Days 4: Miles 28.6 – 42.1 (Mount Laguna)

It was really cold last night. Ice on the rain fly kind of cold! Despite the temperature outside, I stayed warm enough between my layered clothes and sleep system (bag and liner). I slept well, in fact I long contemplated remaining within the comforts of my sleeping bag. Fortunately, I had a very important reason to get up and moving. I needed to meet Rachael for my new pair of shoes!

I thought this was the desert section?!?

My very good friend Rachael is set to start the PCT today. I reached out to her last night knowing she was in San Diego. Rachael, the amazing woman she is… drove thirty minutes to the San Diego REI to pick me up a new pair of shoes. She then met me at the Kitchen Creek Road crossing to hand deliver them on her way to Campo to start her own epic journey. Thank you, Rachael!

Miles 28.6 – 42.1

I set off onto the trail with a little pep in my step. I had only 1.6 miles before I reached the Kitchen Creek Road crossing. I sat and ate the second half of my breakfast while I waited for Rachael. It was still cold out so I had to find ways to preoccupy my brain.

There were two campers vans parked in the turn-off where the trail crosses the road. I could hear that both had gas heaters running. I sat there waiting on my new shoes while thinking of how nice and warm it must be inside those vans. My brain wins again.

Rachael showed up and boy was I happy to see her. She looked stoked… ready to start her own PCT journey. I must say… I am so proud of the both of us for taking on this mammoth undertaking. After a huge hug, I laced up my new kicks, and tap danced my way back onto the trail. Rachael… you were my first trail angel!

A full size larger than my last ones.

These new shoes saved my life today. Well, maybe not my life, but my feet for sure. Today’s agenda included 13.5 miles of trail with 2,100 feet of elevation gain. To put that into perspective… Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon has a 480 foot elevation gain. All I have to do is hike Pilot Butte four times. Between you and I… I only walked it once a day for training. Oh, and Pilot Butte was paved… not narrow, step trails and littered with ankle thirsty rocks.

Needless to say, my day was rough. My legs were smoked by the end of the day, and my energy reserves were depleted. On a good note… it was sunny with clear skies. I’ll take that over rain any day!

The last mile into Mount Laguna was torture. I had a hotel room waiting for me, which that alone was enough motivation to continue moving forward.

First snow. 😂

Mount Laguna

I’m beginning to think there is a lot of walking involved with doing the PCT. I really need to remember to calculate town miles into my mental preparation. It’s disappointing when you realize you have more mileage to conquer than you had initially calculated. The hotel was still half mile away… ugh.

I walked into Mount Laguna looking more like the walking dead than a thru hiker. I decided to grab a bite to eat at the Pine House Cafe before I go to the hotel. I knew that if I saw a bed… I’d pass out immediately with no consideration for food. So, I walked into the empty restaurant in hopes of a good meal.

Pine House Cafe has an American/French inspired menu that the chef/owner himself brought to America from France. I am currently a culinary student at Central Oregon Community College where I have recently been studying French cuisines, so this will be a fun experience as many of these dishes are now familiar to me.

I was hungry! I ordered the croque monsieur, the French onion soup, and a small house salad. It all tasted fine to me. I was so hungry, that I barely took notice of the food. Plus, I was pleasantly pleased to be joined by Tee and Jack Attack.

I do remember how good this French onion soup was!

Tee, Jack Attack, and I engaged in great conversation while enjoying our well deserved treats. Tee and Jack shared more wisdom and insight about adapting to the trail life. I always appreciate the different points of view from the many experienced hikers along the trail. Their willingness to share their vast trail knowledge to others is selfless and should be commended. I imagine there are many hikers that have stayed on trail because one of these legends gave them the perfect words of encouragement.

I had to say my good-byes to the boys, not knowing if I would ever see either of them again. I’m realizing this hiker life style is perfect for me. Good-byes with no expectations… the ethos of every military brat in America.

I hobbled down the street to the Mount Laguna Lodge. On my way in, I passed by some locals that were quick to let me know my pack would be safe outside on the porch. Seems legit.

