Day 4: No, I Would Not Like a Tent Popsicle
Saturday, March 24, 2018 8:28 pm
Location: Mount Laguna (42.6 miles)

Today was a short day, but ultimately necessarily so, thanks to last night’s unexpected cold. I should have checked the weather report sometime yesterday. It was already somewhat cool when I got into my sleeping bag, and the temperature continued to fall throughout the night. In retrospect, I should have just stayed in my hiking clothes, rather than putting on my camp clothes, if for no other reason than my hiking pants have (detachable) long legs, and my camp shorts don’t.

It dropped below freezing, actually, which meant that when I woke up, there was a nice frost covering all of the plants. Less nice was the frost coating the outside of my tent. Even less nice was the frost coating the inside of the roof of my tent, thanks to the humidity in my breath. About the only nice thing about last night is that I was far enough away from civilization that I could easily see the shadow cast by the moon on my tent.

Frosty Tent
Frosty Tent

I managed to speed my exit from camp a bit more than yesterday, though there was not much of actual gains there. It took at least 20 minutes, if not longer, to stuff my tent into its sack. The extra volume of frost really didn’t help, nor did my reduced dexterity in the cold, or the fact that the tent’s sack likes to bunch up on itself. I also wound up not switching out of my camp clothes since my hiking clothes were cold and damp; I was gambling on finding a warmer place to change once I got to Mount Laguna. (Fortunately, my rain pants help keep heat in while hiking, at the expense of also keeping moisture in — which is why I didn’t have them on last night.)

The trail to Mount Laguna passed by the first pine tree on the trail, had the first stretch of trail that seemed even vaguely reminiscent of the Appalachian Trail, passed through a grove of trees that had a very vibrant green moss growing on them, and gave the first glimpse of the desert up ahead.

A Preview of the Desert Yet to Come
A Preview of the Desert Yet to ComeView east to the Mojave Desert.

I made it to the Mount Laguna Post Office to pick up my resupply package around 10:15. With the slightly oversized resupply (containing an extra day of food I couldn’t fit into my next resupply box at Warner Springs), my pack was practically bursting at the seams. In fact, burst it did: one of the side pocket zippers detached. I guess the theme of this hike really is “equipment malfunction”. (Later in the day, I tried calling Osprey to see if they would be able to do anything about it, but I guess they’re not open on weekends. I’ll have to try calling on Monday.) In the meantime, I’ve jury-rigged the zipper in place using part of the pole holder, and relocated some slightly bulky but unlikely to fall out items into that pocket so as not to lose useful space.

Staying in a hotel room was pretty much the only way my tent was going to dry, so I got a (pricey, weekend) room at the Mount Laguna Lodge. Also, being unexpectedly cold, I didn’t sleep too well last night, so while I could have hiked on (and sans-wet-tent) probably would have, I likely wouldn’t have wanted to go that much further, especially with an overflowing pack.

With a check-in time of 1 pm, I had a little over two hours to kill. I chatted with other hikers (and some cyclists, and locals on a weekend getaway) for awhile, ultimately giving away some of my extra food to AT (2015) alum Hulkspiration and his wife Sierra, and then took a short hike around the nature trail near the Mount Laguna Visitor Center.

Still needing to kill some time, I walked down to the Pine House Cafe & Tavern to check out their menu. Not that that was really necessary, but there was no one else to chat with at the moment, and I wanted to actually move around. It may not be hiking, but getting some bonus miles in walking up and down the road still has to count for something.

After making my way to the tavern and back, I got my room, and then proceeded to string up my tent to it could dry. lacking supports of its own, I wound up having to tie it up to various objects around the room, somewhat reminiscent of a cartoon Rube Goldberg clothesline contraption. Until I got it strung up, I didn’t realize just how much frost had accumulated inside: there was a good fist-sized ball of ice sitting in one corner.

Tent-Goldberg Device
Tent-Goldberg DeviceThe tent is propped up with lines connecting to a heavy lamp (off to the right), the dresser, a food bag (behind the tent), and my cook pot (on the chair).

After a nice shower (using my own soap, since there was no shampoo provided, and the soap bars in the room were so old they had cracked inside their packaging), and a little time planning out where I might hike tomorrow, I went back to the Pine House tavern for dinner. And then second dinner.

The cool thing at the diner is that they have a long table that is reserved for PCT hikers, so it’s been nice to talk with different hikers as they come and go. The bulk of the conversation was with Robin and Toby, section hikers from Palm Springs, CA (who might decide to go all the way after they tend to things at home), and international hikers Wannes (Belgium), Natalie (Switzerland), and Camp Finder (Germany).

This was the first time I was asked to tip separately for the kitchen, waitstaff, and entertainment. That seems like an awful lot to ask someone to think about, and I’m not really sure they’d much have appreciated my honest breakdown, so I just left the lines blank and put a total. They can figure it out on their own.

The weather forecast for tonight is sub-freezing temperatures, so I’m glad I’m in a motel room. That won’t help much with the below freezing temperatures tomorrow night, but it looks like it’ll start to warm up as the week progresses. I’d hope that it’d at least be dry, but that doesn’t look likely. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Hopefully, I won’t have another tent popsicle to deal with.