PCT 2019: Day 3, Boulder Oaks Campground to Mt. Laguna

Now witness the quickness with which we get along

Tramily on trail near Mt. Laguna

Long distance hiking is hard. It’s really hard, in fact, but I doubt anyone is surprised to learn that.

You have to be willing to tolerate some discomfort, pain and monotony. Of course, if thru-hiking were easy, many more people would do it.

Then again, there are many reasons why the discomfort, pain and monotony are worth the effort. Otherwise, no one would do it.

DateTuesday, March 26, 2019
WeatherOvercast all day, with temperatures from the mid 30s to upper 60s
Trail ConditionsSandy, with rocks in a few sections; mostly climbing all day
Today's Miles15.5
Trip Miles41.5

We may have different reasons for being here, but we share an appreciation for the beauty of nature and the physical challenges of walking many miles day after day.

There’s one other reason, though it may be less obvious. Thru-hiking is a good way to make friends.

This shouldn’t be a surprise if you think about what brings people to the trail. A shared interest naturally draws people together.

I find that most of the people I meet are strong, lively and intelligent. They’re also caring and giving.

While it’s true we are drawn together by our shared interest in long distance hiking, we also pull together to make each other stronger.

The group I’ve begun hiking with is like that. We’re rapidly becoming a tramily (trail family).

Packing at Boulder Oaks Campground

Last night was colder than the night before. It was cold enough to form frost on my tent, but I stayed warm.

Everyone was up and moving about at the same time, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to leave. Perhaps we were all waiting for the sun to warm the morning air before we began hiking.

Leaving Boulder Oaks Campground

Eventually we decided it was time to leave camp and did so at 7:45 a.m.

Crossing under Interstate 8

After just a half mile of walking we crossed under Interstate 8. This was the highway we had traveled from Scout and Frodo’s house in San Diego to Campo on Sunday.

View of Interstate 8

Leaving the shadow of the tall overpasses, the trail began to climb. We could see more of the interstate highway in the valley.

I stopped to take off my jacket, while the rest of the crew continued.

Tengo climbing to Fred Canyon

I was able to catch up with Tengo and we continued hiking together. We soon left the valley where the interstate highway was located, and after a climb entered a canyon.

Fred Canyon

Fred Canyon was formed by Kitchen Creek. The trail continued to climb and soon was far above the creek. The sides of the canyon were dotted with small boulders and manzanita.

The trail continues to climb

The climbing never stopped. We would continue this way for the entire day, going up a total of 2,800 feet in elevation. Fortunately, it was not a strenuous climb because it was spread over about 14 miles.

The tramily takes a break

Shortly after 9:30 a.m. Tengo and I reached where the other tramily members had stopped for a break. From here on, we hiked mostly together with them for the rest of the day.

Walking with the tramily

The trail took us over another ridge, opening up yet more views.

The views so far on the PCT have been a notable difference compared to the AT. In fact, Scout mentioned this when when Tengo and I were talking to him.

“On the AT you get three views,” Scout said. “On the PCT there are three spots without a view.”

We knew this was a joke, but now I was seeing it had a ring of truth.

California poppy

Higher up, the hillside was dotted with yellow California poppies. Eschscholzia californica is the official state flower of California.

Meeting crest runner Ricky

Along the way we met Trail 42. That wasn’t so much a trail name as it was his radio call sign. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a crest runner and his real name was Ricky.

A crest runner’s job is similar to ridge runners on the Appalachian Trail. They are hired to make sure hikers are following Leave No Trace ethics and look for problems with trail conditions.

Ricky chatted with us a while, and though he asked us if we had PCT permits, he didn’t ask us to show them.

Unexploded ordinance warning sign

Later, the trail crossed a section that held an alarming message. A sign said, “Unexploded Military Ordinance In This Area.”

This was the crash site of a Marine helicopter in 2009. Though an effort was made to clear the area of bombs, the military didn’t want to assume none were left behind.

I heeded the warning and didn’t stray from the trail.

Tengo and Spamala

The trail continued to lead us up, but the change in elevation was still gradual and usually didn’t feel like a climb.

Tramily resting in the shade

Nevertheless, occasional breaks were needed to get into some shade. Because this was only our third day on the trail, we didn’t yet have trail legs.

During a couple of our stops we met members of a family hiking the trail together. The parents were Elliott and Amber Smith. They were hiking with their 16-year-old son Jed and 13-year-old daughter Acacia.

Hazy view of distant hills

As the day wore on the sky became hazy. I was uncertain if that was from smoke, dust, or pollution, but I doubted moisture was the cause. The air remained dry.

We stopped for water at Long Canyon Creek, then continued our gradual climb to Mt. Laguna.

Bookworm and Tengo

I had been hiking with Tengo for most of the day, but later we caught up with Bookworm and walked with him.

As we got nearer to Mt. Laguna the trail became flatter and covered in trees. The air began to cool, as it was now 5:30 p.m.

Rainbow Sherbet and MJ

We stopped to talk to Siobhan and MJ. Siobhan now had a trail name, Rainbow Sherbet, because of her colorful jacket and tattoos. The two were part of the tramily, but had decided to stop early because Sherbet was feeling some pain.

Bookworm and Tengo continue

With shouts of “Woo-hoo!” the other tramily members caught up to us. We then continued walking about 30 minutes more to the Burnt Rancheria Campground, which was located on the edge of the small town of Mt. Laguna.

Just before we arrived at the campground we came upon Falls, who was carrying his tent all unfolded. He had set it up and walked into town, then decided to move. We convinced him to camp with us.

He was being pulled into the tramily.

At the campground I began to set up my tent near a small clump of trees, but discovered the ground was covered with large thorns. After having one bad experience already with thorns and my sleeping pad, I quickly decided I needed to find a better spot.

We were soon joined by other hikers. One of them was Marble, who said he was a four-time PCT hiker, but had yet to finish the trail.

The “Woo-hoo” calls that Luis had started were becoming a tramily call. They became our way to greet each other and share our enthusiasm for being on the trail.

We still didn’t have a trail name for Luis, but we were working on it.

The fortunes of fables are able
To see the dawn
Now witness the quickness with which we
Get along
To sing the blues you've got to live the tunes and
Carry on


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.