April 30, 2018
Hauser Creek (15.36) to Lake Morena (20.26)
4.9 trail miles (Our first Nero!)
Some things you just know without having to experience them. Like that a fire is going to be hot and you shouldn’t touch it. Other things you think you know until you experience them and realize you had no idea. This was my only thought as I ate my dry food this morning on the way to Lake Morena.
We started late. Very late. We didn’t set an alarm because we passed out at 8 and figured we’d wake up way too early anyways. Nope. When I finally opened my eyes it was to full light. Oops. Instead of hurrying though, we accepted that it would be another slow day and took our time breaking down camp. By the time we actually hit the trail around 9, most of the other campers had already headed out. That left us mostly alone to do the five miles to Lake Morena and our water.
Unfortunately, that five miles was over a very large hill. I was glad we had decided to wait until morning to tackle it, while the air was still cool and we didn’t need as much water. These were my thoughts as I headed up the steep incline.
It wasn’t long though before we were rationing our water and counting our steps until that sweet unlimited water. It was rough going. My pack somehow seemed heavier despite the low water and smaller food pack. We stopped several times to look at the view or some cool bugs. About halfway up I had to use the bathroom, and was glad because it meant I wasn’t too dehydrated yet.
Around this time I also decided to grab one of my Kashi bars for a snack. It was a mistake. Every bite took at least five minutes to chew as I had very little spittle to help aid in breaking it down. It was a chocolate peanut butter bar too. Not cool. I think I left the last bite in my pocket because I just couldn’t swallow it.
At the top we could see the lake and celebrated by downing the last of our water.
The last mile and a half were finally downhill and I definitely jogged a bit to get to the campground. After a couple false trails leading off, we finally found the one that went all the way down to the lake. We came out of the woods and jogged across the street to the most glorious sight ever.
Dozens of campgrounds, and each with their own spigot. We dropped our packs, filled a bottle each, and chugged half a liter right there.
I really hope I never make that mistake again. While we were never in any real danger, I have decided I love my water way too much to ever want to have to monitor my intake again.
We took a small rest before heading back up to where we left the trail and continued around to the other side of the campground. We could have just walked through, but I’d like to walk every step of the trail that I can.
A short ways further and we got to the PCT hiker campground, which is just a big field with a gazebo and firepit. It was heaven. So much so that we decided that we would have our first Nero (“near zero” miles in a day) and would camp there tonight. The water, bathrooms, and shower we’re just too good to pass up, and my feet aren’t quite as trail hard as they could be. A day to let them rest would do wonders for blister prevention, which is my second biggest fear behind ticks.
We set up camp and then headed to the entrance to pay for our spot. No one was there though, so we headed back to try to find the ranger station where we could also pay. It turns out the ranger station was not back by camp, but further down the road. Fortunately though, there were several rangers at camp doing maintenance who were able to give us our day permits and exchange quarters for the showers.
We saw another hiker headed towards the entrance, so Stanley yelled over to him to explain the situation. He was very grateful to not have wasted the time, especially since he hadn’t even dropped his bag off first.
His name was James and he’s been our first real friend on the trail. We also gave him $1.25 of our exchanged quarters (all we’d had was a $5). This was worth a 10 minute hot shower, for which he was also grateful.
The rest of the day has been amazing. The weather stayed overcast and not too hot. We made our first meal on our stove. First few meals in fact – pasta with Olive oil, couscous with potato flakes, and more pasta. I love my pasta.
It was nice to have hot meals, and I was excited when Stanley pulled out all his spices. The potato flakes were kind of an accident. We just didn’t use enough couscous in the water because we had nothing to measure it with. But adding the potato flakes is a common hiker trick I’d learned for adding calories, and it worked perfectly.
After that we took our shower, chugged more water, and got in our tents and our cozy fleece pajamas. It wasn’t long before James walked up and pulled out a few mini bottles of wine to share. It was perfect, and I have no regrets about taking a Nero, even if it is only day 2.
The PCT is a race, and the last one to finish is the winner.
This is the quote I wrote in the hiker log at the trailhead, and I truly believe it. We’re not here to rush and break ourselves. The long days and long miles will come in a couple weeks when we’ve gotten our trail legs and stronger shoulders. For now, I’m happy to relax and enjoy the journey.
Tomorrow will be mostly uphill. I’m hoping this long rest will make it so we can do another 18 mile day (preferably with all 18 miles counting this time). After that it will be a short 4 miles to Mount Laguna, where we’ll do our first in town resupply and I’ll hopefully be able to update the blog finally. After that, who knows. But we’re finally on our way to Canada.