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Ho Ho Ho! Greener Christmas!

(12/23/08) I arrived at Lake Morena campground in the dark. Matt and Jeremy were already there with a small fire going in the frigid San Diego county evening. Not surprising, we had the whole campground to ourselves. I was excited to serve my fabulous Chili Con Carne and Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread, which had an unusual warming quality in the freezing damp air. After a few beers and yacking around the campground, we hit the sack.

The night was cold. Although I was slept in my XTerra, ice crystals had formed on the top of my sleeping bag and sheets of ice covered the windows. In the morning, I got out of my car to find Matt's tent and car gone. I guessed the night got too cold for him.

Mike and Jeff soon arrived and we dropped the cars at our exit trailhead and got into mine to head off to the border. To make our Perfect Pace PCT thru hiker status official, we all touched the border wall and took pictures at the monument that marked the beginning of the 2,627 mile Pacific Crest Trail that started at the Mexican border and ended at the Canadian border. Our plan was to slowly do the PCT a weekend at a time roughly once a month for the entire Southern California region. Of course the possibility of continuing after that was highly probable.

While paying homage to our official start of the PCT, we spotted illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border. They then spotted us and then quickly got out of sight. Border patrol agents were everywhere. One of them stopped at my car and recommended that I not park there if I didn't want my car messed with. With the drug traffickers and illegal aliens frequenting that location, chances we're high of a break in. Not knowing what to do, the border patrol agent offered to have me park my car at the nearby border patrol station and then drive me back. Wow! What a nice guy. I was touched by his kind gesture and took up his offer.

Once I got back to the trailhead, we started our amazing journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. We hiked along Campo, crossed highway 94, and headed up to Hauser Mountain. Trash littered the trail. I noticed all the trash on my scout trip and was determined to help clean some of it up during our hike. I brought a few kitchen garbage bags and all the guys helped out in cleaning up the trail.

Once we reached the top of Hauser Mountain, we immediately spotted a perfect campsite or as Mike put it "the best campsite ever". So we made it our home that evening. Thankfully the evening was warmer than the previous night. It was a very intimate night of friends. We entered a new comfort zone with each other as we enjoyed some Bailey's Irish Cream, watched shooting stars from a semi-flat rock, and even went on a short evening hiking adventure. At one point we even spotted an unusual light in the sky that we could not figure out. I wonder if it would qualify as an unidentified flying object (Twilight Zone music starts).

The next morning we continued our journey. I challenged the guys to see if they could figure out where we were in the topo at various points in the trip. Hiking the PCT would certainly entail strong navigation skills because of the many unmarked trail junctions and detours. Everyone missed the first point. But after that, everyone was pretty much dead on.

We continued to pick up litter along the trail. The popular combo was plastic water bottles, red bull, tuna fish, and booties to hide footprints. Our trash bags became so full that they bursted in several places and required duct tape to keep them intact. Not only did we have to carry all our water, food, and camping equipment for the whole weekend, but we carried the heavy bags of trash over our shoulders like Santa delivering presents for Christmas. It was just a few days before Christmas. All we were missing were Santa hats.

The gifts we were delivering? A cleaner, greener, and more beautiful Southern California. I definitely believe in what goes around, comes around. And in these hard economic times, what could be a better gift than the giving of ourselves. Like the Border Patrol Agent giving me a Christmas lift back to the trailhead, there are some priceless gifts money can't buy.