Day 4, March 2, 2022 – Lots of snow, Mt. Laguna

Despite the dead phone/alarm, I was up by 5:30 and on the trail by 6:30.  Just a short way ahead, I passed a little tent, in a popular camping area near a stream that actually had tall trees and water!  So exciting!  I filled the bottle, drank and moved on.  Jack passed me again, it was his tent.  We met again at the place where the creek actually crossed the trail.  It was the last time I saw him.  I came to a meadow with a lot of snow, the first few pines, and lost the trail.  I wandered around and tried again to use the Garmin, but all I could get was my little arrow on a blank screen.  The maps only come in if you are way out, so no help.  Footprints in the snow, oh those are mine.  Heck.  I found my way back to the trail and there was the big arrow that Trailblazing, gentle giant, gentleman Jack had drawn for me.  The trail crossed into a pine forest with deeper, constant snow now.  It was in this area I realized my lifelong bias to wooded landscapes over desert.  Our few family vacations would be driving to Washington, to visit my Mom’s family.  Time in the wooded beauty of the Redwoods and other forests were always the highlight.  It was so beautiful and refreshing, but the snow was taking a toll on my ankles.  My feet were fine, neither wet, cold nor blistered, but my ankles began to scream.  Oh, actually, I guess that was me screaming, with little gasps of pain from time to time.  I began to worry about what I would do after Mt. Laguna.  Would I head into the wilderness, knowing of the forecast for snow, alone?

I was hobbling along, with an incredible view of the Mojave Desert far below, knowing the Desert View picnic area was near, when I actually heard a car alarm above.  I was grateful to have come to the road, and knew the Post Office was about a ½ mile away.  It was 1:00 pm, and so I had hiked 42.6 miles in 3 days, reaching an elevation of 5988, nothing special, but I was pleased.  Bike riders pointed me in the right direction to the Post Office.  I plopped that backpack on the front porch of the Mt. Laguna General Store/Lodge/Post Office and shuffled in.  I could tell that the man behind the counter was the same who took my reservation “Don’t come before 3”, Tom.  I went for the first bottle of orange juice, and helped myself to the plastic chair near the register and we worked out that I had a room.  I followed with the second OJ and a Snickers.  He let me check in early, and handed me a bucket and a cup of laundry detergent.  Gentle Jack had told me this was the only laundry option in Mt. Laguna.  He confirmed that snow was due the following evening.  “How fast can you hike?”  Well, not very fast at that moment.  He gave me the phone number of the driver that had taken Jack to a lower elevation, and I left to shower and ponder my options.  I picked up my box at the PO and headed for my room.  The room was a fine reminder of childhood travel, a sparse, but decent remnant of the 50s.  The water was hot and the heater worked.  6 bars of soap, but no shampoo or conditioner.  Had I known this at the store, I would have bought some, but now that I am naked, the bar would do.  After the shower and change, I returned to the PO to mail home my dirty laundry and other excess items.  I had decided that whatever I did, I needed to rest the ankles for the rest of the day and continue the hike tomorrow.  I borrowed tape from Tom, as the PO did not have any.  He puts on a very grumpy show, but was a good guy.  However, he had hidden my plastic chair, so clearly, he was worried I would settle in.  There was no restaurant open in Mt. Laguna at that time, so…burrito or hot pocket?  Actually, I got one Bud Light and a Stouffers pasta.  I called the driver, “Cowboy” and made a reservation to be driven below the snow level in the morning.  I spent the evening catching up on texts and emails, letting folks know I was fine.