Day 5

May 3, 2018

Mount Laguna (41.47) to Bushcamp (56.10)
14.63 trail miles

While hiking with Pathfinder he told us that if we could make it to Warner Springs we could make it the whole way. He said most people who are going to quit will quit before then. Today we’re halfway to Warner Springs, and this makes me extra happy.

~

Alright let’s try not to judge us too much as I say that we didn’t make it out of town until 11. There were a couple reasons for this, the first being that it was just extra difficult to leave the comfort of a nice warm bed.

The other reason is that after the long evening we just seemed to stutter step back into our routine. It seemed like we had to repack our bags a couple times after having pulled everything out the night before to let it dry. I took a shower, but in my haste to jump in the water I forgot to not get my hair wet.

And then there was the blister. Or should I say blistersss. I put my shoes on and immediately felt pain. When I took them off and looked again, I realized that the bubble of air on top was actually a separate blister that I hadn’t drained. I made quick work of lancing it since I was a pro now, did up my leukotape, and decided to switch to my river sandals once again. I seriously love those river sandals, and ended up spending all day in them.

After finally packing up we headed back up to the fire station to access the WiFi. WiFi is always hard to leave, so we probably stayed longer than we should have to update our blogs and contact people. At 11 we finally headed out, just 2 hours after our roomies. We wondered if we would see them again.

Instead of skipping ahead to the trail past Mount Laguna we backtracked to where we had originally left trail. We’d heard it was a beautiful section of the trail though, so we weren’t too upset about having to go back.

It was definitely beautiful. We realized quickly though that we needed to stop and eat some food. Somehow even with our late start we didn’t manage to make breakfast. I chomped down some granola bars and kept going.

The rest of the day was a day of changing scenery. We started in the morning in the woods of Mount Laguna. It was shady and perfect in the growing heat of the day. We found ourselves moving at a decent pace and getting back into our groove.

It wasn’t long until the trees thinned out and we were walking through a burn area. It must have been a while ago, because there were plenty of tall green shrubs everywhere. It was an interesting contrast to see the black trunks and branches reaching out from the green shrubs, almost like trees that were upside-down. Even more interesting was when we got to the edge of the burn area, where there were large trees outgrowing their half blackened trunks.

Eventually the trees disappeared and we were in the sun and rolling hills. We saw a few other hikers at this point, and while taking a small break got to talking to a woman from Australia named Nightwalker. She had completed the PCT in 2015, getting her nickname because she preferred to walk at night (duh). She even had her picture at the northern terminus taken at midnight. She was here to do it again, this time with her son who was somewhere miles ahead of her with his own group that he had found.

After letting her get ahead of us we continued on our way, finally getting to the edge of the hills and some spectacular views. It was hard not to stop every turn and try to take a picture. We were able to look across the valley at hills on the other side and point out the trail that we would be on eventually, marveling at the distance.

It was also a wonderful spot to watch the birds. They would float on the updrafts and hang in air, seemingly motionless, until diving deep into the valley to snatch something out of the air. Sometimes they would circle around each other as the dove, and I was awed by their dance and that they never hit each other.

We haven’t seen too many other animals so far. There have been a few bunnies and lots of birds. The bluejays are the easiest to pick out. We saw a couple wild turkeys in Lake Morena and Mount Laguna, and had a toad try to crawl under our tent one night. Other than that it’s been bugs and lizards. The lizards were out in full force again, another testament that the cold weather was behind us. I saw lots of black ones again today, but none as big as the giant one I saw on day one.

We caught up to Nightwalker having lunch at an outlook point where the trail meets the freeway. There was a whole crowd of hikers stopped to picnic and enjoy the view, so we decided to stop as well and munch for a bit.

A group got up to keep going and as they passed us a girl told us we looked like ninjas, which made me laugh. I had forgotten that we were wearing full desert face and neck masks that Stanley had gotten from his deployment. With our hats and sunglasses on I realized it was impossible to tell what we looked like. We joked that next time we would start speaking Korean and no one would be able to tell we weren’t foreigners. Well, unless they noticed my white freckled hands sticking out of my sleeves or the wisp of red hair peeking out below the mask.

We eventually continued on and came to our first water resupply point. It was a beautiful spot, covered by trees with plenty of space to lounge around. We had caught up to the girl that called us ninjas, and I found out that she was here from Alaska. She had dreads and pulled out an IPA to settle in for a siesta and wait out the heat. She was way too cool for me, but I thought my sister would like her.

