April 29, 2018
Mexico border (0) to Hauser Creek (15.36)
15.36 trail miles (plus 3 useless miles)
If there’s anything that you’re not prepared for, the trail will let you know pretty quickly.
The first thing that I was obviously not prepared for, was waking up at 5am to leave. Perhaps we shouldn’t have stayed up until midnight. But it’s hard to regret a great last night with my mom and brother, even when the alarm went off and I had to drag myself out of the last real bed I’d be sleeping in for a while.
But shortly after 6 we were finally ready to drive the last 45 minutes from San Diego to the border near Campo. On the drive I couldn’t help but look at the scenery and try to imagine myself out there somewhere. My stomach was doing flips, of nerves or excitement I couldn’t tell.
When we got to the border we decided to park down by the border wall and walk the guided steps to the trailhead.
There were a couple people there before us, but they were gone by the time we reached the southern terminus monument. We took some classic pictures, signed the trail log, said our goodbyes with lots of hugs and good lucks, and then started on our way.
We passed Scout and Frodo’s group coming in and were very glad we’d beat them to the trailhead so we didn’t have to wait for them all to take their pictures. For those who don’t know, Scout and Frodo are amazing trail angels who pick hikers up from the San Diego airport, let them stay at their house for a night, and then take them to the trail in the morning. Some of the groups they take seem to have 20 people in them, meaning they literally help hundreds of people make this dream come true.
The first couple miles were kinda funny. We walked next to the road for a bit, so we saw my mom and brother again as they drove by on their way out. We walked by many small houses and had cell service the whole time so we were making our final calls and goodbyes at this time.
Around the 3 mile mark we finally made it into some hills and out of sight of the road. We were greeted by wildflowers, strange looking plants, and lots of lizards. Lots and lots of lizards, including a giant black one about a foot long that looked like someone’s overfed pet had escaped, and several that were so long we almost thought they were snakes.
We didn’t see any snakes though. Rattlesnakes are the only snake I’m worried about out here, and worry is really too strong of a word. I assume we’ll see some eventually, but the only thing I’m really afraid of right now are blisters. And ticks. Ugh. Somehow ticks have become my worst fear. We treated our clothes with Permethrin, but as I was squatting to take my first outside pee I couldn’t help but imagine one taking the opportune moment to jump on. Blegh. I’m being paranoid, but I’m sure it will pass.
Blisters are the only other thing I’m worried about right now, but we know how to handle those. We’ve got nylon and wool sock combos, leukotape, and more free floating wool to stuff in any concern spots. We’ve committed to taking it slow the first week or two to get our trail legs under us and not push ourselves into any injuries that might force us off the trail.
Like I said though, the trail will let you know wherever it was that you are ill prepared. We made our first mistake 6 miles in. We thought it was 7 miles in because I didn’t wait for my gps to fine tune our location. It was only 10:30 and we found a nice spot of shade to rest in. We had been making great time, but had gotten stuck in the bubble that was Scout and Frodo’s group, so we chose this spot to hang out and wait for them to all pass. And then we waited longer just enjoying nature and relaxing. That wasn’t smart though, because while the morning had been cool and cloudy, the sun had come out and it was only getting hotter. We had wasted our last decent hour of hiking before the sun was too much.
Fortunately we had our umbrellas, which I am now grateful my mother insisted on us bringing. My original one had broken on the flight to California and I had considered just not bringing one. I would have been miserable without it though. Even with it though, the trail showed me how unused to it I was. It kept sliding around and falling down, or whacking me in the face. We had to stop and connect it to several spots to keep it from falling over completely, and even then it kept hitting my sunglasses. Better than the heat though.
At the real 7 miles we stopped and checked the gps again, realizing our mistake the first time. Our goal was to get to mile 15, and it was a bummer to see that we hadn’t made any progress. This was also when we realized our other huge mistake. I thought there would be a water source at mile 10 or 12, but now looking at the water report I could see the next water was where we were camping at 15, and even that was a maybe. The next secure water wasn’t until Lake Morena at mile 20. Yikes.
This forced us to slow down and rest often in any shade we could to try and keep cool and conserve water. 10 miles in my feet finally began to feel footsore, and my shoulders had been aching for a while. This was all expected though. We slowed even further and took our time for the last few miles. I only got frustrated once when my umbrella hit me in the face then inverted for the third time. As I went to turn my umbrella towards the wind to use it to uninvert the umbrella, the wind suddenly died, causing me to yell out at it for it’s cruel trick. Of course, after I fixed it myself the wind started right back up. Ok, it was a little funny.
At mile 12 we were finally on the other side of the hills we had been climbing, and ready to make our way downhill to find camp. I shortly started to feel some hot spots on my toes though and we had to stop again so I could change into my camp shoes, which are just river sandals. It was an excellent choice. We made the last few miles feeling great and excited to hopefully find some water so we could chug the rest of ours and cook real food tonight.
When we got to the campground I was surprised by the number of tents set up. I had been guessing we’d see maybe a couple, but that most people would have pushed through the last 5 miles to get to Lake Morena. Instead, there were at least a dozen that I could see, with tons back in the trees, making it hard to count. We walked up to a big group sitting around chatting, where they gave us the bad news. The river next to us was dry. And instead of the 200-300 yards that my hikerbot app said we’d have to walk to find water, they informed us it was actually a mile and a half away. Well, that sucked.
We found a place to drop our bags at a clear space a little down a dirt road next to the campground. Then we headed off to find water. Perhaps it was because it was the end of the day, but I was not my smartest here. We grabbed our water stuff, but left the Garmin which I should really always have on me. I also made the stupid mistake of assuming we needed to head to the right, since that was the direction to go for the 200-300 yard directions. If I had stopped and looked at my water report I would have seen that they were probably talking about a creek that was 1.6 miles…. in the other direction.
So, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we went a mile and a half down the wrong direction before coming to a gate and private property. And no water. The lack of water wasn’t as disappointing as the idea that we could already be in our tents right now if we had just made peace with having dry food tonight in the first place.
We made quick work of the walk back to our spot. It was nice walking without the packs, but it was starting to get dark and cold and we were ready to be snuggled up in our sleeping bags.
Setting up the tent was also quick work, and we were soon inside and unpacking everything. We saved enough water to make it over the hill to water the next day, ate as much dry food as we could force into our mouths, and were asleep by 8.
It was a great day overall. We had some learning curves, but that was expected and it was nothing too terrible. We laughed at ourselves a lot, and I didn’t even want to cry once. I call this a success, and I’m feeling more confident than ever that I can do this thing.