Day 3: 18.8 mile 37.2 to mile 56 (18.4 miles, 29.6km)
Woke early feeling a little stiff in the legs but hit the trail and all was good in a couple of minutes as everything loosened up. I need to finish the climb from yesterday and get into Mt Laguna for a resupply in the cool of the morning.
The trail gradually climbed, first through oak forest and then into the pines. I’m not use to seeing pine forests in there natural state, more used to just plantations at home.
Reaching Mt Laguna by around 9:30 my mission was to get in, buy enough food for 4 days and get going again. My first resupply.
The front porch of the general store was lined with packs and hikers eagerly getting into their food drops that they had sent ahead, most well over catering and trying to palm off the extra weight. I grabbed what I needed. The hiker staples of ramen noodles, tuna packets, Idahoan mash potato, nuts, tortillas and chocolate. That should see me through to Warner Springs but fate might be determined by the availability of water – more on that later.
The lack of water out here makes daily chores difficult. It is always good practice to wash socks often and keep changing them out to minimise the grime, thus friction and blisters. It’s been difficult to keep this up and my socks are filthy. Wearing trail runners doesn’t help the situation either. While runners are great for water crossings and fast drying with good airflow, they also allow a lot of dust in. And so it is I have my first blister. Blisters are rare for me but I got it patched up.
Mine is nothing compared to what other hikers are contending with. I’ve seen entire feet taped up on all sides and in between toes. Ouch! Just shows the stoicism of the thru hiker – never ready to quit until breaking point.
I also saw my first rattle snake today. Only a baby about half a metre long. It’s tail could barely rattle.
For the afternoon it was a matter of pushing through the heat, the trail mostly undulating with small ups and downs, and some incredible views. I had this image of the desert being one big flat expanse but it is anything but. Towering mountains rising in the distance. Chaparral covering the earth, the dark green juxtaposing white and grey rocks. But it’s damn hot and litres of water are required.
I’ve typically been carrying 4 litres to make it between water sources and that has worked out well so far but this afternoon I hit a bit of a hurdle. To navigate out here most people are using a pretty awesome app called Guthooks that hikers can update live from the field and let everyone else know what the situation is with different water sources. I wouldn’t say using this brought me undone late in the day but it did put me under a bit of pressure. Knowing there was a water source ahead that apparently was good I reached the source with only a litre remaining, only to find that the water source was not running at all. Oh no!
So what to do? 1 litre left to the next reliable source another 7.5 mile away. I had to press on as far as I could today, dry camp and leave enough in reserve to make the final 3.5 mile tomorrow morning to a water cache that may or may not be filled. Thankfully, without even asking, a couple of day trippers at their car heard we were walking the PCT and gifted Matt, Matty and myself a full chilled 500ml bottle each. Any extra will help. First trail angel.
It wasn’t just me that made this mistake, quite a few did. Most are pushing ahead the extra 7 miles to the next water but my feet just don’t have it in them. I pulled up stumps at mile 56 to cowboy camp amongst some boulders. If I’m conservative and get an early start in the morning I’ll make it to the the next water fairly early on. It’s on a road, so if it’s dry, I can always hitch into the town of Julian.
All is well. My view for the evening is amazing.