I woke up on the second day feeling incredibly sore. My knee was still hurting from the previous days trek, and my shoulders hurt as well from carrying my overweight pack all day. We cleaned up our site and headed to the only general store that Lake Morena has to offer. Inside this little store there was a kitchen that served hot meals as well as crap food that perfectly suits a hiker. Kelsey got the bacon and eggs and I decided on the sausage and eggs, and the rather large meal came with country potatoes with onions and bell peppers, and the toast of your liking. We both scarfed down our meals and then went outside to fill our water bottles and Platypus bladders from the spigot on the side of the store. After replenishing our bodies, we headed back out on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The first few miles really felt like we were in the desert. Most of the trail for that stretch was sand, and the heat was beating down on us. We got to a water crossing and decided to stay for a while and rest. The day prior we had met some fellow hikers, Eric and Mackenzie. Both of them are from the Bay Area and were extremely friendly and fun to be around. The first day had taken its toll on Mackenzie, her feet had very large blisters on most of her toes. She was being a trooper about it though, as she shrugged her shoulders and continued on without any complaints. The afternoon proved to be more difficult as we hiked high up into the mountains ahead, walking for nearly three hours straight. We came to a road crossing where we encountered our first ‘Trail Magic’. Trail magic is when someone does something for a hiker for no other reason than to help us out, out of the kindness of their own hearts. These people have been dubbed ‘Trail Angels’, because they are exactly that. These particular Angels had not just Corona’s, but lime-garnished Corona’s, as well as freshly cut watermelon. They also spoke of a campsite that was roughly three miles ahead, and they said they were off to pick up some pizzas and head there. We were left with no other choice but to head exactly to that spot. When we got there sure enough they were already there supplying pizzas to a few very hungry hikers. This made our day and also made us realize that there are great people out there in this world, even if sometimes it seems otherwise. Faith in humanity was restored, by two Corona’s and a single slice of pizza.
The third day began with a steep .8 mile hike back to the PCT from the road that took us down to the campsite. The next section was a four mile gradual rise up towards Mt. Laguna, where we would resupply the few things missing from our food sacks . . mostly Snicker bars and tuna pouches. A few miles outside of town, and just before a water source, I had the lead as I walked alongside the trail. I was feeling strong and confident in myself, and then I heard the RATTLE! Only about four feet in front of my lay another snake. This time I had caught the snake off guard as it leaped back in an effort to possibly strike forward. I jumped up so high I almost did a backflip and took off back down the other direction. The rest of the group got to the snake just in time to see its tail as it slithered away. We hiked the remaining five or so miles into town and I sent my ukulele and umbrella home. Before I set off on this trek I really thought that having a small guitar would be awesome, but having to carry the extra weight was just not an option at this point. We camped just north of Mt. Laguna, at a stealth campsite alongside the trail.
We had a somewhat late start leaving the campsite this morning, leaving around 9:15am. For about twenty-five minutes we were still blessed to have the mountainous landscape around us, nice cool air and still the smell of the pine trees. The landscape slowly changed back to a desolate one, but one thing stood out to me more than anything — I felt great! My knee pain had subsided greatly, and much to my surprise I was feeling like a much stronger hiker in general. We came up to a lookout point and we could see the valley floor below, about two thousand feet below. These views lasted all day as we hugged the high mountain side. At some points you really needed to focus because the trail was very narrow and falling was not an option. We stopped for lunch which consisted of orange flavored granola and a liter of water. True hiker hunger was felt on this day, an insatiable hunger for food that is felt amongst most thru-hikers. We hiked from where we ate lunch for four straight hours to where we camped, in a marsh that protected us from the high winds but not from the thousands upon thousands of mosquitos.
We set out at about 8am, feeling even better than the days passed. We hadn’t showered in almost 5 days, but we came up with a motto for our premature hike, “Embrace the filth”. This saying makes it seem okay to reek – smelling very, very badly. Again we were fortunate to have the best views we had seen in quite some time. Kelsey being from Rhode Island was astonished around every bend, having never been this far West in her entire life. This was all new to her, and having grown up in Southern California I was equally as amazed at what has been in my backyard this entire time. True beauty.
We walked about 10 miles to a water source, where a plethora of hikers had communed to resupply their water bottles and Platypus bladders. From that site we had about nine miles to Scissors Crossing, where we were to hitch into the town of Julian. Hitch hiking is something that is unavoidable as a Pacific Crest Trail hiker, but these towns know of this and are quick to pick up people with large back packs and trekking poles in hand. We were picked up by an old man in his RV who was born in Germany, his motor home smelled like he had a constant leak in his septic tank . . so it made for an incredibly smelly ride with four hikers stashed inside as well.
We made it to Julian and walked straight into a hiker friendly restaurant called “Carmela’s.” The first beer is on the house, so you could say it’s my kind of place. We ended up crashing on the floor of a hotel room a fellow hiker had purchased. Full belly, happy thoughts, I was excited for the days that lay ahead.