats all PCT hikers to free pie, although you can opt to have a free lunch instead. We had two chicken pot pies, a hot chocolate, and a piece of apple ruby pie with vanilla ice cream. (Eat your heart out, Monica.)
After lunch, we went wine tasting up the street at Witch Creek Winery, where we ended up buying a bottle of zinfandel to take back to the room with us. We stopped at a nearby grocer and bought microwave popcorn, too.
Before embarking on an evening of Netflix binging, wine drinking, and popcorn eating, we went across the road from our hotel to Romano’s Italian restaurant for dinner. We ate light, both opting for dinner salads.
The Julian Hotel treats PCT hikers very well. As part of the package deal offered to PCT hikers, they do your laundry. They’ll even come up to your room to fetch your laundry. Amazing, since long distance hiker laundry is notoriously stinky. By 8 pm we were watching Netflix while someone else did our laundry. #luxury
Start location: Julian CA
End location: PCT mile 86.3
Miles hiked: Roughly 9.5
Miles driven (family visit): Over 45
We woke early, by 7am, to enjoy the breakfast included in our room rate. It was a feast of homemade granola, waffles, and baked fruits. (Hi Monica). We shared a table with two PCT section hikers, a father (named Rick) and his daughter (named Katie). We ended up giving them a fuel canister we found in a hiker box, as they were out of fuel.
We were packed up by 10 am in anticipation of Erica’s parents arriving for a visit on their way to Temecula. They gave us a lift up to Warner Springs to pick up a box at the post office, then they brought us to Scissors Crossing (where the PCT meets highway 78). They also brought our rain gear and Erica’s winter sleeping bag. This hike wouldn’t be possible without the help of our parents. Thanks :)
We started walking from Scissors Crossing by 1 pm; Erica’s parents joined us for the first mile. Very soon into the hike we were caught by our Appalachian Trail friends Popeye, Sass, and Karate Kid, who were just about to hitchhike into Julian.
After about a mile of hiking with Erica’s parents we said goodbye; Margaret and Chuck turned around to head to their car.
The hike after that was scenic, uphill, and windy. We were on a ridge all afternoon, looking down at a corner of Anza Borrego state park, and completely exposed to passing weather systems. By skipping ahead 35 trail miles, we avoided fog, heavy rain, and near freezing temperatures. Even headed north out of Scissors Crossing, though, we still had winds gusting in the 60mph ballpark, light rain, and cold temperatures. There were few hikers on the trail; we only saw two others all afternoon.
To be clear about what 60 mph winds are like, they’re enough to knock Erica over. It happened. Today. And Rick happened to be filming the scene, not helping.
With weather worsening, we stopped around 4:45pm at mile 86.5-ish to make camp. It took multiple tries to pitch our tent in a manner that could withstand the wind gusts, but we finally did it…with a lot of guy lines and rocks to hold the tent stakes down. Even with all that effort, the tent walls still hit us quite a bit inside the tent.
We’re hoping to get through the night without the tent blowing over. Rain is sheeting at us, carried by the heavy wind, and occasionally the tent roof hits Rick in the head. At least our sleeping bags are cozy and dry; here’s hoping it stays that way.
Scenes from the day: