For the first couple miles after setting off from the Campo monument, I attempted to keep up with the people I had started with. It was a lovely walk, and we were all together when we hit the most important milestone of all: the first one.
Shortly thereafter, though, I desperately needed to sit and eat something, so Miguel hung back with me and the rest headed forward, with plans to meet up later that afternoon.
Coming from a somewhat Oregon-chauvinist background, I spent most of the first week in awe of how beautiful southern California is. There were wildflowers blooming everywhere: Indian paintbrush, hot pink cactus blooms, some random white flowers that graced the top of a 6-7 foot stalk. From the bare ridge on which we walked, we looked down on farms that reminded me of the Grapes of Wrath, except it seems most of the dorms are either empty or used for youth camps. To to it all off, it started to drizzle slightly. That might not seem like am ideal hiking weather, but compared to the 95 degree heat they had the week before, rain and 60 was perfect for this Oregon girl. It was lovely.
And then we hit mile 10. It had been mostly uphill so far, which was good for my knees, but considering I had a 41-pound pack, not good for the rest of me. I sat to eat more trail mix and some T&E pepperoni sticks (which clearly have rejuvenating powers) and stood, after a nice break, to put my pack on.
I fell over. Miguel looked on with concern. After recovering myself, I tried again, with much the same result.
I sighed. “I really did not want to go Cheryl Strayed this so early,” I said to myself. And yet, there really want much option. I got down on my rear, slid my arms into the pack straps, rolled onto my hands and knees, and pushed myself to my feet with my trekking poles.
Three long downhill miles later, we met our friends by the side of a road that the PCT temporarily joins.
“We’re going to Lake Morena tonight–are you coming?”
I dropped my pack to the ground and prepared for my second lunch.
“Yeah, I guess,” I said.
No, no, no, nooooooo, my body said.
“We’ll meet you there.”
And with that, they set off into Hauser Canyon.
Hauser Canyon has a creek that flows through it, if you’re there during the right part of the year. It seems very rare that PCT people are there at that time. It has a steep drop into the canyon, and a 5-mile, exposed, steep climb out, with no opportunity to safely pitch a tent should you decide you can’t go on. Many hikers camp in the bottom of the canyon, and take on the climb on the morning when they’re well-rested. However, Bob had warned us against camping there: “Border Patrol goes through there about every hour with lights on their atv that will x-ray you through your tent from 100 yards away. No one gets well-rested there.” Between that warning, wanting to take advantage of the cool weather, and the thought of a burger from the cafe at Lake Morena, we pushed on…very slowly.
When I got within a mile off the campground, I called my parents from a rock that overlooked the lake and the surrounding valley. “It’s gorgeous and I love it and also there’s no way I can keep up with these guys,” was the gist of the conversation. I finally got to camp just as it was getting dark, got a really crappy burger from the cafe, and set up my tent in the dark while it was raining. As princess Mia said in the Oscar-worthy Princess Diaries, “I am miserable, and I am wet.”
This post was edited to correct my smart-phone misspellings.