Southern CA A

May 12, Thursday –20 miles–So. CA A Mt. Laguna

May 12

After a clear, cold night in our “stealth camp”, where the evening serenade was the sound of coyotes and Border Patrol helicopters, as soon as the sky showed some signs of light, we were up and shivering into our clothes. The temperature was 36 degrees. But we were excited about the new day, and with only 20 miles ahead before we reached our resupply at Mt. Laguna, we thought today would be a breeze.

So we happily hiked along in pretty Cottonwood Valley, forded Cottonwood Creek, and stopped for breakfast. A short walk from there and we were at Boulder Oaks Campground. It was amazing. Every single campsite had its own horse corral! After a bit of floundering to find where the PCT went after the campground ???!!!, we were on our way and soon going UNDER Interstate Hwy. 8. Very impressive!

But after that, it was nothing but up, up, up for most of the morning and early afternoon, with no shade and temperatures in the 80’s. It seemed like it took forever just to do a few miles. The views, rocks, and wildflowers were wonderful, but it was hard to appreciate them. At one point we met a young guy from Minnesota, also aiming for Canada. He was having a really tough time with miles of uphill and heat, and was squeezed into a tiny bit of shade from a tall rock, having a snack.

Finally we reached Long Canyon—very pretty and finally some shade. Looking at the time (1:30 pm), Bill decided to hurry ahead to be sure of reaching the Mt. Laguna post office before it closed at 4:00. So off he went, and I plugged along after him. It was tough. I do not handle heat well at all, and it was still hot and still all uphill. But then—I was buzzed by a big rattlesnake, and heat or no heat, I ran like crazy for a little way!

Hooray, the trail grade eased, and I was in pine forest at 5,500 feet elevation. Niiiice! The trail was level, soft with pine needles, and best of all, shady! Bill and I had agreed to meet again at Burnt Rancheria Campground. By the time I got there, I was totally wasted, and no sign of Bill. So I continued along the trail to find him, and met him coming back, VERY disappointed. He would have made it to the post office in plenty of time, but had turned the wrong way at the highway, and by the time he realized his mistake, it was too late. So he went to the store and got his favorite “comfort food” for dinner—canned chicken noodle soup. Only he was so exhausted that he could hardly eat anything, and I ended up finishing my share AND his. That sure was a switch! Usually he is finishing up my share!

We crawled into our sleeping bags way early—7:00 pm, completely worn out. Our evening serenade tonight is a woodpecker and the faint noise of cars on the Sunrise Highway. But we are glad to be here, and grateful to the Lord for helping us reach the 43 mile mark! Climbing 3,000 feet in only one day on a mostly rocky, very hot trail was no picnic!




May 11, Wed. – 23 miles – So. CA A

All of us were up at 4:00 am to pack up, have one last cup of coffee and hit the road to Campo with Bob Reiss in his van.  As he deftly drove along the twists and turns of Hwy. 94,  Bob commented that some people have a bumper sticker that reads, “Pray for me–I drive Highway 94”.    It’s not just the winding, narrow road that is a problem–it’s also the illegal immigrants who are using the highway as a trail.  “I’ve seen them make like paint on a wall, when there’s no shoulder to the road, ”  he said. 

By first light, we were at the PCT Border Monument.   We took turns writing in the register, took lots of pictures, stuck a foot under the fence to touch Mexico, and we were off! 

The early part of the trail was an easy downhill with lots of cottontail bunny rabbits and chaparral in bloom.  We walked through the quiet outskirts of Campo,  past rows and rows of Border Patrol cars.   After a few twists and turns and ups and downs of trail, we reached the railroad tracks!  I love railroads, and was really hoping that a train might come along, but no such luck.  A bit more walking among the dramatic rock formations and wildflower displays, and it was time to stop for a granola breakfast with a GREAT view!  Josh and Anna passed us at that point, and we didn’t see them again till Lake Morena.

All morning we were hiking through what I thought looked like a Chinese garden–beautifully shaped rocks, with wildflowers everywhere.  I saw every kind of late spring wildflower, in every conceivable color.  The day gradually grew hotter.  From the 36 degree start at Campo, our little thermometer climbed to 83 degrees in the shade–cool for this part of the world, but pretty sweaty for us with our backpacks, covering miles of switchbacks. 

By lunchtime we were at treeshaded Hauser Creek for a good foot soak and splashing cool water all over our heads and shoulders.  Ahh!  Next came the notorious 1,000 foot climb up Morena Butte.  Out came our umbrellas to shade us from the hot afternoon sun.  But there were many more wildflowers among the rocks and lots of butterflies!  Finally we were headed down for Lake Morena, only stopping to watch the antics of 2  “horney toads”.  Very cute!  First item of business when we got to town was cold lemonade and ice cream!  Then we showered,  wrote all this “journal stuff”, ate dinner and put in a few more miles before making camp on a nice flat sandy place up on a hill off the trail.  A lot of mosquitoes showed up after we turned in, but some DEET is fixing them!