Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail Hike: CA Section D – Mile 342 – 454

Pacific Crest Trail Hike: CA Section D – Mile 342 – 454

Hello from the trail! These sections seem to be coming quicker and quicker, which either means that they are shorter or I am getting faster. Based on how my legs and feet are feeling, who knows!

In this section, PCT CA Section D, there were a lot more mental challenges than in the previous ones. Hard, long days that definitely pulled me out of the honeymoon stage. That being said, I am still on the trail and several sections beyond this one so I am getting stronger both mentally and physically.

I wanted to note that I again did an alternate route around a specific part of the trail that I deemed unsafe for me. Mount Baden Powell is located just outside of Wrightwood, CA and has been receiving tons of snow in these late spring storms. As I’ve mentioned before, I did not have my ice axe or my crampons (just microspikes), which was not enough safety gear in my personal opinion. Safety first!

PCT CA Section D Summary

Statistics:

  • Days: 7
  • Full hiking days: 5
  • Zeroes: 1
  • Neros: 1
  • Total Trail Miles Hiked: 112.8
  • Total Miles Hiked: 112.9
  • Trail Elevation Gain: 18,931 ft
  • Trail Elevation Loss: 19,266 ft

Highlights:

  • Reaching halfway mark of the desert.
  • Continuing to build community with those around me.
  • Pushing myself physically and mentally more than I ever thought I could.
  • Passed the 400 mile marker!

Lowlights:

  • First (and second!) interaction with a rattling rattlesnake – my biggest fear!
  • Long, hard days that dragged on.
  • Being sick while on trail meant hiking in subpar conditions and delaying recovery.
  • Feet are feeling mediocre still.

PCT CA Section D Detailed Version

Day 29: Mile 341.9 – 360

  • Trail Daily Miles: 18.1
  • Total Daily Miles: 19.1
  • Total Trail Mileage: 360
  • Elevation Gain: 5117 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 840 ft
  • Weather: Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: How are we still going up!

After a night at the Cajon Pass Inn, I set out to do a huge climbing day. Luckily, the McDonald’s at the trailhead also had breakfast (haha) so we loaded up again and were off! The hashbrowns and coffee would help power the day.

In addition to a long uphill stretch, this was a dry section with one potential water cache over the nearly 30 miles we had until Inspiration Point at highway 2 to Wrightwood. All of this to say, my pack was heavy with a full water carry. In my case, this is 3.7 liters which is over 8lbs.

On this day, I hit the halfway mark for the desert ~mile 350! Nearly at this same mile marker, my biggest fear on the trail happened – my first real rattling rattlesnake!

As many of you know, I lost both my paternal grandparents last summer. For this hike, I am wearing a necklace that has their ashes in it to share the experience with them. And whenever anything good happens on trail, I can positively attribute it to them being with me and quietly celebrate with them. The fact that I made it halfway through the desert section without being rattled at is 100% because of them – thank you, Grandma and Grandpa! Though it scared me, the snake was so loud, I was able to jump out of the way immediately. It was much closer for comfort and than I expected, because it didn’t rattle until the last possible moment of me being a foot away. I am thankful for quick reflexes!

As I went down the trail, there was a full water cache which allowed me to rehydrate for the quickly heating up day. The climb was a lot but it was overall pretty gradual. I don’t do well in steep steep sandy sections and this was mostly graded well.

Finally after nearly 20 miles, Bobcat and I called the day a bit earlier than expected but there was a fantastic campsite that was too beautiful to pass up. Pictured below is my tent on a ridge overlooking Mount Baden Powell and the surrounding peaks. Sunset was plain magical!

Day 30: Mile 360 – 369.4

  • Trail Daily Miles: 9.4
  • Total Daily Miles: 9.5
  • Total Trail Mileage:
  • Elevation Gain: 1873 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 1915 ft
  • Weather: Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Ugh snow, yay friends!

Today was a town day as I was heading into Wrightwood. Although I just left the “town” of Cajon Pass, this was a planned day with a resupply and exciting things to see. That being said, I woke up a little groggier than normal which I attributed to my largest ascent day thus far on trail on the day prior.

