Hi everyone! Thank you for your patience! I’ve been trying to find the words to tell this story. This post will be split into 2 parts. So, without further ado, let’s go!
Where we left off – Picture it, Sicily, 1922
I woke up to frozen condensation on my tent. I got a later start than I would have liked out of Lake Morena, leaving the campground around 8 am. It was so cold when I got up that it took every ounce of grit I had to get out of my sleeping bag, but my bladder won that fight. Once I got up and started packing up I started to warm up, once again looking forward to the sun’s warming rays.
I got a later start out of Lake Morena than I would have liked to, but it was also one of the first nights I had with people and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it. My plan leaving camp was to hike 6 miles to Boulder Oaks Campground to stop for lunch, let my tent dry out a bit, do some blister care, and try waiting out the sun. The first part of the day felt amazing. I was cruising and managed to hike 6 miles in just over 4 hours. I felt great!
When I got to Boulder Oaks, I ran into some people I met at Lake Morena the night before. We chatted and let our stuff dry. Not too long after, they headed out and I opted to hang out a bit longer. About 330, I decided to start the last 2.4 miles to the campsite I planned to stop at. The high of the morning quickly dissipated. As the trail leaves Boulder Oaks Campground, it wraps the mountains as it climbs about 2,000 feet over 14 miles into Mount Laguna. I was starting that climb and it felt like someone was holding a magnifying glass in front of the sun. The air was still. There was no breeze. It was unbearably hot.
At what point does checking your map become obsessive?
I found myself oscillating between wishing for a cloud to block out the sun and checking my map to see how far I was from camp. At every crest of the ribbon of trail I would think I had made it only to be devastated that I wasn’t at the right corner of trail. I ran into a day hiker who had told me that there was a water source at the campsite I was planning to stay at and that it was about .1 mile from the camp site. Cool! .1! When I finally got to camp, I look for the trail to the water source. When I found it, part of me (OK, most of me) was so devastated to find that it was .1 DOWN into the ravine. UGH! I just spent all afternoon climbing UP! Cue the pity party.
Umm… is this a good idea?
I started the climb down to water and it was super steep in spot – definitely not the grade I was used to out here! I kept telling myself that some of the trails I hiked in New Hampshire weren’t even this steep! What the hell! Little did I know it was about to get a
lot worse. I finally caught sight of the water and I was so excited! I was about 30 feet above it, now I just needed to find a way down to it. There were so many trails cut, it was hard to determine which one was the best option. The trail I took seemed like the best option, but it still had quite the scramble. This was the first time on trail that I was actually scared that something bad might happen.
I made it down to the water with minimal cuts and bruises! *Sighs in relief!* I realized in that moment that I was losing light – it was about 615 and I would have only 40 minutes to get water and climb back up before I lost the light. I put my ass in gear, grabbed 4 liters of water, and hauled my butt back up to camp. I made it with about 10 minutes to spare!
Reality of the situation started setting in
When I got up to camp, I started thinking about my safety. I’m not sure if it was the being slapped in the face with the thought (and to be frank, the reality) of that if something were to happen, how long would it be before someone would find me. The last 3 nights on trail were so cold and I had on every layer I had and still froze.
I still had 2 more nights until I would get into Mount Laguna. A storm was supposed to roll in the day I was expecting to get into Mount Laguna, the temperature was expected to drop, and I still had about 1,500 feet to climb. So, I weighed my options – I could either push on and hope that nothing bad happens, or I could hike back to Boulder Oaks in the morning and hitch into town to swap out my sleeping bag.
I called my mom and reached out to a friend to let them know what was happening. I added my emergency blanket to my sleeping bag and told myself if I was still cold that night, I would hike back and hitch into town. As the sun went down, the cold crept in. I still couldn’t get warm. The next morning, I reached out to my friend to see if she knew anyone who could give me a hitch into Julian. A couple hours later, I had the name and number to Cowboy Dave – a local from Lake Morena who shuttles hikers all around Souther California. Sydney and Snorkel – thank you so much! You saved me!
My first hitch takes the cake
I got back to Boulder Oaks about a half hour before I was supposed to meet Cowboy Dave, so I chilled in the shade and ate breakfast. Cowboy Dave arrived and he was exactly like while simultaneously the exact opposite of what I expected! One thing is for certain, the conversation on the drive was one of the best I’ve ever had. We talked about so many things – the trail, the hikers he’s helped, how he ended up in the area, and our life stories.
We arrived in Julian and said our goodbyes and I made a bee line to Mom’s Pies. For those of you who don’t know, Mom’s is a PCT landmark of sorts that gives free pie to PCT hikers. Let me tell you… it is worth the hype! I got a slice of caramel apple pie with cinnamon ice cream and a glass of apple cider. It was the most amazing thing! In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to have the first substantial thing I ate that day be all sugar. Talk about a sugar rush – I was actually jittery!
In Julian, I was surrounded by so many other hikers for the first time and it still feels like a surreal experience. I felt like I had to fight the urge to walk up to every hiker like “OMG hi! Can we be friends?” I mean, I probably could have, but it feels so cringeworthy!
Double Zero for the Win!
I planned to take a double zero in Julian for a number of reasons, but mainly to let my feet heal a bit as I had more blisters than toes. After Mom’s, my next stop was to 2 Foot Adventures
– a local gear shop that has everything a PCT hiker might need. I stopped in to talk about sleeping bags and to ask about blister care. Even though my shoes were a size over what I normally wear, they were still too small which is why I was having so many issues. I picked up a new sleeping bag and swapped out my shoes. Shout out to Charlie Brown and all the trail angels in and around Julian – you are amazing!
After I finished my initial immediate town errands, I walked to the inn I was staying at, checked in, and dropped my pack, and headed back into town. On one of my many trips to 2 Foot Adventures (seriously, I was in there more times than I’m willing to admit…), I met another hiker named Crunch and we clicked immediately! We realized that we both had been hiking about the same pace and were alone most of the time. We ended up planning to hike out together after our double zero!
Part 2 will be coming tomorrow!
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