Day 3, March 1, 2022 – Thankfully lost the trail and blessed snow

I awoke just before the 5:00 alarm and starting my routine.  I was dressed and starting to move my belongings outside the tent, when I felt a sharp pain in my arm.  A tick!!  Akkk, pulled off all my clothes, but no, thankfully just a cactus thorn.  I had leaned my pack/coat into one the day before and they seemed to be multiplying.  Dressed again, brushing teeth without water, packed and on the trail by 6.  It truly is the most beautiful part of the day.  I passed under the freeway, which I thought was I8, but it was another.  I8 was about an hour later.  There were no people, but you could see it was a popular camp spot in a dry stream bed.  Dry, again.  But not too far later, the trail crossed a small cattle stream and I collected water to filter.  A little further, another very nice little camp ground, Boulder Oaks.  I freshened the water supply, used the bathroom and headed on.  I came to the top of a ridge, and could see three women ahead.  They disappeared at a place where the trail seemed to go in 10 directions.  I could not see a PCT marker, so followed the one that seemed most traveled.  Then, it turned into a craggy, steep descent and I knew I was off trail.  Just then, I saw it, Kitchen Creek, and the 3 ladies were down there.  I made it down and enjoyed the best creek on the trail.  It was beautiful and flowing over large rocky areas.  The ladies told me we were at “the falls”.  It was about 10 in the morning, the sun was warm, perfect.  I washed my feet in the cold water.  Tod had said this was very important, but when you are carrying the water, you are not washing anything.  I dried between the toes and put on the aired-out pair of socks.  I scrambled back out and found the trail.  The trail runs very high above the creek and had I not lost the trail I would have missed this important water source and lovely interlude.  I saw a young couple day-hiking with nothing but a water bottle.  Then, I came out into a parking lot on Kitchen Creek Road, a major paved road.  I took another break, leaned into another cactus (gotta stop doing that).  There was a couple with a dog, that got in their car and left.  Then, from nowhere, there were two young men that reminded me of Dustin and Sean (my cousin and his friend, aka my savior) and their dog.  We chatted.  They had tried to hike to Mt. Laguna, but underestimated the time and turned back.  They each had backpacks and one was carrying his sleeping bag and two white kitchen trash bags full of more stuff.  I said I would be getting rid of stuff at Mt. Laguna and they offered to take anything I wanted to get rid of.  I gave them the last dehydrated dinner, all the oatmeal, some of the Top Ramen and the beef jerky.  With little water, I did not want to eat something so salty after all.  I had a piece of cheese the first night, and it really made me thirsty.

Then, I headed up the second really unpleasant stretch.  It was very steep, very windy, exposed with little vegetation.  I was still holding onto the hat.  Finally, I stopped and cut a piece of the paracord and tied the darn thing on.  It was exactly at this point that Jack passed me again.  We chatted a bit and it turns out he lives locally and hikes the section from the border to Idlewild frequently.  He filled me in on the Lodge at the General Store/Post Office at Mt. Laguna.  He said he planned to get a ride there and skip the next section of trail.  He said it was very open, exposed, and brutally windy.  Later that day, when I got a signal, I called the lodge and made a reservation for the following night.  If I got there early, I could still take my shower and change clothes before moving on.  If late, I would stay at the lodge.  The owner advised me that there was a big snow storm coming in.  Another dry creek, but look, snow, and in growing frequency.  I was sure that Jack was not eating snow, but I checked, it was not yellow, and I loved it!  Cool, refreshing treat!  And when I camped, I used boiled snow for my dinner of Top Ramen.  This night I had a narrower strip of trail for camping, but it was time.  After I was settled into my bag, I realized that I forgot to bring the cord for the charger into the tent, and so, the battery died during the night.  I made it to about the 36th mile.

Continuously…I have neglected to say that the hike is just one huge vista after another.  Rarely are there enough trees to block that long view.  You don’t think of southern California having so many mountain ranges.  The PCT goes from one of these ridges to the next.  The pictures are meaningless compared to what the eye captures.  Often those vistas include roads and other developments, which is the downside.  In Yosemite, whenever you put in the time and energy to hike/backpack, you are rewarded with sights that can only be seen by doing so.  On the PCT, often the road is right there, so it feels almost silly.

I saw a lot of evidence of wildlife; footprints and scat of coyotes, fox, squirrels, but actually saw very few animals, just one squirrel, two lizards and a few birds.  The weather continued to be perfect.  The nights were cold, but my bag kept me very warm.  I would have a snack mid-day, but never had a desire for much food, just being smart enough to eat something.

I was able to receive texts, calls and emails in many areas.  I tried to respond, but also needed to keep moving and preserve the batteries.  It was so wonderful to have encouragement from family and friends, and it meant so much.  I began to accumulate fires that needed to be put out; a lost shipment of wine, insurance fight over the truck, lost invoice, frozen funds by the new credit card processor until I send bank statements, and such.  As sad as it is to have a trip interrupted, it is better to know and be able to take care of things.