It was a snowy slog to get to our pickup point. Though this section was not particularly high in elevation, the north slopes were just covered in snow. None of the work arounds of walking on the dirt road that followed the trail worked. It was just a cruddy section that was a mental struggle to get through. This 9ish miles was WAY harder than the previous day’s nearly 20 miles and incline. This is what exemplifies that the PCT is actually more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Don’t get me wrong, this is brutal physically, BUT the headspace you are in dictates your days’ outcomes more than how your body is feeling.

I easily got a hitch into town with a wonderful trail angel that had a dog in the car, making me miss Roo so much! The hardware store in Wrightwood is the hiker spot to be! They accept hiker packages, have an extensive logbook, have everything a hiker could need for resupply/gear, have an area for pack storage, and they are just too kind! Thankful for such a wonderful part of a trail community. Lunch at Evergreen cafe was also a treat!

I had not planned to zero in Wrightwood, so I had some chores to get done (resupply, laundry, showering 3x, tending to my feet, eating, etc) so the day was busy.

There was a decent size group of hikers here so we decided to meet at the Wrightwood brewery for the evening. It was great to spend time with folks off trail in a relaxed environment where we were not concerned about crushing miles. Again, I am thankful for the community the trail is providing.

Day 31: Mile 369.4

  • Trail Daily Miles: 0
  • Total Daily Miles: 0
  • Total Trail Mileage: 369.4
  • Elevation Gain: 0
  • Elevation Loss: 0
  • Weather: Sun
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Ill

I woke up much groggier than I should have again and could feel myself starting to get a respiratory illness. I made the call to zero in Wrightwood and laid in bed most of the day. Because I had done chores the day prior, it was truly a relaxing day. This also meant I was able to eat more town food, which is always a highlight.

Day 32: Mile 369.4 – 386.1

  • Trail Daily Miles: 16.7
  • Total Daily Miles: 16.0
  • Total Trail Mileage: 386.1
  • Elevation Gain: 2017 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 2587 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Wind
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Low and sick

Despite resting up, I woke up sicker unfortunately. I had a terrible cough (that was productive, ew), stuffy nose, and an overall general feeling of illness. But we had to continue on!

After a big breakfast, Bobcat and I joined up with Canuck and Squirrel and planned to do the Baden Powell alternate of the road walk. Initially we were thinking of taking other trails and not the road because they were “not snowy” according to reports but turns out those reports were not accurate in the slightest. Which left a partially snowy road walk in our future.

The day was more frustrating than we would have liked. Road walking is painful after miles and miles with a heavy pack on your back. Add in my respiratory illness that induced a whole body phlegm cough every time I went uphill. This again highlighted the mentally challenging part of this hike. Finally after 16 infuriating and painful miles, we called it.

This site was probably one of the worst ones we have ever had to set up in. Surrounded by PoodleDog Bush, a highly toxic/poisonous plant that is 10x worse than poison ivy, and a hefty wind made it terrible. The wind that blew all night, blew in heaps of sand into my tent even with my rain fly on. I hid inside of my quilt/bag while everything within my tent was being covered. This was also the beginning stages of my nightly phlegm coughing exorcism (sorry to my poor campsite mates) which was exasperated with the sandstorm inside my tent.

It may be sunshine and rainbows a lot out on the trail – this day was not one of them.

The only highlight was that I received and accepted my trail name, Kanga! I’m Roo’s mom (a la Winnie the Pooh), I’m bouncy, and I love my Fanny pack ie my pouch. 🦘

Day 33: Mile 386.1 – 406.6

  • Trail Daily Miles: 20.5
  • Total Daily Miles: 20.0
  • Total Trail Mileage: 406.6
  • Elevation Gain: 2304 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 3746 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Hot
  • Overall Day Sentiment: An average day

Oh boy, the amount of sand in my tent took a lot time to shake out (please see a picture below). Canuck and Squirrel headed out earlier than Bobcat and I because I needed more sleep with my sickness. It made no difference, as I was even sicker when I woke up.

There was more of a road walk today due to an endangered species of frog, but then finally I was able to get back on the trail via an alternate! It felt good to be on trail material rather than pavement. That was until we rain into some major tree blowdowns. My strength, flexibility, and mobility while carrying a pack were tested trying to hoist myself over logs. I also got a taste of some creek crossings that had logs across.

There were some hot sections of this area, not only because of the weather, but because I went through burn zones. These areas have no tree cover and were inundated with poodledog bush, which just meant I had to move quickly to get through this section!