I walked into the reception area which also doubles as the pay counter for the convenience store. I took care of all the paperwork necessary before they would relinquish a key to me. I was so tired and had only one thing on my mind… bed! I did inquire about laundry facilities, which was met with a large white bucket with a pack of laundry detergent at the bottom. I guess we’re going old school!

I got to my room, where I am now. I did my bucket laundry in the shower… killing two birds with one stone. Also, I was sure to keep all the dirty water in the bucket, as requested, and dumped outside. I am now authoring this blog while rotating wet laundry around.

Old school wash, new school dry.

I am debating what to do tomorrow. Do I hike a normal day? Maybe a nero (near zero miles)? Should I take a full zero? I’ve been warned by the experts that taking too many zeros can be bad. I’ve also heard that we must listen to our bodies. I’m torn. My body hurts, but I also don’t want to adopt any bad habits. Thoughts?

Cheers, Smiley

One step at a time.

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Comments 7

  • Katherine Gutierrez : Mar 8th

    Congratulations! Stumbled upon your blog, and inspiring me to start planning a thru-hike for myself!

    Whether you take the zero or not, my thought, is that it’s your hike. Screw what everyone else’s opinion is. You do what you need/want to do. It’s inevitable that you’re gonna have zero days. Maybe this one is your first? And that’s ok. If not, maybe it’ll be in a few days, or a few weeks. Does that matter tho? What’s the race for and who are the other competitors? Correctamundo. It’s not a race, and no one is competing.

    Have a great night’s rest! Can’t what to hear what you’ve chosen, regardless of what it is.


  • Michael Turner : Mar 9th

    Hey Smiley, my PCT thru hike begins in under 2 weeks. You know the saying, hike your own hike. Only you know your body, a zero now could save you many down the road…or even save your hike completely. Some discomfort and soreness should be expected as your body gets accustomed to the trail but outright pain shouldn’t be expected. Happy Trails

  • John "Tercius" Rutkowski : Mar 9th

    Got with the body! Nice Altra’s, also my fav.

    I’m a 70 year young hiker. When it’s not feeling right in feet, knees or hips.

    If you legs and feet are sore, try Https;//ToastedCBD Com salve, it works wonders. I have no interest, but use thetrek at checkout to get 15% off.

    It makes my legs and feet feel better in 10 minutes.

  • Caitlin / Break Rock : Mar 9th

    Not to harsh the stoke on the new shoes, but as you’ve been having tendon pain I feel compelled to do my PSA for new PCT hikers – beware of Altras and all zero-drop shoes. Unless you’ve been wearing zero-drop shoes or low-drop shoes for years and years of high volume, a thru hike is a bad time to start. Most normal athletic / running shoes have some kind of heel stack. But people come to trail and think they need snazzy trail runners with zero drop, because that’s what you do! However, those few extra millimeters that your Achilles, anterior tib and other tendons must now stretch in order to drop your heel down to the ground can be murder over thousands of miles of uphills. I’ve seen a lot of mentally and physically strong hikers get knocked out by catastrophic tendonitis, even after a thousand or two thousand miles. If you’re feeling it now, I’d advise dumping the zero drop shoes and putting your feet in something like Topos or Brooks that has more of a heel-toe drop.

  • Becky : Mar 10th

    Hey Happy PCTr, recommended well know the miles ahead of you… I’d say take this 0 day…do some walking and nap rest your body. After this small town you won’t really have a nearby cabin for ???. You’ve got some good miles ahead of you until you hit a town close enough for you to hike into and rest warmly. I’d say that Idyllwild. So enjoy the rest drink plenty plenty of liquids and replenish energy. Last year I lifted many sick exhausted PCTrs to clinics or off roaded them back to the trail… Rest Well Safe Travels

  • OneSpeed : Mar 10th

    Smiley, so happy Rachel was able to get you your new shoes. Know that we are rooting for your success and safe travels!

  • Chris : Mar 11th

    Personally I don’t know what I would do if I were you, a nero or zero. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with either one, and I don’t think taking a zero would “start bad habits.” As others have said, hike your own hike, don’t feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do. But also, listen to your body, it’s not a race. You started early enough that you can make up the miles later on. And just like that, I talked myself into suggesting you take a zero,..


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