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Day 4 – April 7, 2022

Mile 47.8 (Storm Canyon) to 63.7 (Dirt Road)

15.9 trail miles | 16.3 tracked miles | 1,845 ft elevation gain | 77 F / 25 °C

The wind at Storm Canyon was brutal all night—it was as if the world’s longest freight train kept rolling through camp. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but there’s nothing that coffee can’t fix!

The first 700 miles of the PCT are colloquially known as “the desert”, though there’s a lot of nuance. The trail actually typically avoids the desert floor and meanders at a safer elevation. Also, vast expanses are still relatively green at the onset of hiking season, so the scenery isn’t just sand and rock.

Sunrise over a green-ish desert.

That being said, I feel that we definitely knocked on the “true” desert’s door today. Leaving Mt. Laguna behind, the trail steadily lost elevation despite many ups and downs. We descended over 2,000 feet overall, ending the day at an altitude just shy of 4,000 feet. It was hot, with a high of 96.8 F (36 C), though the wind that kept me up overnight turned out to be a blessing during the day, especially on exposed, sunbaked ridges.

The trail’s northwestern route featured an endless stream of dramatic, inspiring, and rugged desert landscapes.

One with the desert.

As I expected, the water situation is dire. Every stream is already dry, which doesn’t bode well for future hikers—and the planet. Our planning today revolved entirely around a few strategically-located faucets, which dispensed sketchy-looking but life-saving water. To put it differently, there would not be a drop of water on this stretch of trail if it were not for primitive infrastructure.

We did drink this water. Also, Joe’s pack is a monster.

One of the water taps was located off-trail, across the Sunrise Highway. We were rewarded for this brief excursion as a local lady showed up with oranges… another instance of trail magic! None of us even bothered removing our gloves before digging in; we gulped the juicy goodness like a pack of wild animals. Perhaps we’ve already earned our hiker trash moniker!

We drank this water, too. That’s what filters are for.

Besides water sources, shade punctuated the day: shady spots are hiker magnets! Each break was a chance to meet a few more thru-hikers.

Taking a break with Michael, Joe, and Christie in the scarce shade.

We’re moving smoothly and expecting to reach Julian, CA, tomorrow. It’s a minor milestone: Julian is widely regarded as the first key resupply point on the PCT, and most hikers stay overnight or take a zero. Despite the spotty cell reception, I managed, out of sheer luck, to book the last available room at a local hotel. Between hikers, vacationers, and the lack of lodging options in the area, snagging a hotel room is a bit of a challenge. I’ll have to try to plan further ahead in the future. Joe and I will be sharing a room; the rest of the group has decided to play it by ear.

Tonight, we’re dry camping for the first time, on the heels of a seven-liter water carry. My pack is definitely heavy, though I’m really pleased with my Osprey Exos’ load transfer.

Our campsite is a modest clearing along a dirt road. I have renamed the locale Duplextown—I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves! A few other fellows, including YouTuber Andrew from Canada, soon joined our settlement.

Before dinner, our very own guru Ky lead an epic group stretching session, prior to generously offering back massages! Under any other circumstances, I might have promptly ducked out, but this was truly a blast, not to mention another bonding opportunity. It was just another day in paradise.

Welcome to Duplextown! (This post is not sponsored by ZPacks.)

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