Why did I camp in Morena? Everything and everyone is so loud, the breeze from the lake is freezing! I couldn’t sleep at all and it sucked. We were so packed in that I felt bad for even getting up to pee (If you’re not on trail yet, you will know the horror of having to pee shortly after getting comfortable), it probably woke up the whole camp. No wait, that would be the weekend party people keeping everyone up until 12. Ugh. Morena sucked.
I “woke up” ate 5:00 and debated on getting out and starting my hike. Everyone was still asleep so I’d hate to be the first guy to start the morning commotion, but a few moments later I heard the hiss of someone’s air mattress being deflated and I knew I was in the clear. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, I was on-trail in 30 minutes.
My knee was in rough shape, I could barely walk on it at all. For the entire morning I limped my way down the trial, but oddly enough I stayed ahead of everyone else. As I walked through the tall grass towards Boulder Oaks campground I started feeling pretty alone. And.. I kinda liked it. But surely enough I ran into a couple guys eating pizza (where did you get pizza?!) and filtering water from a puddle. They were really cool dudes from Scotland, and were concerned about the lack of water in the desert and were taking it wherever they could get it. I sympathized, the water situation so far has sucked. But we were just a hop skip and a jump away from water at the campground, so I hopped skipped and limped my way down to the spigot in yet another desert oasis. So far this desert doesn’t feel like desert at all.
The campground was nearly vacant, a single tent and an RV occupied a couple spaces, but mostly there were just day hikers out for a weekend adventure. My first order of business was getting water. I wandered around for a moment and found my way to the liquid gold. I filled up a bottle and chugged it, filled it up again, chugged it again. I resigned to just stay here a while and chug down water. I put down my pack in a vacant campsite across from the spigot and found love in my water bottle. I downed about 3 liters. The herd was probably catching up to me, but for the moment it was just me and the breeze. I kinda wanted it to stay that way, so I hopped off my picnic table and got back on trail.
I found myself wandering under a freeway bridge and then up a mountain. On the mountain is when the group caught up to me. I don’t mind that there’s people out here with me, they’ve all been very nice and a lot of fun to hike with, but I was a little overwhelmed yesterday with all the people on trail and the whole Lake Morena debacle, I just wanted a moment to breathe. I slowed down and let everyone ahead of me.
The trail continued upwards, I was mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other while shaking a mental fist at the mountain. Eventually the trail had mercy on us and we dipped down into a valley. I remembered that there was a spur leading to a creek or something around here. I looked over the edge of the trail and saw lush green grass growing around a shiny band of water winding its way around the dry desert floor. I felt elated, but paranoid. “Did I miss the spur? I missed the spur didn’t I? I’m going to have to backtrack, aren’t I?”. I looked at my map, and sure enough I did miss it. The good news is it wasn’t too far behind, so I broke the foundations of thru-hiking and went backwards to get to the creek. I am so glad I did.
The climb down was a little nerve-wracking with a full pack, but I made it down and was immediately rewarded with cool water and a wonderful place to sit. I threw off my shoes and dipped my feet into the mossy pool of water downstream. It felt amazing. When I had my fill of that I hopped back up onto a rock and made lunch: Tuna, cheese, peperoni, tortilla. I ate, put my head on my pack, and fell asleep to the soft trickle of the mini-waterfall along the creek. There was no shade, but there was no care, I was so happy to be there.
I woke up an hour later and got back to hiker-chores. I grabbed some water bottles and started filtering water. I started thinking about just camping here for the night, it was perfect. Right next to water, it was quiet (for some reason no one was coming down here, I’ll never understand that). I thought about it as I lifted a bottle up to my face to take a drink.
What is that?!
Mold. Why does my water taste like mold? I picked up my filter and glared at it. I didn’t treat my filter since its last use, did I? I didn’t. Shit. For certain filters (Sawyer Squeeze) you have to run a modest amount of bleach through them for storage. I neglected to do this. And now I’m in the desert without a water filter. Ah well, what can you do?
Well I certainly wasn’t camping here now. I got all my stuff and pushed on out of my little slice of heaven. I need a new filter, and Mount Laguna is another 10 miles away. I’ve already done 10. Another 20 mile day it is! The hike out of the Kitchen Creek area was – again – hot. Hothothothothothot. Almost the whole way I was – again – completely exposed to the sun with vary rare opportunities for shade. Every once in a while I’d bend around awkwardly to hide in the minuscule shade of a small bush for some kind of relief. The trail going uphill non-stop didn’t help manners.
I played this game for a couple hours. The trail did its dance around the desert and I was along for the ride. Before I knew it I was in a forest somehow. What? How did this happen? Where am I? As I hiked through I started feeling a little sick, eventually almost needing to throw up. But I was also hungry and craving beer and burgers like crazy. I never crave beer like I did at that moment. A quick check on my map indicated that I was nearing Mount Laguna. I was so exhausted and was in auto-hike mode where my legs move without me really feeling like I have any control over them. I found myself at a fork in the trail with a sign indicating to turn left to get to Laguna. I hardly felt elated, and did an auto-turn.
I popped out into a campground and the hikers in the area were yelling about something closing at 8. What? Who? Time? I didn’t have the energy to respond, I wasn’t even sure if they were talking to me. As I meandered around the campground it registered that the restaraunt closes at 8. What time is it? 7:30? Aw. Shit.
I bolted out of the campground and onto the main street of Mount Laguna. Immediately to my right was the restaraunt. I pushed through the entrance iwth the utmost of urgency, still fully geared. Someone asked me to leave my pack outside. You mean I have to walk all the way back outside?! Oh, okay. I came back in feeling a little embarassed and was seated at the PCT Hiker table taking the length of the restaraunt. I sat alone and stared at the menu, the words meaning almost nothing to me.
Moments later a couple of guys came in and sat down next to me. Hey I know these guys! We were dreaming about beer earlier! I suddenly felt better, and soon we were laughing about every little thing about the trail, drinking beer and eating the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I love this.