Two and a half weeks ago, Mel and I headed out for a 2 night overnight gear test/training hike. I hope all 6 people aware of this blog note the timing of this post, because if history is a guide, my entries on the trail might be a bit delayed (I really am going to try to do better). We started off at PCT Mile 26 this time @ the Boulder Oaks Campground with a couple of friends just staying for the night.

http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cleveland/recreation/recarea/?recid=47412&actid=29

Couple Pro Tips for Boulder Oaks Campground:

1) Be very afraid of lagoons if you are there between December-April and in a Low Clearance Car
2) Don’t mind the loud people enjoying adult beverages, they are just trying to prepare to hike long distances.

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(This is Mel intensely excited about hiking today)

We got up early that Saturday morning, packed up camp relatively efficiently and then wandered around trying to finalize details…I expect to get considerably better as we do this day in and day out. Our camping partners celebrated hiking preparations a little more enthusiastically than we did, so they decided to stay in camp and get a few extra hours of sleep. Leaving the campground at around 7:45AM, we immediately met Joe and his companion, Bob. Joe was an experienced hiker who had just completed the Florida Trail, likely mid-50s and a great guy to meet and hear hiking stories. You got the feeling he had been doing this for a long time and quite honestly, if I have a chance to wander later in life, his story isn’t far off from where I could see myself. Bob was a “scroungy” mid-sized black dog that was friendly, constantly-curious pooch that held an affinity for snacking on some of the local flora. Together they seemed like a great team that had been through some experiences. Thanks Joe for your time and stories (especially about the guy who surgically implanted dog nipples in his stomach to attempt to get closer to his dog-god on the Appalachian Trail, you guys can ask me more offline if you’d like).

Heading on, we continued to climb, which would be the theme for the day. From Mile 26 to about mile 40 is a large climb gaining nearly 3000ft in elevation. Not extremely steep, but relentless. We felt great, the weather was at it’s height, maybe 75, but a nice breeze persisted. After passing the kitchen creek trail, it was also nearly deserted after mile 28 or so. One of the nice things about these prep hikes and living in San Diego, is it allows us to get ideas for logistics (campsites, water, etc.) for the early hike and take some of the stress out of starting such a big adventure. Here is a picture of a great campsite, I believe around mile 33:

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Once we get up and over 6k feet in elevation past Mile 40, we entered the mostly pine forest surrounding the Mt. Laguna area and began seeing white stuff I am familiar with from growing up in the Midwest:

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-MimTZpOJXm8/VPy6aPmdr2I/AAAAAAAAB9s/WwpMIszNE04/s144-c-o/20150307_125640.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/115976503258860161222/20150313?authkey=r-MiaTsC-9U#6123974553344257890″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”20150307_125640.jpg” ]

Over the next couple of miles, there was a lot more where that came from, but the temp was still in the upper 60’s, causing snow melt to make for muddy going. Apparently this time of year the Burnt Rancheria campground is closed and this taught me a potentially life saving lesson…do not just use Guthook’s app (http://www.guthookhikes.com/apps) for water and assume water is there when there is a full drop listed (the symbol for nearly guaranteed water sources). The water fountain behind that campground at Mile 42.1 is turned off until the campground is opened in Mid-April, so be sure to always check water reports as well to confirm. We wanted to have more water for the morning and so we could waste some extra cooking that evening, so we headed on to the Desert View Picnic area. We struck out on water at first, but discovered there is another pump on the southwest side of the parking lot there that is insulated and open year round, so we filled up. Signs made it fairly clear that camping wasn’t allowed, so we headed back south a bit to where the waterless water fountain was located…after snapping a few photos of the desert view:

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We set up camp in close proximity with the closed campground, cooked our food and got settled in by 7:30, understanding we would lose an hour of sleep with Daylight Savings kicking in overnight. 17.2 miles for the day and we both felt solid, apparently there is something to this training nonsense to help ease the pain of hiking with a house on your back.

[pe2-image src=”http://lh6.ggpht.com/-ZcurmpITxAw/VPy-AlJb7AI/AAAAAAAACHc/Im__v59MQjs/s144-c-o/20150308_070652-PANO.jpg” href=”https://picasaweb.google.com/115976503258860161222/20150313?authkey=r-MiaTsC-9U#6123978510497999874″ caption=”” type=”image” alt=”20150308_070652-PANO.jpg” ]

Sunrise on Sunday

We packed up in the morning without major mishap and headed back south to our Car, snapping some solid pictures along the way…

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(Click for a nice Google-made Pano)

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We saw Joe again, making his way north and of course Bob, who snacked on a nearby plant as we got caught up on things. Moving on we quickened the pace, the downhill and promise of delicious snacks enlivening our stride. Despite all the downhill, which usually causes all kinds of soreness, we made it back down the 16.2 miles to the car and still felt great (this feeling would not change, no real residual soreness or foot issues the following days).

Overall, could not have asked for a better training hike. We continue to hone skills and figure out tricks on the use of our gear, with quilt setup being our biggest challenge. If you have tips on connecting two Enlightened Equipment quilts together or even the warmest way to use them solo, please feel free to comment below. Regarding gear, at this point I wholeheartedly recommend everything I’ve used by ExOfficio. My shirt is fantastic, it dries quickly, is super comfortable and cool and it keeps me protected from the sun. Full disclosure, ExOfficio underwear (Give n’ Go Boxer Briefs) are the greatest article of clothing I may have ever owned and had the privilege of wearing to maintain modern modesty. Do yourself a favor and pick some up, regardless if you plan to go hiking.