March 27, 2014
Mile 41 to Mile 59.5
I woke up early to the same cold, blustery weather that had forced me into my quilt shivering the night before. I knew I only had a little over a mile to Mt. Laguna where I could pick up my box at 9am from the general store, so I lay on my back listening to the wind shake heavy drops of rain off the trees and onto my tent.
I packed as much as possible into my backpack before leaving the tent, but as soon as I stepped into the wind, my hands became numb. Hurriedly, I rolled up my tent and groundcloth, shouldered my pack, and headed towards town with my hands under my arms to try to warm them. I was discouraged. I’m supposed to do this for five months and I’m struggling to handle the first two days? My hands hurt from the cold. My feet were wet. As the clouds swirled overhead, I vainly urged the sun to break through.
The wind had calmed by the time I reached the road and I was soon caught by Paul “Alphabet Soup”, Ken “Dynamo”, and Johnny who had camped a few miles back.
We completed the short road walk into Mount Laguna, a tiny town made up mostly of the lodge/store and the gear shop, which is run by a former thru-hiker named Dave. Outside Dave’s shop, we met two other thru-hikers named David and LaVonne, who had started a day before us.
Considering my close call with hypothermia the night before, I decided to buy a fleece pullover and a pair of rain pants. Before my hike, I’d sworn to myself that I wouldn’t be one of the inexperienced hikers who bought new gear in Mt. Laguna, but the desert had caught me completely off guard. I needed the gear to remain safe, so I handed over my debit card before walking to the store to lick my wounds and inhale some candy.
My appetite had picked up surprisingly quickly over the past 40 miles, and I had gone through all my food, so I bought a couple bananas and a bunch of Reese’s to eat for breakfast.
As I packed up my food for the next three and a half days, LaVonne and David, who had invited me to hike with them, returned from Dave’s gear shop. While we walked back to the trail, I crammed as much cheap cereal into my mouth as I could while trying to explain who I was and where I had camped the night before.
Back on the trail, my knee began to twinge with each step. For the next 10 miles, I stopped frequently to do some funky stretches that I learned after pulling my hamstring during my freshman track season. While struggling to heal from that injury, I learned all about the interactions between muscles in my leg. Using that knowledge, I was able to deduce that my hip flexor was tight and was thus pulling on my patellar tendon and causing pain. Some stretches I learned while healing my hamstring helped me loosen up the muscle in my hip to relieve the pain in my knee.
After a late start out of Mount Laguna, David, LaVonne, and I made tracks and knocked down 17 miles before the sun sank behind the mountains to our west.
At sunset, we cut off the PCT to follow the Sunrise Trail to a camping spot in some bushes near a highway.
Just as we began to set up our tents, a car turned off the highway and pulled slowly into the campground parking lot near our sites. It stopped facing us and the engine went off, but the lights remained on.
I alerted the David and LaVonne as a man with a flashlight climbed out of the car and headed through the grass towards us. I clutched the rock I had been using to stake out my tent, imagining what bashing someone in the head would feel like. Would it be easy? Would I regret it?
Luckily the strange man turned out to be Warner Springs Monty, a long-distance hiker and PCT trail angel. He gave us his card and offered us a place to shower and do laundry in Warner Springs, a town just a couple days down the trail.
I put down my rock and considered my lack of trust in humanity. Serendipitous water caches and offers like Monty’s were taking me by surprise.
When Monty left, LaVonne and David and I sat in the dirt eating our dinners and sharing camping horror stories. My cold mashed potatoes were salty and filling, but as I spooned more and more into my stomach, I began to get chilled. I left the others under a ceiling of stars and crawled into my tent for the night.