Day 3 & 4 – Trail family and desert views

Wednesday 1 May 2019
Day: 3
Location: Kitchen Creek Falls (Mile 28.6) to Mt Laguna (Mile 41.5)
Distance travelled: 12.9 miles / 21km

I was low on water this morning and begrudgingly needed to climb down to Kitchen Creek Falls to fill up before I set off today. It was a steep climb down but totally worth it. The falls were pretty and flowing strong.

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By the time the whole group was ready this morning we set off walking just before 9am. It was some of the prettiest walking of the last 3 days, we had beautiful valley views as the trail wrapped its way around the mountain.

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I was hoping to get moving a lot earlier than what we, the sun had well and truly come out by 9 so we had set ourselves up to be walking through the heat of the day. Walking with a group is lovely, it is really nice that everyone looks out for each other and its great to have company on break stops but sometimes it’s frustrating not to walk at your own pace.

The trail up to Mount Laguna was largely climbing. We made our way up the trail until we came to a road crossing. There was a car parked at the road, Graham had us excited thinking it was a trail magic stop. Sadly it was not. There was however, great views where the road wound its way through the mountains.

From the roadway the trail continued to climb and the views only continued to get more and more beautiful. We climbed our way through interesting rock features, beautiful flowers and the classic southern California chaparral vegetation.

Nearing the peak of our climb, we had fantastic views over the valley below us and out to the mountains on the horizon. You could make out the tops of the mountains sticking through the clouds. The mountains looked huge off in the distance. It felt like an intro of what we will be walking through in a few weeks time.

The sun was starting to intensify so we had a break at a campsite down by a stream. It was a pleasant little spot. We ran into a couple of other hikers on their way through who had also stayed at Scout & Frodo’s, Helen and Catrina. They are lovely ladies, both diabetic and seem fairly new to hiking but met online looking for a partner for the PCT.

Our climb continued after the break and we entered an area where a few years ago a military helicopter had crashed and explosives were scattered around the area. The sign said to stay on track 😬. I did.

The remainder of the afternoon the trail continued to climb with the sun beating down. We eventually stopped for lunch under a shady spot near a campsite.

A few miles on from lunch and the terrain changed completely. We were now walking through pine forest. The shade was most welcome and the smell of the pine was delicious. The trail continued under the pine forest right in to Mt Laguna.

At the turn off to town we realised that the general store closed at 5pm so we had to make a rush for it. It was almost 4pm and it was about a mile away. We thankfully made it in the end and were able to resupply from a poor choice of very expensive junk foods. We also grabbed ice creams and beers. Both firsts on trail. I had an M&M’s ice cream sandwich and it was delicious.

We walked back out of town to the Burnt Rancheria campground where we settled in for the night, drank our beers and had dinner.
Thursday 2 May 2019
Day: 4
Location: Mt Laguna (Mile 41.5) to Sunrise Trailhead (Mile 59.7)
Distance travelled: 18.2 miles / 29km

After the fierce heat of yesterday afternoon, I wanted to get going early today to avoid the sun today. I was worried about breaking up the trail family we had formed over the last couple of days by setting off before everyone else, but it all worked out fine in the end. Before I left we all exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet later in the day at Sunrise Trail Head where we would stock up on water for the following day and camp somewhere nearby.

I was off walking by 7.30am. It was a beautiful start to the day, the trail started along the desert view trail, a loop trail leading away from the campsite with spectacular views over the valley. The sun had newly risen, painting pinks and blues across the sky.

A large section of the mornings trail took me through a pine forest where huge pine cones littered the forest floor. Since arriving in the US, I have discovered that everything is bigger here, the meal portions, the rolls of toilet paper and the pine cones! I passed Hummingbirds hovering in the trees and Blue Jays chirping above. A low blanket of cloud covered the sky, protecting me from the heat of the sun, it was the perfect start to the morning.

After 7 or so miles, I exited the pine forest and came to a stunning view point over Storm Canyon with views out to the horizon.

I took a slight detour to Foster Point (I couldn’t help but stop), where a sign told me that in the very distance I could see the snow capped peak of Mt San Jacinto. It was a preview of what I have to look forward to in a couple of weeks time. I took a rest and enjoyed the views, feeling grateful to be out on the PCT experiencing it’s beauty.

With such beautiful views, the morning passed by quickly and before I knew it I had walked 12 miles and was ready for a lunch stop. I had come to a picnic area complete with a water tank. Already seated at the picnic table was Graham (who had passed me on the trail earlier that morning). With Graham was a gaggle of other hikers, some I had met, some I hadn’t. One of the beautiful things about the trail is how welcoming and friendly everyone is, making sure everyone feels included and has some company if they want it. It has made the start of this journey a lot easier knowing there are genuine people on trail with me who will look out for me if it is needed. I had a good chat at lunch, it was relaxing and made it hard to get moving again.

After stocking up on water I reluctantly left the picnic spot. The beautiful views continued after lunch, I passed a memorial where plaques had been placed by people remembering their loved ones. It looked out over the valley and was a beautiful spot to place a memorial.

The sun heated up during the afternoon and I spotted plenty of lizards scurrying across the trail as I walked along. I even spotted my first snake of the trail – not a rattlesnake, it looked rather harmless and slithered away quickly.

Later in the day I moved through a section where interesting boulders of all shapes and sizes lined the trail. I had a rest stop under a beautiful mushroom rock, escaping the sun for just a little while.

I reached Sunrise Trailhead late in the afternoon, after the strongest heat of the day was passing. I was expecting to see Graham but he was nowhere to be found. I turned on my phone and messaged him but my service was poor so I decided to fill up my water and make a plan for the night.

Ahead of me tomorrow I had a 17 mile dry stretch, I would need to carry enough water to last me tonight and tomorrow. I had no sooner filled and filtered my water when Ruben, Jeffrey and Luke came walking up the trail. Ruben had received a message from Graham, he had stocked up on water and found a tent site about a mile down the trail. Just as we were discussing whether we should walk further to camp with Graham, the man himself came walking up the trail. He realised most of us wouldn’t have received his message and had selflessly walked back to find us.

He confirmed that there was room at the campsite so off we walked together to set up camp for the evening.

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