Lake Morena (mile 20.6)-Pines above creek (app. mile 39.6)
I shifted all night long, looking at my watch, unable to sleep. The ground was uncomfortable and my nose was filled with thick yellow mucous and blood. I couldn’t breathe, let alone sleep! I definitely didn’t need my iphone to wake me up! It was still dark at 5 when I got up. I checked my thermometer. It read 42.9 degrees, but it didn’t feel as cold as it did in Colorado. I ate a package of poptarts for breakfast and felt very disappointed when I discovered they were maple flavored and not chocolate. I put in my contacts and started packing up after 5:30. Ron started to awake around 5:50. I heard him shifting around and went over to say good morning. He had not slept well, either. I wasn’t too cold while lying in my sleeping bag, but now that I was out, even with all of my layers on, I was very cold! I told Ron that I was going down to the restrooms to fill up my water bottles. (We got to ease into backpacking with a shower the first night and not needing to filter water in the morning!). He said he had to go down there, too and would meet me there. My hands were frozen. I found a spigot, filled up on water, and went to the bathroom. I looked around for Ron, but saw no sign of him! My hands were growing even colder. I had to get moving! I decided that he would catch up with me and headed toward campsite 95, which the ranger had said the trail was right beside. I walked over to the road, found a PCT sign, and got excited! The trail! I walked up a hill, noticing the pretty lavender flowers and the shadows cast by the early sun, and soon came to a familiar signpost… Wait a minute, I have already seen this…! I realized that I had just backtracked to where I had come off the trail last evening! I walked back down the hill, followed the road in the other direction, and finally found the trail going north. It turned out to be located just behind where I had camped! I felt embarrassed, a bit mad, and my anxiety was increasing. Ron had made a big deal about getting started early to avoid the extreme heat (starting around 10 am… What were we supposed to do after that?) and I had just lost a big chunk of this cooler weather! I was going to swelter under the hot sun soon! I reached a rusted gate and couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to open it! It seemed to be stuck shut! Day 2 was not beginning so well! I wondered if anyone else was having these problems! I took off my pack, dropped it through the middle of the gate, and then squeezed myself through the bars. After that fiasco, it was a quiet morning in the chaparral. The early sun was blinding and I often could not see where I was going! I wondered if polarized sunglasses would allow me to see. I did see a couple of cute bunnies, as well as a runner heading towards the campground. After a couple of miles, I found some nice large sunny rocks at the top of a climb to dry out my little towels from the evening before, as well as my socks. I stripped off some layers and ate the rest of my poptarts. Along came Luke and Drama, led by an athletic blond-haired guy who I hadn’t yet met. He seemed surprised that Luke and Drama knew me. They asked me if I was going to Mt. Laguna tonight. “No!” I wasn’t going to do over 22 miles on the second day! Besides, there would be no point. I had to wait until the store opened the following morning to pick up my first resupply box. They said they were planning on getting there tonight. They told me that some guy let them camp in his backyard last night, which is why I hadn’t seen them at the campground. Matt was still asleep when they left. I asked if they had seen Ron and they said no. Drama said, “No worries. Hike your own hike.”
They continued on and a couple more people passed by while I was still taking my break. One guy made a comment about me finding a good place to make alterations. (“It’s called taking a break”…)
I packed up and walked on. I came to my first creek crossing on a log and nearly fell in.
As I took another snack break, Matt passed. He had not seen Ron, either. Strange…
I saw a pretty meadow with yellow flowers in the distance, as two southbound men passed by. Up ahead, another hiker had found a large rock to sit on and patch up his newly formed blisters.
The day seemed to be dragging along. I had walked only 8 miles by 11:30! It felt much hotter than yesterday!
As I reached Boulder Oaks campground, where I refilled my water bottles, a tourist group passed by. One lady wished me a nice hike. Matt rolled in, followed by the guy who stopped to care for his blisters. I took off, passing by the numbered campspots, wondering “Where is the trail?”. It turns out that it was in the other direction!
I continued on until the trail came out to a highway, and again, I wasn’t sure where to go.
Across the highway or on the highway?
Matt came out and thought it went along the road, so I followed him. It was so hot!! I said that road-walking was the worst part and he mimicked me complaining- “everything is wrong”. (??) Lots of cyclists were headed in the opposite direction. I asked Matt if he was sure this was the trail. He took out his map and said that it seemed to follow the road for awhile. So, we kept walking. Then a cyclist rode by and shouted out, “The PCT is that way!” We turned around and started walking all the way back. Great… Matt picked up the pace. He was obviously not happy and not interested in interacting with me. I did not try to keep up. Finally, I was back on the trail! Matt sped ahead. I passed several people, including a woman named Snapdragon and her husband. They said they were only doing eight miles a day. After the husband found out my name, he said he had a joke for me.
