Julian to the Mexican Border

Highlights:  We hiked on from Julian through Mount Laguna after which we started seeing border patrol more and more.  We saw a tarantula on Halloween, and on Halloween night it rained on us for the first time since the Sierra Mountains.  We arrived at the Mexican Border around midday on November 1st and were greeted by White Jeep, who took us back to San Diego to stay there for a few days.

Day 120: Julian to Mile 60, 17 miles

October 29th:  We packed up and at the breakfast at the hotel we were staying at and headed to the library to write my last blog post.  The library in Julian was probably the best library of the whole trail.  Lots of computers, that actually worked, and didn’t remind you of the 90’s with essentially no time limit.  Wow!

We got a ride with an arborist back to the trail and hiked uphill in the heat… drenching us in sweat.
IMG_0435

Day 121: Mile 60 to Mile 36, 24 miles

October 30th:  In my last blog post I commented a lot about cacti, which were the dominant vegetation.  Now we seem to have hiked out of the land of cacti and back into the land of chaperral.  Chaperral covers the hillsides very well, making the look green, and leaving very few spots for camping or doing one’s business.  We hiked into Mount Laguna and were immediately given 10 apples by a school teacher who’s kids hadn’t managed to eat them all.  We wondered over to the Post Office with our fruit, and picked up a package that we had bounced from Warner Springs, and also inquired about a package from KEEN, hopefully containing some socks.  We were lucky enough to have been chosen by KEEN to receive socks every few hundred miles, but we probably completely messed up their system by going southbound.  In any case, we had been trying to get socks delivered to us at various addresses with very little luck, and this time we found out that they had managed to send a FedEX package to General Delivery at the Post Office.  Usually, the US Postal Service will not touch a FedEX package, but the post master there recognized my name and decided to accept it and attempt to forward it to Mount Laguna along with our other package.  Although this wound up not working out, I was very impressed with the Warner Springs post office for doing this!

We wandered around town checking out the mostly closed businesses.  The outfitter looked awesome, but was closed, and the cafe was mostly closed for food, but we were able to order a frittata at the drinks counter before heading out of town.  The folks at the cafe told us the forecast called for snow on Saturday, the day that we would be arriving at the border.  Mount Laguna is at 6000ft, and the border is several thousand feet lower, so there would be only rain for us.  But we couldn’t remember the last time we saw rain, and the prospect was very exciting!

The sunset was beautiful.  Clouds were building in the sky, but were light and fluffy, which makes for a spectacular sunset.  Since there is not much vegetation to speak of, we are always rewarded with beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

Pink sunset

Pink sunset

Sunset

Sunset

For the first time we started noticing border patrol aircraft namely helicopters.  From here on, border patrol will be appearing more and more.

Day 122: Mile 36 to Mile 11.5, 24.5 miles

October 31st:  Border Patrol became more and more abundant.  At every road crossing we saw them in their vehicles passing by.  We stopped at a campground with picnic tables to have lunch and one vehicle came into the campground and stopped right where the trail exited the park. Several other vehicles pulled in and out.  We sat there eating our lunch and watching them nervously.  As we exited the campground, passing right by the parked vehicle with the officer inside, the officer turned on the engine and exited the park.  From then on Dirt Stew was convinced our every move was being followed.  We passed a day hiker (undercover border patrol) who stopped and asked us:

“Since when did people decide it was a good idea to go Southbound on the PCT?”

He seemed annoyed.  Dirt Stew imagined this was because normally they have to have extra forces during northbound hiker season.

At some point in the day we realized it was Halloween and joked about dressing up as each other– the only “costumes” we were carrying.  I was excited that in the middle of the trail on Halloween, we saw our first tarantula.  I respectfully stopped and took a step back, pointing him out to Dirt Stew so that he could get his camera out.  Dirt Stew then proceeded to stick his camera about 1 inch away from the tarantula, scaring it into its hole, and all we got was a picture of a tarantula butt.

Tarantula's butt

Tarantula’s butt

Not only were there border patrol helicopters in the area, there were also many military airplanes and helicopters as well, probably carrying all sorts of deadly weapons.  All in all, this didn’t exactly make us feel more safe…  Eventually, we came across this sign:
Ummmm...

Ummmm…

As it got dark Dirt Stew was still convinced we were being followed by border patrol.

“They have infrared cameras, and they can see us even in the dark”  he said, half jokingly.