After a mundane day, Bobcat and I camped at an established campsite that had a pit toilet – the little things! It ended up getting below freezing this night which was a surprise considering how hot it had been earlier.

I did pass the 400 mile marker this day and I loved that is was made from pine cones. My picture next to it is cute, but know that I was feeling very cruddy!

Day 34: Mile 406.6 – 430.4

  • Trail Daily Miles: 23.8
  • Total Daily Miles: 23.9
  • Total Trail Mileage: 430.4
  • Elevation Gain: 4209 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 3485 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Cold Morning
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Just a super hard day

I woke to frost on my tent and below freezing temperatures, which is the anti-motivation in the morning. I was still sick with sore lungs, abs, and breathing muscles from my coughing fits but, we needed to make some miles.

Honestly, this was an average day in which I listened to most of an audiobook and several podcasts. The last 3 miles I was dragging hard because I was exhausted from being sick and it was a huge water carry. Once I got up the final climb, I was greeted with a huge cloud. As in, I was in the cloud. For the second night in a row, we stayed at an established campsite – this one had trash in addition to a pit toilet, what luxuries!

Overall I was proud of myself for pushing despite feeling like a garbage can myself.

Day 35: Mile 430.4 – 454.7

  • Trail Daily Miles: 24.3
  • Total Daily Miles: 24.4
  • Total Trail Mileage: 454.7
  • Elevation Gain: 3411 ft
  • Elevation Loss: 6693 ft
  • Weather: Sun, Warm
  • Overall Day Sentiment: Proud

The long hiking day the day prior set me up well to get into Agua Dulce if I was able to do another big mile day. So, waking up early despite it being cold and still in a bit of a cloud is what I did! I think I may have been motivated by either town food or the thought of a shower/laundry but I crushed miles in the morning. The water carries were shorter this day which made my pack just more pleasurable all around. I also saw/heard my second rattlesnake! Bobcat was slightly ahead of me and set this one off and it would not get off the trail (picture below). Finally, after several long minutes of it residing in the middle of the trail, we had to roll rocks towards it to encourage it to move.

Directly before the town of Agua Dulce is the Vasquez Rocks area which is known for being in many movies. It was such a fuss going around it, meandering every which way that by the time I got to the rocks, they didn’t even feel worth it! Perhaps it is because I have spent so much time in Colorado and Utah with similar rock formations or because I was tired/still somewhat sick, but I was not moved.

Though not talked about much, there is a decently long pavement road walk into Agua Dulce. At the end of the street, there is a new hiker oasis called Serenity’s Oasis. This was a wonderful reprieve from the trail! It is a kind couple that offers their land for hikers in addition to providing a shower, laundry facility, potable water, resupply options, package pick up, a spot to camp, and a place to congregate. Can’t recommend this new place enough!

After some Mexican food in town, it was a chill evening of hanging out at Serenity’s Oasis with about 15 other hikers – most of who would leave the next day as well!

Thank you for reading and keeping up on my journey! Enjoy some photos from the PCT CA Section D!

xoxo Kanga 🦘

Climb out of Cajon Pass was very industrial and I passed over train tracks and under roads several times.

The wonderful campsite I could not pass up overlooking the Mount Baden Powell area!

Sunset dinner with a view.

Clouds in the valley below were visible from on the high ridge.

A “not snowy” section outside of Wrightwood according to trail reports and GPS models.

Mountain Hardware in Wrightwood is a hiker haven.

A group of hikers at Wrightwood Brewery; Squirrel, HardStart, Wavy, Links, Alex, Elizabeth, GhostTown, Kanga (me!), and Canuck!

Always fun for signs to remind me how far I’ve traveled by foot!

Long road walk around Mount Baden Powell.

Parts of the road walk were a snowy slog fest.

Pools of sand on my sleeping mat from an overnight sandstorm. Reminder this was under my sleeping bag so imagine how much was on top of me!

400 mile mark. While smiling I was saying “I feel like crap!”.

A burned area on the PCT CA Section D

Beautiful sunrise on an early morning part of my hiking day.

The desert has some expansive views that are often greener than expected.

An overcast day and interesting ridge line made some miles go by quicker.

Rattlesnake curled up on the trail. We had to prompt it to move!

Vasquez Rocks area had Hollywood worthy parts.

Laundry facilities at Serenity’s Oasis.

Potable water and secure package pickup at Serenity’s Oasis.

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