“Why did Tinker Bell fly? Because she saw a sign down below that said never, never land.”
A bit later on, I met a nice young guy, named Austin. He had been coveting everyone’s chrome dome umbrellas and asked how much they cost. He was carrying a beige umbrella that he had bought at Walmart and said that it was burning him more than cooling him. I asked him if he wanted to borrow mine (I had yet to try it), but he said no.
I kept needing to sit down and take little breaks. It was so hot! Often, the rocks were very uncomfortable places to sit, however! I read about some waterfalls that were coming up in my guidebook and wondered if they were worth going to. When the Canadians passed me on one of my sit-downs, I asked what they intended to do. Kim said, “It’s kind of dry…” “Good point,” I said. “Guess I will wait until Oregon to see the waterfalls!”.
Eventually, I reached Fred canyon, where I met an older gentleman, who was just finishing a break. He said we were going to start a climb.
“Starting now?” I asked. He was amused. He was really impressed that I had just started yesterday. “You’re moving, girl!”
I decided I should take a break here. I needed to air out my shoes. I hadn’t taken them off yet. I found an area with logs to lay out my socks on and shade for me to rest under. Soon after, I heard people nearby. One asked another, “Where are you from?”.
As I packed up my things and put my shoes back on, I heard a familiar laugh! I went up to find Luke, Drama, and Mike!
“How did you guys get behind me?!”.
They said that they had taken a break at Tunnel Falls. “You missed out!”, they taunted. “It was really nice!” “We put our heads under the falls and cooled off!”.
They continued to banter and I headed up the climb, which wasn’t bad. Then, I saw a snake- one with a rattle!- lying across the trail! My first rattlesnake! My heart started to beat faster. What should I do? It wasn’t moving. I asked it if it wanted to get off the trail. It didn’t respond. I then asked if it was asleep. Still no response. Finally, I decided to step around it. As I begun to do so, it woke up! It snapped its head up, set its eyes on me, stuck out its tongue, and hissed as it slithered off to the right. After I was passed it, I let out a little belated scream. A runner came down the hill and I told him he just missed a rattle snake. He immediately jumped as if the rattlesnake were directly under him and I laughed. “Just in case!” he responded.
Mike soon came along and said, “I heard you hiked the AT.”
He wanted to know what that trail was like. He had planned on hiking that one this year, but his partner had dropped out. He decided that he could still try hiking the PCT and that was why he was now here. He asked me about what it took to complete a long trail, what my mental state was, and if I ever wanted to quit. He said that he doesn’t know what to say when people ask how far he is going…
I told him to own it. “Tell them that you are going to Canada! You already set your intention. Now you just have to align with it! You’re already a thruhiker!”.
He was obviously in good shape, with well-defined leg muscles- unlike the rest of us. He told me that he runs and I asked if he was an ultramarathoner. He said he was.
Then, I found out he was 21!
I said that I was going to tell everyone I was keeping up with the 21 year old ultramarathoner! (He responded that he wasn’t going that fast…)
It helped so much to have someone to talk to. The afternoon miles went by so much faster than the morning miles! In the distance, we could see a big stand of pine trees, which I found surprising in the desert!
We arrived at a creek, where two older guys were collecting water. “How far are you going?”, one of them asked us.
“All the way!”, I said.
Mike had turned away and wasn’t saying anything. I gave him a nudge and said, “Right?”.
“Yeah…We’re going to Canada” he said reluctantly.
“I love it!”, said the guy who asked the question.
We decided to wait until the “ford” to collect our water because it was likely easier to access water there, and we had no immediate need for it. My method of purifying water took longer than Mike’s, and I thought he would take off, but he waited for me! Earlier, he said that he had been looking forward to hiking and camping alone that evening, but then changed his mind and said he would go with the flow.
Although he wanted to go further than I did, he ended up stopping where I wanted to camp in the pines! Some older men were already setting up their tents under some trees on one side of the trail. We took the “cool side.”
I set up my tent, boiled some water for dinner, and went to join Mike for dinner. He showed me his emerald and St. Christoph pendent. Earlier on our hike, he talked about how he loved his sandals. He had no blisters and intended to hike the entire trail with them. He also had no poles. He had an army canvas backpack and only 9 pounds of baseweight!
After we finished our dinners, Mike said he wanted to say “hi” to the older guys. I returned to my tent and got ready for bed. I could hear them laughing and knew they had just suggested a trail name for him. When he returned, I asked if he was just given a name.
“Yeah- Buzz Light Year”. One of the guys had remarked that he had a nice smile and bright white teeth.
I thought he could do better than that and said I didn’t know how I felt about that. I told him he should think about it.
Because the Mt. Laguna store didn’t open until 9, and I only had a few miles to get there, I didn’t have to get up too early the next morning. Mike wasn’t planning on stopping there.