We realized we didn’t really need more water until the next water resupply, but I’m glad we stopped. There were a couple people there saying the next water wasn’t for 18 miles, which I knew wasn’t true. After debating and pulling up several sources we confirmed that there was a water trough just 4 miles ahead, and then another tank 7 miles after that. Water is heavy, so not having an 18 mile carry makes a huge difference. I was glad to be able to correct them before they carried way too much out of there.

The problem with determining where there’s water is that there are multiple sources to check, and all of them are open source. There’s the water report, which I keep a hard copy of because it seems the most complete to me. Then there’s guthooks, which is an app you have to pay for. There’s also hikerbot, which is like guthooks but free. I love it, but it’s only for Android. There’s also halfmile, but it’s just text not a map and I don’t think many people use it for water. The thing is, all of these different sources rely on people submitting whether or not water is still running at those places. Plenty of streams and tanks dry up or run out in the middle of the season. Most people won’t trust a source unless it’s been updated very recently, so you really have to check all of the different apps and the water report to find the latest update for each water. If you’re only using one app like the guy at this water spigot was, you could end up not seeing water and carrying way too much. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make an app that pulls all information into one place, but I’d need a computer programmer to help with that.

We put our packs back on and reluctantly left the shady grove to continue on. We were soon in rolling hills again, going up and down and up and down with little shade in-between.

The four miles went by quickly, and soon we found ourselves at a lovely picnic spot where the horse trough and our next water would be. There was also an outhouse, which makes it a definite yes to stop at. At the entrance there was a sign saying we had made it past 50 miles. Yay!

While climbing up to the picnic area we saw Becky once again, setting up her tent for the night. She was doing much better thanks to her trail angel friend, and I was glad to hear she would be staying on the trail. We dropped our packs and headed to the horse trough.

It was gross. It was a round cement trough with slimy green looking water sitting in it. The faucet above it that filled the trough had no flow, so we would have to use the faucet below that pulled the water straight from the trough. When the water was coming out below it was thin enough that it looked clear and I had a hopeful thought that maybe it was different water or coming from somewhere other than the trough. When I filled my bag and looked inside though, I could see that in a larger quantity you could see the brownish green tint once again.

We got just enough to last us until the next water, and filtered it with our Sawyer and threw chlorine tabs in for good measure. It looked fine in our bottles and I was glad the Sawyer worked so well.

We also realized that we didn’t actually have to climb through the picnic area. We could have just continued on the trail and it would have brought us around the park to the water. This meant once again we had to backtrack to make sure we hit every step of the trail. Nightwalker had also arrived and was setting up her tent, but we wanted to go at least a few more miles.

The area after the horse trough was a steep uphill into a rocky cliff area. It was sad to see so much graffiti, as well as a bunch of memorial plaques, some looking like they had trail names on them. I wondered if it was a common place to fall. The drop was certainly long and steep, but there were guard railings now on some of the narrower parts.

This little section was just the first part of the steep drops. We found ourselves on narrow ledges, and I kept calling out to be careful and aware. One misstep could be the end, and it had me very much on edge. It was by far the scariest part of the trail so far. Knowing that we were both getting tired also freaked me out a little because it seemed all the more possible that we could make a mistake.

We decided we wouldn’t make the 18 miles we had been hoping for due to our late start, but that meant that we would perhaps get to camp with our friends instead. We went as quickly as we could through the last few miles as the sun went down and played peekaboo with us behind the hills. We kept dipping into the shaded side of a hill, and I would be certain it was the last we’d see of the sun, until we came around the other side to be warmed by it once again.

We finally came to the big boulders that signified the camp spots we were looking for. There were a few people there who pointed out good spots for us, but unfortunately none of them were our friends from Mount Laguna. We realized they must have pushed on to try to camp where we had originally been planning. We thought about pushing on as well, but there’s something about trying to tell your body to keep going after you’ve already promised it that it was done for the day. We decided to camp by ourselves and hope that we would meet up with them tomorrow.

It was probably my favorite spot so far. It was back deep in the bushes and hidden both from sight and from the wind. The ground was soft and flat, and the air was plenty warm.

We also had fleeting service if we climbed up onto the boulders, and saw other people doing the same. I know we’re supposed to be out here in the wilderness, but it was nice being able to call my parents and get videos of our puppies in Tennessee. They look like they’re having as much fun as we are, which made me happy.

With our tent set up and us in our warm sleeping bags after eating more pasta and couscous, it wasn’t long before we were fast asleep. Nightwalker told us it was completely normal to sleep way too long the first couple weeks as our bodies adjusted, but that eventually we’d be back to 8 hours and feeling well rested. One great thing about the trail is that you don’t really have to set an alarm if you don’t want to, and I revelled in this as I snuggled down deep and fell asleep.

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