May 1, 2018
Lake Morena (20.23) to Long Creek Crossing (37.75)
17.52 trail miles
Not all inclines are created equal. Yesterday we had about 3.5 miles of incline to climb, and it was a little rough. Today we did over 17. It was cold and wet. My hands we’re freezing and my feet were muddy. It was the best day yet. Best day. The night was pretty much the opposite.
We had another late start. I had set my alarm for 5 but pushed the snooze immediately. I can tell that not sleeping in is going to be a challenge. It had rained overnight though, so we didn’t feel too bad about snuggling into our bags for a little while longer while we waited for the sun to come out.
By 7:30 though it was still overcast and we decided we could wait no longer. Our fellow campers were of the same mindset, and we all gave each other nods of hellos across the field as we sleepily made our way out of our tents and started to break down camp.
While brushing my teeth I met another girl named Tracy from Los Angeles. We laughed about how the desert wasn’t exactly what she was expecting. Not quite the blistering heat we’d been warned about. I’m sure that will come later in Mojave though.
By 8:45 we were packed and ready to head out. On the way out we checked the hiker box and Stanley grabbed a full brimed sun hat with the name Tommy on it. Hiker boxes are where hikers put the gear and food they decide they no longer want to carry and leave for other hikers.
It was still overcast so we left our fleece layers on, but after a couple miles we were already working up a sweat and had to take them off. It was a steady climb out of Lake Morena. We played leap frog with a group of three (and later four when a girl joined them) for the first half of the day. I kept expecting the climb to take it’s toll, but I felt great. The nero the day before made us feel fresh and excited again to be on the trail.
We had a few spots in mind for that night. The first was just after 13 miles at a campground that was supposed to be nice but cost money and was about a mile away from the trail. We were hoping to make it at least to mile 16 where there were some free spots on the trail somewhat close to water. Our real goal was to get to mile 37.7 by a spot right next to a creek. That would give us an easy 4 miles into Mount Laguna the next day for our resupply. We didn’t plan too much though. Our goal is still just to hike as much as we can and not break ourselves as we build up our strength and toughen up our feet.
We were flying through the trail and came to our first water source long before we needed more water. The cool day was definitely helping us conserve water, but we were also making sure to not make any water mistakes again. The water was at a nice picnic spot though, and we magically had service, so we decided to break for food and I was able to upload my first couple blogs. I also took the time to check a hot spot on my toe and, sure enough, I had a small blister forming on the side of one of them. I put a bandaid around it and told myself I’d keep an eye on it. Just before we reached our lunch spot we had met a girl named Becky who had pushed herself to Lake Morena on day 1 and already had blisters. Now she was trying to push herself on day 2 the 22 miles into Mount Laguna. I did not envy her.
We stayed at our lunch spot for about an hour, which was probably a little too long. The group that we had been leap frogging with passed us and we chatted a bit. The girl from Los Angeles and her group of four also passed us while we were waiting. Both groups were stopping at the 13 mile campground, making it sound a little more tempting, but we held off deciding still.
By the end of our hour we were freezing again. It actually felt nice to put our packs back on and get moving. We passed the group we’d been leap frogging with a bit further down the road under an overpass trying to hide from the wind. It was one of the last times we saw them.
After that it was just more of a climb. We stopped every so often to marvel at how far we were going as the highway we had just walked under got further and further in the distance. Soon it was out of sight completely. This happened a few times as sights in the distance ended up behind us as the miles ticked on. We kept trying to guess which mountain was the scary Mount Laguna we’d have to climb to get to the town, but each time we passed the mountain shortly after. I wonder if we’ll get better at judging distances soon.
It stayed cold and cloudy and a bit drizzly all day. It should have been miserable, but we felt great all day. We kept randomly getting excited about how we were finally on the trail and how beautiful everything was.
And it really is beautiful. My favorite moments are coming around a new bend and seeing the scenery on the other side. Green hills and distant views everywhere make it difficult to be unhappy on the trail.
At about 10 miles in we stopped to refill our water at Kitchen Creek. It was the first water we’d be drinking that wasn’t out of a faucet, so we filtered it with our Sawyer and then threw in chlorine tabs for good measure. There had been e. Coli in the water in the past and I was not messing with that.
While finishing up we were passed one last time by the group we’d been leap frogging with. We wouldn’t catch up with them again before they left for the campsite turnout at mile 13.
Sometime shortly after this, Stanley realized he had dropped his beanie somewhere. We dropped our pack and jogged back a bit, but no luck. We counted it as a loss and kept going.
At mile 13 we passed the spot where a military helicopter had crashed years before. There were still signs warning to stay on the path in case of unexploded ordinances, which was a little unnerving, but we were past it quickly.
We were feeling great and thought we could make it to the campsite at mile 16 at least, so we pressed on. We had left the two groups of four behind, so we assumed we’d be alone on the trail for the rest of the day, but were soon surprised by two guys flying up the trail behind us. They were wearing shorts and looked a little crazy, but impressive all the same. As soon as they were out of sight it occurred to me that we should have asked that if they’d seen a black beanie on the trail behind us. Stanley noted that one of the guys was even wearing a black beanie, and we laughed saying it was probably his and now we would never see it again at their speed.
We kept going at our pace until I needed to stop and check on my blister. It had moved out of the bandaged spot to the front of my toe, so I switched to my river sandals and kept trekking. I must say, I love my river sandals. I was hesitant to even get some because they seemed like unneeded weight, but Stanley convinced me and I’m so grateful. I’ve started joking that I’m going to wear them the rest of the trail, though that might be difficult in the Sierras.
At mile 16 we got to our first possible spot, but there was already someone there. We were wanting to go up another half mile to another spot closer to water anyway so we weren’t too bummed. On the way though we caught up to one of the fast guys who had passed us shortly earlier. He was alone now putting on his jacket. It turned out the other guy with him was the one camped at the spot just below. Stanley commented on his beanie and said he was jealous because he had just lost his earlier that day. “Oh, this is yours then!” he exclaimed. We couldn’t believe it.
He followed us for a while and we found out that he was actually a pretty well known hiker nicknamed Pathfinder. He had just started that day and was already at mile 36, and he was trying to do a calendar year Triple Crown. That’s insane. We kept offering to get out of his way so he could continue on his fast-paced way, but he said he didn’t mind keeping us company. He gave us some good tips and told us some cool stories, and before we knew it we were at the final camp spot we had been looking at. Just like that our 17.75 miles were done. We said goodbye and exchanged blogs. I’m excited to go follow him at adventuresofpathfinder.com. I hope he makes his triple crown goal this year. It seems like nothing is going to stop that guy.
When we said goodbye it was at 6:45 and it was quickly getting colder and starting to drizzle again. We threw up our tent as fast as we could (it took about 3 minutes) and jumped inside.
The night quickly got bad. We had no idea, but it was going to be an unseasonably cold night. So cold that even in all of our layers and snuggled in our sleeping bags we were still freezing. We had to pull out your emergency bivvies and put them over our bags to retain enough heat. Unfortunately, the emergency bivvies don’t allow moisture to escape, so we were warm but wet. It wasn’t pleasant. Stanley was able to sleep but I had a bit more trouble. It wasn’t until we cooked some broth and couscous and put the entire pot in my bag with me that I finally started to feel warm and dozed for even a little. It would be a very rough night though, and one I hope never to repeat.