Day 2: And Then There Was Rain
Thursday, March 22, 2018 8:12 pm
Location: Mile 23 Campsite (23 miles)

My second day on the Pacific Crest Trail turned out to be an interesting mirror of my second day on the Appalachian Trail. Though pretty tired, I made some good progress, and managed to hide away in my tent for the evening just as the rain started.

I didn’t really sleep very well last night, though i wasn’t surprised by that: the first few nights on the trail are always difficult, as I acclimate to sleeping on a much harder surface than I’m used to.

I woke up around 6:15 am, a bit before sunrise, and after lying there for a few minutes pondering getting a few more minutes of “sleep”, woke up and began packing up everything inside my tent.

I opted not to get a ground tarp for my tent, since the manufacturer claims that one is not necessary. After taking down my tent this morning, I realized why I should have brought a ground tarp anyway: the sand under my tent stuck to it, and it was next to impossible to get it all off. Granted, a ground tarp would have the same problem, but it would have been a lot easier to shake off the tarp by waving it around.

I left camp about an hour and a half after waking up. I’ll have to see if I can quicken my routine any; being able to leave more quickly will mean getting in more hiking while the sun is still low.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of great views today. The main portion of today’s hike involved the four mile hike down Hauser Mountain to Hauser Creek, and then the five mile climb up the next mountain to the campground at Lake Morena. For a significant part of the hike down Hauser Mountain, it was possible to see the trail I would be following up the next mountain.

The Climb to Lake Morena
The Climb to Lake MorenaSeveral miles of the trail is visible, from several miles away.

I made it to Hauser Creek (which was dry, as expected) around 9:20, and was faced with a dilemma: while I still had some water, I still had a long uphill climb, and the nearest water was 1.6 miles off-trail. While not especially onerous climb by Appalachian Trail standards, this would still be the longest climb on this hike so far.

I started to head towards the water source, 1.6 miles down a dirt road, and after I hiked far enough to drop my pack out of sight of the trailhead, realized that the hike to the water source and back would be almost two-thirds the distance to the water tap at the Lake Morena campgrounds. I was pretty sure I had enough water to make it most of the way there. Getting more water would kill 75-90 minutes of good hiking time, and make the climb up the mountain that much harder, from the extra weight.

So instead, I had quick snack, and headed onward, up the mountain. It helped that it was slightly overcast, and occasionally, a cool breeze blew through and I took advantage of that occasionally to cool down.

This part of the day was oddly reminiscent (if somewhat opposite) to my second day on the AT, where I carried far too much water, when water was abundant. Today, I carried too little water, when it was not.

During a short break near the top of the mountain, Eric (who had camped with me last night) caught up with me, and hearing of my predicament, offered me some of his water. (He had made the same choice I did, but apparently had enough water to share a little.) While probably not strictly necessary, I did nearly run out of water by the time I got to Lake Morena, so it certainly helped.

Eric and I arrived at Lake Morena a little after 12, and immediately found our way to some trail magic. Elizabeth, Robert, and their adorable young daughter (who had given herself the trail name “Tiny Squishy”) were set up in a camper giving out food to hikers. I got a clementine, a Granny Smith apple, and a cold can of soda, and there were also some snacks and filtered water. (Water at Lake Morena needs to be filtered; their supply came from a water dispenser at the nearby Oak Shores store and deli.) Apparently, we missed the big party; yesterday, they were also cooking hot dogs and had more supplies, and they were leaving shortly after we got there.

It cooled down noticeably from when we were hiking, and a light drizzle blew through for a few minutes.

Elizabeth gave me and hiker Bible a ride to the Oak Shores shop, where I got a bacon cheeseburger and a strawberry-banana milkshake. Also there were Ron and Jay, and two other hikers I saw early yesterday.

Returning to the campground to use the restroom and refill my water, I ran into someone else giving trail magic. “Possum” had snacks, fresh water (also from the store), and abridged copies of the New Testament. (He and Bible seemed to strike up quite the conversation.)

Although my goal for today was to make it to the Boulder Oak campground at mile 26, i was pretty tired, and stopped about three miles short, at a campsite near the top of a mountain, with a nice view of the valley below. I probably could have pushed on to the campground, but I’d have been pretty tired, even though it’s mostly downhill from here to there. Insomuch as I have a schedule, though, I’m halfway between the two targets for the day, so at least that still looks good.

Shortly after I got to the campsite, while I was setting up my tent, it started to drizzle, and the wind made it a bit difficult to set my tent up. I’m still learning how to efficiently set up the tent, and it’ll take a few more tries before I have it right. Since this tent is not free-standing like my previous tent was (it only needed to be staked in to keep it in place, and to pull the rainfly away from the tent body, improving ventilation), it is highly sensitive to being properly staked, which makes site selection and orientation a bit more important.

I rested in my tent for the duration of the rain, and then made a light dinner of ramen (that I didn’t eat last night) and a snack bar. I set up my stove on a rock providing a good view of the valley, though this was probably not the best position, as the wind was blowing directly from there to my tent. I quickly moved the stove to a place not upwind of my tent when some very large ants appeared from inside the rock and began to investigate my stuff.

Rain started up again just as soon as I finished dinner, and has been falling now for at least an hour and a half. Not really what I was expecting in the SoCal “desert”, but it sure beats the snow back home.

View from the Campsite
View from the Campsite