Date: Monday, 24 April 2017
Start: Mexican border 1 mile south of Campo, 2925 ft
Finish: On trail west of Campo, 2384 ft
Daily Miles: 4.6 on PCT, 2.0 other
Total PCT Miles: 4.6
Weather: Mild and sunny during day, breezy and cold at night.
Accommodation: Tent in small meadow by trail.
Breakfast: Bagel and pastry
Lunch: Orange chicken, mushroom chicken, and fried rice
Dinner: Ham, cheese and tomato sub, and three choc chip cookies
Highlight: Finally getting started, more or less exactly when planned.
Lowlight: The bus driver missing the Campo stop and thinking I was going to have to walk 1.5 miles back along the road.
Pictures: Click here
Map: Click here for Google Map
I felt somewhat out of place walking through San Clemente and again waiting at the station for my Amtrak train to San Diego while surfers caught breakers just offshore and joggers and walkers passed by on the beach path. My pack looked big and heavy and it was. The train trip was uneventful, as was the trolley (light rail) from Amtrak to the run-down El Cajon transit station in east San Diego. I thought I had lucked out when the bus schedule for my final leg showed a bus to Campo at 12:41pm, much earlier than the 3pm bus shown by Google. When the bus showed up, the female driver explained that 12:41 was the arrival time, not the departure time, which seemed a bit bizarre. A couple of elderly Mexican ladies were also caught out and the driver, feeling sorry for us, suggested we jump on the bus and she would drop us off at a mall and pick us up there at 2:50pm on her way to the 3pm pickup.
I had a lazy lunch in the mall food court, again looking very out-of-place, and duly caught the bus which rapidly filled up with people as it made its way eastwards out of San Diego along Highway 94. The bus wound its way through green-tinged rocky mountains at high speed, while the passengers chatted away, mostly in Spanish. After a brief stop in the border town of Tecate, it continued on to Campo, but didn’t stop there as scheduled. The embarrassed driver, who had been chatting to a passenger, at first let me and another PCT hiker off with an apology, then jumped off the bus to say she would do a U-turn and take us back as she was ahead of schedule (which didn’t surprise me one bit!). At Campo, a one store town, I introduced myself to Benjamin, my fellow PCT hiker (German), and we began the 1.5 mile walk south to the border and the official PCT start. We hadn’t gone far when a car coming the other way stopped and offered us a lift to the border where he had just dropped off another hiker, Wes (Missouri).
After the obligatory photos at the start marker and of the existing border wall, the three of us set off on the official trail just after 5pm. The other two guys were much younger with much lighter packs and I soon let them go. I detoured off the trail back to the store for some flavoured milk and water (for camping) before continuing on along the very pleasant dusty trail which wound through scrubby and bouldery hill country. I reached my intended campsite around 7pm and after setting up the tent ate the sub I had purchased at the mall for dinner. It quickly got cold after the sun set and I retired to my tent to update my blog before a welcome night’s sleep. Finally under way 🙂