The Pacific Crest Trail runs approximately 2650 miles from border to border. Yet the actual air distance between Campo and Manning is just 1200 miles.One might think that a hardscrabble border outpost such as Campo would contain at least one entrepreneurial soul seeking to capitalize on the hundreds -- if not thousands -- of PCT hikers and family members streaming to the border monument each season. But that's hardly the situation we've found over the years. The community couldn't give a lick about the business of those who are heading to Canada. The real economic engine in Campo is people who are going nowhere: several hundred felons-in-training at two youth detention facilities. There is also brisk trade in people who are heading south, those hapless illegal aliens who have had their hikes cut short by the Border Patrol and are waiting to make a vehicle-assisted U-turn back to whence they came. You will walk right by both a sprawling youth prison complex and an equally impressive Border Patrol facility in the first few minutes of your journey. A fine time to reflect on just how fortunate you are -- PCT hikers being among the most free people on the face of the earth.
The putative "trading post" at Campo's main intersection -- Forrest Gate Road and Highway 94 -- holds little if anything for PCT hikers. As of spring 2009, your best bet for restaurant chow is the El Rancho Bar and Grill, the latest operation to occupy the site of the former Village Inn and McGuffy's Bar and Grill in Lake Morena, (29804 Oak Dr, 619 478-9553). The way things run in Campo, by the time you read this it may have turned over again. But it's a good bet there's some food service to be found there. The Oak Shore Malt Shop (2425 Lake Morena Drive, 619 478-5845), which had been the first bankable food of the journey, a half-mile east of the trailhead at Lake Morena County Park, is still operating as a convenience store but serving only deli sandwiches. The Campo Diner (1367 Dewey Place, 619 478-2888) on the site formerly occupied by the Old Oak Inn had breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week in 2009. The location is off Highway 94, between Buckman Springs Road and Campo Truck Trail. The La Posta Diner (32337 Old Highway 80, 619 478-5600) is northeast of Pine Valley, on a frontage road. Take the Kitchen Creek exit off Interstate 8.
As for lodging in this section, we found metro San Diego to be a very expensive market for motels. A short surf through the Web travel consolidators yielded no bargains at all. Rather than stay in San Diego on the eve of the big day, we opted to book three nights up the hill at Mt. Laguna, which allowed me to luxuriate in a cozy cabin the first two nights, load a ton of calories in the eating establishments of Pine Valley and, best of all, slackpack the first two days on the trail.