Day 4-5: Reunited with friends at Mount Laguna
I discovered that the Merlin Bird ID app will work in airplane mode. You simply press a button, and the app will listen to bird calls in the vicinity and identify the birds. I download the bird pack for California, Oregon, and Washington before the trail so I didn’t need internet connection for it to work. I identified the call of the spotted towhee with the app. The app has a bunch of bird calls that you can play for each bird, so I played the call of the spotted towhee back at the bird and it flew right at me! It was clearly confused that I was not another bird and swiftly changed directions.
We approached our first river crossing on the trail, Cottonwood Creek. There were a ton of cliff swallows (thank you Merlin app) along the bridge over the river. They built their nests on the underpass of the road and were feeding their young. I approached the bridge and could see the babies in the nest, and I even saw one of the nests drop some poop! I’m a little bit of a bird nerd, so this was super exciting! The creek water was up to our ankles for and was easy to cross. I took off my shoes and socks because I didn’t want to get them wet. Nick went through with his shoes on. We filtered some water and moved on.
About a mile later, we approached another river crossing. I didn’t feel like taking my shoes off this time, so I just went straight through and got my feet wet. Big mistake. I felt blisters forming as my wet feet rubbed against my socks and shoes. Luckily we only had 2.5 miles until our next destination – a beautiful waterfall!
We saw a bunch of day hikers as we got closer. There was a sharp descent before we reached the spectacular falls. We were excited to get there and jumped in with all our dirty clothes on. I stripped down to my bra and underwear and cleaned my clothes as best as I could. In our excitement, we accidently sat in the middle of group and they were a little mad at us (oops!). It felt great to be a little bit cleaner.
We hung out for about an hour and then continued to our next destination, another stream. We filtered some water there and took a break. We were debating if we should camp there or not, and Nick made us some much needed hummus. Another thru-hiker named Newt showed up. She was on her first day! We couldn’t believe it. She had thru-hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT) and the Long Trail. She was debating whether or not to continue on, which was amazing to us since she had already hiked 34 miles!
We decided to push on for a few more miles before we set up camp. We ran into some early 20s folks car camping and told them we were walking to Canada. One of the dudes shouted, “WHOOOAAA!” with his eyes wide open. They were impressed and recommended that we get apple boysenberry pie when we got to Julian. We continued on quickly to not get caught in the dark. We passed a ridge with a lot of bushes with bees before we made it to our campsite. I’m allergic to bees and was pretty terrified of them! We finished setting up camp around 9:00 p.m. and went to sleep immediately.
We woke up and hiked 2.5 miles to a stream to filter water. We experienced our first trail magic at the stream! Some day hikers passed us and we greeted them. We told them we were hiking to Canada and they offered us their leftover snacks! We got some trail mix, chocolate covered coffee beans, and almond butter pretzels.
We met another thru-hiker at the stream, Felix. He’s German and quickly filtered his water and moved on.
We had a long distance runner show up next. She stopped by us and shouted, “Oh, these flies!” while she swatted them away. I offered her some of our bug spray and reluctantly took some. She didn’t want to quit her 50-mile run because of the flies, but she said that she cried because the swarming flies were so bad. She offered to pay me or Venmo me, and I laughed and said “oh please.” She gave us some snacks as a thank you. We also gave her some chaffing balm because she lost hers swatting the flies away.
We hiked up toward Mount Laguna, which was about four miles away. We exited the desert, crossed into a pine grove forest, and finally got away from the flies!
We arrived in Mount Laguna and went straight for lunch burgers. We weren’t sure if they would be open because they’re normally closed on Mondays, but it was Memorial Day and they were open! We were so happy and ordered veggie burgers. We ran into Felix and he told us he got a room at the lodge for $45. We were considering getting a room as well, but then we ran into Mary and Joey! We hadn’t seen them since the first night and we had thought they were far ahead of us. They said they had a spot we could share at the nearby campsite. Originally, we had planned to hike to the next campsite, but we didn’t realize that it was 6.5 miles up the trail! We agreed to stay with them and headed toward the campsite.
Nick and I made it the campsite and crashed hard and played some backgammon. Mary and Joey returned, and we talked to them for a little bit. They told us that the store in town closed at 5:00 p.m. and it was just past 3:00 p.m., so we headed out for the store. On our way out, another hiker, Katie, arrived. My sandals started giving me blisters, so I stayed in the bathroom and charged my phone and power bank while Nick went to the store.
I went back to the site and talked with Joey for a bit. Nick came back with food and a six pack, and we shared the beer. Then another thru-hiker, JP, and our Lake Morena buddy Frank arrived. Nick and I went back to the restrooms to take a hot shower. It cost a quarter a minute, although I think I got way more time than the five quarters I put in.
We returned to the campsite and started cooking dinner. Frank showed us a video of his encounter with a mountain lion. He genuinely thought that it was a housecat and taunted it saying, “Here kitty, kitty.” I’m so glad he got to the campsite safely.
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