Date: Saturday, 14 May
PCT Southern Terminus – Lake Morena State Park
The instructions for the morning were clear, simple and executed in military-like precision. Scout and Frodo run a tight ship. They need to when they are hosting, priming and delivering 600 hikers per year. I awoke around 5am for a final packing spree. Breakfast of quiche, and oatmeal was plentiful, tasty and courtesy of the hosts – another example of their generosity. This morning they would deliver another 20 hikers to Campo, and on Monday would close up for the season. Another mammoth logistical effort concluding at least for the NoBo’s (Northbounders).
At 6am we loaded up into a minivan and together with two other cars aimed for Campo. The drive out was picturesque with a cloud inversion by the coast coating San Diego in a cool blanket. About half way to Campo we broke-cloud and were greeted with amazing views down to the Mexican Border. The landscape was bare with not much vegetation to speak of other than cacti and auburn grasses.
Under the watchful gave of a US Customs and Border Patrol agent we signed the trail register and slowly started our journey. The first day was entirely dry, with 7 liters of water in tow, my pack was a beast. All those last minute “essentials” that I packed being the source of some chagrin on my part. Regardless, the day included a pleasant jaunt up to Lake Morena is I was feeling good, or offered a easier option around the 15mile mark of not. I will state in the interests of transparency that I was aiming for the full 20 and nothing else.
The trail starts out with a sweeping track, meandering up and down over small bumps and hollows, crossing rail tracks and generally taking a longer, rather than faster approach to getting to Canada! The views over the Mexican border were stunning, especially as the trail rose over the first set of ridges marking the pacific crest trail.
As the trail rises, And the views expanded, the terrain varied from burn areas into highland areas of brush. I was surprised at how alive this “desert” is: snakes, lizards, rabbits, an array of colorful birds and too many insects to mention – all busily going about their day as I passed by.
Around the 15 mile mark I took a break to air out my socks and feet. I met three hikers: 2 humans and a dog traveling together after completing the Appalachian Trail. As it turned out I bumped into them many times in the following few days. By the end of the 20-miler I was definitely feeling happy to be done – the views were amazing,but by the end of the day a cool cloud bank moved in and my interest began to wain. I was happy to put up my tent and sleep off a big day walking to Lake Morena.