Southern Terminus to Hauser Creek – 15.4 miles
I’m standing at the southern end of the Pacific Crest Trail. A road’s width away is the metal-fenced Mexican border. I’m 3,650 miles away from the northern terminus where I stood on August 11th.
It’s been a little over a year since I dreamed up a scheme to visit both the northern and southern terminus points of the Pacific Crest Trail within one calendar year. Even though it will be years yet before I fill in all the middle, I’ll have completed over 350 miles of the trail this year, 250 miles last year and about 180 the year before that. That’s over 20% of the Pacific Crest Trail. Not too bad at all for this section hiker.
But first I’ve got eight days of hiking through high desert and over pine tree-covered mountains with my husband, Dan. I was really excited when Dan decided to join me for this 110-mile section. He had supported me along my PCT trek the previous two summers but we hadn’t done a multi-night backpacking trip together since the summer of 2016.
We were dropped at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail on a cool, sunny morning in early December. I had elected to hike in early December for a number of reasons – cheaper flights to San Diego, fewer hikers on trail and as an escape from the wind and rain storms of the Pacific Northwest.
We were both in good hiking shape and planned to hike 15 miles on our first day. Luckily we didn’t have to carry a week’s worth of food so our packs weren’t too heavy. However we did have to carry over four liters of water to get us through our first day and night. Natural water sources are seasonal in Southern California and still scarce in the rainiest of years. All of our water for this section would come from water caches provided by others.
We spent a few moments taking photos at the terminus monument before taking our first steps northward. The first four miles crisscrossed a handful of roads and a train track as the trail wound its way out of the rural townsite of Campo. It had rained a significant amount the week before so the trail wasn’t too dusty. We also noticed that the plant life around us seemed brighter, more alive.
We took a lunch break in the shade of a narrow canyon. I was surprised at how much cooler the air temperature was in the shade but glad to have some relief from the sun. After lunch we had a gradual thousand-foot climb to the summit of Hauser Mountain. We could see for miles and miles in all direction as we travelled north over the mountain’s plateau.
Our last four miles of the day were a long descent to the floor of Hauser Canyon. We were tired, but not completely worn out from our 15-mile hike. The trail in Southern California was going to be significantly easier than what I’d tackled in Washington. In general the grade was less steep and the path was wide with few obstacles.
At the bottom of Hauser Canyon was a small seasonal creek that provided just enough water to give life to some sycamore and cottonwood trees. We set up camp beneath a large cottonwood and made our dinner in the fading light. We were mindful of having to establish new routines and cooperation habits for the week ahead.
The temperature dropped significantly as the sky darkened. It was only a couple weeks before winter solstice and sunset was before 5 p.m. We stayed out of the tent for a little while to stargaze – we were far enough from the city to grant us a crisp clear sky. Eventually our bodies demanded warmth and rest so we settled into the tent for our first night’s sleep on trail.