“Don’t they have something better to do than to follow a couple of PCT hikers who are hiking TOWARDS the border?”  I said.

Sometime in the night, the rain started.  It rained and rained and rained.

Day 123: Mile 11.5 to the Mexican Border, 11.5

November 1st:  In the morning, it was still raining.  We slept in.  As we had only 11.5 miles to do to reach the border, we weren’t exactly in a rush.  The rain persisted, so we decided to get up and get going.  Soon after we were packed up, the rain abated, and then stopped all together.  The sand we were walking on was now hard from being wet, and the footsteps we had been following for hundreds of miles had disappeared over night.  I suddenly realized that the people those footsteps we had been following were all no longer on the trail.  Sadie must have finished at least a day or two ago, and she was the next one in front of us.  Mother nature was reminding us that our journey too was almost over, and soon the land will forget us as well.

Why wasn't there one of these at the Canadian border?  We got the memo WAY too late...  :)

Why wasn’t there one of these signs at the Canadian border? We got the memo WAY too late… 🙂

We didn’t have far to walk, and as we headed towards a road that we were obviously meant to cross, we saw a truck parked where the PCT crossed.

“Border Patrol is waiting for us” Dirt Stew said, pointing at the truck.  I rolled my eyes.

As we got closer, we saw someone get out and wave at us, and Dirt Stew and I realized at the same time: “White Jeep!”  He had intersected us just 2 or 3 miles before the border to say hi, and offer us a honey bun.  From there there is a confusion of roads leading to the border with the trail winding through them.

So close!

So close!

As we continued on towards the border, we saw White Jeep’s truck again at another intersection, and behind it a Border Patrol vehicle.  “Just keep on going” White Jeep commented, as we passed him.  He drove on to the border, and I looked around for where the trail continued.  The Border Patrol officer, still stopped next to us, stuck his head out of his window and pointed down the trail “you’re on the right path” he said.  As we went on, he drove off, also toward the border.

“Ok, that one was definitely there because of us”  I said to Dirt Stew.

Finally we saw White Jeep’s truck by the gigantic fence of the Mexican Border, and we could just make out the monument marking the end of the Pacific Crest Trail.  Dirt Stew walked up next to me and took my hand so that we could walk the last stretch together, just as we had on the Appalachian Trail.  We walked up grinning, and walked straight up to the monument, looking at it for a moment before looking at each other for confirmation that we would touch it together to mark the end of our journey.

White Jeep was there to take many pictures, and I found the register on the back of one of the wooden pillars.  It was surprisingly cold and windy, so we didn’t linger for too long.

We made it!

We made it!

Whee!

Whee!

Yehaww!

Yehaww!

Signing the register

Signing the register

The border was amazing to me.  I couldn’t have touched Mexico if I wanted to.  There was a huge barbed wire fence with a dirt road behind it that border patrol were driving back and forth on, and a larger impenetrable fence behind it, and then Mexico was somewhere behind that.  We could see Mexico where a hill would stick up over the fence, and that was good enough for me.

The border-- with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

The border– with Border Patrol driving up and down constantly

And just like that, it was over.

But we aren’t thru-hikers yet.  The miles that we had to skip around the fire closure in Northern California are still nagging us, reminding us that we did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one year.

Since we’ve gotten off the trail, we’ve showered and stayed with White Jeep and Seminole in San Diego for a few days.

Showering was a bit strange.  It felt like I was washing the trail off my body for the last time.   I was happy to see that even after washing my hands several times, there was still some stubborn dirt stuck in the grooves of my hands. The first shower, however wasn’t nearly as hard as the second.  You never take a second shower while you’re on the trail until you’re totally dirty again, and so it’s hard to convince yourself to get in the shower again once back in civilization while you’re still basically clean.

We decided that we’d better at least try to go back to Ashland.  The weather has turned quite a bit towards winter conditions, so we’re preparing ourselves with warmer clothing and some extra gear, but we would like to at least finish the last few miles of Oregon to have completed two states fully.  If the conditions are miserable, we’ll finish in Seiad Valley, but we’re open to hiking further if weather permits.  Chances are we won’t complete the Pacific Crest Trail this year, but we did give it our all.  There are probably many “thru-hikers” that didn’t complete the whole trail this year.  We have less than 10% left, and maybe, just maybe we’ll be able to get through there before conditions get too bad….  Stay tuned!
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