Southern Terminus to Lake Morena
March 25, 2016
I’m sure the final week before starting a PCT thru-hike is a crazy-busy time for everyone. Mine included: launching registration for ResoSummit, a virtual Gold Rush that takes two days to process, even though it sells out in an hour; federal court jury duty (calling in every day, hoping not to get called); putting together my food through Idyllwild; and, the day before my hike, learning I had a basal cell carcinoma on my nose, and getting it removed. So I get to start my hike with a lovely bandaged nose, and several ounces of extra stuff to care for the big new indentation in my nose, while it heals. Sheesh!
Special thanks to Scout and Frodo for a wonderful send-off dinner the night before I hit the trail. Halfmile and Deb were there, as was Jan, who coordinates the 3rd Gate water cache and is therefore a genuine PCT heroine. Halfmile heard about the various times people will be meeting me along the trail, bringing fresh food and other treats along with my resupply, and he jokingly referred to my hike as “A Catered Hike of the PCT.” That’s the luxury of having the first part of the PCT so close to home (and having such great friends).
Dwight and Molly were planning on camping overnight with me at Lake Morena Campground at the end of Day 1, so I got to hike in clothes other than my main hiking outfit, eat a “real” (never dehydrated) dinner, and I am starting Day 2 with clean clothes, a hot shower, a fabulous off-menu vegan breakfast burrito at the Oak Shores store (where owner Matthew takes great care of PCT hikers), and a quick trip to the Campo Library to post this.
Day 1 was a veritable Flower Show, as green and lovely as this section of trail gets. The ceanothus (above) was in full flower, as was Parish nightshade (Solanum parishii), Clematis pauciflora, Monkeyflower (Mimulus auranticus or maybe M. brevipes); Deerweed (the plant formerly known as Lotus scoparius; I can never remember its new name); Popcorn Flower (Cryptantha sp.), Indian Paintbrush, California Poppy, and Mojave Yucca, among many others.
This stretch of trail also has magnificent Coast Live Oaks and gorgeous Manzanitas.
Lots of sages, sagebrush, California buckwheat, and other chaparral plants made me feel right at home for what otherwise could be a daunting Day 1 experience on the PCT.
I leapfrogged with some boon companions today: Tars from the Netherlands, who was at the Southern Terminus with me, and on the morning of Day 2 accepted the trail name of Tarzan proffered by Dwight and me; another hiker who hinted he would like the trail name “Hurry Up and Wait,” and since he seemed to earn it over the course of the day, I offered it to him; Clint from Texas; and a group of four young Outward Bound instructors from Colorado – two women and two men; all were terrific trail companions, and so the day had stretches of solitude mixed with time spent in excellent company.
Typically, hikers either shoot for Lake Morena, at approx. Mile 20, for the first-day campsite, or Mile 15, where there are spaces for tents by Houser Creek. Since there was no water between the Southern Terminus and Lake Morena, most people started with 5-6 liters of water (I had 5.7 liters, so around 12 pounds of water…). I had the luxury of being able to semi-slackpack, leaving my tent, cookset, and a few other things with Dwight for retrieval at Lake Morena, so my starting weight was probably only 23 lbs. (my Gear List is here).
It was probably in the low 40s when I started hiking, quickly warming up to the high 70s. Overnight at Lake Morena, it dipped close to (or perhaps at) 32 degrees, with a covering of frost on tents when we woke. So lots of temperature diversity, although not nearly as hot as this stretch can be – even so, the big climb up from Hauser Creek seemed semi-oppressively hot, with no shade and full sun.
At Mile 17, I passed a young man in one of the very few patches of shade available in this 3-or-so mile stretch of big uphill; he was totally out of water, so I gave him a liter. He had started with only 4 liters of water, not expecting to have to camp before reaching Lake Morena. With a heavy (and broken) pack, he said he was going to go into San Diego and re-think his hike and his gear; coming from the Pacific Northwest he found the heat unbearable. Yet, for this stretch of the trail, it doesn’t get much better than this, temperature-wise, during the PCT thru-hike season.
With a long, shoes-and-socks-off lunch break, and a slow trudge out of Hauser Creek, I still made it to Lake Morena with lots of daylight left to relax, eat leftover Chinese food from Sipz (a great vegetarian restaurant in San Diego), visit with Dwight and Molly, and enjoy a hot epsom salt soak for my feet. Dwight produced Stone IPAs for me and Tarzan, who camped with us, and we did a quick shakedown of Tarzan’s too-heavy pack; Dwight will ship his excess gear to him.
All in all, a fantastic first day, and I’m looking forward to hiking on, with a late start due to my time at the Campo library to produce this post. Best of all, I have no specific number of miles I need to make today, since I only need to reach Mt. Laguna on Sunday with enough time to eat a wonderful meal at Pine House Tavern, then then hike partway toward Scissors Crossing. There, my friends Ken and Carol may drive out from their Julian home with a picnic featuring fresh veggies, some ice (ICE! – what I fantasize about the most while on trail), and good company. And if I stay on schedule, then on Wednesday, Lynn and Charlie will drive out and meet me at Warner Springs with my resupply, food from Native Foods Cafe (I requested the equivalent of 2.5 meals, as calculated by non-hiker standards), and they will bring my dog Molly for a visit.
As Halfmile said, I am truly enjoying A Catered Hike of the PCT.